Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ralph Nader Runs Again

According to Slate, Ralph Nader, who took a sizeable portion of the electorate in 2000, will be running for President again:

The prospect of another Nader candidacy should surprise no one. (He ran again in 2004, after all.) But it's hard to see him taking a significant bite out of the Democratic vote this time around. In 2000, many Dems, disaffected with the Clinton White House, wanted to try a third way. In 2004, Kerry was so uninspiring that a Ficus tree could have launched a viable third party candidacy. But this year, Democrats are generally pleased with their options.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Captain America Lives Again

Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada showed up on the Colbert Report to discuss the return of Captain America in the form of Cap's old sidekick, Bucky Barnes. It's a pretty entertaining clip, and it's nice to see that Quesada is fast enough to keep up with a professional satirist.

Scary McCain

Am I the only one who thinks John McCain looks a little sinister in this victory shot?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Music Industry's Unpredictable Future

The music industry is hurting. This isn't a shocker for anyone who has paid attention for the last 8 years, a period by which we have seen the evolution of music from being pushed in $18.99 compact disc units to being available on 30 GB iPods. The music industry never had to face anything like this before, and the entire business model that had been used for artists from Elvis Presley to Eminem is now being shaken.

I'm not a businessperson by any means, and my experience in such matters is still being built. However, from my humble perspective, it seems to me that the entire entertainment industry should say goodbye to the days of one monolithic means of distribution. Like the publishing industry, where magazines can be free online with advertisements, viewable online by membership or not online at all apart from a website with information on how to subscribe, where books can be found in the traditional format, on audiobooks on CD or through services like iTunes and Audible or through a .pdf file, the music industry should embrace the fact that we live in an age where there are as many choices for ways of obtaining information as there is information to obtain.

So far the online models for legal distribution of music files have been sites like iTunes, which sells music directly, or Rhapsody, which allows access to a library of music for a subscribtion fee. This have been successful, but not nearly as well used as torrent sites or peer-to-peer programs like Frostwire. This could change with the addition of the program QTRAX, which provides users with free, P2P music legally by obtaining money through advertisements, in the same way an online magazine such as Slate or, yes, Townhall pays for itself.

I never thought of this, but when I heard it seemed like common sense and a win-all formula for all involved. People do not seem to mind advertisements, as evidenced by the success of everything from cable TV to online magazines. If there were a public antipathy towards ads, PBS would be the highest-rated network on cable. With the formula adopted by QTRAX, musicians would still make money, but more in the way a writer like Christopher Hitchens makes money through his Slate column.

I want good music to continue, and I don't want the musicians who make it to be homeless. If a method of distribution doesn't come to pass that allows them to get make a profit from their hard work, they'll always be able to rely on concerts and T-shirts.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Star Wars on TV!

I'm a big Star Wars geek and I'm not ashamed to admit it. That's why I was excited back in 2005 when George Lucas started talking about a live action TV series focussing on lesser known characters of the Star Wars universe, in particular the bounty hunter Boba Fett. A live action TV series seemed too good to be true, and I had my doubts, but it looks like it's going to come next year:

For those of you who have yet to read through your latest edition of Star Wars Insider, Rick McCallum has comfirmed that Boba Fett "will be an instrumental part" of the upcoming live action series per an interview inside...Insider.

In addition, 4 artists are currently working on designs for the series. Two writers from the UK, one from Austrialia and three from the US are on board but a planned meeting in November was postponed due to the writer's strike. Lucasfilm is considering making an intependant deal with the WGA that could get their writers back to work before the strike ends. (Like what David Letterman has done) They're still hoping for a late 2009 premiere.

Well there you have your cliff notes for the Rick McCallum interview from Star Wars Insider #99 with some help from Eric Goldman's post over at IGN. Now go get your copy, read the full interview and enjoy all the Bounty Hunter fun.

It looks like Boba Fett will be played again by Daniel Logan, the young actor who portrayed him in Attack of the Clones. The background characters in Star Wars have always been as interesting as the main characters, and it'll be cool to see the series when it comes to fruition.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Designers Against AIDS

If you feel like doing some guilt-free shopping, try out the website Designers Against Aids. It's designed to get you dressed and get you thinking at the same time, according to their mission statement:

H&M announced the launch of 'Fashion against AIDS', their AIDS awareness project/collection together with Designers against AIDS that will hit the stores (650 of them, in 27 countries) on January 31st, 2008.

The idea is to alert young people to the actual HIV/AIDS situation and to make them think about prevention and caring for themselves and their loved ones.

For designer clothes, it's fairly well priced. Mega-producer Timbaland designed a nice shirt that weighs in at $14.90. Check it out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Foxy Hearing

I have to concede that when I saw the headline "Will Foxy fix her implant?", I thought that this San Francisco Examiner article on rapper Foxy Brown's legal woes (Is there a mainstream rapper out there who doesn't have legal woes?) was about anything but her hearing:

NEW YORK (Map, News) - A judge wants more information before she decides whether to let Foxy Brown get out of jail and go to California for repair of an electronic ear implant.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Melissa Jackson said Thursday she wants proof that deafness looms unless the 28-year-old rapper goes to a Los Angeles clinic for treatment and repair of a cochlear implant.

The obvious joke here is that she has been losing hearing due to her music, but that one is too easy, isn't it? What I found a bit surprising was that Foxy is 28 years old. She was on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, which came out 11 years ago in 1997, so that means she's been in the rap game since she was a minor. Talk about losing your innocence early!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hitchens tears apart the idiocy of Identity Politics

Hitchens' recent column in the Wall Street Journal is similiar to his Slate piece on Barack Obama and race but is more all-incomposing, bringing in Rudy Giuliani's Italianism and the fact that his name ends in a vowel as well as Hillary Clinton's gender in order to illustrate how nonsensical the entire notion of identity politics is.

Take away paragraphs:

What are we trying to "get over" here? We are trying to get over the hideous legacy of slavery and segregation. But Mr. Obama is not a part of this legacy. His father was a citizen of Kenya, an independent African country, and his mother was a "white" American. He is as distant from the real "plantation" as I am. How -- unless one thinks obsessively about color while affecting not to do so -- does this make him "black"?

Far from taking us forward, this sort of discussion actually keeps us anchored in the past. The enormous advances in genome studies have effectively discredited the whole idea of "race" as a means of categorizing humans. And however ethnicity may be defined or subdivided, it is utterly unscientific and retrograde to confuse it with color. The number of subjective definitions of "racist" is almost infinite but the only objective definition of the word is "one who believes that there are human races."

Hitchens really is brilliant.

Video: Stalking Paula Abdul on American Idol

As Allahpundit says, he's obviously not serious, but it is pretty funny in a very dark way.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spinning Abortions

Slate's women's blog had a very melancholy approach to news that the rate of abortions is going down:

Emily, I agree with your Clintonian sentiment re abortion (fewer = better), but perhaps only in theory. The new report on the falling abortion rate didn't provide a reason for the decline. Maybe I'm being cynical, but could this have something to do with the dwindling number of clinics?

I would say it has more of something to do with less women deciding to terminate the life of their unborn child, which, to any morally sane person, is a very good thing.

Britney Spears' Obituary Ready to Print

According to the tabloid US Magazine, Britney Spears' obituary has already been cooked up by the Associated Press:

The Associated Press began preparing Britney Spears’ obituary within the past month, has learned.

"We are not wishing it, but if Britney passed away, it’s easily one of the biggest stories in a long time," AP entertainment editor Jesse Washington tells Us.

"I think one would agree that Britney seems at risk right now," Washington adds. "Of course, we would never wish any type of misfortune on anybody and hope that we would never have to use it until 50 years from now…but if something were to happen, we would have to be prepared."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Britney Spears, America's blood sacrifice?

I usually wouldn't weigh in on a celebrity spectacle like what's going on with Britney Spears, but the urgency of this article really caught my eye:

(CBS) Celebrity addiction expert Dr. Drew Pinsky is weighing in on Britney Spears' problems, saying that the pop star could die if she doesn't get the help she needs.

Although the doctor has never treated Spears personally, he told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show Tuesday, "We are watching somebody who is following the Anna Nicole Smith blueprint to the letter. She's keeping people around her that allow her to keep using and that supports her denial.

The ancient Romans had gladiators which they would watch fighting to the death in a stadium with wild animals that could easily tear apart human flesh. I can't help but feel like what we're witnessing with Britney Spears is a modern day version of that, with the tabloid magazines, TV shows and websites selling death to a bloodthirsty public. I would hope that when Spears dies, some of the writers and photographers that stalk people for a living would rethink their lives, but if Anna Nicole, Courtney Love, Tupac Shakur, Kurt Cobain, River Pheonix, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and a myriad of others serve as any example, people don't seem to have alot of problems with watching celebrities deteriorate before their eyes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Keith Olbermann becomes a Daily Kos diarist

MSNBC news anchor Keith Olbermann, of "The Worst Person in the World" and "Countdown" fame, has started a Daily Kos blog. As Allahpundit of Hot Air says, he's "in his natural habitat." Here's an excerpt:

Sure has taken me long enough. But, as you may know, I am the shy, retiring type: Hesitant to state an opinion in public and horrified to pass judgment or seem a scold.

Wow, he's got to be kidding.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Moral Hypocrisy in California?

I've found a rather bizarre paradox present since moving to California from Washington. The government as well as businesses in California seem to be absolutely obsessed with global warming, and just about every new product that is marketed is marketed as somehow fighting the phantom menace of global warming.

Unfortunately, it appears that this conscientious attitude isn't being shared when it comes to other humans. Many outlying areas, such as in parts of Oakland and Fruitvale, are filled with sketchy neighborhoods that look like they've been abandoned by the rest of the population. There are homeless throughout the entire Bay Area, to a degree much more depressing than in Seattle. Whereas alot of homeless in Seattle were talking to themselves and looked like they were a little crazy, many of the homeless in SF seem disturbingly normal.

Global warming to me still seems like another menacing call of destruction by the mainstream media, and none of it has affected me. I find it much more concerning that alot of people in such a proudly liberal and progressive area are living in filth.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Anne Applebaum on Hillary Clinton

From an article in Slate:

"I certainly wouldn't want Hillary as a model for any of the young women I know. 'Get into Yale Law School—and then find an upwardly mobile spouse.' What kind of advice is that?"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The End of RTB

Rolling Thunder Blog has appropriately closed its doors. I think it was a bit of an experiment for everybody involved, all of which I think were new and fresh to the world of blogging. Granted that, we put in some good work and I think it enriched everything we do now.

In addition to the end of RTB, this blog is going to be getting a nice facelift soon. A friend of mine who is a graphic designer has promised to create a nice title page to spice this one up, mostly themed on the American and French revolutions.

Deschamps Blog on remains.

Video: John McCain Accepts N.H. Republican Presidential Nod

I'm so glad to see John McCain rebound and fly past Mike Huckabee this way. I know alot of Republicans and conservatives don't like his positions on immigration, but he is one of the best choices we've got in this presidential election.

God bless New Hampshire!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bhutto's assassin identified, says report

From WebIndia123:

Pakistani detectives have identified former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's assassin, a private television channel reported Tuesday, even as the Scotland Yard team probing last month's assassination met President Pervez Musharraf.

"The identity of the gunman who fired shots on Bhutto has been traced by the Pakistani detectives with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA)," ARY television said in its news bulletin quoting unnamed sources.

The report said police had raided the house of the suspected killer in Swabi, a town in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan, and arrested "a few persons".

Hitchens on Obama and identity politics

This is some beautifully put stuff:

Isn't there something pathetic and embarrassing about this emphasis on shade? And why is a man with a white mother considered to be "black," anyway? Is it for this that we fought so hard to get over Plessy v. Ferguson? Would we accept, if Obama's mother had also been Jewish, that he would therefore be the first Jewish president? The more that people claim Obama's mere identity to be a "breakthrough," the more they demonstrate that they have failed to emancipate themselves from the original categories of identity that acted as a fetter upon clear thought.

Identitity politics, i.e. the running for office on the basis that the candidate is "the black guy," "the gay guy," "the woman" or in the case of Mike Huckabee and Jimmy Carter, "the evangelical," does indeed appeal to the lowest common denominator of thought. A country like ours can do alot better than Huckabee and Obama, both of which are riding on this horse with little to no shame.

Rapper Eminem provides rare insight in interview

This interview with rap superstar Eminem was very interesting. Apparently he was able to come out of hiding to appear on Sirius satellite radio and run through some of the highlights of his discography. I'm not a big fan at all, but he lets loose on many subjects that musicians are often very close-lipped about, from his excessive drug use to the anxiety attached to being famous, the results of which should be compelling to most listeners. If you're only mildly interested in it, skip towards the second half where he discusses the problem of violence in hip-hop. He's as guilty of it as any mainstream rapper, but it was both surprising and a breath of fresh air to hear him say, "It's a problem with rap music really. You don't see Willie Nelson hitting other singers over the head with a guitar."

Limbaugh: You don't get the NEA endorsement by supporting school choice

I hope he keeps pounding Huckabee. He will be a lousy nominee for the Republicans.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Michael Medved wrong on RINOs

In a recent article, Michael Medved attacked those that use the term "RINO" (Republican In Name Only) to describe conservatives who aren't really conservative. In so doing, he made a statement that really didn't make much sense, and that I know he's smart enough to know is false:

Ronald Reagan himself used to say that “if somebody agrees with me 70% of the time, rather than 100%, that doesn’t make him my enemy.” Democrats understand this principle--- they never attack “DINO’s,” Democrats In Name Only. In fact, they understand the usefulness of such figures: they put forward several conservative Democrats in key Congressional districts in 2006, and those “DINO’s” helped them win a majority in the House.

There is a longstanding and very well known practice by those on the left of sabotaging Democratic political campaigns by supporting campaigns that better suit their values and beliefs. Ralph Nader did this for well over a decade, and gained support in his efforts from such prominent liberals as Michael Moore and celebrities like the Beastie Boys. In this next general election in San Francisco, Cindy Sheehan herself is running against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

And have we already forgotten the attempt by millionare Ned Lamont to unseat Joe Lieberman?

It's perfectly legitimate for people to criticize politicians who wear false labels and masquerade as what they're not, and it's not childish or self-destructive as Medved asserts. What is truly self-destructive is behaving like a Communist party leader by verbally demeaning those who dare criticize the Party.

Slate on "Obama’s Cocky Messianism"

When cable news anchors talk about you being "delivered" so that America "can rejoin the world" and sculptures are made of you as a Christ figure, it's hard for any human being to avoid endulging in a little ego tripping, especially a human who has enough self confidence to believe himself capable of being commander in chief of the world's greatest superpower after two years serving in the United States senate.

Slate writer Christopher Beam illustrates this in his article "Obama's Cocky Messianism:"

But now, with Iowa as his witness, Obama is he starting to sound like he believes the prophecies, too. The “epiphany” line was a joke—but he also kind of meant it. Because he’s loose on the stump, self-deprecating yet cocky, Obama gets away with appropriating the language of his own deification. He mocks it, but at the same time reinforces it. It’s hard to be humble when your overflow room is overflowing.

There were other moments of self-puffery. At one point, he introduced a volunteer as the chair of “Obamans for—” He caught himself. “Nashuans for Obama.” However innocently, Obama had just bestowed himself with fame’s highest honor: his very own adjectival form.

Seriously, guys, he's a human being who knows how to speak good and oozes charisma from every poore in his body. We haven't seen a whole lot of evidence that he's good at anything else.

Apple to start record label?

If Apple launches a successful record label, they could very well end up taking over the record industry. When you have your album distributed through iTunes, you basically gain access to the eardrums of any listener in the world with internet access. The days of not being able to find an album because it's out of print or having to pay up to thirty dollars for an import could darn well be a bad memory.

Starting off with a recording giant like Jay-Z sure isn't bad either.

McDonald's targets Starbucks

Last year I noticed the surprising new addition of "iced coffee" to a menu that had had few drinks aside from the regular sodas sold in every restaurant. McDonald's seems to be trying its hand at new things, and not just due to health concerns in the aftermath of the documentary "Super Size Me."

It'll be interesting to see if McDonald's is actually able to succeed at the cafe business. I will freely admit that it would be difficult to say no to a breakfast menu that included both Egg McMuffins and a tall soy latte:

OLATHE, Kan. -- This fall, a McDonald's here added a position to its crew: barista.

McDonald's is setting out to poach Starbucks customers with the biggest addition to its menu in 30 years. Starting this year, the company's nearly 14,000 U.S. locations will install coffee bars with "baristas" serving cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and the Frappe, similar to Starbucks' ice-blended Frappuccino.

Internal documents from 2007 say the program, which also will add smoothies and bottled beverages, will add $1 billion to McDonald's annual sales of $21.6 billion.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"McCain To Send Self Back To Vietnamese POW Camp To Revitalize Campaign"

This isn't the funniest Onion article I've ever seen, but it is definitely one of the most...surprising. I'm surprised they actually ran it:

PHOENIX, AZ—In what insiders say is an attempt to revitalize his flagging campaign and convince voters that he is still a straight-talking maverick, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced Sunday that he will subject himself to the same mental torment and physical abuse he endured nearly 40 years ago at the same Vietnamese camp where he was once held as a prisoner of war.

Does fake violence stop real violence?

I don't know if I believe this, but I think it's a really interesting argument. The question to ask is if the results of this study are a result of a wave of wannabe Freakanomics researchers trying to come up with equally contrarian analysis:

The findings in their paper are part of a recent wave of economic research in what might be called the “freakonomics era.” Practitioners of the dismal science are transcending traditional subjects like labor and markets, and are now crunching numbers to evaluate matters like cheating among sumo wrestlers or the effects of a crackdown on cocaine.

In this case, the authors have waded into a long-simmering debate about media violence, with their findings likely to attract controversy: Their conclusion seems to collide with the research of psychologists, which has fed concerns by parents and policy makers that brutal imagery in films, video games and other media sows aggression in American life by rendering viewers insensitive to horrific acts.

Friday, January 4, 2008

It's OK for me to smoke, but not you

This little story certainly lightened my mood today:

The head of the Portuguese agency responsible for enforcing a new ban on smoking in public was seen lighting up at a New Year party, breaking the law on the first day it came into effect.

Video: Barack Obama, cult of personality?

That certainly seems like the appropriate term to use when talking about the obsession with this man. It's a dangerous thing in a democracy, when we start obsessing with the man over the politics.

Liberal talker Lionel praises death of child

H/t to The Radio Equalizer for posting this bizarre clip from the liberal radio host Lionel, wherein he says "hurray" for the tiger that killed a kid at the San Francisco Zoo and that he is "still cheering the fact that some stingray whacked that Aussie pain in the ass Steve Irwin:"

Let's see if Media Matters weighs in on this one. After all, isn't saying you're pleased with the death of a child a bit worse than Don Imus' infamous gaffe? I won't hold my breath.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

"Comic Books in the Classroom?"

It truly is funny how times change. When I was a kid, which was only a little over a decade ago, teachers would send home notes telling me to stop bringing comic books to school. Now, teachers are using comic books as learning tools:

Generations of children grew up reading comic books on the sly, hiding out from parents and teachers who saw them as a waste of time and a hazard to young minds. Comics are now gaining a new respectability at school. That is thanks to an increasingly popular and creative program, often aimed at struggling readers, that encourages children to plot, write and draw comic books, in many cases using themes from their own lives.

In an age of video games, iPods and YouTube, anything that gets children excited about reading can't be all bad. Comic books have been sources of great entertainment for years, and it's time they got the respect they deserve.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Column: Good night, good luck and thanks for listening

My final column (at least in the forseeable future) was just published in this month's Madison Park Times:

For the last year and a half, I've had the rare privilege of publishing a monthly column in the Madison Park Times. I've been able to bring my perspective on an enormity of issues-from global warming to gun control-to you, all with the added touch that comes with growing up and living in Madison Valley.

This was a rare opportunity that not a lot of people are able to get. Having a monthly column with your face on it is not an everyday occurrence, and I thank former editor Vera Chan-Pool for giving me another go at it and taking a chance on me. Being able to voice my opinion each month was a great promotion from interning in high school, and certainly not one I was expecting.

I would also like to thank all the people who sent their feedback. When I was writing for music magazines and college papers, it was rare that I heard passionate feedback from readers. I may not have directly responded to each one, but don't go thinking I didn't appreciate every single letter, positive or negative.

Believe it or not, I read every single letter sent to me by readers. Some of them required me to read them more than once. Whether you were agreeing with my argument that environmentalists use fear tactics or dismissing me as a "Republican hack," the very fact that you took time out of your day to write a response to what I had to say is very humbling.

Many of my opinions run very counter to the accepted way of thinking in Seattle, and as a result I wasn't sure how a regular helping of my perspective would be taken. Would people even read my column beyond the first paragraph? Will I get thousands of angry letters?

Fortunately the answer to the former was "Yes," and the answer to the latter was "No." I hope my perspective compelled some people to think outside of the box. After all, it's very important for us to listen to each other.

My departure has nothing to do with anyone but myself. I continue to maintain a very warm relationship with the Madison Park Times and Pacific Publishing Company. My column is ending on the eve of my transplanting from Seattle to San Francisco, where I will continue to write. Life changes, and like a good book the chapter concludes with one stage of life where another stage starts.

The future is unpredictable, and things happen we don't expect. Who knows? Maybe some time down the line, I'll be back in the Madison Park Times.

Thank you for giving me a chance and as Edward R. Murrow would say, "Good night and good luck."