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Friday, November 30, 2007

“Without Writers Guild Members, we would have bad jokes, crap movies…”

Okay, it really isn’t the most important issue of the day, but watching the daily news about the Writers Guild strike is almost as much fun as the video from an ill-advised Britney Spears music awards performance.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, Shawn captures what must be one of the funniest things spoken by a celebrity during the strike.

“Without Writers Guild members, we would have bad jokes, crap movies, and an endless output of reality television,” Tim Robbins, for example, expounded in a strangely clipped accent, begging the question: As opposed to what?

The funniest bit, though? This:

“But the people in WGA bleed to write the scripts,” Graham said, as a homeless-looking man a few feet away pounded away at invisible bongos. “The actors in SAG and AFTRA bleed to play their roles. The people who support this city every day bleed to make it the cultural capital that it is.”

Read the rest because, let’s be honest, there aren’t too many funny stories in the news today that go from the phenomenally cute Kristin Davis to a socialist selling copies of 1917: Journal of the International Bolshevik Tendency.

Full disclosure: hidden in the mix is a link to RSong. Thanks, Shawn!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why They Continue to Fail

In a sign of phenomenal regional stupidity, the Southern African Development Community--SADC--is forming ranks around Robert Mugabe and threatening to kill off a summit with the EU scheduled to begin next week.

The SADC threat heightened the pre-summit row over Mr Mugabe’s attendance which has already meant Gordon Brown confirming his own boycott of the summit, a move followed by Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Prime Minister. Tomaz Salomão, executive secretary of the SADC, said that its 14 members including South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania as well as Zimbabwe, would pull out if Zimbabwe was on the agenda.

“SADC will not go to Lisbon to discuss Zimbabwe because the summit is not about Zimbabwe, but about relations between the EU and Africa,” he said.

But while neither Zimbabwe nor any other country is expected to be listed as a separate agenda item, “governance and human rights” is one of five areas for discussion at the two-day gathering. A discussion of human rights is also a precondition for lifting Mr Mugabe’s EU travel ban to allow him to go in the first place.

Sadly, I can’t say that this is unprecedented. The truth is that post-colonial African leaders have a long-standing habit of protecting their neighbors from legitimate criticism, preferring to ignore the corruption and misrule in the region partially, I’ve always believed, as a way of ensuring that they themselves never have to face that criticism. I don’t attack you, you don’t attack me.

Or perhaps it simply stems from some strange belief that they are fortifying southern Africa diplomatically against incursions from a hostile Western world. If that is the case, then it goes far in proving that billions of dollars in financial, food, and material aid don’t go far in buying good will; while the West may hold the markets and the purse strings, many African leaders (and their overdeveloped sense of entitlement) insist on setting an agenda that doesn’t include changes in how they govern and how their economies are structures.

If the EU isn’t even allowed to raise the issue of gross negligence in the governing of countries like Zimbabwe, then no honest dialogue about Southern Africa can possibly take place.

But, again, that’s hardly surprise.

My beliefs on aid--and the importance of those Southern African states to the national security interests of the US--don’t necessarily mesh with most of my conservative and libertarian friends, but I think we could agree on this: without continued and aggressive changes to the governance of those states, our aid money is being wasted. Why continue throwing money down a well when there’s somebody at the bottom digging the hole ever deeper? I applaud the European leaders who are boycotting the summit over the inclusion of Mugabe; I wonder what the remaining leaders will do when faced with this very obvious and very hostile maneuver from the SADC?

Regardless, with the SADC putting up this block to a meaningful summit, an accidental message is being sent to the United States, too. When devising future aid packages, we now know that, regardless of some of the more impressive political changes in countries like Mozambique and South Africa, the urge to provide cover for the most corrupt and self-destructive of their members is strong enough to threaten an important summit with the European Union.

And that is one of the biggest reasons that these countries have continued to fail.

Read the story.

Thanks to Robin Roberts for pointing me toward the story.

Kids These Days are Losers. So There.

Wheels offers up an antidote to the competitive text messaging post from yesterday--old guy supporters everywhere dance a little dance of victory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Somedays… (Part 3)

Somedays, I think, “Ouch. Holy freakin’ ouch.

Because, c’mon, what else is there to say?

Somedays… (Part 2)

Somedays, I boggle at the thought of competitive texting.

I mean, seriously, people.

Somedays…

Somedays, I fear that angry “youths” will come and burn my blog down.

Just sayin’.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lengthy Post. Sort of.

My longest post in quite some time is actually a comment in the last post.

Man, post-holiday blogging is a hell of a chore.

Hillary Says: I Would Totally Beat Ron Paul, Though

Interesting development tied either to more weakness in the Clinton camp than many expected (I still say that she motivates GOP voters to show up like no one else in the field) or, perhaps, the left’s error in committing to an early campaign run tied to heavily to a bet on continued dramatic failure in Iraq. For that matter, it could just be a blip on the screen and not the beginning of a trend.

Whatever, these are the numbers that Zogby is giving for Hillary v/ the GOP frontrunners.

Democrat Hillary Clinton would lose to all major Republican White House candidates, according to a hypothetical election matchup poll Monday, reversing her months of dominance over potential 2008 challengers.

The Zogby International poll was the latest sign that withering attacks on the former first lady were chipping away at her opinion poll leads just 38 days before the Iowa caucuses, the first party nominating contests.

In the new survey, Clinton trailed Senator John McCain 42 percent to 38 percent, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani by 43 percent to 40 percent and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney by 43 percent to 40 percent.

She also lagged behind former Arkansas Republican governor Mike Huckabee by 44 to 39 percent, and former Senator Fred Thompson by 44 to 40 percent in hypothetical general election matchups.

Even if these numbers are accurate and do indicate the beginning of a soft patch for Hillary (and possibly for the Democrats--who may be seeing their own dismal approval numbers catching up with the public’s obvious disappointment with President Bush and the GOP), remember this: winning votes is important only in that those votes win the key states. I would be interested in seeing a state-by-state breakdown to get a better feeling for how the election could go.

There are a lot of questions about a poll like this, though. Was the Zogby poll reliable and unbiased in its questioning? Is this is still too early to mean much? Will positive trends continue in Iraq? How shallow will this dip in the economy be? Oil prices probably won’t start declining much while the dollar continues to sink--when will the dollar begin a substantial recovery? Will Afghanistan see any setbacks? Will the Democrats ever actually accomplish anything while they have control of congress? Or will they prove to be just as inept as the GOP in an even shorter span of time? What happens to the candidates when the real mud starts splashing around?

It would be stupid to count Hillary out at this stage. She’s smart, she has a team of experienced handlers and campaigners, she’s positioned herself well to the left of the GOP field but nowhere near the far left of other Democrats, and she’s a very good campaign strategist.

But everyone who is ceding the election to the left is making a grave mistake, too. This thing is still open to all comers.

Except Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. Because America doesn’t have that much of a sense of humor.

Read the story.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to All

And to all, a good night!

(Run, turkey!, Run!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Damned, Evil Jellyfish

Hordes of undead jellyfish are terrorizing the Northern Irish salmon industry.

A jellyfish invasion has wiped out Northern Ireland’s only salmon farm, killing more than 100,000 fish.

A Northern Salmon spokesman said last week’s attack could cost more than £1m.

Billions of small jellyfish, known as Mauve Stingers, flooded into the cages about a mile into the Irish Sea, off Glenarm Bay and Cushendun.

I might have made up the “undead” part. The Mauve Stingers are actually a sort of Gay Mafia jellyfish gang, but that doesn’t work as well with the whole “Damned, Evil” thing.

Sorry for any confusion.

Read the rest.

Priest Holmes Retires

He was a great player for so many years and it looked like his return might play an important role in keeping the Chiefs heading in the right direction this year. Unfortunately, injuries have cut short his return and Priest Holmes is retiring.

Four-time Pro Bowl tailback Priest Holmes, who returned to the field with the Kansas City Chiefs last month following nearly two years of inactivity, has decided to leave the game, and announced his retirement at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Holmes, 34, spent the past few days counseling with family members and friends, and speaking with medical experts about a re-occurrence of the neck problems that sidelined him for two years, two sources close to him told ESPN.com on Tuesday night. The decision to retire came after Holmes suffered three hits in last Sunday’s game at Indianapolis that left him with some tingling in his extremities.

A great player and, from what I’ve heard, just as strong a citizen, it is a shame he didn’t have one last season in his banged up body. Here’s hoping that whatever life holds for him next will be as rewarding as his NFL career.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quick Response to Jeremy Lott (Updated)

I was going to leave this as a comment on Jeremy Lott’s site, but, sadly, comments aren’t allowed. Lott, author of the wonderful In Defense of Hypocrisy (a book with a cover I wish I had designed (sorry, graphics geek moment)), linked to my glib prayer of thanks for the writers strike.

Am I the only right-of-center type who isn’t wild about the Hollywood writers’ strike? I don’t even watch much television –three, four hours a week tops — and I have enough unwatched videos and DVDs stockpiled to wait out any longer work stoppage.

It’s not quite fair to say that I’m wild about the strike; I’m a little closer to indifferent. I lived without cable for a few years and got myself hooked up only because I wanted to be able to watch the Avalanche playoffs games. Most of my TV watching is sports related, I catch stuff on the History Channel regularly, and I try to catch House every week. Of course, my fascination with American Idol is widely mocked, so I don’t dare leave that out, too.

My feelings about the strike, though, have little to do with my watching habits.

I have little sympathy for the producers because, frankly, everything that I’ve ever heard about their accounting practices leads me to believe that they do their best to screw writers hard. The writers have only themselves to blame for some of the problems, though: they made a bad deal last time around and completely underestimated the kind of revenue that would be created from DVD sales. Oops.

Here’s the thing, though, I’m not sure how much sympathy I have for the writers, either. If this is right:

Starting TV writers earn about $70,000 per season for full-time work on a show. Veteran writers who move up to a story-editor position make at least a low six-figure salary, with a “written by” credit on an hourlong script paying an additional $30,000 plus residuals.

We’re not exactly talking about a poorly paid profession, are we? And for writers who aren’t staff writers or who write on spec, well that’s the risk, isn’t it? When I write a handful of articles for paid publication in any given year, I don’t complain that I’m not paid a living wage. I just make sure that I leave the focus on the job that actually pays my bills and realize that what I do on the side is, essentially, a hobby.

I wouldn’t presume to know what a writer deserves to be paid for, say, working on episodes of Cave Man, and I know that writing well--good dialogue, good plotting, believable characters with depth (things not in evidence in Cave Man)--is not a common skill. I hope that the strike is settled quickly and equitably.

But not only will I not much miss the grand majority of the tripe that the TV spews, I have absolutely no idea what equitable looks like and it just isn’t that important to me. I’ll leave the serious writing on the subject to those people who have a vested interest in the subject.

Read the rest of Lott’s comments.

Update: And now you can read Lott’s response to my response. Which makes this one of the longer blog-to-blog conversations that I’ve had in a while. Unfortunately, I don’t really have any further response. Turkey and carb overload seems to have robbed me of my capacity for thought.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Broncos v/ Titans: The Ten Point Review

Tell me about those Broncos. Who are they?

  1. Let’s get right to the funniest play of the game. Mike Shanahan, when you live by the last second timeout, you die by the last second timeout. By “freezing” the kicker at the end of the first half, Shanahan gave the kicker a second chance at a missed 56 yarder. Rob Bironas ,the kicker, came out and knocked it through. Oops.
  2. After that butt kicking a few games ago, this Broncos team looks rejuvenated. They are playing with far more aggression and passion than they had through the first eight games and it’s really showing.
  3. But they aren’t that much better. Tonight a quarterback like Tom Brady would have eaten them alive. Champ Bailey wasn’t having a good night, there wasn’t much pressure on Vince Young, and the defense continues to give up far too many big plays and long third down conversions.
  4. And Sam Adams--who, to be fair, is actually starting to make his XXXXXXL presence felt--seems determined to give up at least one encroachment or lined up in the neutral zone infraction in each game.
  5. The offense seems to be finding the script, though. Even with all the replacement parts and young players, the offense is starting to score points and make big plays. Enough of each to overcome the defense’s unevenness (for now at least). All of the Broncos’ four touchdowns were 40 yards or more.
  6. Cutler had a really good night. His stats aren’t gaudy with just 200 yards on 16 completions with two touchdowns. But he only missed on 5 passes, he threw no interceptions and made no big mistakes, and, most importantly, converted a ton of third downs on the way to a respectable score. Add in his one scramble for 10 yards and a first down and you’ve got a game that is absolutely huge for a Broncos team that needed him to lead them to a victory.
  7. Vince Young and the Titans have the potential to be a good team. Young deserved to be the first quarterback taken in 2006 and he played very well tonight--his two interceptions came close to the end of the game when the Titans were desperate for big plays and had abandoned the running game. His receivers dropped a number of balls that could have kept them in the game.
  8. Yes, I do think that the Scaife pass was a completion at the end of the first half. Which doesn’t really change much.
  9. The starting running back, Travis Henry, didn’t play. The back-up running back, Selvin Young, is injured and out of the game. Andre Hall, the third string guy, comes in and scores on a long play for the Broncos. Mike Shanahan’s running back mystique continues to grow.
  10. It’s depressing to see Rod Smith in civvies on the sideline. A while back I wrote that it seemed like he might be coming close to the end of his great career and that story is really growing. I hope that I’m wrong, though; I hope he has one last season of greatness in him before he retires. He deserves one last victory lap.

All that aside, could the NFL see two really big record broken this season with the Patriots going unbeaten through the Super Bowl and the sad Miami Dolphins going winless through the end of the season. If you had asked about that at the beginning of the season, I would have said that there was no chance. I’m starting to think that it could happen.

The Patriots this year are devoted not just to winning games but to destroying opponents. They have been amazing and it’s hard to imagine any team beating them (barring injury, that is). Miami, by comparison, looks like they could lose nine of ten to the Raiders, who I thought would be the worst team in the league. Not a good season to be a Dolphins fan.

Whatever. The Broncos, even with all their mistakes and poor play, are back up to .500. They are tied with the Chargers and are leading the AFC West--for now at least. That is much less a comment on the Broncos than it is on the state of the AFC West in 2008.

Check out Darren Copeland’s view of the game.

Grrr, Part 1

You know what I hate? I hate people who make an appointment to come in for a job interview and then never show up. They don’t send an email, don’t call, and don’t show up.

Wastes my time. Wastes my dry cleaning. Makes me want to be mean to the next applicant.

So, yeah, don’t do that.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

God Bless the Writers Strike

I wasn’t sure what I think about the writers strike--mostly because it hadn’t really poked its head into my life in any noticeable way--and I’m not prepared to take sides in the money grab that is going on. I figure it will work itself out without my help.

Now, though, I’m rooting for a long, long strike that paralyzes the Hollywood money machine for years to come. That would be awesome.

Why?

A follow-up to The Da Vinci Code has become the first big-screen casualty of the Hollywood writers’ strike.
Angels & Demons, a prequel to the movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel, is being delayed by Columbia Pictures because its script needs more work.

It had been due for release around Christmas 2008, but has now been pencilled in for May 2009.

Writers walked off the job nearly two weeks ago in a row over royalties for their work on DVDs and the internet.

Anything that can keep us from idiocy of more Dan Brown-related films makes me feel all tingly inside. Actually, come to think of it, we’d all be better off if Hollywood managed to lose a few like Stealth, Norbit, and Boat Trip. Instead, the strike will probably be over soon and we consumers will be faced with another weekend of Dumb and Dumberer-esque “entertainment.”

Read the rest.

Update: Thanks to Shawn for linking this from American Spectator blog.

Another update: The conversation continues here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Industrial Strength Stupidity Punisher

Okay, some people need to learn the subtleties of the term, “right tool for the job.” Or, maybe they just need to learn the term and start applying it in their own lives.

A US man has injured himself in both legs after attempting to loosen a stiff wheel-nut by blasting it with his gun.
The 66-year-old man from Washington state was repairing his car outside his home when the accident took place.

Shooting at the wheel from arm’s length with his 12-gauge shotgun, he was peppered with buckshot and debris.

The man - who police say was on his own and not intoxicated - was taken to hospital with severe, but not life-threatening, injuries.

The most surprising part of this story (to my cynical eyes) was that the man was not intoxicated. That would have explained quite a bit.

Read the story.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hugo, Hugo, Hugo

I had no idea.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

(And, no, I don’t know if there is any truth to the rumor. Nor do I care. Chavez will still be a prick either way.)

Harry Reid’s Amazing Devotion to Failure (Updated)

Sen. Reid: Anti-Churchill

Thank you, Senator Reid. Your devotion to losing is something that we all marvel at.

“Every place you go you hear about no progress being made in Iraq,” said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

“The government is stalemated today, as it was six months ago, as it was two years ago,” Reid told reporters, warning US soldiers were caught in the middle of a civil war.

“It is not getting better, it is getting worse,” he said.

Read the rest from one of our country’s most important leaders.

Nope. No improvement. Not a word about improving situations. Everything seems to be getting worse. Without your will to succumb to our enemies, Senator Reid, I might have mistakenly gotten the impression that a little stiffening of the backbone might be in order. So, yeah, let’s get to losing.

Thank God that Senator Reid is here to show us the way to a proper defeat.

Update: No. Nothing good to see here. Move along.

The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and foreswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.”

Texting Gives Kids the Courage to be Cowards

The technology revolution really has changed our world. I no longer have to buy my porn, I have 24 hour access to more music than I ever knew existed, I can order my pizza online, and many of life’s tougher moments can be handled through instant messages and emails.

It’s a better world that we’re creating.

More than four in 10 teens, or 43 percent, who instant message use it for things they wouldn’t say in person, according to an Associated Press-AOL poll released Thursday. Twenty-two percent use IMs to ask people out on dates or accept them, and 13 percent use them to break up.

“If they freak out or something, you don’t see it,” said Cassy Hobert, 17, a high school senior from Frenchburg, Ky., and avid IMer who has used it to arrange dates. “And if I freak out, they don’t have to see it.”

Overall, nearly half of teens age 13 to 18 said they use instant messaging, those staccato, Internet-borne strings of real-time chatter often coupled with enough frenzied multitasking to fry the typical adult brain. Only about one in five adults said they use IMs - though usually with less technological aplomb or hormone-driven social drama.

I wonder how this reliance on IMs effects the ability to interact face to face--so much of human communication is non-verbal that it seems that IMs, with clipped dialogue and very little nuance, misses much of what it means to effectively communicate with someone. In fact, it even misses the subtleties captured in a phone conversation. Does over-reliance on text messaging stunt growth in mature and meaningful conversation?

Frankly, asking a girl out is tremendously difficult. Every time a guy does it, he opens himself up to humiliation and ridicule--at least in his own mind. I fully understand the urge to keep the potential for embarrassment as far away as possible. But is it such a bad thing for a kid to learn how to muster up a little courage and do the deed face to face? Learning how to take risks, learning how to handle a little failure, is an important part of growing up. If kids only learn how to take the easy route on everything that they do, where are we going to find the business, technology, and political leaders who will be willing to put themselves on the line for the big things in life.

Maybe I’m just an old guy and too out of touch with the advantages of texting; maybe I’m just missing the point. Entirely possible. But I’m not entirely fond of teaching kids to rely on a technology that makes it easier to be a coward.

Read the story.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who Doesn’t Love a Cheap Whore?

What is your vote worth? In a story brought to us Politico, we find that students at NYU have a price point that is pretty damned low.

Only 20 percent said they’d exchange their vote for an iPod touch.

But 66 percent said they’d forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they’d give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.

But they also overwhelmingly lauded the importance of voting.

Ninety percent of the students who said they’d give up their vote for the money also said they consider voting “very important” or “somewhat important”; only 10 percent said it was “not important.”

My vote is part of my legacy--a part that no one will ever see but me, but an important part, still. I can’t honestly say that my vote--my single vote--has ever swayed an election. But I do believe that acting in concert with others who share my beliefs and concerns most certainly has. I won’t leave behind children or the great American email, but I’ll leave my many years of votes. That matters to me.

If you offered me an iPod touch to buy my vote or my silence, you’d probably want to duck fast. I don’t like to be insulted. Offer me a free ride through college and I’d laugh in your face. Offer me a million dollars and I’d wish that I had very different sense of ethics. But I still wouldn’t take your money.

Not everyone values the same things that I do--I understand that--but there is something sad about a group of Americans who say that, yes, voting is important, but, yes, you can buy mine on the cheap. I hope that this is a function of youth and that they will grow away from such foolishness. Given the typical voter turnout in any given election year, though, I know that many voters doesn’t even need to be bought off to keep them from the booth.

Read the story.

Update: Allah has a different view.

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