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Black Friday

Posted by Becks
on 11.24.07

I hadn't thought of this until I read August J. Pollack but damn right:

I am actually angered by anyone who let the stores get away with this "doors open at 4:00 AM" bullshit. What the hell makes you do that? There is nothing- nothing-that requires a sale to start at 4:00 AM, and to actually entertain that as a customer means you do not give a damn about hundreds of low-wage workers who were likely told that they had to finish up with their families on Thanksgiving extra-early so they could be at their stations at 3:30 AM before the doors open. People should refuse to show up that early simply in protest.

 

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Also: "Wait. Who is actually willing to date you?"

Posted by Becks
on 11.24.07

In which I review this week's Modern Love using only quotes found therein:

self-righteous
self-satisfied
gag-worthy
painful
deplorable
dreadful
"Girl, you need to get your mind right."


 

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Hospitality

Posted by Becks
on 11.24.07

My parents have recently decorated the guest room with a clock that chimes every 15 minutes. Besides being hell for light sleepers, surely this would give anyone performance anxiety.


 

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Doin' Fine

Posted by Ogged
on 11.23.07

I think my cousin just provided the slogan for stoic make-the-best-of-it people everywhere. He recently moved alone from Iran to Australia and was lamenting the always-the-dumbest-guy-in-the-room syndrome endemic to people learning a language in a foreign country, but when I encouraged him to put himself in situations where he's forced to stretch his skills, he dismissed me with "Nah, only the first hundred years of this are difficult." So beautiful. And it sounds like it's a saying in Farsi; sometimes my people are ok.


 

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Outsourcing my international opinions

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.23.07

The Instant Pundit advises me to read all of two articles on Iraq.

First, Krauthammer:

Why is top-down national reconciliation as yet unattainable? Because decades of Saddam Hussein's totalitarianism followed by the brutality of the post-invasion insurgency destroyed much of Iraq's political infrastructure, causing Iraqis to revert to the most basic political attachment -- tribe and locality. Gen. David Petraeus's genius has been to adapt American strategy to capitalize on that development, encouraging the emergence of and allying ourselves with tribal and provincial leaders -- without waiting for cosmic national deliverance from the newly constructed and still dysfunctional constitutional apparatus in Baghdad.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is in disarray, the Sunni insurgency in decline, the Shiite militias quiescent, the capital city reviving. Are we now to reverse course and abandon all this because parliament cannot ratify the reconciliation already occurring on the ground?

The other is a report on the decline of some variant of al Qaeda:

Earlier this year, Abul Abed, a disgruntled Sunni insurgent leader, began secret talks with the Americans about ending Al Qaeda's reign of terror in this run-down, formerly middle-class Baghdad neighborhood, renowned as one of the city's most dangerous. He had been gathering intelligence on the group for months.

[gun battles snipped]

Now Abul Abed, a swaggering former major in the Iraqi army and reputedly a top leader in the influential Islamic Army insurgent group, reigns supreme in Amariyah -- with considerable help from the U.S. military.
Still wearing the White Lion's pistol tucked into his belt, he commands his own 600-member paramilitary force, called the Knights of Mesopotamia. He receives $460,000 a month from the U.S. military to pay, arm and equip them. They wear crisp olive green uniforms with smart red and yellow badges bearing the Knights' horse-head logo. They are well-armed, and some have flak jackets.

In fairness to the Pundit, these links were a few posts apart, but even still, the contradiction is glaring. All this is to say that until someone convinces me otherwise I take the Farley view:

The problem with the strategy in Iraq (and it's not the Surge; the tribal strategy precedes the Surge by about six months) is that we are both arming and legitimating non-state actors; in these conditions, it is very difficult for the central government to assert authority, and thus to do any of the things (organize for collective defense, collect taxes, provide services, etc.) that a modern nation-state does. Also, the tribes we're enabling are among the most conservative, anti-democratic elements of Iraqi society. This is why so many people tend to think that the tribal strategy, whatever its merits in terms of a reduction of violence (and I think it does have merits on this score) is fundamentally at odds with the idea of a unified, democratic Iraq. And that too may be fine; the democratic Iraq idea gave up the ghost a while ago, anyway. But it's best not to pretend that the tribal strategy is contributing to the goals that were set out four and a half years ago.


 

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Personalities

Posted by Ogged
on 11.23.07

One of the people at dinner last night was a twenty-two year-old I babysat from the time he was an infant. He has wild, frizzy hair and an unkempt beard and wears hipster t-shirts over his emerging pot belly. As dinner wound down, he began coordinating with his friends to camp out at the various big box electronics stores at 4am, so that they could buy the most popular sale items and sell them at a profit on eBay. (Of course, first he had to get someone to let him borrow their car.) I turned to his mother and offered "At least he's enterprising," to which she replied "Enterprising and lazy." I cocked an eyebrow and said "That's usually a recipe for criminality." "We were worried for a while in high school, but it seems like he's ok now."

Also reported last night: a couple in attendance had recently had dinner with husband and wife creationists, which they discovered in the midst of lamenting the medieval political climate that has more than half of Republican presidential candidates professing to believe in creationism.


 

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Their chum Chet Morton was dead, and he wouldn't be alive again any time soon

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.23.07

A recent Achewood reminded me of how hilariously weird the Hardy Boys mysteries were, so I started googling and learned more than I ever wanted to know about the collected works of Franklin W. Dixon.

I more or less learned to read via the intrepid sleuthing of Frank and Joe Hardy, but until now I hadn't quite realized how old these things are. Yet another weird parenting strategy in the Labs household.


 

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A thread that is not entirely closed

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.22.07

Happy Thanksgiving, o my people.


 

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I Hear You, My Son

Posted by Ogged
on 11.22.07

I learned last year that prayer can be answered in unexpected ways. Of course, if you're more secular or literal-minded, that's another way of saying that it can mean whatever you want it to mean (then again, maybe the act of stating something honestly puts you in a different interpretive position relative to your life, and that's the point of prayer). But let us not become reflective. My point is that the Lord put the cute surfer chick next to me on the plane for a reason, and clearly that reason was to say "Ogged, you fucking moron, you don't like Iranian lawyer ladies. Try getting out of the house more, you loser."

I first mentioned the Iranian lawyer months ago, and elevator ride by elevator ride, I've managed to convince myself near to asking her out. But as the surfer chick--with her pretty, open face, and her hair piled messily into a bun, and her weathered fingers and exaggerated wind-carved crows feet--told me with genuine, guileless excitement about her upcoming surfing trip to C/osta Ric/a, and handed me maps and pictures so that I could see how beautiful it was, I was reminded of the kind of people I like to spend time with.

I didn't ask her out either, of course, but then she was a good ten, maybe fifteen years older than I am, and far too ass-kicking: she said the accommodations where she stays in CR are "pretty basic" with huge bugs and spiders in the rooms, but she "just stopped looking in the corners." Even so, she did focus the mind, so to speak. Thanks, God. And thanks, surfer lady; you sure are cute.


 

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I Aim To Bore, And To Tweak Will A Little

Posted by Ogged
on 11.21.07

I'm off to the airport in about an hour to sit interminably inside an airplane on the tarmac go to Chicago and I'll be mostly offline until Sunday. No doubt you'll manage without me.

And Will, I was holding 13 strokes per length today, baby. In that stroke that uses asynchronous rotating arms and a flutter kick--you know, the crawl. No hip snapping, either, just an elegant, civilized rolling from side to side.


 

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Holiday Prayer

Posted by Ogged
on 11.21.07

Hear me, Lord, and harden my heart. Let me resist beguilement by the cute Iranian lawyer, Lord, and guide me not into temptation. Let me read through twisted glasses, Lord, the bio I happened to look up on her firm's website. Lord, poison my mind and mine eyes, let me look upon the elegant cut of her clothes and see vanity, her fancy degrees and see immigrant striving, her pro bono work and see slave morality. Hear me, Lord, and harden my heart. Remind me, O Dear God, of hordesome relatives, of my people and their meddlesome ways. Hear me, Lord, and guide me not into temptation. Amen.


 

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Figuring Things Out

Posted by Ogged
on 11.21.07

The details are lost to the mists of time and good sense, but I had a long conversation with a friend last night that somehow culminated in a question hypothetically posed to the average woman: would you rather fuck an Indian or an Eskimo? We happened to be talking about Indians from India, hence "guru fuck vs. Inuit fuck," but I see that it would be even funnier if we'd meant Native Americans. Next time.


 

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Non-Creepy Blog Crush

Posted by Becks
on 11.21.07

Now that Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney is a blogger, surely there's a way for me to make her my new best friend, right? Although D-list internet celebrity probably can't compete with "Hey, I'm Fred Armisen. Come make awesome videos with me." Sigh.


 

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Righteous

Posted by Becks
on 11.21.07

Huzzah to Wonkette for juicily ripping the Commission on Presidential Debates a new one.


 

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Yes: another mix.

Posted by Ben
on 11.20.07

I went to see this concert on Sunday, and one of my fellow attendees turned out to be none other than the current music director at KZSU, who encouraged me to start doing a show again. And perhaps I shall! But in the meantime I'll just post mixes here. Like this one, the impetus behind which was indeed that very concert, and in particular The Painted Bird (actually just Daniel Kahn), who was very good, in fact far better than Charming Hostess, sad to say. One of the songs he sang was this one, which I gather is rather famous, and indeed one can see countless clips of some godawful german punk band slaughtering it on youtube, but which he has not yet recorded, though he did advise me that there was a different Eisler tune on the album he did have with him which I might enjoy—and I did!

There is a tracklist below. You will notice that I have included two songs by the same band, a grave faux pas that I would never forgive in anyone other than myself. So it goes. Also one singer appears on two songs (Dagmar Krause) as does one songwriter (Scott Walker, who also wrote "Scope J"). Much of the internet seems to find "Scope J" utterly unlistenable, a matter regarding which it is completely incorrect, of course; I think it's the best and, hm, least questionably arranged of all the songs I've heard from the album on which it appears (it was because of such considerations of arrangement that the Tom Waits song of which I was originally thinking I might use, "The Part You Throw Away", that I did not end up using it; his own rendition, on Blood Money, is much better)—the only one by Ute Lemper I have, in fact: I gather she's well thought of as an interpreter in general, though, so persons wishing to recommended other of her albums are hereby invited to do so.

1. Barbez - The Picnic
2. Henry Cow & Slapp Happy - War
3. Daniel Kahn & the Painted Bird - Die Ballade von der Judenhure Marie Sanders
4. Uri Caine - Symphony 2, Resurrection/Primal Light
5. Andy Statman & Zev Feldman - Alimeinem
6. Bohren & der Club of Gore - Kleiner Finger
7. Heiner Goebbels - Über den Selbstmord
8. Gena Rowlands Band - The Body Wants More Than Skin
9. Scott Walker - The Patriot
10. Ute Lemper - Scope J
11. Art Bears - Pirate Song
12. Barbez w/ Nils Frykdahl - Tango Ballade
13. Tom Waits - Strange Weather
14. Tiger Lillies - Dead Souls


 

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Jading You

Posted by Ogged
on 11.20.07

Did you know that there are a bunch of clips on YouTube in which the bride and groom start their first dance with a traditional slow dance and then surprise everyone by busting out to an uptempo song? Now you do.


 

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eBook

Posted by Ogged
on 11.20.07

There's some low-level buzz about Amazon's new ebook reader, the Kindle. It sounds pretty nice as these things go, with its e-ink screen and the ability to purchase and download books wirelessly wherever you are. But isn't it obvious that ebook adoption depends almost entirely on available content, and that ebook readers won't catch on until almost everything that's available in paper is available electronically? I don't care if they have 90,000 titles if I can't know whether they'll have what I want in the future, or if they don't have various academic texts, etc. It's not about the device!

(That said, I finally played with an iPhone a couple of weeks ago, and as soon as that thing comes out with 3G, I'm getting one. So nice.)


 

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Gswift Does Get Laid

Posted by Ogged
on 11.20.07

Yes he does.



 

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Sometimes!

Posted by Ogged
on 11.20.07

I just got an email with a sign-off that we didn't contemplate in the earlier thread on the topic.

Always,

The hell?


 

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Balancing

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.20.07

Reading this made me wonder just how good a novelist Martin Amis would have to be in order to make his hideous assholity bearable. If for example he had written Lucky Jim we could shake our heads sadly, muse about how great artists can be such lousy people, and so on. But no.


 

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More Robots, Please

Posted by Becks
on 11.20.07

New York Magazine presents a helpful Pre-Holiday Guide To Downer Movies.

(Contains some spoilers)


 

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Demonic Possession

Posted by Ogged
on 11.19.07

I'll bet that getting this look down, paired with a t-shirt that says simply, "I Blog," will take care of all my image-making needs. What is this? Cocaine? A put on? Dude, read Unfogged instead!


 

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I'm Looking At You

Posted by Ogged
on 11.19.07

I wonder if it would still work if everyone from Unfogged were there.

The compound--part boot camp, part rehab center--resembles programs around the world for troubled youths. Drill instructors drive young men through military-style obstacle courses, counselors lead group sessions, and there are even therapeutic workshops on pottery and drumming.

But these young people are not battling alcohol or drugs. Rather, they have severe cases of what many in this country believe is a new and potentially deadly addiction: cyberspace.

Don't even start with the denial, people. The internet is addictive enough all by itself, but this place, where you type at the screen and the screen types back smarter and funnier, is cyber crack. I've emailed with some of the bloggers here about feeling like a pusher, and I'm totally serious about that. Of course, I'm the worst kind of pusher, because I use my own product. Look at my love/hate relationship with the place, and all the times I've "quit," only to start up again. I know some of you are the same way. So consider this an opportunity to talk honestly about what seems like a silly problem, but can be kind of serious, and also to share tips about staying rooted in the real world.


 

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Young Love/Old Love

Posted by Becks
on 11.19.07

I think the recent story about Sandra Day O'Connor and her husband is really beautiful:

Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's husband, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, has a romance with another woman, and the former justice is thrilled -- even visits with the new couple while they hold hands on the porch swing -- because it is a relief to see her husband of 55 years so content.
What culture tells us about love is generally young love. Songs and movies and literature show us the rapture and the betrayal, the breathlessness and the tears. The O'Connors' story...opened a window onto what might be called, for comparison's sake, old love.
...
[Despite] the stereotypes, researchers who study emotions across the life span say old love is in many ways more satisfying than young love -- even as it is also more complex, as the O'Connors' example shows.
"There's a difference between love as it is presented in movies and music as this jazzy sexy thing that involves bikini underwear and what love actually turns out to be...The really interesting script isn't that people like to have sex. The really interesting script is what people are willing to put up with."
"Young love is about wanting to be happy," she said. "Old love is about wanting someone else to be happy."

 

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Different Logic, Same Belief

Posted by Becks
on 11.19.07

My crazy gun nut uncle and I often end up agreeing on issues because he'll go so far to the right and I'll go so far to the left that we'll end up looping around the ideological spectrum to meet in an alternate middle. I thought of that when I read this article about Mike Huckabee's position that the legality of abortion is an issue that should be decided at the federal level and not left to the states.

If morality is the point here, and if it's right or wrong, not just a political question, then you can't have 50 different versions of what's right and what's wrong.

I concur.


 

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Sifu needs your help

Posted by Ben
on 11.18.07

He wants to know how to "best condition/trim my moustache to make it supple and delightful when kissing?". A scaled-down image of the horror is below; if you want to see it in disgusting detail, that can also be arranged.


 

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Gone

Posted by Ogged
on 11.18.07

NickS wants to know about

three things that you've tried to find online and haven't been able to find.

He explains that he's

thinking partially about the question of what's missing from the internet as a representation of collective memory, but also of that specific feeling of thinking of something, deciding "I need to google this when I get home" and then not being able to find anything.


 

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