Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good Stuff

James Lileks has a hilarious Bleat today about his experience with sedation dentistry (apparently you take a good part of the sedative before you even get there, so he was pretty loopy to begin with), including several messages he attempted to send from the dentist's chair before he went completely out. My favorite passage:

When the wheelchair arrived, I said, and they quote, “It’s just like 1939 in World War Two in old Englandy.” Yes, Englandy – as if I was trying to say “England” and “Blighty” and fused the two. Or perhaps it was the adjective form of England. Up we went to the office; I remember wishing everyone good morning, and I remember everyone being very cheerful - probably a dim recollection of everyone trying to keep from laughing in my face, because I'd undone my fly and was stuffing my keys in my pants like they did in old Englandy. During the war. Dreadful time, don't you know. Spot of bother. I have a recollection of being eased into the chair, and Dr. A handed me a cup of something I think I called "Clown Sauce."

Then recalling I was supposed to send a twitter from the chair.

So, of course, I did.

Upon reading what I send, I thought I’d left it the iPhone in my pocket and the dentist had activated it by leaning over and pressing it, but all the tweets came too close together for that. First I wrote:

Three pilso

This is a reference to the three pills I’d taken.


That was the extent of message number two. A statement of wonder, perhaps. Or maybe “oh right, I’m supposed to take a picture.”

So I did:

My thumb, over the lens. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but it loves a gradient.



I think that’s a reference to the ancient Norse God of being high as a balloonist’s toupee. Next:

Thtre pilldlsbv and I csvzzzz

Three pills and I can’t? Three pills and I (cartoon sound of sawing logs?) Next:

In the cchio

In the chair, I think. Or slang for being taken care of by a gullible old cobbler - it was "in like Pinocchio," but it was shortened over time. The final cryptic message from Major Tom:

Meati tobbtsirv I mr-tobsatmn iysbnivrbnjnlvbbnb. Okay A moo

Okay a moo, indeed. It's almost Russian until it goes all Cthulhu on you, then ends with a hipper bye-bye: Okay a moo!
I sympathize greatly with this, in a laughing-until-I-pee kind of way, because when I broke my arm in high school they put me half-under to set it. I don't remember anything except looking at the room with my eyes closed (some of you know what I mean, I'm sure), but my mother tells me I clearly told the doctor to "keep your hands off the trees." No idea where that came from.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Filler Friday

I'm tired of blogging about Barack Obama, so instead I'm going to do a round-up of some fun Web sites.

- On the schadenfreude front: It's Cake Wrecks, a clearinghouse of professional decorating disasters. It's like PostSecret, but with icing. And they didn't do it on purpose.

- Starslip Crisis is an awesome Web comic about a museum housed in a decommissioned interstellar warship (which has recently been recommissioned, adding to the antics). The captain is a pirate. The curator is, well, a curator. Hilarity ensues. Plus it's by Kris Straub, who is an incredibly creative and talented guy and awesome six ways to Sunday. He also looks a little like Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. No, I don't have a crush on him, why do you ask?

- That last statement was a lie.

- Other Web comics I like: Sheldon, Moving Pictures and Jump Leads. There's something in that list for everyone. If not, maybe you're too hard to please. :-)

- Mental Floss and Futility Closet are a good way to kill an hour or six, as is Neatorama.

- Of course, I get most of my news from Pajamas Media, although if that didn't exist I'd probably have to do a lot more trolling of the Interwebs for my information. They let me be lazy.

- This is where I spend six hours a week pounding and being pounded on. It's all good fun, and I'm learning things about myself I didn't know. Like the fact that I have a really sissy right cross. (It's not my fault! I have a bad wrist! I'm such a weenie.) On the other hand, it'll get me fit if nothing else does.

And that's really all I have for you today. I'm just in a "filler" sort of mood. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll see you on Monday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quote of the Day, and a rant

From Lileks (no permalink, seems to be broken):

"Living as a writer sometimes meaning you walk into a great howling wind that says YOU JUST SUCK and it’s all you can do to keep from letting the wind pick you up and put you where it wishes. Which is usually in the not-too-distant county of SO YOU ADMIT YOU DO SUCK. It’s a corruption of an Indian name."
If I was making a living as a writer, I have no doubt I'd be nodding in agreement. As it stands now, I'm mostly just taking it as a cautionary tale.

Oh, and I do suck. All writers do. It's only other people who tell them that they don't, and that includes our mothers (or sometimes it doesn't, depending on the angst levels in the author's work). The only thing that separates successful writers from non-successful ones is that the successful ones keep writing in spite of the suckitude, which is a belief ground into the soul of every creative person. You have to produce a lot of coal before you get a diamond.

Of course, some writers never produce diamonds, just easy-to-read drivel that packages well as a paperback. Robin Cook, for instance: I read one of his books on my first day at a temp job because they didn't have the computer hooked up yet, and I swear the only way it would have made sense would be to have the protagonist turn out at the end to be crazy. That way, everything that came earlier would have made sense in light of his psychosis. I didn't finish the book, so I like to think that's how it ended. Otherwise it was a disturbing examination of the author's own immaturity, arrogance and persecution complex. Not something I want in a guy who's a doctor in his day job. Unreliable narrators are fascinating devices. Unreliable authors are just annoying.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Once more into the void ...

I just realized something about this election: So far, no matter if it's good or bad, Barack Obama has been getting most (almost all) of the attention in the media (traditional and otherwise). The mainstream media and sinistrosphere are drooling over him like a homely sophomore, and the dextrosphere spends a lot of time and energy talking about how horrible he is (and I count myself in that group). The result, however, is that his name is constantly at the forefront, while those who want to learn about John McCain have to actively go looking for information. It's almost like his only position in people's minds is anti-Obama, which, while not bad, isn't all that helpful either. He doesn't have the rock star/god emperor pull of personality that Obama has, and he's being actively excluded by major American media outlets. In other words, he's got the deck stacked against him before they even start dealing.

The best thing for McCain to do would be to step up and present himself as more than just the lesser of two evils. There are rumors that he's selected Mitt Romney as his running mate; this would probably be a good move from a purely cynical standpoint. Frankly, I still get nostalgic when I see Fred Thompson on "Law & Order" reruns, but I could get behind a McCain/Romney ticket. The trick now: How does the McCain/Whoever ticket get as much media play as Obama? More importantly, how does said ticket make sure that Obama's severe case of foot-in-mouth disease becomes public knowledge? I have a feeling this is how folks on the other side felt in 2000. It almost makes me feel sorry for them. Almost. (I'm not threatening to move to Canada.)

Hey! Puppies!

Oh, but I don't believe in fairies.

Yesterday I quoted my sister as saying that "Obama just ruins my whole day." Yeah, well, he's starting to ruin his own, too - or at least he would if he considered himself capable of mistakes. Take, for instance, this incident:

At a morning background briefing, reporters parried with senior advisers on the characterization of Obama’s speech Thursday in Berlin as a campaign rally. The outdoor speech at the Victory Column [A monument with serious Third Reich connotations - ed.] could draw thousands of people, similar to the size of Obama events in the United States.

"It is not going to be a political speech," said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. "When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally."

"But he is not president of the United States," a reporter reminded the adviser.

"He is going to talk about the issues as an individual … not as a candidate, but as an individual, as a senator," the adviser added.
Okay, first off, what? When does a person running - emphasis on running, there - not make a political speech? When does that person get a break from being what he's set himself up to be, namely, a candidate for one of the most powerful positions in the world? You put yourself in that position, you don't get a day off. I'm sorry, but you only get privacy to sleep and use the bathroom, and even that's not entirely sacrosanct. Second, every speech the president makes is a political speech. It's the nature of the beast. He is a political figure. If Obama wants to be president, then he had best wrap his head around that one. Third, if your staff has to be reminded by the press that you haven't actually won yet, you may want to tone down the morning pep rally just a tad. Seriously. It could give people the wrong idea.

The other thing I wanted to point out was this little gem from an interview with the man himself:

"Here is what I will say," Obama said, "I think that, I did not anticipate, and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct."
Except, you know, they did occur. That's like saying that if the numbers had been different, I would have won the lottery. Lots of people can say that. Doesn't change the fact that they didn't and that they lost.
Obama went on to say "the fact is that there was a combination, I think. Look, the troops and General Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker deserve enormous credit for that and that is credit that I have given publicly. And I will say, again this is the danger of politics is that I can probably show you a couple of other quotes, in which I said 'Look, whenever you put US soldiers on the ground, in those particular areas, they are going to have an impact.' So it wasn’t any doubt that you have an additional 20 thousand troops and where they are right there it is going to have an impact."
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Obama's unscripted dialogue is disturbingly reminiscent of the unstable Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. Queeg was marked by an acute inability to accept responsibility and blame and would always crumble under pressure and shift blame onto others when pressed. Nothing that happened was ever his fault, even if he directly ordered it, and if someone pointed out inconsistencies in his story he would backtrack and say, "No, no, that's not what I said at all, what I said was this," which was of course utter bunkum. It's a fascinating study, and it scares me to death.

I read recently that it might be better for the U.S. if Obama is elected, because he'll no doubt crash and burn so badly that all the dreamers will be forced to wake up. I don't know if I agree with that, though: Cling (ha!) to any belief hard enough, base your identity too much on it, and any challenge will just make you burrow further in.

I highly recommend you read the second article linked in its entirety, not just for context but because the more Obama talks, the scarier he gets. Seriously. Print off a copy and keep it in your wallet to show people who think he's great. I don't know that it would do that much good, but it might make you feel better knowing you tried.

Now I'm depressed. Hey! Kittens!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two Quotes

"Speak the truth, but leave immediately after." - Slovenian proverb (via Futility Closet).

"Obama just ruins my whole day." - My sister, on why she doesn't talk about politics.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh no he di-in't!

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column on Obama's messianic posturing here. He's not the first person to point these things out, but he does it well. For instance:

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted "present" nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.

It is a subject upon which he can dilate effortlessly. In his victory speech upon winning the nomination, Obama declared it a great turning point in history -- "generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment" -- when, among other wonders, "the rise of the oceans began to slow." As Hudson Institute economist Irwin Stelzer noted in his London Daily Telegraph column, "Moses made the waters recede, but he had help." Obama apparently works alone.
First of all, the Moses quote made me snort my drink. Second, I'd be less worried about Obama's posturing if he didn't have such a nationwide phalanx of sycophants hanging on his every word, nodding like a bobblehead in a car with shot suspension. For God's sake, kids are changing their names on Facebook to include parts of his. This is not a healthy behavior trend.

Then there's the dictation to the masses, as Krauthammer points out here:

His wife assures us that President Obama will be a stern taskmaster: "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism . . . that you come out of your isolation. . . . Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."

For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?
Who, indeed? I'm more than willing to pitch in and help out around the place, but don't tell me about "[my life] as usual" unless you get to know me first. It's not only arrogant and condescending, it's elitist: They're informed and involved, but the rest of us unwashed masses don't know what's good for us. Bah. He burns my toast.

I suppose I'd be more apt to think well of Obama if he showed a little humility once in a while, a little brokenness, a little willingness to admit faults and mistakes. But instead the only "humility" we get is that of a god-emperor who descends from his throne to mingle with his subjects, or a messiah who comes to lay his hands on the sick, absolving us of our sins. My Messiah did that without any fanfare or publicity of his own doing, thank you very much. I think I'll stick with Him and vote for an ordinary mortal for my president. You can get rid of a mortal if you need to. Gods come to earth are, frankly, too hard to deal with.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that." - George Carlin

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Useful Person of the Week

I'll admit, before I read this article I had no idea who Tony Gonzalez was. But now I know: He's a useful person:

A California man says Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs kept him from choking to death.

"Tony saved my life. There’s no doubt," Ken Hunter, a shipping company manager, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Huntington Beach, Calif.

"Tony came up behind me and gave me the Heimlich maneuver. Thank God he was there."

Gonzalez, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who has set numerous NFL records, was having dinner with his wife, brother and 5-week-old daughter at Capone’s restaurant in Huntington Beach Thursday night. Hunter, 45, was dining with his girlfriend at the next table when suddenly a piece of meat stuck in his throat.
The kicker for me, though, is in these paragraphs:
Gonzalez, sitting with his back to Hunter’s table, looked around when he heard Hunter’s companion yelling.

"She was screaming, 'He can’t breathe, he can’t breathe,"’ Gonzalez said by phone from California, where he lives in the offseason. "The whole restaurant was quiet. Nobody was doing anything.

"Then I saw he was turning blue. Everybody in the restaurant was just kind of sitting there wide-eyed."

The 6-foot-5 Gonzalez, about a foot taller than Hunter, jumped out of his chair and came up behind the stricken man and began to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

"After just a few seconds, the piece of meat popped out," Hunter said. "I could breathe again. It’s a good thing Tony is so tall because I had stood up— I think."

Diana Martin, a restaurant employee, said no one else seemed to know what to do.

"He was so lucky Tony was there," Martin said. "In a situation like that, every second counts. It helped a lot that Tony’s a big, strong guy because you have to be able to apply some pretty good pressure. I don’t think I would have been strong enough to help him."
This, for me, is the definition of a useful person: Someone who doesn't hesitate but just acts. Mad props and a tip of the useful hat to Mr. Gonzalez.

He's modest, too; the following grafs show his disinclination to make a fuss and his conviction that all he did was something that needed doing. Frankly, I'd bet money that he's a Christian (I love the NFL Christians - they rock all kinds of awesome).

So, Tony Gonzalez, you are the RFAA Useful Person of the Week. Look for your certificate in the mail in the coming days.