Friday, February 29, 2008

The Right to Arm Bears

While attending WonderCon, I picked up a flyer for Ben Walker's art. I don't recall if he had anything for sale, but I wasn't exactly in the business of buying art at the time. His art struck me as hilarious, in a very dark way. Take his take on the Second Amendment for instance, which involves a very well-armed bear:

Walker has shirts and prints for sale on his website. Check it out.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Batman meets Anime

In the third of DC Comics' Animated Movies releases, they are releasing an anthology called Batman: Gotham Knight, that is apparently supposed to follow the continuity between Batman Begins and the upcoming The Dark Knight. The anthology contains several anime interpretations of the Dark Knight, a character that falls into the anime film style very well.

Here is a behind-the-scenes video on the anthology:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lucas on Faith

I was searching through the internets and found a gem of an interview with George Lucas from 1999, about the time The Phantom Menace came out. It surrounds Lucas' views on religion. He says some really interesting stuff, such as this:

I think there is a God. No question. What that God is or what we know about that God, I'm not sure. The one thing I know about life and about the human race is that we've always tried to construct some kind of context for the unknown. Even the cavemen thought they had it figured out. I would say that cavemen understood on a scale of about 1. Now we've made it up to about 5. The only thing that most people don't realize is the scale goes to 1 million.

That is a really powerful statement, and relates to many of the outspoken atheists of today that talk like they have everything figured out. Christopher Hitchens, I'm looking at you!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Reading between the lines

No one is unbiased, not even journalists, and the beginning paragraph in this ABC News report on the "Protect America Act" illustrates that well:

President Bush today issued a stark warning to Congress: Renew the so-called "Protect America Act," which allowed the government to eavesdrop on certain phone calls and e-mails without a court order, or aid the terrorists.

Why on earth would it be necessary to describe something that is in quotations as "so-called?" The only explanation is that the writer couldn't write a news article about President Bush without letting the world know that he didn't like him.


I went to WonderCon, the Bay Area comic book and pop culture convention, on Friday. It was pretty overwhelming, despite my history with comic book conventions. In Seattle I had been used to conventions that were much smaller in size than this one. I usually spend only a small amount of time at places like this that are so overflowing with humanity. I prefer small concerts in nice little venues to big musical festivals, for example. I left pretty early, and with a splitting headache.

I did have the unexpected pleasure while there of meeting Jon Provost, the man who played Timmy on Lassie at the dawn of television. Provost seemed ambivalent about his role on Lassie when I met him, saying in a quiet tone, "Yeah, that was me...' as I'm sure he has said hundreds of times before at similiar conventions. I purchased his autobiography, took a picture with him and look forward to reading his story. I didn't regret paying the full cover price of $27 for it, as he stood out to me in the midst of superheroes, manga and science fiction.

I also surprisingly ran into Nightclubber Lang AKA Karim, of the once Seattle based Boom Bap Project. I had interviewed him along with DJ Scene for three years and Karim sounded and looked exactly the same. He's now working as an events coordinator for the hip-hop culture TV channel MYX. Boom Bap Project is some serious underground hip hop, with none of the dumbed down ignorance and stupidity of today's pop music. If you have never heard them before, check for their most recent release, The Shakedown.

Events like WonderCon seem like a mixed bag. There's alot to be offered there, but unfortunately they can be overwhelming and disorienting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Farewell Fidel

H/T Moistworks for the video.

Bob Geldof lampoons the press for ignoring Bush's work for Africa

Activist and musician Bob Geldof had very kind words to say towards President George W. Bush recently:

Mr. Geldof praised Mr. Bush for his work in delivering billions to fight disease and poverty in Africa, and blasted the U.S. press for ignoring the achievement.

Mr. Bush, said Mr. Geldof, "has done more than any other president so far."

"This is the triumph of American policy really," he said. "It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion."

"What's in it for [Mr. Bush]? Absolutely nothing," Mr. Geldof said.

Mr. Geldof said that the president has failed "to articulate this to Americans" but said he is also "pissed off" at the press for their failure to report on this good news story.

"You guys didn't pay attention," Geldof said to a group of reporters from all the major newspapers.

This isn't a new sentiment from Geldof, who praised Bush back in 2005 as well:

"They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American president for Africa," Geldof told Time magazine. "But it's empirically so."

If you ever hear a liberal talk about how Bush has destroyed our image around the world, ask them if they think the opinion of America from a French editorialist is more important than that of an impoverished African who now has access to food and medicine.

Hillary Clinton's Message to America

Monday, February 18, 2008

Video: A History of Evil

It's always good to see YouTube used as a means of bringing art to millions of viewers, instead of a simple means to see stupid pet tricks. We definitely see that illustrated in this great animated short, entitled "A History of Evil:"

The 50 Cent - Bill O'Reilly Beef

I found this episode between 50 and Bill O'Reilly over 50 saying Obama would be killed if elected to be pretty interesting. I've collected a bunch of videos relating to it and put them into continuity:

50 saying America isn't ready for a black president, and O'Reilly's subsequently calling him a pinhead:

50 Cent's response to O'Reilly:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Shooter used the same source as VT shooter

There's a bizarre connection between the recent Illinois campus rampage and last year's massacre at Virginia Tech. The Illinois shooter bought his guns from the same source, according to CNN:

DEKALB, Illinois (CNN) -- A firearms dealer in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Friday confirmed a bizarre link between the graduate student accused of killing five people at Northern Illinois University and the gunman in last year's deadly shootings at Virginia Tech.

A Web site used to buy gun accessories by Steven Kazmierczak is owned by the same company that operates a site patronized by Seung-Hui Cho, the company said.

Kazmierczak ordered two 9 mm Glock magazines and a holster for a Glock handgun from the Web site February 4, said a statement released by TGSCOM Inc.

He received them February 12, two days before the NIU shootings, it said.

"TGSCOM Inc. also operates the Web site used by Seung-Hui [Cho] to purchase a firearm used in the Virginia Tech shootings last April," the statement said.

Cho killed 32 people before turning a gun on himself in that incident.

I doubt that this is some hideous coincidence. My personal hypothesis is that he bought them from that source on purpose and planned the attack as a copycat. With the way the media gave everything the Virginia Tech shooter wanted in fame and attention, it's no shock that someone would repeat a similar massacre.

Sowell on Obama's Empty Rhetoric

Thomas Sowell's latest column is a simple and devastating attack on the empty suit of Barack Obama's presidential candidacy. Here's an excerpt, with my favorite part highlighted:

It is not too much to ask politicians to talk specifics, instead of trying to sweep us along, turning off our minds and turning on our emotions, with soaring rhetoric.

Optimists might even hope for some logical consistency and hard facts.

Barack Obama says that he wants to “heal America and repair the world.” One wonders what he will do for an encore and whether he will rest on the seventh day.

School Shootings Continue

I remember there being an explosion in dramatic school shootings at the end of the 1990s, topping off with the infamous Columbine shootings. It seems like that trend is on the rise again, with shootings by the young and unhappy occuring at college campuses, shopping malls and, once again, high schools. I don't know if there's any meaning or relevance to the end of another decade bringing about a great deal of youth violence, but it's certainly interesting.

Maybe it's the libertarian in me who always doubts the ability of officials to be able to do anything, but I really worry about schools only making things worse and creating new problems while trying to keep violence from erupting in their schools. I, as just about any public school student at the time of the last wave of shootings, was indirectly effected by this by well-meaning but ultimately misguided school officials cracked down to make sure this didn't happen again. Teenagers and young people in general are often and almost by definition emotionally unstable, and it seems like common sense that the last thing they should have access to is guns. That doesn't, however, make every teenager who has problems a serial killer. This seems obvious but it needs some reminding. We should meet them with a level of respect and high expectation and not as murderers waiting to happen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Missing Childhood

There's a melancholy feeling that comes with coming into adulthood. As one begins to grow older and take on responsibilities and managing their own life, there is a feeling of sadness at realizing that the wonderful childhood years are forever gone. There's nothing to miss about the awkward and often emotionally painful years of high school, but it's a true tragedy to realize that the years before puberty, when there was no limit to imagination, the world was full of wonder and one was innocent of the corruption of adulthood, are gone forever.

After relocating from my hometown to California, I can't seem to escape that feeling. I know there's no going back, but I can't help but miss my cats, my dog and my mom. I miss birthday parties and I miss my childhood friends, who are now just as different from those days as I am.

A new band called MGMT, which mixes electronic and hip hop beat styles with psychedlic rock, has released an album that seems almost dedicated to the melancholy feeling that I just wrote about. On the first track, "Time to Pretend," the singer boasts of living a careless lifestyle where he "lives fast and dies young" but later on gives into how he misses his childhood security:

I'll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms
I'll miss the comfort of my mother and the weight of the world
I'll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I'll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone

The theme continues throughout their album Oracular Spectacular, most notably on the song "Kids," which starts off with sounds of children playing. The lyrics aren't as strong as those on "Time to Pretend," but they are equally nostalgic:

You were a child
Crawling on your knees toward him
Making momma so proud
But your voice is too loud
We like to watch you laughing
Picking insects off of plants
No time to think of consequences

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Speilberg pulls out of Bejjing Olympics

Of all the leading powers in the world, China is probably the most influential in Sudan and has done absolutely nothing to stop the genocide occuring there. It's good to see that Steven Spielberg is using his prestige to call attention to the Chinese government's lack of conscience:

Steven Spielberg has decided not to participate in the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing as an artistic adviser, citing the lack of progress in ending the genocide in Darfur.

The move marks a public relations blow to the Chinese government as it tries to prevent the Games from being politicized, not just on the Darfur crisis but other issues.

"After careful consideration, I have decided to formally announce the end of my involvement as one of the overseas artistic advisers to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games," Spielberg said in a statement released today.

"I have made repeated efforts to encourage the Chinese government to use its unique influence to bring safety and stability to the Darfur region of Sudan," Spielberg wrote. "Although some progress has been made ...the situation continues to worsen and the violence continues to accelerate."

"With this in mind, I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," he added. "At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that will continue to be committed in Darfur."

Spielberg noted that the Olympic Organizing Committee had sent him a contract nearly a year ago, but he left it unsigned.

I'm not usually the boycotting sort, but I think it would not be a bad idea to refrain from watching the Olympics this year. I'm well aware that I probably aid the Chinese government and economy by buying products made there on a regular basis, but giving them a public relations benefit like the Olympics seems like it's going a bit too far.

In the Heart of Berzerkely

I just relocated to Berkeley, and upon moving to this physically beautiful town it has become part of a big nationwide controversy regarding its treatment of Marines. Several Code Pink members have blocked employees of the Marines from entering their workplace and the local city council has declared the Marines "unwelcome intruders." It does border on treasonous and I hope to see these moves by the City Council bite them on the ass in the future.

Please watch this space for pictures. I plan to leave today and go do some citizen journalism at the site of the controversy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Debating Socialism in the Heart of Venezuela

Journalist Andres Martinez travelled to Venezuela to see what the decade-long rule of Hugo Chavez over that country had brought about. The results were interesting and illustrate that Chavez is recreating the same failed communist formula for a new century:

The president and the bishop are at it again. Their long-standing argument over whether Jesus Christ was a socialist seems to go something like this: "Yes he was." "No he wasn't." "Was too." "Nah-ah." I love reading the newspaper in Caracas. This morning the government also published lists of folks who bought their quota of dollars at the subsidized rate, supposedly to travel, but never left the country. Shame on them! And once again, El Universal's columnists were in a total frenzy, speculating over how far the government's resolve to make all education socialist would go. Will sixth-graders be handed AK-47s to defend the revolution?

Desperate for a firsthand glimpse of the positive side of Chávez's revolution—and to talk to folks who aren't making plans to flee the country—Amanda and I set up a visit to one of the government's vaunted "barrio adentro" missions. This is a comprehensive facility in the working-class neighborhood of Catia, underwritten by the state oil company, that offers medical care, employment, and housing for some of Venezuela's poorest. I was especially eager to chat with some of the Cuban doctors who work at these clinics. In Cuba last year, people kept complaining to me that too many of their doctors were on such missions in Venezuela. Apparently, Chávez and his people are getting something in exchange for all the free oil and ideological solidarity provided to Havana.

There's talk later in the article of T-shirts adorned with socialist icons from the past and present:

I grabbed a copy of the booklet containing the text of the proposed changes and pulled up a chair next to an old woman wearing a shirt bearing the whole trifecta: images of Che, Fidel, and Hugo. She eyed me skeptically, if for no other reason than I wore a plain blue shirt.

I wonder if they also have T-shirts available in Caracas of the cover Tariq Ali's 2006 book, Pirates of the Carribean?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ethanol Worse Than Gasoline?

This entry was from Stephen Leahy, an Environmental Journalist who runs a blog dedicated to environmental news. It can be found at IPS News as well as on his blog:

Feb 8 (IPS) - Biofuels are making climate change worse, not better, according to two new studies which found that total greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels are far higher than those from burning gasoline because biofuel production is pushing up food prices and resulting in deforestation and loss of grasslands.

“Emissions from ethanol are 93 percent higher than gasoline,” said David Tilman, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota and co-author of one of the papers published Thursday in the journal Science.

“The bottom line is that using good farmland for biofuels increases greenhouse emissions,” he said.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Apollo Heights

I interviewed Apollo Heights for my favorite music magazine, Mstation. Read it:

Dubbed the "best live band in New York" by FADER magazine, Apollo Heights is an unorthodox set-up: three guitarists and a bassist, backed up by modern hip-hop style drum beats. At the core of the band are Danny and Daniel Chavis, two brothers who spearheaded the creation of the band, Honeychild Coleman and guitarist Monk Washington. I was able to talk with Daniel, singer and guitarist, and Honey, rhythm guitarist, on the eve of their January 4 show in San Francisco.

When and how did Apollo Heights come together?

Daniel: We actually came together in the early part of 03' 04' as a legitimate lineup.

Honey: I've known these guys since '93 but when I saw The Veldt Reunion show at CBGB's in 2002 I felt a kindred spirit musically. After that Danny started asking me to play, talking about Lush and Swervedriver and what not. Eventually I got bored (just singing) in my other band and said yes!

Why the name?

Daniel: It was the name of our neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, where we are from. It was built around the time of the Apollo Jupiter missions in the late 60's

Why the album title, White Music for Black People?

Daniel: It's kind of a hats off to the criticism we have been receiving from everybody since we started playing music. So people don't ask us if we rap or play reggae music. We figured we could win that way.

How did you end up working with Mos Def?

Daniel: It was by default actually. That track was a throw away track and somehow a copy of the instrumental got over from Paris and he spat on it unbeknownst to us. He's actually a big fan of ours.

How was it working with him?

Daniel: We didn't actually do it in the studio with him. But we talked several times and he was OK.

How has being a black rock band affected the process of marketing your music?

Daniel: Dunno. As of late there are not many of us so I guess it's kinda hard but the reception has been good.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Doubts about Free Trade?

According to Business Week, many economists are second guessing free trade:

Many ordinary Americans have long been suspicious of free trade, seeing it as a destroyer of good-paying jobs. American economists, though, have told a different story. For them, free trade has been the great unmitigated good, the force that drives a country to shed unproductive industries, focus on what it does best, and create new, higher-skilled jobs that offer better pay than those that are lost. This support of free trade by the academic Establishment is a big reason why Presidents, be they Democrat or Republican, have for years pursued a free-trade agenda. The experts they consult have always told them that free trade was the best route to ever higher living standards.

But something momentous is happening inside the church of free trade: Doubts are creeping in. We're not talking wholesale, dramatic repudiation of the theory. Economists are, however, noting that their ideas can't explain the disturbing stagnation in income that much of the middle class is experiencing. They also fear a protectionist backlash unless more is done to help those who are losing out. "Previously, you just had extremists making extravagant claims against trade," says Gary C. Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "Now there are broader questions being raised that would not have been asked 10 or 15 years ago."

Bizarre John McCain picture #2

I'm thinking this may be a regular occurence during the next few months of campaigning: Strange pictures of John McCain. Since the campaigning will likely be style over substance, this will hurt McCain if he's running against a sleak, young and good looking Barack Obama.

This portrait of McCain reminding me a bit of the talking pictures that have been a regular feature on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Discrimination works for no one

Slate has a great article detailing the all around negativity of ethnic and gender discrimination in business. The article accurately points out that discrimination not only harms those who are being discriminated against, but the business itself as well:

But discrimination should also show up in another way. Employers who prefer not to employ workers because of their sex or the color of their skin are likely to lose money: Employing stupid white men when you could be employing smart black women is not a profitable human-resources policy. Employers might nevertheless do this, either because they do not realize that their prejudices are costing them money, or because they do not care. If so, discrimination is easy to detect in principle: Just note that the profitable firms will be the ones employing more women or workers from an ethnic minority.