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July 25, 2008

a little dab of science

Have some science with your modest lunch of salad and wondering if it's all what it's cracked up to be.

First the really good news: smart guys have figured out how the Northern Lights work!  Like so:

The snapping of magnetic fields occurred first, followed by a burst of auroras.  Surprisingly, the disruption in the charged particle current occurred after the aurora.  Proponents of that hypothesis had thought that the magnetic snapping caused the change in electric current and that, in turn, led to the auroras.

Erm.  That's very...&nsbp; Yeah, "magnetic snapping", just as I suspected.  Hey, but at least we now know.

Second, studies are still being performed, according to the Yahoo! Box of Headlines:

• Study: Feeling poor makes people spend more on lottery tickets

And vice versa!  But wait, what about being poor -- is that not also a proximate cause?

But, again, at least the burning question is answered.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:26 PM

the wsj runs high school essays?

It takes only one sentence to reveal the piece as a long tumble down the stairs of crazy:
"The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror.

This essay, then (as flagged by McGawkers), is an op-ed appearing in the Wall Street Journal, written by novelist/opinion-generator Andrew Klavan.  In the piece, he wallows in the habitual conservative GOP practice of planting flags in cultural assets and then crow about it, as if the asset was an island, and whoever gets there first gets to keep it.  The motives of this are beyond me -- loneliness? insecurity?  Plus also, aren't there plenty of fine, fine widely-popular, overtly-conservative works that have no need of a flag in the first place?

That's right -- there's not.

Now, just why is "TDK" a conservative something something?

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.

Um, maybe on an unintentional level, but more likely on a "No it's not" level.

Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand.

Wait, Batman made a big show of half-invading Afghanistan, only to later forget about all the terrorists so he could invade some other non-terrorist countries and then drive the economy into the ground like a jart?  I guess I really gotta see that movie.

And the author even brings a straw man!

Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic.  Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex.  They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Jeez, of all the time I and my comrades have tried to disrupt the free flow of liberty by complaining, I don't recall ever whining about relative morality.  In fact, about the best example of moral relativism I can think of is, oh, violating the Geneva Conventions because the set of morals contained therein should be selectively applied.  But I don't want to get into an argument with a straw man.

If you have any questions about the author, he has a website, which contains this description of his latest novel:

Andrew's new novel "Empire of Lies," is now available on Amazon.com.  It's the story of Jason Harrow, a Christian family man drawn by his search for a missing woman back to the scenes of his degraded past.  Slowly, Harrow begins to feel that a dangerous conspiracy is being obscured by the bland, dishonest political correctness of the news and entertainment media.  Is he losing his mind as his mother did before him?  Or is he the last best hope we have?

No punchline needed.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:49 AM

July 24, 2008

tomatoes are delicious!

I spent the morning with my dog and a book and not the Internet, and then the newsstand next to the train stop was (as usual) out of the New York Times, so I had to buy a tabloid instead.  Which means that I learned exactly nothing on the train ride in, other than the fact that the Mets won (so in your face, blowhard Phillies fan that insisted on overtalking to me last night).

But there should always be room for quiet moments and small things, like this article on tomatoes that I read yesterday.  It's about how some smarty-pants are trying to recreate the ideal New Jersey tomato.  It's not stop-the-presses or anything, but I sure would like a couple New Jersey tomatoes.

You know.  For eating.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:03 PM

July 23, 2008

paul westerberg's 49:00

Well now this is the nicest thing to happen to me all day -- I just found out that Paul Westerberg, of the Replacements and all things right and good in the world, not only recorded a new album, but also has made it available for purchase for the price of forty-nine American pennies.  Information on this can be found on this page of Westerberg's site.

Do I know what it sounds like?  Nope -- just purchased it.  It's one big long .mp3, not divided into tracks.  And -- oop, one second -- yep, sounds good to me.  Lo-fi, like "Folker" and "Come Feel Me Tremble".

This would be the spot where a short-ish description of the excellence of Paul Westerberg would appear, but in light of the fact that most of you are already in the choir on this, imagine a couple sentences of Highest Praise.

[Via the board of Ellis, oddly enough.]

Posted by mrbrent at 1:38 PM

obama's super-power: the presidency

If you made the rounds of this morning's news analysis concerning the presidential election, you will have noticed a persistent meme consisting of the contrast between Sen. Obama's presidential gravitas versus Sen. McCain sitting in a golf cart.  And I agree.  For those of us with functioning eyeballs, it's a pretty obvious point.

But I'd like to add: when Sen. Obama is said to look "presidential", I don't think it's meant in the sense of "resembling a president".  Think back to the last four or five presidents -- which of them looked "presidential", even when they were president?  Maybe Reagan, maybe Clinton, but only in fleeting moments.  Reagan also looked fake at times, and Clinton had to overcome the bubba in him.  No, Obama does is not "presidential" in that sense.  Obama is "presidential" in some Platonic ideal.  The folk that think of Obama as such are not comparing him to past chief executives, they are attributing presidential qualities to him that exist only in these folk's picture of what a president should be.

And even though I'll be voting for Obama, I'm not writing this as advocacy -- I'm writing this because it's freaking true, and it's fascinating to watch unfold.

Meanwhile, pushback by the McCain campaign along the lines of "the media likes Obama too much!" is about the most presidential thing ever -- we need a leader who will whine freely.  It's about as presidential, in fact, as accusing your opponent of treason.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:53 AM

July 22, 2008

mcdonald's bought your news

I know that everything is commerce these days (or at least that the commercial aspect of everything now lives in the broad daylight), but I would like to draw the line at McDonald's product placement in local newscasts:
In recent weeks, anchors on the Fox affiliate in Las Vegas, KVVU, sit with cups of McDonald’s iced coffee on their desks during the news-and-lifestyle portion of their morning show. The anchors rarely touch the cups.

I'm not against product placement as a whole -- it's a revenue stream, and, boy do I love revenue.  But there is a difference between a smart-looking two-button suit and a plastic cup of chemically-reproduced iced coffee -- one is necessary, and the other isn't.  A ball-point pen manufacturer would be an apt match for a newscast; a premium dog food line would not.

And while I sure don't like McDonald's, just as a person that likes food, I'm more concerned that if this is not nipped in the bud then more and more extraneous and useless items will keep popping up on the desk of your local news anchor -- a frozen pizza, a riding lawn mower, a PlayStation 3!

While some may worry that the DMZ between editorial and advertising is rapidly expanding and shudder to contemplate the implication for the media on a going-forward basis, I'm more like, get the fucking fat-people food off the fucking newscast, dicks.

We will file this under Days I Hoped I Would Not Live To See.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:43 AM

most public is too public by a long shot

This may look like the latest list that you will compare yourself to unfavorably, but it is not.  Before, all we had were the Baseball Hall of Fame, the roster of Nobel Prize winners and the Small Businessmen of the Year of your local Chamber of Commerce's past.  Now we have the Most Public Index, who purports itself to be a list of individuals whose online presence nudges public opinion and current events into easily identifiable shapes, just like "writers" used to.

The denizens of this list are described as "news influencer", which sounds smoove but is very wrong -- "influencer" should not be a word.  Well, of course it should be a word, as it actually is a word, but it should not be accepted jargon, until such time as we all agree that we are now living a Vernor Vinge novel.

You've heard of some people on the list, but not most of them, because they are the Unseen Hands That Move The Internet, and they are the people that get a nickel every time you click a tinyurl.  These people used to be called "yetties".

But as I opened with, this Most Public Index (indeed!) is not the list that you wish you were on, like the shortlist to the Booker Prize.  Actually, it is a deft attempt to garner eyeballs for the site posting this Most Public Index, and especially those eyeballs that might be influencer-ing all over the place.

Cue snake eating own tail, as we gawk.

[Via Fimoculous.]

Posted by mrbrent at 9:29 AM

July 21, 2008

mcmain's foreign policy experince

As annoying as it is to see Sen. Obama's excellent overseas adventure painted as little more than a campaign strategy, there's something else that rankles more.

As far as Obama's trip to meet our friends and family in the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere, I don't see the purely political motive in familiarizing a man who might be president with the foreign leaders that he would be dealing with.  Yes, it sure does make him presidential, but kayfabe exists (or used to exist) for a reason.  In the same way that there's no use in labeling President Bush's tee-ball excursions as "an effort to raise his positives with seven year-olds" (even though that is clearly the case), there's no use for the news (as opposed to opinion/analysis) to report the motive over the event, unless you are trying to cynicize the electorate into uselessness.

But even more annoying is the accepted wisdom that Sen. McCain's strong suit is foreign policy (a list of media references thereto here).  I may be fuzzy on this, but, to my recollection, the only Senates that McCain has served in are located here in the United States, and, regardless of the committees (including the Armed Services Committee) he may have been member of, getting regular briefings from the State Department and fun junkets to exotic locales does not make one a foreign policy expert, any more than my years of watching the game of baseball make me a good shortstop.

Further, McCain comports himself as anything but someone comfortable with issues of foreign policy.  Even ignoring his deathlike embrace of the Bush policies of adventurism for the profit of cronies, McCain doesn't seem to know which countries are where.  Not only has McCain repeatedly referred to the nation of "Czechoslovakia", which I think is right between the "Soviet Union" and "Brentsylvania" in some old history book, but this morning he asserted his belief that Iraq and Pakistan bordered each other.  Which they, well, don't.

True, the President's job is not necessarily to win on "Jeopardy!", but maps are readily and plentifully available -- even outside of the White House -- and if a candidate is going to tout his experience in the affairs of the conflicting nation-states, I'd hope that he knows that the border of Iraq and Pakistan is commonly referred to as "Iran".

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM