Thursday, April 26, 2007

McCain Calls Iraq War a Tragedy?

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Republican presidential contender John McCain called the Iraq war "a great tragedy" on Thursday, yet still decried a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal as the Senate voted to begin pulling out troops by Oct. 1.
Really? Let's check out that quote:
"I'm aware of the patience of the American people. I read the polls. I'm not embarrassed to say that. I understand the frustration and sorrow that American people feel about this war. It's a great tragedy," said McCain, who was campaigning in this early voting state and missed the Senate vote on the bill containing the withdrawal timetable.
I know what it looks like to me. It looks like he's calling "the patience of the American people" with regard to the Iraq war "a tragedy." Not the war itself.

Did the way they quoted him change the context? Maybe. But note that he also missed the vote. I'll be interested to see him expand on this, because if he's calling this war "a great tragedy," it's a major change of position--aka, a flip flop.

What do you guys think?

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Lite Posting

Sorry for the light (ok, virtually nonexistent) posting this week. If only I could blog for a living... Anyone wanna take up a collection? (crickets chirping)

Regular posting will resume on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

581 c

They found one.

They should name it Krypton.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Out With The Trash Watch

Washington traditionally waits until late Friday to release news it doesn't want people to freak out about, or even particularly notice, on the assumption that nobody pays attention to the news on Saturday. Which is a pretty good assumption. This isn's just a Bush or Republican thing, of course, but it's worth noting that the Bush White House relies heavily on the practice of Bad News Fridays.

Some examples:
In 2004, Bush released documents relating to his National Guard service (or lack thereof) five times. In each instance, he waited until late on a Friday afternoon.

When Bush circumvented the Senate to appoint Bill Pryor and Charles Pickering to the federal bench, he waited for late-Friday afternoons.

Bush agreed to testify before the 9/11 Commission, so long as Dick Cheney would be there by his side. He announced his intentions on a late-Friday afternoon.

When the administration said it wanted to remove Clean Water Act protections from up to one-fifth of the nation’s streams, ponds, lakes, mudflats, and wetlands, it said so late on a Friday afternoon.

More recently -- last Friday, in fact -- Bush's spokeswoman waited until early evening to announce that as many as 5 million emails were illegally deleted from a "secret server" at the White House, a server bought and paid for by the RNC. (Shades of Nixon's tapes, eh?)

Among the missing emails: all of Karl Rove's communications regarding the US Attorney Firing scandal.

So, I wonder what... or who... they might throw out with the trash tonight? Hmmmm... Could it be, the Attorney General?

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lost 3X17: "CATCH 22" by Jeff Pinker & Brian K Vaughan

This was Brian K Vaughan's first produced work on Lost -- and, for that matter, in TV. Vaughan (whose blog is linked at right) is one of the best comic book writers working at the moment. His two creator-owned books, Y: The Last Man (which is winding down after about 5 years) and Ex Machina are particular favorites, though the Pride of Baghdad graphic novel is his best work.

Anyway, with that little bit of pimping out of the way, "Catch 22" was--I thought--quite good. The script (written with series vet Jeff Pinker) did a great job of making us feel Desmond's dilemma: he believed that in order to make his vision come true, he had to make every part of it come true... including Charlie's death.

Was he wrong? The visitor (Naomi) is alive, and clearly knows who he is, so she is connected to Penny and her search for the island. But, still, she's *not* Penny. Desmond probably thinks that if he'd let Charlie die, it would've been Penny under that visor.

The fallout from his actions should be interesting. I wouldn't blame Charlie for hating him, but if he tells Des to beat it, he loses his protector. (Charlie's flashback is the penultimate episode of the season. He is widely expected to die in that episode, though I'm sort of hoping it's a colossal misdirect meant to stop us guessing the identity of the real casualty: Jack.)

Meanwhile, though I loathe both actors, I'm starting to feel for Kate and Sawyer. I hope he realizes how badly she's gonna hurt him.

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Gonzales Goes Down For The Count

It has been a disastrous morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The major problem with his testimony is that Gonzales maintains, in essence, that he doesn’t know why he fired at least some of the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys. When, under questioning by Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, Gonzales listed the reasons for each firing, it was clear that in a number of cases, he had reconstructed the reason for the dismissal after the fact. He didn’t know why he fired them at the time, other than the action was recommended by senior Justice Department staff.

Later, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham returned to the subject. “Mr. Attorney General, most of this is a stretch,” Graham told Gonzales. “I think most of them [the U.S. attorneys] had personality disagreements with the White House, and you made up reasons to fire them.”

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Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran

Another man — wondering if an attack on Iran is in the works — wanted to know when America is going to “send an air mail message to Tehran.”
McCain began his answer by changing the words to a popular Beach Boys song.
“Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,” he sang to the tune of Barbara Ann.

I'd rather think McCain has lost his marbles than that he's lost his scruples, 'cause this could track either way.

All this pandering to people he spit at in 2000... Falwell, in particular.

Something's not right... and, again, I'd rather think he's been felled by dementia than by the desire to get to the Oval Office no matter what.

As much as I have always disagreed with his positions on most issues, I used to think he was better than that.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lost Season 3 Finale Spoilers & Speculation

Ausiello: (Major spoiler alert) Get ready to clutch your pearls: I'm told there will be at least five — count 'em, five — deaths on Lost during the month of May.
I have a feeling there's truth to this. It's obvious the season will end with the long-promised "war" between the Castaways and The Others. It's been something like 30 episodes--a month, their time--since Jack first decided it would be a good idea to raise an army (and have Ana-Lucia train them--Remember?)

Looks like the conflict Jack foresaw is about to materialize.

I'm OK with them killing off anyone and everyone, but if they harm a hair on Juliet's head (or on Ben's, for that matter), I'll ... Well, honestly, what I'll do is faithfully tune in for the very next episode. And the one after that. And so forth.

But, dammit, I'll be *pissed*. Along with Terry O'Quinn, Elizabeth Mitchell and Michael Emerson are, by far, the best actors on the show. They really class up the joint.

And, for that reason, I guess I wouldn't want to see them get rid of O'Quinn, either... Provided they are ready to move beyond the whole "and then, oops, Locke blows it up" trope. But it does seem like they're about to take it to the next level:
Carlton Cuse: "Let's just say the end of the season features a showdown between Jack and Locke...
That's been in the pipeline for longer than the war, but Locke's defection still managed to catch me by surprise. I think Locke is the real heavy on this show--He just didn't know it til now.

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"Settled Law?"

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long- awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench. The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.

The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

The decision pitted the court's conservatives against its liberals, with President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority.
I get nervous when the government tries to insert itself between me and my doctor. Well, not me in this case--not without a miracle--but the principle remains.

The law that was just upheld includes an exception for the life of the mother, but not for her health. If it contained that exception, I would find it very difficult to oppose, 'cause I do think we should all be able to someday get behind common sense restrictions on third trimester abortions.

But it will be difficult to make common cause with the anti-choice crowd -- the majority of whom would be thrilled to see the articles of their faith imposed on us all -- as long as they view every decision as a step toward (or away from) their ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade. Which, of course, can never be permitted.

I certainly can't blame anyone who sees this decision as proof that the Roberts Court will not be bound by stare decisis on the question of a woman's right to choose. This ruling raises the possibility that our new Chief Justice wasn't being entirely, shall we say, honest at his confirmation hearings when he described Roe v Wade as "settled law."

And that's chilling, to say the least. In 20 years' time, I fear we will look back on Bush's SCOTUS appointments as far more significant to American history than the Iraq War (which will--hopefully--be long over by then).

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The New Nine Inch Nails CD

dropped yesterday. Good stuff.

P.S., Trent--Diggin' the bulked-up look, but cut your hair before people start mistaking you for Severus Snape, OK? (Oops, too late.) And, seriously, would a whisker or two kill ya?

Update (4/20/07): Chas sent the following:

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Hero of Virginia Tech

Liviu Librescu, 76, an engineering science and mechanics lecturer. He was born in Romania, immigrated to Israel in 1978 and moved to Virginia in 1985.

An Israeli citizen, he had taught at Virginia Tech for 20 years and was internationally known for his work in aeronautical engineering.

"His research has enabled better aircraft, superior composite materials, and more robust aerospace structures," said Ishwar Puri, the head of the engineering science and mechanics department.

Librescu's son, Joe, said his father's students sent e-mails detailing how the professor saved their lives by blocking the doorway of his classroom from the approaching gunman before he was fatally shot.

“My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” his son Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. “Students started opening windows and jumping out.”

That gave me goosebumps. We should all have such cojones. But we don't (yes, spectators of the Kevin Aviance beating, I'm lookin' at you).

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U2 & Julie Taymor Team-Up for Spider-Man: The Musical???

Please, dear lord in heaven, by all that is holy -- Say it ain't so!
The character breakdowns provide some insight to plot points as the character Arachne ("female, 20-35 years old, any ethnicity") is described as "a beautiful, boastful young woman turned into a spider for her hubris and lack of respect for the gods. She subsequently appears to Peter Parker and the audience as in turn a powerful spider-woman who comes from another time to inspire Peter; an otherworldly lover; a bride; a terrifying (and sexy) dark goddess of vengeance; a dance partner in a charged and violent spiders dance of death; and, finally, a lonely, fragile young woman." Casting is seeking a "strong Celtic, Balkan style, e.g., Sinead O'Connor," noting, "outside the box ideas are welcomed. Could be someone from the music industry."

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And on a brighter note...

It seems Chas and I have painted our living rooms the exact same color. The pics at my flickr site don't do it justice. The flash makes it look too orange, but really it's more like a brown with a fair amount of red in it. Don't ask me what the difference is -- I don't write this shit, y'know.

Oh... wait. I do.


Liveblogging the Massacre

Monday, April 16, 2007

Daily Show/Colbert Audience Better Informed Than Fox News Viewers

*Duh*. Still, it's nice to have confirmation.

A new survey of 1,502 adults released Sunday by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that despite the mass appeal of the Internet and cable news since a previous poll in 1989, Americans' knowledge of national affairs has slipped a little. For example, only 69% know that Dick Cheney is vice president, while 74% could identify Dan Quayle in that post in 1989.

Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot -- with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.

Virtually bringing up the rear were regular watchers of Fox News. Only 1 in 3 could answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly. Fox topped only network morning show viewers.

Democrats and Republicans were about equally represented in the most knowledgeable group but there were more Republicans in the least aware group.

Editor & Publisher

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Doctor Who 3X03 "Gridlock" by Russel T. Davies

Eh. Davies' straight dramas (pardon the expression) are so much better than his work on this show. Some people should just never work in the genres, and Second Coming notwithstanding, I suspect Davies is one of them.

But we're stuck with him, (at least until he decides to move on, hopefully to be replaced by Stephen Moffat), and I'm not ready to stop watching yet, so as far as this episode goes, again, "Eh." I guess I've just sort of adapted my expectations.

It took a while. I spent the first couple of series wanting the show to reconcile its science fiction elements with the real world -- the way early XF, or the awesome British series Ultraviolet, did. I wanted them to make me believe that this shit could actually be happening--and I will always prize science fiction that takes me to that place over SF that doesn't even try.

But it's a fact: Who is one of the latter. Who is farting aliens and Ann Robinson robots. Pepperpots with plungers as the Big Bad. In this episode, the offspring of a human and a cat person (played by Dougal from Father Ted) are shown to be kittens. Actual kittens.

And that's how Davies wants it: campy nonsense 'cause it's all in good fun.

OK, then. On that level, this was a decent episode. The other two episodes set in this time ("The End of the World" and "New Earth") had very Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman-y vibes. This one didn't -- This one had a very RTD vibe. That's my big criticism.

Oh, and also, the big secret being kept by the Face of Bo for all this time turns out to be exactly what everybody thought it would be . ("You are not alone" -- which foreshadows the return of The Master.) Not much of a bombshell when your entire audience has guessed it long since.

Next week: Old New York, a bit of location shooting, and what look to be some legendarily bad American accents. Oh, and pepperpots.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ah, Pravda

American radio icon Don Imus disgraced, fired after threat to reveal 9/11 secrets

In a clear sign of its intent to reign in dissident American media personalities, and their growing influence in American culture, US War Leaders this past week launched an unprecedented attack upon one of their most politically 'connected', and legendary, radio hosts named Don Imus after his threats to release information relating to the September 11, 2001 attacks upon that country.

According to European reports of the events surrounding Don Imus that have gripped the United States this past week, it was during an interview with another American media personality, Tim Russert, who is the host of a television programme frequently used by US War Leaders, wherein while decrying the state of care being given to American War wounded stated, "So those bastards want to keep these boys [in reference to US Soldiers] secret? Let's see how they like it if I start talking about their [in reference to US War Leaders] secrets, starting with 9/11."

A friend of mine on a message board pointed out that Pravda might have more respect for "US War Leaders" had they, say, *poisoned* Imus. . .


Friday, April 13, 2007

Bird-Dinosaur Link Proved

The long-suffering theory that today's birds are descended from dinosaurs just got a huge boost. Scientists have been able to confirm that the modern chicken and the prehistoric Tyrannosaurus Rex share the same collagen fibers -- a protein seequence that gives bone its structure and flexibility.

Scientists have at last uncovered the closest living relative of the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, the most feared and famous of all the dinosaurs. For the first time, researchers have managed to sequence proteins from the long-extinct creature, leading them to the discovery that many of the molecules show a remarkable similarity to those of the humble chicken.

The research also brings scientists closer to being able to clone dinosaurs:

The research provides the first molecular evidence for the notion that birds are the modern-day descendants of dinosaurs, as well as overturning the long-held palaeontological assumption that delicate organic molecules such as DNA and proteins are completely destroyed during the process of fossilisation over hundreds of thousands of years. It also hints at the tantalising prospect that scientists may one day be able to emulate Jurassic Park by cloning a dinosaur.

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Lost 3X16: "One of Us" by Cuse & Goddard

This was an *awesome* episode.

Great scrpit by Cuse & Goddard. Questions were asked -- Not answered, for the most part, but at least they were asked, and that's something.

Great acting -- Those highly-charged scenes with Mithcell and Emerson (especially the scene where Juliet knocked the glass out of Ben's hand). The bit with Sayid--"If I told you, you'd kill me." "What do you think I'll do if you don't?"

Hurley's threat to Juliet was especially creepy -- given the source. "We buried [Ethan] over there."

No surprise that Juliet's there on assignment, but I like the way they're approaching it. They've had spies in the camp before, of course, but the twist is that, this time, we know about it from the start. They're approaching it as suspense, not surprise. The tension is over the question of what she's there to do, not *whether* she's there to do something. (There's also the question of whether she'll ultiamtely go through with it, since her feelings for Jack are not part of the ruse.)

I especially liked the way Jack articulated the true difference between the Losties and the Others: the Losties want to get off the island. The Others don't.

And, on that basis, he *is* right about Juliet, even if she is still working for Ben. (And why is she still working for Ben? Because she doesn't want to live on a beach for the rest of her life? Or because, on some level, she believes in what they're doing?)

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Are Hate Crimes Laws Just?

This is part of a reply I wrote to my friend Mel, a conservative Christian, a Republican, and future doctor, on the Ex Isle Message Board. We were discussing the House vote scheduled for later today.
Mel: Clearly it's wrong for people to be given less protection by police, judges, and juries because of the color of the skin, their sexual orientation, or any other reason. And clearly that happens. I just don't see how the solution for an attitude that some murders aren't as important as others is actual legislation saying that some murders are more important than others.
I don't think hate crimes laws *do* say that. They say that the punishment should fit the crime. Murder 1 is different than Murder 2. *Double* murder is, in many places, a death penalty predicate. By your logic, shouldn't they just be charged with murder twice? Why the *added* penalty?

Answer: because the fact that *two* people were killed mkes it worse.

I think the same applies to hate crimes. The fact that someone is targeted for his race, ethnicity, religion or orientation makes the crime worse--especially if it is part of an epidemic of similar crime--and so the penalty should be enhanced. Excluding orientation from the list is especially bitter because there is just such an epidemic, often in the places you'd least expect it.

Last June, a pack of 7 men staked out The Phoenix, a gay bar I've been known to hang out at about six blocks from here. These were local kids -- 16-19 years old. A couple of them lived right up the street from me.

They stalked Kevin Aviance as he left the bar, and then they beat him and robbed him, shouting anti-gay slurs throughout, so their victim would have no doube why they were breaking his bones.

They did it because he was gay. By their own admission.

If he hadn't looked gay to them, they would've let him go and waited for someone else who did to come out of the bar.

New York State law recognizes that there is something more heinous about this kind of assault than if they had chosen their victim purely at random. I sleep comforted at night knowing that these men will be spending more years behind bars because of that law.

But I also wonder which of the other 3, the 3 they didn't get, I might be walking past on the street when I leave The Phoenix and head home at 2AM.

And I'm not alone. Every gay person has to live with that fear. At any time, one of those people could decide to come for us. They could use fists and bats, like they did with Kevin Aviance, or they might use fire, or guns, or even bombs.

Hate crimes laws are tools to combat these epidemics no matter how they manifest--because members of any group can end up targeted in this way given the right set of circumstances.

But the fact is, at the moment, this kind of thing is happening to us as much as, if not more than, to any of the groups already covered by this law. Ironic, isn't it? Here we have the very tool Federal prosecutors use to combat this kind of thing, only they're not allowed to use it to when these crimes are committed against us. They can use it when these crimes happen to Jews. And Muslims. And blacks. Even whites. Handicapped people are totally covered. But not gays.

Huh. You'd almost think we were a hated minority group or something.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut died became unstuck in time last night. He was 84.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Jeanne Kirkpatrick on Iraq

So, the godmother of the neocon movement posthumously condemns the Iraq war. Ain't that a kick in the teeth?

On a personal note, I have dedicated much of my professional life to reconciling what I consider the twin goals of American foreign policy, and that is why President George W. Bush's decision to go to war has troubled me deeply.
... throughout history, if the single force of political stability in a region is removed without critical institutions in place to fill the resulting vacuum of power, the security of societies and their budding institutions will be precarious at best.

Unfortunately, what we face in Iraq today is a vacuum of power...

The administration's failure involved several issues, but the core concern is that they did not seem to have methodically completed the due diligence required for reasoned policy-making because they failed to address the aftermath of the invasion. This, of course, is reflected by the violence, sectarian unrest, ethnic vengeance and bloodshed we see in Iraq today.

Didn't do their homework, eh? And they covered so well...

Science Times on Sexual Orientation

Interesting article about the biology of sexual orientation in the Science Times yesterday.

It is no surprise that the male and female versions of the human brain operate in distinct patterns, despite the heavy influence of culture. The male brain is sexually oriented toward women as an object of desire.

The most direct evidence comes from a handful of cases, some of them circumcision accidents, in which boy babies have lost their penises and been reared as female. Despite every social inducement to the opposite, they grow up desiring women as partners, not men.

“If you can’t make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, how strong could any psychosocial effect be?” said J. Michael Bailey, an expert on sexual orientation at Northwestern University.

Presumably the masculinization of the brain shapes some neural circuit that makes women desirable. If so, this circuitry is wired differently in gay men. In experiments in which subjects are shown photographs of desirable men or women, straight men are aroused by women, gay men by men.

Such experiments do not show the same clear divide with women. Whether women describe themselves as straight or lesbian, “Their sexual arousal seems to be relatively indiscriminate — they get aroused by both male and female images,” Dr. Bailey said. “I’m not even sure females have a sexual orientation. But they have sexual preferences. Women are very picky, and most choose to have sex with men.”

Dr. Bailey believes that the systems for sexual orientation and arousal make men go out and find people to have sex with, whereas women are more focused on accepting or rejecting those who seek sex with them.

I know some women for whom the latter is just not true... and for that matter, some men for whom the former isn't true. But by and large, I think this makes a lot of sense.

I particularly take her point about those awful sex reassignment surgeries. If the loss of their cocks in infancy, a ton of estrogen, and being raised as girls couldn't change their sexual orientations -- what could?

Similar differences between the sexes are seen by Marc Breedlove, a neuroscientist at Michigan State University. “Most males are quite stubborn in their ideas about which sex they want to pursue, while women seem more flexible,” he said.

Sexual orientation, at least for men, seems to be settled before birth. “I think most of the scientists working on these questions are convinced that the antecedents of sexual orientation in males are happening early in life, probably before birth,” Dr. Breedlove said, “whereas for females, some are probably born to become gay, but clearly some get there quite late in life.”

What I appreciated about this is, it's exactly what I already thought.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Federal Hate Crimes Legislation

On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled congress votes on whether to include “sexual orientation” under the umbrella of the existing Federal hate crimes law.

Joe My God writes:
On March 21, the American Family Organization issued an action alert to stop the legislation, saying that the hate crimes bill will be "the first step toward silencing any opposition to the homosexual lifestyle."

(Which is true, as long as that opposition comes in the form of, say, a tire iron to the head.)

This link takes you to the Human Rights Campaign’s e-letter form. If you fill out the required fields, the form letter (urging passage of the bill) will be automatically sent to your local Congressperson.

If it passes both houses, Bush will probably sign it (i.e., he has yet to indicate he would veto).

39,000 Pets Poisoned in Recall Crisis

AP is reporting that 39,000 cats and dogs have been sickened and/or killed over the food recall situation.

WASHINGTON — Cases of kidney failure among cats rose by 30 percent during the three months that pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical was sold, one of the nation's largest chains of veterinary hospitals reported Monday.

Banfield, The Pet Hospital, said an analysis of its database, compiled from records collected by its more than 615 veterinary hospitals, suggests that three out of every 10,000 cats and dogs seen in its clinics developed kidney failure during the time the melamine-contaminated pet food was on the market.

There are an estimated 60 million dogs and 70 million cats in the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

For the record, my westies, who never eat the kind of crap food and treats that have been recalled, are fine. (I had my buddy Evan, our vet, check their kidneys.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Top Dems To Boycott Fox News-Sponsored Debate

Clinton and Obama announced Monday that they will follow the lead of John Edwards by boycotting a Fox News-sponsored debate next fall.

This is long overdue. The Democrats have, for too long, lent an undeserved measure of legitimacy to a "news" network so biased against them that regular Fox News viewers voted for Bush in greater numbers than any other demographic group save for registered Republicans. That's right: more than white males. More than evangelical Christians.

So why, exactly, should any Democrat ever consent to be seen on their air?

Frequent Fox News guest Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) could not be reached for comment, as he and Roger Ailes were spelunking in Mr. Bush's colon.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bjork: Earth Intruders

WeMUS: Weak Male Urination Syndrome

Pure genius.

Dr Who 3X02: "The Shakespeare Code" by Gareth Roberts SPOILERS

I liked the episode -- though, as with last week's hospital-set season premiere, perhaps not as much as its counterpart from last season ("Tooth & Claw").

I've seen a bit of comparison to Tom Stoppard, and I like Stoppard very much (R&G Are Dead and Shakespeare in Love are particular favorites), but I wouldn't go that far.

I would compare it favorably to Neil Gaiman, though. I particularly liked the Naming, and the comparison of magic to mathetmatics: "it's science of a different sort."

Christina Cole was delicious as the main witch--Her moustache twirling was the best thing about the whole ep.

And the period detail was just marvelous.

I liked the bit about the Doctor storing his captives (bound by their crystal ball) in the TARDIS's "attic." I imagine it's not the first time that's been done in Who, but I thought it was clever -- and in keeping with the Gaiman vibe. (Gaiman had Dream lock a couple of demons in a bottle. Then, he locked the bottle in a trunk and forgot about them for many years.)

BTW, though I thought the script was stuffed to bursting with quips and one-liners, I do admit that the Harry Potter one was marvelous--I hope we actually see Martha reading Book 7 in the TARDIS sometime in the next couple of episodes. (Traveling with the Doctor *should* have its priveleges, after all.)

My one gripe is Shakespeare. Didn't buy him for a second. I have no problem with the "sexy Shakespeare" approach, but this actor came off like he'd be more at home in a cop show. It was a charmless, wooden performance. Worse, the script had him more or less constantly spouting modern slang. (If he said "as if...!" one more time...)

I think if they'd cast a better actor the ep might've ben a home-run. Oh, well...

Next Week: Return to New New York, where The Face of Boe will reveal his big secret.

The week after that: Old New York.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Joe Klein on "The Epic Collapse of the Bush Administration"

Joe Klein has finally come to his senses. He brings out the big guns in his latest Time Magazine Op-Ed. It's brutal--and I agree with every word.

Excerpts below.

The first three months of the new Democratic Congress have been neither terrible nor transcendent. A Pew poll had it about right: a substantial majority of the public remains happy the Democrats won in 2006, but neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid has dominated the public consciousness as Newt Gingrich did when the Republicans came to power in 1995. There is a reason for that. A much bigger story is unfolding: the epic collapse of the Bush Administration....

The three big Bush stories of 2007--the decision to "surge" in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons--precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys). ...

Iraq comes first, as always. From the start, it has been obvious that personal motives have skewed the President's judgment about the war. Saddam tried to kill his dad; his dad didn't try hard enough to kill Saddam. There was payback to be had. But never was Bush's adolescent petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction: adding troops and employing counterinsurgency tactics inappropriate to the situation on the ground. "There was no way he was going to accept [its findings] once the press began to portray the report as Daddy's friends coming to the rescue," a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission told me. ...

On April 3, the President again accused Democrats of being "more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need." Such demagoguery is particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to provide our troops "what they need" at the nation's premier hospital for veterans. The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of incompetence in this Administration. "This is yet another aspect of war planning that wasn't done properly," says Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The entire VA hospital system is unprepared for the casualties of Iraq, especially the psychiatric casualties.

A lot of vets are saying, 'This is our Katrina moment.' And they're right: this Administration governs badly because it doesn't care very much about governing."

(I've been saying that last bit all along: why elect a group of people who don't believe in the Federal government to run the Federal government? It's assinine. The stupidity of our doing so is eclipsed only by the spinelessness of the Kerry--and particularly, Gore--campaigns in refusing to make Bush's competence the defining issue in the last two elections. The world must now live with the consequences of their monumental political cowardice.)

When Bush came to office--installed by the Supreme Court after receiving fewer votes than Al Gore--I speculated that the new President would have to govern in a bipartisan manner to be successful. He chose the opposite path, and his hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure. I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance, incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.

Well, anyway. Better late, Joe. Better late.

The Host

The Host is a funny hysterical, suspenseful and genuinely scary Korean monster movie with a surprising amount of smarts, political saavy, and a bittersweet ending that makes you simultaneously sad (for what happens) and happy (that the filmmakers just decided to go for it).

(I dread the inevitable American remake for what it will do to that ending.)

The kooky-retro melodrama of the soundtrack is like "What if Hitchcock too a buncha drugs and remade Godzilla?" I loved it.

There's a family reunion at the end of the first act -- at the makeshift shrine for their dead loved-one -- that turns on a dime to become a laugh so big (and so honest) that the audience literally didn't stop laughing for several minutes. The movie (thankfully) maintains this bright, ironic tone throughout, and it's especially appreciated during the darkest moments (and there are several).

The film is also filled with sly -- and, mercifully, low-key -- political commentary. There were big laughs every time a news report indicated that the beloved Americans were coming to "rescue" them from the incompetence of the Seoul government, which--apparently--prompted one fine, young, mohawked bohemian in the audience to jump up and stomp out.

I say "apparently" because he shouted the following at us, hands on hips: "I hope you're enjoying yourselves, you Yankee bastards!"

Course, he left before the American "rescue" materialized. They called it "Agent Yellow." Uh-hem. (I think the satire--and therefore, the moral of the story--would still have gone over his head, don't you?)

Anyway, go see it.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Dr Who Season 3 Trailer

This season (which began last weekend) looks like it could be a lot of fun.

(Flying) "Daleks in New York" (which was shot on location). Pig men. The Face of Boe reveals his big secret. Captain Jack (who is ever so much more interesting on Who than he is on his own show) returns for the final three.

There's an episode (adapted from one of the licensed Who novels) wherein the Doctor relinquishes his responsibilities (and powers) to live as one of us. He falls in love and -- per this trailer -- possibly gets married.

Of course, an invasion of alien scarecrows throws a monkey in the works. (That old saw.)

And, finally, the cutie-patootie posing in front of Big Ben near the end of the trailer is John Simm (Life On Mars), who plays The Master.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Last night, my friend Brian (BJ's Gay Porno Crazed Ramblings link at right--NSFW) broke the news: he got me a ticket to see Bjork at -- of all places -- the Apollo on May 8!

I've never seen her live before, so I'm pretty darn excited about this.

Oh, and THANKS, Bri! You rock!

Lost: "Left Behind" by Damon Lindelof & Elizabeth Sarnoff SPOILERS

Overall, this season has been an improvement, in my opinion, over the last one, but I gotta say, I didn't love this one.

Too much coincidence, too little common-sense. They left the village without taking showers or doing their laundry. Jack never asked, "um... Where's Locke?" Etc.

Kate running into Cassidy in the flashback was hard to buy (like Sawyer running into Jack's father, or Claire being Jack's sister, et al.) I was a little shocked that she didn't sell Kate out in the end, but maybe that happens next season.

Saw Juliet's mindfuck coming a mile away (obviously, Ben's not the only Other into psychodrama), and I'm certainly not convinced that they just abandoned her.

Maybe she's legit (and I love the character--hope she survives another season), but as of now, I think she's a plant, sent to keep an eye on the Losties and report back.

I think it's even possible the smoke monster encounter was a set-up. (And how convenient that the sonic fence was off.)

The beach subplot was... standard issue, as usual. I'm sorry to see the Others go if it means we'll have to spend more time on the boring-ass beach. I know a lot of people might disagree with me on this (especially the network, which apparently mandated that showrunners Lindelof & Cuse return Jack to the beach several episodes earlier than they had planned), but I've really enjoyed the extended focus on their operations.

Here's what I hope comes next: they all pile into Hurley's van and head back to take the village for themselves. Juliet obviously knows the code for the fence, possibly even how to change it, so she could turn it on once they're inside and effectively lock The Others/Hostiles out.

Of course, the characters who didn't even think to take advantage of the running water before they headed home to the beach aren't about to do that... right?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Battlestar: Anatomy of the Fakeout SPOILERS

Chas (and anyone else who doesn't want to be spoiled on the surprise cliffhanger ending of Battlestar's third season)--Don't read this post.

From the LA Times:
"David and Ron said, 'We want to start this phone call out by saying that we love you,' " Sackhoff recalled last week.

Sackhoff knew she might not like what came next. And she didn't. "They said, 'You're not really gonna die — but we're gonna blow you up.' "

At the end of the March 4 episode of "Battlestar Galactica," Starbuck, the swaggering, troubled pilot who has been one of the show's leads during its three seasons, did indeed blow up. The series' voracious fans' reactions ranged from mourning to disbelief that the producers would kill off such a popular character.

Those in the latter category turned out to be right: Three episodes later, in the season finale's last moments, Starbuck reappeared, flying alongside her friend Apollo (Jamie Bamber). She said she had been to Earth — the search for Earth is the show's overarching story — and would lead everyone there.

In a spoiler-centric world, where the plots of television series leak throughout the Internet, the so-called death of Starbuck was a big secret to keep in the months-long lag time between shooting "Battlestar Galactica" and its broadcast. Adding on that she wasn't actually dead, along with the surprising circumstances of her return, made it even more difficult. After all, the Sci Fi Channel show isn't so much watched by its moderately sized but fervent audience as it is dissected.

So the other part of that summer phone call was the hatching of an ornate scheme that would keep even the most curious and snooping viewers surprised, even if they did guess that Sackhoff was not actually gone from the show. Eick said: "This was by far the most difficult and complex secret to keep. It was no small feat."

At first, the producers wanted to deceive the whole "Battlestar Galactica" production, including the cast, into thinking that Sackhoff was really leaving. "They said, 'We're not telling anyone,' " she recounted. " 'We're not telling the entire crew. The entire cast. Some of the writers aren't even going to know.' I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me!' "

The cast found out Starbuck was "dying" while production was underway last year when they received the outline of the episode in which she blew up. "Everyone flipped out," Sackhoff said.
A little more detail emerges in Ron Moore's podcast for Part 1 of the season finale:

"Flipped out" may be an understatement, particularly with regard to Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell. Moore describes it as a "near mutiny." Apparently, they did an end-run around Moore & Eick--They went straight to the studio. (There's no detail on what they said to the studio, but I have to wonder if threats were involved.)

To calm the show's male and female leads down, Moore brought them into the loop, at which point Olmos threw himself into the part -- even shedding tears at the farewell dinner party organized by the rest of the cast (who were still under the impression that this was it for Sackhoff).

A fake ending was written for the season to continue the ruse. This also let them kept secret which 4 castmembers were to be revealed as Cylons. (Aaron Douglas had let it slip in an interview that 4 of the Final 5 would be revealed in the finale.)

Finally, Starbuck's surprise return in the final seconds of the finale was shot after the season wrap party.

Anyway, Katee Sackhoff returns as a regular next season--presumably without the demons that plagued her (and the audience) this season. Moore (who, obviously, gets off on lying to the fans -- and who can blame him) says that she's not a Cylon, and she's not dead -- i.e., she hasn't returned as Apollo's new Inner Starbuck (a la Baltar's Inner Six, and Six's Inner Baltar). It's really her, and she's really there.

I guess we'll have to wait til the next (and almost certainly final) season to find out whether he's lying to us about that. (And, again, I say -- good for him. Spoilerholics like me can't help ourselves -- so he's doing us a favor by attempting to restore the element of surprise. For the record, though, almost no one I know bought that Sackhoff was off the show.)

So, here's my question (well--one of many): where the hell did that Viper come from? They built it for her on Earth? (She may not have blown up at the end of "Maelstrom" -- she had her hand on the eject lever -- but her ship most certainly did.)

BTW, thanks to Cylkoth for the title of this post, "Anatomy of a Fakeout" -- I liked it so much, I swiped it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Jennifer Saunders Returns

as Vivienne Vyle in a new Britcom debuting on both BBC-2 and BBC-America in 2007.

The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle is Jennifer’s comedic sideways swipe at the talk show format. It’s Ab Fab meets The Larry Sanders Show with quite a bit of Ricki Lake and Oprah thrown in. Vivienne Vyle (Jennifer Saunders), hosts Britain’s most loved, talked about live therapy show – and is not afraid to dispense her frank advice with abandon.

Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Gideon’s Daughter) plays producer, Helena. She’s endlessly creative and hyperactive and harbors big plans for Vivienne.

The idea for the series originally came from Dr Tanya Byron, presenter of BBC AMERICA’s Little Angels, a clinical psychologist who’s been involved in television documentaries on human behavior. “She presented the idea for a comedy on the subject to Jennifer, the aim being a black comedy with pop psychology at the root,” says producer, Jo Sargent.

“At the start of the show Vivienne’s a medium-sized fish, with ambitions to make it big. She’s quite a vulnerable person really. Behind her public, ‘tell it like it is’ façade, is an insecure, easily hurt individual. She’s beginning to question how much she wants the success. But then her ratings soar, and her ego begins to expand in line with her audience figures,” adds Sargent.

Sounds like a definite improvement over last year's Jam & Jerusalem (US title: Clatterford), a single camera half-hour shot on location in a quirky small town. It failed as comedy & as drama.

I have higher hopes for VV.

It's About Time

I've been waiting for this mash-up (if that's the term) since before the movie came out, and finally, it's here.


Sorry to my tens of readers for the dearth of posting for the last month or so. Real life came a-callin', and -- as everyone knows -- I can't do two things at once.

I'm gonna make an effort to post something every day. Scratch that: I'm gonna make an effort to post something interesting every day.

I know, I know -- Why start now?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Duchovny Talks Up X-Files 2

Funny how DD only ever really talks about this project when he's promoting other stuff, eh?

The cynic in me says he does so not because he realistically believes there's been any movement on the long-aborning XF2, but because he wants his legions of XF fans to check out his new wares. Which, in this case, is a promising Showtime series he's doing with Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan called The TV Set.

Duchovny claims, in the interview linked above, that they're just hammering out the deal for XF2 now, and they expect to shoot next year. The long-standing rumor is that the project would be a stand-alone supernatural thriller/horror piece... which, if true, would certainly cost them my ten bucks.

You don't find out in the first movie that the end of the world is nigh -- in about 15 years, to be exact -- then return to the characters 10 years later (a mere four years from zero hour in 2012) only to find that mutant crocodiles eating dogs in the Everglades (or whatever) has taken precedence. Hello? They have that whole threat to the lives of every man, woman and child on earth issue to deal with.

Plus, you don't call the first film "Fight the Future" and then return to the characters ten years later to find that they've been doing anything but. It's retarded.

Of course, logic not being Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz's strong suit, I expect that's *exactly* what they will do, and--again--it will cost them my ten bucks.

The only way I can see myself getting excited about this is if we find out that former producers Morgan & Wong ... or DD himself... are writing it. But that doesn't seem too likely, does it? Last I heard, Carter was insisting on writing and directing.

Not promising, nope. Not promising a'tall.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Former Sr Aide Repudiates Bush

Amazing, isn't it, how their attitudes change when their own loved ones' necks are on the line.

I give Dowd credit for coming to his senses, for speaking out publicly, and especially for declaring that he has an obligation to make amends for his part in twice putting this man in the Oval Office, but he sure as hell waited til the water was warm before he jumped in, huh?

There's nothing brave about speaking out against Bush and Iraq now, is there? If he'd done this in the fall of 2004, I'd've been impressed.

Dr Who S3 Premiere: Smith & Jones SPOILERS

Mixed bag. I liked the Judoon, and though I agree with the criticism that the science fiction element doesn't stand up to scrutiny (whenever *does* it, on this show?), I thought the investigation was handled pretty well. I'd like to see more of the space rhinos.

I also like Martha. I like that she's not an idiot about the alien stuff that's been going on. (I especially liked that the Canary Wharf reference spoke primarily to establishing that facet of Martha's character -- and only in a secondary way did it address the meta-fact that the actor played another character on the show.)

She seems to be a natural detective--a "curiosity killed the cat" type, and that's a good quality for a companion to have. Should get them into -- and out of -- all sorts of scrapes.

The actress is a huge improvement over Billie Piper.

Not sure about the family yet. Their inclusion was perfunctory--like a lot of this episode, frankly. It seemed more concerned with setting up the new status-quo than in telling a good story that just happens to set up the new status-quo.

For example, why did The Doctor have to go undercover as a patient--for all of 15 seconds--knowing that the first person to check his pulse would discover he's not human? (There are easier ways to gain entry to a hospital, as the heavy's henchmen--who just walked through the door--proved.) Answer: because the writer planned for the first person to check his pulse to be his new companion. Wink--nod. Blech. Too cute by half, Russ.

Ditto the "cheap trick" -- Davies' words -- at the end.

I assume Martha's family will be fleshed out in subsequent episodes, and I expect that they'll become a major draw for me, as Rose's counterparts were. That *is* what Davies is good at, after all--realistic family/friend dynamics. (Which is what made him sort of a weird choice, IMO, to resurrect Who in the first place--but that's another post.)

I'm not sure they're gonna be able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question, "what about Martha's career?"

Rose worked in a shop--and the shop blew up. Heading off with The Doctor at that point didn't impact her professional life, because she didn't have one.

Martha, on the other hand, is in a high-profile internship at one of the most prestigious hospitals in London. When "one trip" turns into two, into ten, etc, that's a question they'll have to answer: what about her career? What about the internship? What about the impending exams she spoke of? The residency that comes after them?

She can't just walk away from that and not expect negative consequences. Resuming that life will be very difficult after 1 year or 2 or more with The Doctor. And if she was already thinking about chucking her career, there's no hint of it in the ep. Quite the opposite, in fact. (She *does* seem to have had it "up to here" with her sitcom caricature of a family, though.)

So, again, mixed-bag for me. Liked the character, even liked the aliens, but thought the intro was pertty awkward.

Next week: Shakespeare.