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It's been a while, hasn't it?

The NY Times strives for accuracy in all things My-Little-Pony-related.

Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful evaluation of the Ron Paul phenomenon, viewing his rise to prominence through the lens of the Louis Farrakhan phenomenon of the 80s and early 90s.

The US Navy has rescued an Iranian fishing boat from Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. We really need to start charging a fee for this kind of shit, especially in the case of countries that want us to stay out of their business except in cases where they need us to clean up a mess of theirs.

In a WTF of truly epic proportions, a Dallas teen was accidentally deported to Columbia. Apparently, the girl has been reunited with her family, but there are still a lot of questions about how this happened. I expect it's a case of badly staffed bureaucratic agencies, good old-fashioned human error, and the ever-present ugliness of racial profiling all coming together to make a scandal broth. I mean, let's be real here. No blonde-haired, blue-eyed valley girl would have ended up in this situation. I don't want to tar an entire system here, but immigration policies in this country clearly need to change.

Stephen Hawking will turn 70 this month, and the New Scientist has an exclusive interview.

And, finally, John Oliver explains American political practice in one of the Daily Show's best segments ever:

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If Mario were "Maria" and Peach and Toadstool were pretty little princelings, it would probably look something like this. Genderswaps for the win.

Bruce E. Levine offers persuasive and frightening reasons why young Americans don't fight back. This is a must-read.

Rick Perry, like many conservatives, is impervious to facts. And it makes him look like an idiot. But, sadly, no one is going to mind much.

A bunch of Belgian fans taunted Japanese goalkeeper Kawashima Eiji (who plays for Lierse S.K.) by chanting "Fukushima" at him, proving that Belgians can be unprecedented dicks, too. Or maybe it's just something about football fans? Or sports fans in general? Or people? Anyway, this is pretty up-there on my list of things that I find totally vile. As Kawashima rightly noted: it's not remotely funny.
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There's been a lot of buzz about the (extremely) recent debt deal development. Here are a couple of my favorite responses to, or breakdowns of, the situation.

Ezra Klein, "Winners and Losers: Policy Edition"
Angry Black Bitch, "There are winners and then there are the rest of us..."

And my very favorite-est response:
Paul Krugman, "Barack Obama, Comedian"
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Michael Kimmel on how the actions of ultra right wing terrorists like Anders Breivik and Timothy McVeigh must be understood not just in terms of the globalization of society, but also in terms of gender. The importance of these men's perceptions of masculinity and of emasculation cannot be overstated here.

Paul Krugman on how centrism is destroying America.

And some follow-up from d r i f t g l a s s:
For 30 years, the staunchest ally of the unhinged Right has been the craven Center: that army of Beltway automatons who profit handsomely from propping up the Right’s every act of depravity with one outrageously false equivalence after another. This is the "But the Democrats" brigade, on well-coiffed display every Sunday at what I I have been calling "The Mouse Circus" for the past six years.

Unchecked this state of affairs will continue for another 30 years or until we as a nation are finally burned to the ground and sold off for scrap by the Right, right under the noses of the Center who will be busy sternly lecturing Left on the need for more Compromise and greater Reasonableness, and compulsively masturbating into the pages of the New York Times about how an awesome new Third Party full of Radically Reasonable Compromisers would solve everything.

Strangely pertinent words from George Orwell's 1984.


And finally, Severus Snape wants you to know that it gets better:

I totally love this clip, not just because the gentleman in question does a magnificent impersonation but also because he actually calls the Harry Potter series of books out for being sort of tedious - which they really kind of were.
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The Infinity Burial Project "proposes alternatives for the postmortem body that promote and facilitate an individual engagement with the process of decomposition." Be sure to check out their mushroom death suit.

The architecture of stunt work is as-yet unrealized, but well-worth pursuing. The idea of constructing architecture around so-called "narratives" of daily (or not-so daily) life can often result in impractical or overly-whimsical patterns, but then again it can result in some seriously awesome stuff. And the world needs stunt schools.

The University of the Michigan's Center for Japanese Studies Electronic Publications has a bunch of old book available online. Subject matter is varied, but you never know when something's going to come in handy, and hey, free!

A Tae Bo class in Korea, working out in perfect resonant frequencies, caused a 39-story skyscraper to shake. No joke.

This just in: Al Franken is still a badass. This time he's stumping for the repeal of DOMA. I love that guy.

Orchestra culture appears to be as jaded and dumbed down as anything else in America. Ho hum.
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NASA's Hubble telescope has discovered that Pluto has a fourth moon. Go on with your bad self, Pluto.

Illustrations from the golden age of artillery.

A traditional Japanese tea ceremony has been held at the memorial site of the USS Arizona for the victims of Pearl Harbor. The ceremony to honor the souls of the dead was a joint effort undertaken in the spirit of peace and reconciliation--something that the recent ugliness surrounding the Women's World Cup demonstrates we are still very much in need of.

Thandie Newton is a beautiful woman, inside and out.

An astonishing story from The New York Times: Nearly ten years ago, Mark Anthony Stroman--acting in response to the events of 9/11--shot three men he believed were Arabs; two of them died. One of them, Rais Bhuiyan, who was partially blinded and disfigured by the attack, is fighting to help Stroman achieve a stay of execution. The article includes statements from both men, which are harrowing at the same time that they are remarkable.

It's tempting, in a situation like this, to lay blame solely at the feet of individuals, without really thinking about the effects of environment upon their actions. But the reality is that we live in a country with a rapidly dumbing population; a population that is fed fear and religious zeal and a sense of entitlement from infancy to acts of adulthood. I'm inspired by Mr. Bhuiyan's attempts here to make a point about the need for greater discourse between people of all classes and creeds; about the need for thought ahead of retributive action. I hope he succeeds.
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Fantastical illustrations by Edmund Dulac. 'Nuff said.

Paul Krugman poses some intriguing questions about why Italy and Japan have vastly different interest rates despite carrying roughly the same amount of global debt. Thus far there seems to be no consensus on this issue, but it's an interesting one.

The end of this Sinfest comic makes me really sad. I don't like to see tsukumogami suffer.

File this under "wtf." A woman has been arrested for sexually assaulting a TSA agent. Yeah, you heard right. At this point no one seems to understand why this happened, and the perpetrator is keeping mum. She'll probably turn out to have had a screw loose, but for now its interesting to speculate.

Dear Sugar. One of the best advice columns ever. On hiatus until August 4th, but the backlog is totally worth perusing.

The Dawn Spacecraft has entered orbit around asteroid Vesta, the first of two destinations the spacecraft will travel to as part of its fact-finding mission. This project is intended to the lay the groundwork for future human space exploration missions, which is just too fucking cool.
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165 years for us; one year for Neptune. Welcome back, buddy.

Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has got a debt limit plan. Ezra Klein breaks down how said plan is actually both politically savvy and geared toward ending a major threat to the American economy. A number of could-care-less politicians are, predictably, already against it.

North Dakota isn't actually really a state, but they're going to fix that real soon. Not before the rest of us crack the hell up, though.

A man is killed in Yellowstone after encountering a mama grizzly and her cubs. I realize that bear threats are pretty slim (my father and I encountered a brown bear and cubs once in Yosemite National Park and escaped unscathed), but this is still an excellent illustration of one of the many reasons why I don't particularly care for the great outdoors. Bugs and a lack of running water are the other key reasons. ;)

If Superman was real, this is what we'd do with him.

The recall process in Wisconsin is ongoing, and Republicans there are naturally doing their utmost to swing things in their favor. But so far it doesn't seem to be working. Maybe there's some hope for this place yet.

But, then again, maybe not. The recent freak-out over Michelle Obama having a calorie-heavy meal argues for the continued dominance of the histrionic elements of American culture.

Buster Keaton: Bangable Dude in History. Me-ow!

And finally, here's a cool review of the film I went to see in New York this past weekend: Yakuza Weapon.
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Caryn Rivadeneira over at ThinkChristian talks about things that Christians can appreciate about the Slutwalk trend. She suggests that violence against women can occur no matter what a woman wears (and not as a result of it) and that ending said violence is a moral imperative that all Christians should advocate for. That's my kind of believer.

At the same time, John McWhorter over at The Root thinks people should stop using the Bible to justify homophobia. After all, he notes, it used to be used to justify racism, and we've managed to move on from that. (For the most part, in my opinion. At the very least, it's harder to get away with using the Bible in such a way in public. Privately, I think a lot of that kind of nonsense still goes on.)

After fifteen-plus years in production, Pixar is finally putting out a film with a female as the main protagonist. And about darn time, too. (Note: don't bother throwing Elastigirl, or Jessie, or Dory at me. I said "main" protagonist.)

The Art Newspaper explores the question of whether or not the release of Ai Weiwei means that the Chinese government is easing up on its policy against dissent. And the answer is no.

Wanna learn the history of English in ten minutes? It's a lot of fun. (Watch out for that guy with the axe!)

Linda Holmes breaks down the recent furor over the Oxford University PR department's decision to do away with the Oxford comma. Holmes does a really good job of explaining why the Oxford comma makes sentences so much cleaner and clearer by its presence, and also of embodying the silly attachment that all of us language nerds have to peculiar pieces of grammar while pointing out just how not silly attachment to Oxford commas is. I'm an Oxford comma girl, myself, you know. In fact, they can have my Oxford commas when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers. 'Nuff said.

Ezra Klein on Amazon's bad sales tax behavior. I imagine a lot of the fuss could be solved if states just got around to passing laws that imposed sales tax for products being purchases by people in their state. Let's see Amazon decide never to sell anything to California because they don't want to pay sales tax.

Evolutionary biologist Mark Chengizi thinks that the wrinkles that develop on wet hands are our body's natural attempt to increase grip capabilities in inclement weather.

Only in Japan will you see a tv commercial wherein businessman sing about the woes of summertime itchy-crotch syndrome.


Jun. 29th, 2011 02:10 pm
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Master film composer Bernard Herrmann, particularly noted for his Hitchcock scores, would have turned 100 today. NPR has an awesome tribute to his lasting genius.

The Mona Lisa will not be leaving the building. The Louvre has apparently rejected a proposal by Italy to borrow the work for a 2013 exhibition. Apparently, the work hasn't left France since 1974. If you ask my mother, the real Mona Lisa hasn't been on display for years, but is instead kept in storage somewhere while an obvious (to her) copy now hangs on the wall--the bulletproof glass that shields it also serving to make it difficult for the casual observer to realize the substitution. If this is the case, then I suppose the museum has a vested interest in never loaning it out to anyone ever again.

Good news: Björk is releasing a new album soon. Bad news: It's inextricably linked with apple products. Sigh.

Feministing has a good opinion piece up about Bristol Palin and rape culture. In her new memoir, Palin-the-younger describes her first sexual encounter with Levi Johnston, and it sounds a whole hell of a lot like a date rape. But she won't acknowledge it as such; perhaps she can't. The tendency when dealing with the Palins is to dismiss them and anything that happens to them as part and parcel of their own petard, and to some extent that's true. But I can't help feeling that Bristol Palin is just a big walking victim, with no awareness whatsoever of her own victimhood. She makes me incredibly sad.

D r i f t g l a s s takes on the recent furor over whether or not people should go to college, and he ladles the reality on nice and thick. This is a fantastic and thought-provoking read about not just college, but about the facts of life in working America. It even has a nod to new high school models that are looking more toward skills training than college training. Check it!
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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been released on bail, although this was likely motivated only by the upcoming plans for the celebration of the Chinese Communist Party's 90th anniversary. It is doubtful that Ai's difficulties with the government are over.

Jay Smooth knocks it out of the park with a fantastic video blog on the nature of media dependency and celebrity death culture.

Krugman takes on the realities of life expectancy in the US. Turns out it doesn't pay to be a woman in the Appalachians or parts of the Deep South. What a fucking surprise.

Awesome Battlestar Galactica toys from back in the day are awesome.


Jun. 19th, 2011 02:08 pm
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Julie Klausner deplores the latest trend of women-as-little-girl and laments its pervasiveness throughout all areas of pop culture.

In connection with the above, Tami associates said trend with Zooey Deschanel and wonders if this trend is race/class specific. Is there a black Deschanel or a latina Deschanel? she wonders. Or is the girly-kitten movement irrevocably tied to middle-class whiteness?

(In a related note, I just bought a romper the other day and I look adorable in it. But I would never claim to like "rainbows, Girl Scout cookies, and laughing a lot" on an online dating site. I'm more of an "ice cold beer, splatter-gore comedies, and mismatched socks" kind of gal. Oh, and I love quantum physics, though I do admit that math is hard for me. Man, identity is hard.)

All Things Considers takes a look at how the college horror story is back. Apparently, worries over whether or not college is worth it have circulated ever since the first major post-college recession of the 1970s. Also apparently, college is, in fact, totally worth it.

Clarence Clemons, saxophone player extraordinaire, has died. RIP Big Man.
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Sega is developing an interactive video game that measures one's ability to pee. Only in Japan, yo.

The fabulous George Takei talks Star Trek, Broadway, gay rights, and more! I <3 him so much.

Ezra Klein points out that we should all stop worrying about Mitt Romney's inability to tell jokes and start worrying about the fact that his grasp of economics is fucked up.

Shirley Sherrod isn't going away, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

The Art Newspaper takes a look at how the Arab Spring is impacting patronage in the art world.

A new study finds that the ability to reason developed not to enable actual thinking but to win arguments with other people. I expect a new study will soon find that no one with any sense is surprised by this.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY is currently showing the works of fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The exhibit explores the art of grotesque fashion, which are two of my favorite things. I am definitely going to see this next month when I drop in the for the annual Japan Cuts film festival.
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The socio-political implications of the "Gay Girl in Damascus" hoax, both for the real Syrian LGBT movement and for the stuck-up, self-satisfied, orientalist pricks in the West.

Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling in the matter of Prop 8's legality has been upheld. A US District Court judge has found that Walker showed no signs of prejudice in making his ruling, setting an important and powerful precedent about the fact that the impartiality of LGBT members of the American justice system should not be in question merely on the basis of the fact that they are LGBT.

Feministing presents a concise breakdown on why Michele Bachmann must never become president. (Hint: It's because she's a radical bigot.)

Looking for the perfect summertime food? You'd better eat your beans, boys.

A snapshot of how feminists go to the movies. And for all of you out there who think we don't sneak alcohol into films for the purposes of giggling, gossiping, and generally calling that anti-feminist romantic bullshit out for what it is, I invite you to join [ profile] foxxydancr, [ profile] derrangedferret, and I for the opening of Breaking Dawn: Part One. It will change your whole perspective on shit.

Daily Kos on the tendency of Conservatives to lose track of who poor people actually are. This is an interesting article, but I have one major problem with it. The author of this post notes that most Conservatives are out of touch with reality and therefore not cognizant of the fact that most poor people are children. The implication seems to be that their behavior might therefore be okay if the majority of poor were black or illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America rather than children. And that's kind of fucked up.

How American film production companies are slowly working their way into the Chinese film market.
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Need another reason to dislike Rick Santorum? Here's one: he's a damn, dirty hypocrite.

A new study finds that American students know less about their own history than any other subject. All in all, only "20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam" that was recently administered nationwide. So not only are Americans particularly bad at knowing their own history, but that knowledge declines as they get closer and closer to the voting age. Explains a lot, don't you think?

An oldie, but a goodie: Ms Magazine interviews Feminist Hulk. Do you guys follow Feminist Hulk on twitter? Because if you don't, you damn well should.

Jay Smooth calls LeBron James out for drawing our attention to the fact that, at the end of the day, sports really don't matter.

Artist Anish Kapoor has rejected plans to exhibit in China. His decision stems from his disapproval of the Chinese government's detention of artist Ai Weiwei, and--frankly--I wish more people in the art world would follow his cue. We have no business doing anything that supports China's arts program right now; doing so (through exhibition exchanges, art auctions, and what-have-you) is completely farcical.

Artist Shea Hembrey discusses how he staged an international art show of 100 artists who were all himself.

Stanley Fish explores the new field of Geo Humanities and suggests that the development of new intertextual discourse between (socially) theoretical and scientific fields demonstrates the power and influence of the humanities long after many people suggested that it was a dead field.
sechan19: (lin fengmian)
The problem of revisionist history has been much on the minds of opinionators of late. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri weighs in on the Sarah Palin-Paul Revere scandal that has resulted in a flurry of insults, protestations, scoffing, and—most astonishingly—attempts to rewrite the Paul Revere entry on Wikipedia in order to make it correspond to Palin’s somewhat embellished account. In the New York Times, the brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates examines how the new X-Men film has managed to efface the hot-button racial issues of 1962 that the X-Men—ironically—were largely based on.

In her post, Petri notes that the Palin-Revere situation is but a small piece of the overall tendency of Americans to a) overwhelmingly fudge their history and b) subsequently refuse to face up to the fact that they’ve fudged their history. No one likes to own up to the fact that they don’t know something, and even less people like owning up to the fact that they made a mistake. And this is especially noticeable in the Tea Party era, where a recreated conceptualization of American history has democracy-loving founding fathers running rampant through the streets of old America with a gun in one hand and a copy of the bill of rights in the other.

Of course, we can’t blame it all on the Tea Partiers (no matter how much we want to). Studies have recently shown that the human brain makes decisions about issues within fractions of seconds—and those decisions once made are almost completely impervious to the introduction of dissenting information. The irrationality of the rational processes of the mind are clearly visible in such things as the Birther movement, the belief that abortion leads to breast cancer, the notion that the country can be treated like an individual when it comes to debt management, the idea that women who wear mini-skirts ask for it, the insistence that indie bands can’t make good records once they go major, and the myth of a post-racial society.

This particularly irksome myth of the post-racial society is taken up in Coates’ post. He notes how this subtle denial of historical reality allows people of both dubious and considerable social advancement to claim a superiority that they do not really possess. Racism remains lamentably ingrained in the very fabric and one needs look no farther than Hollywood—the so-called bastion of the liberal-media bias—to see how institutionalized racism continues to permeate us each and every one.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century such films as The Last Airbender and The Prince of Persia (which I fully admit that I enjoyed) have shown us how very far we have yet to go, and these in extremely obvious ways. It would seem that X-Men First Class is showing us something similar, albeit in a far more subtle and insidious way.

And yet, I have to think there is hope. True the mind plays tricks on us all, but perhaps being aware of how the mind works, of how it takes shortcuts that don't suit the society we are now evolving into, can help one to circumvent the system by assessing and changing the process as it happens. If I know that I make snap decisions, in spite of myself, then I'll be better equipped to recognize when I make a snap decision and to back up and try it again. If I know that racism is still so interwoven into my culture that even a story meant to act as a metaphor for racism still reflects and utilizes the inequality that inspired it, then I can call it out and know that we are not there yet and that hard work must still be done.


Jun. 12th, 2011 01:10 pm
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Jessica DelBalzo presents her abortion experiences: why she needed it, how she did it, what it was like, and why--even now--she considers it one of the best decision of her life and something that made her sincerely happy.

Krugman presents some graphs on the cost differences of private healthcare and medicare, pointing out that people who suggest we make a major shift from public to private should be ashamed of themselves.

Sherman Alexie writes beautifully of the transformative power of honest and even brutal young adult fiction, aptly defending YA fiction from those would say that young adults are too young for intense fiction. (And, in fairness, here's the article he was responding to, which offers the other side of the argument and is worth a look--if for no other reason than to get a list of books to read. ;> )

I want this hoodie.
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Remember how I'd hoped that someone else would call Eric Cantor on his Missouri-aid-related-bullshit? Jon Stewart and the Daily Show did. And they also put together one of the funniest sketches I've ever seen on the whole Weiner scandal. (Watch out for the wasabi, yo.) I <3 Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. I <3 them so, so much.

Five reasons why you should study Aikido, the Art of Peace.

The latest trend in graffiti is reverse graffiti, where gorgeous works of art are created through the act of cleaning up selected bits and pieces of walls, overpasses, and the like. "Kind of brilliant" indeed.


Jun. 3rd, 2011 03:08 pm
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US farmers and food processors are not required by law to test for deadly strains of the E.Coli bacteria. I don't know about you, but that makes me seriously concerned. People who think federal regulation is a bad thing are morons.

If nothing else could make you believe that we need to raise the debt limit, Sarah Palin's belief that we don't need to do that ought to do it. Failure to raise the debt ceiling limit will result in a default that has the potential to send our country into Third World status. And these people are holding it hostage so they can fire teachers, defund public health programs, and keep taxes on rich people and corporations low. I can think of a lot of things we could do with these people, and let me tell you--election ain't one of them.

The Venice Biennale is setting up a Pirate camp for select artists to stay in and produce installation art for the opening of the show. The collective piece is intended to be a commentary on the nomadic lifestyle of the contemporary artist.

Japanese woodblock prints from the collection of the University of Pittsburgh.

The Anthony Weiner situation is kind of funny. But it's also an interesting case study into the dangers (either foreign or domestic) of too much social media networking.

Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul is a sexist jerk. Not that that really matters, I suppose, in the grand scheme of art. Lots of artists are, or have been, sexist jerks. Still, his comments are yet another piece of the puzzle that reveals something really sad about our society.

But fear not, there's still Septuagenarian porn to keep the madness of the globalized society at bay. Only in Japan, yo.
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In what has to be the biggest "duh" in the history of duhs an official global report has found not just that the War on Drugs has failed, but that it has had devastating consequences for the world community. And I say unto you: "Duh."

Feministing provides links to two new blogsites that challenge the idea that we live in a post-racial or post-sexist society. Click on the link and check out I'm not racist but... and I'm not sexist but... for glimpses of the ongoing racism and sexism that is subtly rampant in the global culture.

The judge of the Australian Sir John Sulman Prize for subject, genre, or mural painting apparently decided the fate of the finalists with a coin toss. And he's not sorry he did it either. Some people are up in arms about it, but I think it's an interesting statement about the nature of competition in the realm of the subjective. Because if you think about it, one man's opinion is as arbitrary as a coin toss.

What the million-mark sales of Lady Gaga's latest album mean to the future of the recording industry.

The SF Giants totally rule:

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