Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gumby Passport Surgery

Would you like to disable the RFID chip in your spankin' new passport? Then what you need to do is follow these detailed step-by-step instructions.

1) Hit it with a hammer.

2) Repeat as necessary.

Yes, I'm serious (via Boing Boing).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Would the addition of chicken have made a difference?

In deference to this blog's penchant for Chicken Caesar Reviews and the brilliance that is Mimi Smartypants, the following is a recounting of one of her recent dreams:
I woke up thinking about Andrew Marvell and Alexander Pope fighting a duel inside a wooden bowl full of Caesar salad. This could not ever have happened (oh really?) because they were not quite contemporaries (Marvell died in 1678, Pope was born ten years later); Caesar salad was not invented until the 20th century; and that would have had to be one huge salad bowl or two really small poets---either way you know something is wrong. I do not remember who was winning, or whether this was bare-knuckled battle or with weapons, but I do recall that every once in a while one of them would try to climb out and a stream of olive oil would run down the side, knocking the combatant back to the salad arena.

In case you are wondering, the answer to the query in the post title is this: It depends on whether the chicken is in chunks or strips.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Fifth State

I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays (Bill O'Reilly can bite me) and extend my sincere congratulations to California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and (as of this week) New Jersey for having your heads screwed on straight and your priorities in order. Congratulations!

See you folks next week.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Leaving nothing to chance

The following is from a New York Daily News article (via Think Progress) in late November:

Eager to begin refurbishing his tattered legacy, the President hopes to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Bush lived in Dallas until he was elected governor of Texas in 1995.

Bush sources with direct knowledge of library plans told the Daily News that SMU and Bush fund-raisers hope to get half of the half billion from what they call "megadonations" of $10 million to $20 million a pop.

Bush loyalists have already identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential "mega" donors and are pressing for a formal site announcement - now expected early in the new year.

"You can't ask people in Dallas for $20 million until they can be sure the library won't be in Waco," one Bush source noted.

The rest of the cash will come from donors willing to pony up $25,000 to $5 million.

"It's a stretch," said another source briefed on the plans. "It's so much bigger than anything that's been tried before. But the more you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert."

The half-billion target is double what Bush raised for his 2004 reelection and dwarfs the funding of other presidential libraries. But Bush partisans are determined to have a massive pile of endowment cash to spread the gospel of a presidency that for now gets poor marks from many scholars and a majority of Americans.

The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.
Then this appeared on Think Progress about two weeks later:

"I'll be dead when they get it right." – President Bush, on how his legacy will be viewed, according to a "recent visitor" to the White House who says Bush is "still resolutely defiant, convinced history will ultimately vindicate him."
Yeah, especially when you stack the deck.

But, of course, the library isn't the entire country. And no matter how much money is invested into this one cluster of buildings, it will end up as a sort of pitiful shrine for the Dubya faithful to take their children on a pilgrimage. "You see, son? He was actually a great man! And it was actually Democrats that got all those soldiers killed and created Civil War in Iraq!"

It's all so very sad. And is it any wonder that the staff of Southern Methodist University have already made their feelings known that they do not wish to be host to this monument to delusion?

Monday, December 18, 2006

The True Meaning of Christmas:

To be kind and respectful of one another.

Of course, this is a "family value" that should be practiced year round. But the Bill O'Reilly Brigade has been the antithesis of this spirit for two years running, now. Slate has an excellent breakdown of this today:

It's fitting that Eisenhower should have pioneered the tradition of all-purpose holiday messages. They typified his belief that, as he once put it, "Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith—and I don't care what it is. With us, of course, it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion that all men are created equal." His statement expressed the paradox of America's emerging religious disposition in the 1950s. In many ways, religion was resurgent in public life, with prayer breakfasts, "In God We Trust" added to paper currency, and the words "under God" inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance. Simultaneously, however, the Holocaust had made the merits (indeed the necessity) of religious toleration all the more compelling. Most Protestants, moreover, had come to realize that immigration had permanently transformed the American populace and that for comity to prevail in daily life, diverse creeds would have to coexist. Hence, this was also the golden age of the "interfaith" movement and the spread of that insipid public-relations neologism Judeo-Christian (a phrase that crystallizes the conflation of Christmas and Hanukkah).

Will Herberg's classic Protestant-Catholic-Jew (1955) captured the detente achieved among America's three leading religions. The book examined the Eisenhower Era condition of "pervasive secularism amid mounting religiosity." Herberg concluded that Americans (not unlike Ike) placed a high value not so much on God as on religion itself. "One's particular religion is, of course, to be cherished and loyally adhered to," he wrote, "but it is not felt to be something that one 'flaunts' in the face of people of other faiths." Most Americans in the 1950s believed in God, yet insisted that their beliefs didn't impinge much on their politics or business affairs. And, as Herberg noted, "what is secularism but the practice of the absence of God in affairs of life?" The same mix of private faith and public accommodation—precisely what irritates today's Christianists—prevails today.

The interfaith, tolerant spirit, ascendant in the 1920s, had by the '50s become synonymous with what Herberg called "the American Way of Life." In the decades since, we have expanded the Protestant-Catholic-Jew troika to include Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and others (although not without some ugly resistance). And, certain terms of the compact have been renegotiated, as when the Supreme Court concluded that prayer doesn't belong in public schools—though, in keeping with Herberg's analysis, a moment of silence has remained constitutionally kosher. Overall, the understandings reached by the 1950s have remained an American consensus. Indeed, far from a war on Christmas, this consensus should be seen as a socially useful, ideologically justifiable, and highly agreeable truce.

Far from this, most right-wing Christians have taken their "Freedom of Religion" to mean something else: The Freedom to be Assholes.

Way to propagate the Christmas Spirit, Bill.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Funny, Christian Bale doesn't look Russian

So, Russia has an Intelligence Agency called the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie. This is their logo (via Boing Boing):

In related news, the CIA unveiled plans to renovate their image by creating their own eye-catching logo.

Despite this bit of modernization, CIA director Michael V. Hayden reassured the country that the CIA will continue to stand for "truth, justice and the American way".

Bring Back Captain Jack!

I am not a person that tends to automatically praise a sequel just because I loved the original (Ocean's 12 and Men in Black 2 sucked so much they created a minor black hole, for example). So I am not ashamed to say that I loved the second Pirates of the Caribbean film and am looking forward to the third.

Here's a little taste (via ComingSoon) of what awaits us in Summer 2007:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Directors who dare to walk in another man's shoes

Prediction time: One month from now, a lot more people are going to be aware of the film Letters from Iwo Jima for two reasons. First, it will become a frontrunner for a Best Picture Oscar. Second, there will be a gaggle of conservative commentators bitching about it.

It has already won top honors from the American Film Institute, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. That's quite a feat for a movie that hasn't gotten one tenth the publicity of Flags of Our Fathers, which was filmed by Eastwood back-to-back with Letters. They serve as companion pieces to tell the story of one battle from both sides, and both have their share of inspiring patriotism as well as heartbreaking disillusionment.

My fear is that when people start talking about Oscar, right-wingers will accuse Eastwood of denigrating troops currently in the field as well as bolstering the enemy we now face (or some such nonsense to that effect). The disadvantage right wingers have at playing this kind of game is that their targets are not always so easily swayed or hit.

They came after Spielberg last year for daring to tell both sides of the story in Munich. Palestinians sympathetic? Perish the thought. Old Steven might just convince some people out there that these are real people with motivations that are not as simply defined as "pure evil". When they lashed out at Spielberg, he didn't bat an eye and gave them as good as he got. My admiration for the man went from seeing him as a great director to seeing him as a great human being.

And so I am secretly hoping that they come after Eastwood, so he can fire back at them and tell them just where they can stick it. He's already been through this to a lesser degree with the ending of Million Dollar Baby, and he should be just fine with this one. Go Clint Go!

Incidentally, go check out the website for the film. It's a work of art in and of itself.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Shine Shine Fun Happy Christmas Story!

The news is loaded with'em this time of year.

This story, however, does not qualify in any way whatsoever.

Do Not Click unless you wish to be simultaneously frightened, disgusted and very, very sad.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Skippy of the Day: Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett described the Iraq Study Group thusly:
"In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible."
I think we now have the textbook example of "pot and kettle" that will stand the test of time.


What can you say? The man likes pain.

From Slate's review of Apocalypto:
For a good hour, I tried to pretend that I had never heard of Mel Gibson: the maker of fanatical blockbusters, the spewer of hateful rants. I tried—really tried—to experience Apocalypto as an ethnographic thriller about an ancient culture. But though it may have been researched to within an inch of its life, this film is not, by any reasonable standard, ethnography. It teaches us nothing about Mayan civilization, religion, or cultural innovations. (Calendars? Hieroglyphic writing? Some of the largest pyramids on Earth?) Rather, Gibson's fascination with the Mayans seems to spring entirely from the fact (or fantasy) that they were exotic badasses who knew how to whomp the hell out of one another, old-school. You don't leave Apocalypto thinking of the decline of civilizations or the power of myth or anything much except, wow, that is one sick son of a bitch.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chicken Caesar Review: Saladworks

The reason my reviews have slowed a bit is that I'm running out of places to go to. Fortunately, I spotted a new place at the mall food court when I went Christmas shopping last week. Saladworks is pretty much just that: a guy at a counter ready to toss any number of salads the way you like them. Their Chicken Caesar, which costs $5.98, contains both Iceberg and Romaine lettuce, homemade baked croutons, chopped eggs and grilled chicken. You have your choice of a number of dressings, so I chose their Royal Caesar.

The dressing becomes the dominant flavor, here. And unlike most other Caesar's, there is no ranch element in this dressing. Instead, it's an incredibly light and tangy element that is refreshing compared to the heaviness of ranches. Also unlike most other Caesar's I have tried, this one takes an ingredient from the Classic Caesar that most restaurants leave out: Egg. The flavor is hardly noticeable combined with the dressing, but it's a worthy addition for it's source of protein and ability to fill you up more (a very desirous attribute when you're talking about an entree salad). The remaining three elements (lettuce, chicken, croutons) are also dominated by the dressing, but not so much as to make them dispensable. The blend of two different lettuces make a nice contrast of textures. The chicken, with no grilled flavor that I could detect, is also good. And the croutons manage to be buttery and crunchy without going overboard into Texas Toast territory.

Again, this salad is particularly recommended for it's filling ability and comparatively cheap price. So if you're looking to work off some of those Christmas sweets, this is a great place to start.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

So far and yet sooo far

NaNoWriMo has come to a close, I've removed the link to the right, and I didn't come anywhere near to finishing. I feel like a putz offering any explanation, so I'll just say I simply didn't stick to it like I should have. I fell behind in my average word contribution about a week into it then further and further, until I abandoned it all together.

If there is a bright spot, then it's the fact that what I did write was, I think, pretty good. I plan on completing it after the holidays, perhaps as my New Years Resolution. Otherwise, it's blogging as usual and (surprise!) a new Chicken Caesar review sometime next week. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Forest Whitaker Quote of the Month: December 2006

We end our year of Forest Whitaker Quotes by talking about a film that people resisted talking about when it was in theaters.

I speak, of course, of The Crying Game.

Whitaker plays Jody, a British soldier who is kidnapped by the IRA. As have many prisoners before and after him have done, he attempts to gain sympathy from the guy chosen to guard him, played by Stephen Rea. During their conversations about people and their ability to change, he tells of the old fable that concerns a scorpion and a frog:
Jody: "Scorpion wants to cross a river, but he can't swim. Goes to the frog, who can, and asks for a ride. Frog says, 'If I give you a ride on my back, you'll go and sting me.' Scorpion replies, 'It would not be in my interest to sting you since as I'll be on your back we both would drown.' Frog thinks about this logic for a while and accepts the deal. Takes the scorpion on his back. Braves the waters. Halfway over feels a burning spear in his side and realizes the scorpion has stung him after all. And as they both sink beneath the waves the frog cries out, 'Why did you sting me, Mr. Scorpion, for now we both will drown?' Scorpion replies, 'I can't help it, it's in my nature.'"