Archive for May, 2011


If You Like Bonnie Prince Billy, His New Music Video Might Make Your Day

I’ve seen Bonnie Prince Billy live on two occasions. The first show was one of the most fantastic shows I’ve ever been to. It was in a small venue in Portland, Oregon (where, btw, ALL the venues are small because, psssh, we’re HIP, damnit [edit: at least when I was there!]) with, you know, tables and stuff, and a balcony, and maybe you could still smoke in Portland then? Inside bars? I think maybe I could still smoke. Oh but no, it was McMenamin’s, so probably not. Anyway, the highlight of the night was that there was a drunken birthday girl (she was technically a woman, but it doesn’t sound as good that way), who was so winningly drunk that Will Oldham actually let her get on stage to sing a song with him. AND SHE FUCKING NAILED IT. Word for word, note for note — nailed it. And then she said thanks and went back to her table. And I was pleased.

The second show wasn’t as good as that one, but I mean, really, what’d you expect?

Okay now watch this thing. It will make you smile. And more.


In Which it is Pointed Out that Megan McArdle Will Defend People Who Rape Systematically Sexually Harass Hotel Maids if They are Sufficiently Rich

Belle Waring eviscerates The Business and Economics Editor for the Atlantic. You will want popcorn.

[McArdle] elides the fact that you, as a woman, know when you’re being flashed vs. when you accidentally walk in on someone who hasn’t heard your knock. Really. Big difference. A man showing you his penis on purpose has a certain way about him, let’s just say. Do I really have to go there? He is likely (thought not certain) to be visibly sexually aroused. And sauntering around looking at you weird, with his penis in his hand as often as not. This is not the behavior of the startled guest who shouts—”wait—don’t come in!” and begins pulling the sheets around himself in a fit of embarrassment. I honestly would have thought, here is a class of rich people whom not even Megan McArdle would defend! I begin to suspect the null set is involved.

Shorter Megan McArdle’s entire career:

Rich people are rich for a reason, and the reason is that they’re never wrong about anything, which you would understand if you shined their turds all day like I do, you filthy peasant. Oh, one more thing. Sometimes I cook.

Added: I changed “rape” in the title because despite the fact that I very, very strongly dislike McArdle, she was not in fact defending rapists (though she was giving the benefit of the doubt to serial sexual harassers in the context of a discussion about a very powerful man who tried to rape a woman). Sometimes I get heated on the Internet. (Also, her lawyers called!)


Michael Brown Might Be The Least Self-Aware Person On Planet Earth

Do your remember Hurricane Katrina? It was terrible. Lots of people died in a natural disaster. But what was even more terrible than the fact that lots of people died in a natural disaster, was that after the fact a lot more people died because the federal organization tasked with dealing with natural disasters, FEMA, was headed by a Republican party hack who was bad at his job. All of the deaths were, of course, needless. But I think there’s a pretty big difference between deaths that are caused by an act of God and deaths that are the result of human incompetence. It’s part of the reason why earthquakes don’t go to prison, after all. (Also, they are geological events, not people.)

So it’s rather…galling that “Heckuva Job Brownie” has deigned to criticize President Obama’s response to the recent tornado disasters in Missouri and environs. Because, you see, Obama is in Europe having a jolly old time, chaps, when what he needs to be doing is commandeering dump trucks and getting rid of rubble and pulling babies from the wreckage, PRONTO!

BROWN: In this situation, they’re almost tone-deaf. I mean, you stop and think about it, your press office should be recognizing that the visuals that Americans are seeing is of this devastation. Don’t put a visual of the president up playing ping-pong. It’s awful.

CAVUTO: So you don’t have a problem with the president being abroad with the Queen and the Irish prime minster just doing fun stuff?

BROWN: No, I do have a problem with that. It’s not like he’s at a G8 summit. This is not a diplomatic trip of any sort. This is just a — he went to Ireland for God’s sake to visit relatives! It’s time to come home…in this case, the perception is that the president is detached. He’s more concerned about raising a toast to the Queen. People have died.

Aye, there’s the rub. People have died. Past tense. They have died in horrible tornadoes, and the YouTube videos and the photographs are scary and awful. But there is not much that the government, broadly speaking, can do other than what it’s already doing. Cleaning up, helping people rebuild their lives, etc. The damage is done.

Michael Brown is encouraging the President of the United States to roll up his shirtsleeves and go to Missouri for a photo-op. It will help us heal, you see, and soothe the frightened souls of the American people. Because we are children, and WHAT WE NEED RIGHT NOW IS A REASSURING PHOTO ON THE FRONT PAGE. Reminder: The last time a standing President heeded this same advice from this very source, said President’s approval ratings dropped a couple points and hundreds of people died in New Orleans. Also? Those hundreds of deaths were blamed on him. Rightfully.

Just saying.

(via Cole)


Let’s Talk About Psychopaths

Jon Ronson — author of The Men Who Stare at Goats — has been all over the place recently thanks to his new book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. Frankly, it’s a bloody brilliant premise — a Huffington Post-worthy SEO eye-catcher. I’d like to know how to test for psychopaths! you’re probably thinking to yourself right now. (And if you’re not, you might just be a psychopath.) But after reading an extensive excerpt in the Guardian last weekend, I have to admit that Ronson’s execution of the premise is pretty brilliant as well. It’s sure as hell engrossing, anyway. Read the whole thing when you have five minutes — if for no other reason than learning what the hell this excerpt-of-an-excerpt is all about:

And so he successfully sought permission from the Canadian government to obtain a large batch of LSD, hand-picked a group of psychopaths, led them into what he named the “total encounter capsule”, a small room painted bright green, and asked them to remove their clothes. This was truly to be a radical milestone: the world’s first ever marathon nude LSD-fuelled psychotherapy session for criminal psychopaths.

Barker’s sessions lasted for epic 11-day stretches. There were no distractions – no television, no clothes, no clocks, no calendars, only a perpetual discussion (at least 100 hours every week) of their feelings. Much like Bindrim’s sessions, the psychopaths were encouraged to go to their rawest emotional places by screaming and clawing at the walls and confessing fantasies of forbidden sexual longing for each other, even if they were, in the words of an internal Oak Ridge report of the time, “in a state of arousal while doing so”.

My guess is that this would have been a more enjoyable experience within the context of a Palm Springs resort hotel than in a secure facility for psychopathic murderers.

If this doesn’t look like a man who knows his psychopaths…



Related: An interesting post by Thom Hartmann entitled Profiling CEOs and Their Sociopathic Paychecks.

The key grafs:

Only about 1 to 3 percent of us are sociopaths — people who don’t have normal human feelings and can easily go to sleep at night after having done horrific things. And of that 1 percent of sociopaths, there’s probably only a fraction of a percent with a college education. And of that tiny fraction, there’s an even tinier fraction that understands how business works, particularly within any specific industry.

Thus there is such a shortage of people who can run modern monopolistic, destructive corporations that stockholders have to pay millions to get them to work. And being sociopaths, they gladly take the money without any thought to its social consequences.


Do You Have Your Towel Today?

Don’t forget, you hoopy froods: today, May 25, is Towel Day — puny planet earth’s annual tribute to genuine Master of the Universe, Douglas Adams. The Guardian has a lovely description of the occassion here, but even if you haven’t read the increasingly inaccurately named five-book trilogy collectively known as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you should still wave your freak flag (read: towel) proudly today. Why? Well:

A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with. (Chapter three of the original The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).


Liveblogging Oprah’s Last Week

(Ed. note: While obviously this wasn’t published in “real time,” it was written in real time. Delay in getting it published due to busyness-related failure on my — Ben’s — part to actually read my e-mails for the past 16 hours or so until just now this sentence needs to end because its not making sense anymore.)


3:41pm (Ed. note: yesterday, in all cases): I am in Austin, Texas on my honeymoon, and yet I am going to watch Oprah. Good thing I spent all afternoon at the pool getting fairly drunk.

I was underwhelmed by yesterday’s “Oprah Surprise Spectacular” – like woowee, you managed to get Tom Cruise, congratulations. He’s been begging for jobs for years now. Also, why was there a little blond child singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow? You are Oprah Winfrey, the most famous black person in the world. Can’t you get a black kid to sing it – or better yet, sing a less lame song? Patti Labelle classed up the proceedings, but only slightly. Kicking off her shoes was a nice touch.

3:55pm: Sunburnt game face on + sustenance = READY

4:00pm: Tom Hanks passes emceeing duties over to Will Smith and his wife. I’m bored already. His wife does look fantastic, however.

4:01pm: Second glass of wine. Yes please. Here comes Michael Jordan. Finally! Some black people! Oprah is pretending to freak out.

4:03pm: Jamie Foxx is here now, serenading Oprah. The most interesting part of this so far is that Jamie Foxx appears to have a tattoo on the back of his head. Eww. He must have been hanging out with Mike Tyson recently.

4:05pm: Stevie Wonder is keeping it real. Oprah looks like she wants to make out with Jamie Foxx.

4:07pm:I have been trying to put my finger on why I’m so underwhelmed by the farewell countdown. I’m still working on it.

4:10pm: Oprah pretends to be excited about Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry looks old.

Read the rest of this entry »


Good News For People Who Like Less Chewy Pork

The USDA relents:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is lowering its temperature recommendation for cooking pork to 145 degrees.

That’s a drop of 15 degrees and a change from the agency’s longstanding guideline. It means pork will be held to the same standard as beef, veal and lamb.

Here is what you should do. Go to a grocery store. Buy a pork tenderloin — a smallish one, enough to feed two comfortably while leaving a couple small sandwiches-worth of pork over for the next day. Take the pork out of the package. Marinate it in a dijon marinade for a couple of hours. Just fucking do it. Yeah, yeah, you have to wait. BIG DEAL PEOPLE ARE STARVING GET OVER IT. Okay, you’ve waited. Now pull it out of the fridge. Slice it lengthwise down the middle. Stuff it with something good and sweet. Applesauce, for one, but really whatever you think would work will probably work. You got dried apricots but no applesauce? Fucking stuff it with that, champ. Set the oven ten minutes ago to 375. (SERIOUS QUESTION THAT JUST CAME TO ME: I have never seen a recipe call for an oven pre-heated in degrees centigrade. Are cookbooks the last stronghold of the Fahrenheit scale?) Stop thinking about how ovens are heated in Canada (you lived there, and they’re in Fahrenheit), and put the fucking stuffed pork in the oven. You can throw a bunch of other shit in there too — vegetables and shit. I dunno, potatoes? Whatever you want that will cook in a dish without much more than consistent heat. Maybe throw down some oil first, though? Otherwise you’ll have to soak the dish longer. Shit’s gonna get stuck without oil. ANYWAY. All right. Now just fucking wait for forty-five to fifty minutes. Just do nothing. Sit around. Make a salad if you’re into that sort of thing. Whatever. I don’t care. I would probably make a salad if I were you, but I’m not you and I’m not here to lecture you. I’m just telling you something you should know. In case you didn’t already know it. Anyways, la de dah. The time’s up. Pull the pork out of the oven. OH BUT PUT ON AN OVEN MITT FIRST, BECAUSE IT’S HOT. Let it cool for a couple minutes. However long. Get a plate ready. Throw some more dijon mustard on there in a little dollop shape. Dollops do have shapes. They do. Let it go, man, they do. Okay. Good. Now get a knife. Cut the pork into thinnish slices. You see how it’s a little pink inside? A little juicy? You notice how it melts in your mouth a lot more than pork usually does? How it might be the best goddamn pork you ever goddamn had? THAT’S BECAUSE I JUST TOLD YOU HOW TO NOT FUCK UP YOUR PORK, USDA!


Boycott Greendot

I recently came into a green dot VISA debit card, and while I usually disdain gift cards for practical reasons — $6 billion dollars a year down the drain, anyone? — I certainly do not disdain money in my pocket that I didn’t earn (previous impressions to the contrary notwithstanding, of course).

However, green dot and VISA appear to have gone out of their way to make this transaction particularly heinous. First of all, before even loading the card, the giver must pay $4.95 for the plastic itself. Then, once the gift has made its way to the recipient, he or she must activate the card online or over the phone. To do so, one must input not only the 16-digit card number and three-digit security code, but also one’s:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Home phone
  • Cell phone
  • Credit score
  • Quantitative affinity for three-toed sloths (HA! Just kidding — they didn’t ask for my credit score.)

After that’s done, you’re forced to opt out of (at least if you try to activate over the phone) an offer to text your card balance to you every single day as well as automatic entry into VIP VISA status for a mere $3.00 a month.

Having successfully navigated these up-selling seas, you may finally use your gift as you would any standard debit card. However, while green dot brags about the fact that it features ZERO overdraft fees and penalty charges, it also slips in the anal-clenching tidbit that, except in those months in which you make 30 purchases or more (you know, because that happens a lot), THERE IS A MONTHLY MAINTENANCE CHARGE OF $5.95. Like, holy chit, right? Elizabeth Warren forbid that you stick this thing in your wallet and forget about it for a couple months — there goes half your balance right there.

Seriously, with funds like these, who needs enemies?


Almost Certainly Not Worth Posting About

But, for the record?

I was going to eat this Fiber One bar from the General Mills corporation because I didn’t want to take the time to make lunch because I’m leaving in, like, ten minutes to go “hiking,” but then I opened it. I opened it, and it was shiny. SHINY. Like, motherfucking Fiber One bar looks like it has been freshly lacquered. Which is not appetizing!

Now I am going to throw it away. I will report back to you when I’m through!

UPDATE BY TREVOR: (Not only is this worth posting about, it’s worth updating.) Don’t be such a bitch, Tom. Would you throw away a glazed doughnut because it was too shiny? How about an apple? Sometimes shiny is GOOD.

12:43: What’s that new thing you got over there at Food ‘N’ Dry?

12:45: The crunch enhancer? That’s a non-nutritive cereal varnish.

12:49: It’s semi-permeable. It’s not osmotic.

12:50: What it does is, it coats and seals the flake.

12:52: It prevents the milk from penetrating it.

12:53: Yeah, it’s a beautiful product.


David Brooks is Wrong About Everything Always, And I’m Tired Of It

Today’s culprit? Britain!

Mr Brook’s history is distinctly dodgy. But perhaps he has a better grasp of our politics? Well, no. Take this:

Britain is also blessed with a functioning political culture. It is dominated by people who live in London and who have often known each other since prep school. This makes it gossipy and often incestuous.

Prep school? I’m afraid I think Mr Brooks is referring to public school (Eton, I expect) though Boris Johnson does, of course, share a primary school with Ed Miliband. That aside, the statement is still ludicrous – is being ruled by a clique of Oxford PPEist ex-public-school boys really what you would call a functioning political culture? And if so, how does that chime with the claim that we’re “democratic”?

I realize that I am part of a self-selecting and masochistic minority of left-wing nutjobs who reads David Brooks’s columns and silently (or, occasionally, loudly) seethes, but it is my great hope that this collective seething will force Brooks to recognize the error of his ways and/or lose his job. And so seethe I shall!

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