Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Flash for Mayor, Conservatism for Punks

I sparred with a writer of the upcoming Green Lantern movie online a bit a few years ago because he based a TV plot on the dangerously-misleading conspiracy theory that childhood vaccines are harmful.  But I will grant Mark Guggenheim this: He also wrote this recent scene from the comic book Justice Society of America showing that even if you’re the (WWII-era) Flash, being a mayor is not all that glorious. 

And for more mixing of art and politics that resists glamorizing government, remember: Come to my speech about “Conservatism for Punks” at the NYC Junto (20 W. 44th) this Thursday (7pm).  All are welcome, and it’s free.  

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Honey Badger vs. the Public Transit Zombies

The fearsome honey badger, here gaily narrated, will be the final animal in my “Month of Animals” entries. 

Memorial Day finds me having just returned from Brown (perhaps some new Brown alums will Facebook-friend and Twitter-follow me – all are welcome).  The combo of hippie-green politics and travel reminds of this New York Times blog entry noted by Rick Sincere, which criticizes the Brookings Institution (among “thinktanks gone wild”), and by extension nearly all mass transit-boosting studies, for ignoring whether anyone uses the damn public transit systems when they rank which systems are “good.” 

This is exactly the kind of human-reality-ignoring move always feared by those of us wary of public-transit-loving planner-types.  If the planners say you're predictable cattle, America, then dammit, act like cattle!  Or get back in your car and drive quickly away from the socialists of all parties, racing toward your individual destiny like the fearsome honey badger. 

And for more socialist-bashing, HEAR MY SPEECH AT THE NYC JUNTO, THIS THURSDAY (7pm) at 20 W. 44th.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brown Factoids on the Last Day of my Reunion Trip

•As if to make me feel old, just prior to the Brown reunion I’m heading back from in a few hours as you read this, fellow libertarian Corie Whalen noted on my Facebook page that her brother’s just entering the school in the fall.  I suggested he read the oldest eight of my Retro-Journal entries to get a feel for the place as it was.

•Another tweeting libertarian, Kristina Ribali, who I was lucky enough to meet in person two weeks ago in DC, retweeted this item recently that will make many, many people feel old.

•One famous student listed on the “List of Brown University People” Wikipedia page, I noticed recently, who is not quite accurately described, is “Brian Griffin – actor, Family Guy,” no doubt added by a wiseacre.

•Dan Greenberg, one of my fellow philosophy majors back in the day, notes that H.P. Lovecraft’s house in Providence is up for sale.  Nice place aside from the shoggoths, needless to say. 

•I’m not quite finished with Brown, since my Book Selections of the Month entry for June, coming up in just three days, will include the film Ramen Girl, written by Becca Topol, a fellow Brown alum I dated years ago.  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Politics at Brown and in Its Environs

If all went according to plan, as you read this I’m in Providence, which back when I lived there was also the home of Shepard Fairey, the artist responsible for famous cartoony portraits of Obama, Andre the Giant, and (as seen in the nearby image) Olivia Wilde, the Tron Legacy actress and ACLU fan whose uncle is left-anarchist Alexander Cockburn (and who renamed herself after Oscar Wilde in high school).

Politics leaned way left at RISD and at Brown back in the day and probably still does, though at my Campus Dance table last night, if all went as planned, was at least one fellow libertarian and the dear crunchy-left friend who gave me her first edition, first printing copy of Atlas Shrugged.  Let us hope I did not get drunk and recite the John Galt speech, though that would be impressive, you have to admit. 

And even Brown Alumni Monthly now runs ads selling gold as a hedge against economic collapse, judging by the May-June issue with my Class Update note in it (in which I mentioned Fox News and the like, just to make trouble).

BAM and Brown are not giving up on the neo-hippie-lefty dream, though, as noted by Ali Kokmen, who e-mails to say:

I am amused by the last-page piece of the latest Brown Alumni Monthly talking about the new solar-powered automatically compacting trash cans in use on campus, where one sentence after talking about the cost of these items--about $5000--there's a quote from someone in facilities/operations claiming that they estimate these high-tech trashcans save 24 hours of human labor per year.

I'm not a trained genius in business of mathematics, but really, it seems that this thing would have to last for quite a few years before its amortized cost approaches (let alone becomes less than) what I expect is the typical salary of a garbageperson.

Am also amused by the anecdote that the usage of the things are sometimes so not-intuitively obvious that people leave their trash atop them, obscuring the solar panels that make the thing compact. Sometimes, I love Brown students.

Coincidentally, I talked to a woman a couple nights ago who says one of her main worries about global warming is the sinking of the quasi-island of Tuvalu – but she also notes that the place is making great strides by environmental standards after introducing seven composting toilets.  I find it hard to believe that any place that can be greatly affected by seven toilets would be expensive to rescue or relocate in the event of a climate worst-case scenario, as compared to civilization-altering alternative energy schemes.

Maybe I’ll mention that while drunk at some point this weekend.  And if Providence got around to firing its school teachers, I will toast the whole city. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Brown University Will Oldham Horror (and the lost Darling Buds video!)

Yes, that’s the Brown bear with his junk in a box in the nearby photo (so this entry still sort of fits into my “Month of Animals” theme).

I’m heading back to Brown today for a reunion (Table MD-92 tonight at Campus Dance, people), which reminds me how lucky I was to be somewhere saturated in alternative rock even before it took over the airwaves in the early to mid-90s.  There’s still stuff today that harkens back to the trippy “shoegazer” era (the specific sub-genre of early-90s alt-rock that dominated MTV’s 120 Minutes back when now-libertarian VJ Kennedy hosted).  Witness the Vaccines’ “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” “If You Wanna” (Daniel Radosh likes that one), and “Blow It Up.”

More literally combining Brown then and Williamsburg today (along with a few other regions and times) is this swell song, “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror” by Jeffrey Lewis, about a Williamsburg hipster (Lewis) spotting an indie-folk giant (Will Oldham, Brown Class of 1990, who back then was just the young actor who had played the preacher-boy in Matewan and is here played by some other actor with a beard). 

Will Oldham is one of the very few people to act in the union-idolizing Matewan, become an indie-folk legend, be written about by another hipster singer, act in the reportedly horrific “mumblecore” movie Julien Donkey-Boy, and play the role of a gorilla-trainer in Jackass 3D, though I have not checked to make sure no one else fits that description (surely, many people have that specific combo as an aspiration). 

One (or at least I) could write a whole book of pop culture footnotes about all the connections and implications here, but suffice to say I’m frightened by any tie between mumblecore and Jackass and hope the culture veers more indie-folk than “mumble-ass,” if we must choose.  (Oldham, like the singer from Iron & Wine, also appears scruffy enough to make me worry that he may be suffering from progressive hillbilllyism.)

As for Lewis, he is also a cartoonist and did album cover art for the Durham-dwelling Mountain Goats (their song “No Children” seems to ring truer ever time I hear it).  So, he also has an indirect tie to that apparently trad-hipster town, to which several women in my life also seem to have had some connection (I have two exes living there at this very moment and a third who hails from the place, making it almost like DC in that regard).  It may be a crucial locus of new-meets-old.  Then again, a punk fan I know who lived there (after his time at Brown, where I’ll see him tonight) claims all most people he met at Duke seemed to care about was sports.  (Blogger Amanda Marcotte, who I met last weekend, would probably claim all anyone at Duke cares about is rape, but that’s a whole different story.)

A few more twenty-year-old music memories, though:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Men vs. Bitches

I.  This “Month of Animals” entry is about dogs.  But it’s also about women.  And relationships.  I have some advice that touches on all these things, but let me start with a note about some more fallout from my heroic C-SPAN2 appearance, fallout that just may bring a tear to your eye.  You see, last week in Washington, DC (see picture nearby), I met a young man who saw my C-SPAN2 appearance and was inspired by it to take charge of a difficult situation in his life. 

An ex of his was spreading false information about him, and he responded by publicly commenting that she shouldn’t be trusted – just ask the football team she was sleeping with.  His school responded by bringing him up on disciplinary charges for his aspersions – but, partly inspired by my C-SPAN2 performance, he called some two dozen witnesses to the hearing, including five actual football players his ex had slept with, who attested that he was not slandering his ex and that she was indeed a duplicitous wanton.  He was found not guilty.

Just knowing that I made a difference in a few lives like his makes it all worthwhile.  Together, we can combat darkness.  (And speaking of darkness, let the record show that Catholic-convert Lars von Trier, the favorite film director of the ex I was criticizing on C-SPAN2, was ousted from the Cannes Film Festival for making remarks sympathetic to Hitler, a perfectly fitting denouement to a career of gratuitous aestheto-sadism  -- though von Trier insisted later he was just joking, was expressing his German heritage, and, y’know, can’t really be held responsible for words that come out of his mouth.)

II.  But what about a nice woman, seeking a steady boyfriend?  Should she buy a dog?  A woman I know has been advised by gay men that straight men will be put off by the presence of a dog in her life.  I think they are only half-right, and this is the key: Men will be put off by a yappy, bug-eyed, sissy-foo-foo dog that is both intrusive and hard for them to identify with.  A manly, low-key yet playful mutt or inspirationally-loyal German shepherd, on the other hand, is a welcome – even enticing – addition to any female abode/life-package (and may be able to catch Frisbees, unlike the sissy-foo-foo dog, with its ear-piercing yelps, ornery yet needy disposition, and chronic breathing problems). 

A small dog is acceptable if proportioned such that it looks like a sturdy medium-sized mutt, only smaller.  But if the dog looks like a fetus and causes the female owner to refer to herself as “Mommy” in the third person – a bad idea no matter who the owner is and what the romantic circumstances – it can only serve to remind the male that he will now occasionally experience the burdens of fatherhood without any of the attendant (purported) benefits. 

III.  Take singer Carey Yaruss, a neighbor of mine who just put out a fine CD called Blurt: Carey is a small (and cute) human being with an immense (and mighty-looking, non-sissy, non-alienating) dog named Echo – so called as a mocking homage to the echo cardiogram that wrongly predicted he would have a very short lifespan, twelve lumbering and panting years ago.  Not only does Echo live and likely give male pedestrians a great pretext for conversation, he has his own Facebook page on which he talks about things like sleeping and seeing squirrels.  

This, of course, I mention in part as a reminder that I was supposed to take a month off of Facebook and Twitter before I too go insane, so maybe June will be my delayed quiet month.  I’ll keep blogging, though – and it’ll be my “Month of Eugenics,” a good time to reflect that the biologically flawed inhabitants of this world, such as Echo, should not immediately be exterminated, since they may yet produce Facebook pages. 

But for the next three days, I’ll be at Brown and entries about animals will continue to post – except for tomorrow, which will be all rock n’ roll.  I dedicate it in advance to WBRU.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eagles and a Dead Squirrel

All right, well, I can’t find the wolf-vs.-bald-eagle footage I had seen before (an apt metaphor for the eternal struggle between the SS and Captain America), but lest you think such combat implausible, check out this slightly alarming clip of an eagle killing a mountain goat.

And now that you know what eagles can do, you will find more disturbing than you otherwise would have this footage of a bald eagle hanging out with an amusingly unfazed housecat.  Cats are so cool.  So cool that they’re stupid, sometimes.

Remember, people: mammal solidarity is the only thing that can stop the feathered enemy.  Do not let your guard down, even for a moment.  Well, at the same time, you might not want to get as cozy with other mammals as the little girl holding a dead squirrel is in this odd video clip (noted by Pamela Stubbart).  Why are her parents so calm?

Tomorrow: dogs, in an entry I call “Men vs. Bitches.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nature at War, Todd at Brown (and BDH Archives Online!)

One of my fellow Brown alums, Chris Nugent, noted this striking spider-vs.-ant footage (wait for the end).  Chris likes wolves, too, so he may enjoy tomorrow's entry, which will include a clip of a wolf sparring with a bald eagle.

Other Brown alums might wish to find me on display at Table MD-92 (“Seavey, Todd”) on the Main Green near the John Carter “Warlord of Mars” Brown Library on Friday night during Campus Dance (or catch me via e-mail if you’re there the following two days).  You can also read old Brown Daily Herald online now, notes Andrew Corsello, but the pivotal years 1989 and 1990, containing many of my columns, appear to be missing.  This is just as well for any future presidential campaign I might mount.

In other nature news, notice how ABC manages to put a scary rising-storms-trend headline on a story the actual content of which says, no, there has not been a significant increase in storm frequency or intensity, they just happen to have hit populated areas this year and the evidence about whether it's related to global warming is inconclusive.  Yet the headline nonetheless presumes there is a “cause” of the (imagined) increase in storms.  That's the official narrative, after all. 

And I for one would love to hear the global warming paranoiacs explain why populated areas being hit is an inevitable side effect of warming rather than a random occurrence.  I don't doubt they'll try to come up with something -- something just slightly more plausible than "The sky is angry and has finally figured out where we live!"  (Maybe something involving the “storm belt” shifting away from the equator blah blah blah.  We all know subtle climate changes can only bring bad things, never good, and that everything counts as climate change.  Everything.)

But it’s not as if I oppose all pro-nature activism.  Diana Fleischman notes this instructive video on how to be a “Vegan Black Metal Chef” (here preparing pad thai).

That’s consciousness-raising I think we can all support.  By contrast, I will probably not attend this event at Brown on Friday:

Looking for another event to add to your reunion schedule?  Consider this invitation for a free cocktail reception called: "Working in the Common Good," Friday, May 27 from 4:30 to 6:30 in the backyard of the Swearer Center at 25 George Street. The event will be an informal gathering of alumni, graduating seniors and masters candidates, and some of the staff and faculty who are working to help connect Brown students with social change internships and jobs and build a community of alumni who are working to make a difference with non-profits, for-profits and governments and NGOs around the world.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Angry Birds, Pomplamoose, and Comics

The Angry Birds theme song has been covered by the precious-sounding lo-fi band Pomplamoose, notes Gerard Perry (if birds don’t do it for you, Diana Fleischman notes this boogieing turtle).  

I’ll see the band in Williamsburg on June 24, but today being Victoria Day, I can’t help thinking they sound as if they could be from Montreal.  They aren’t, but I’ll tell you who is: libertarian comics creator Chester Brown, who is apparently supportive of Canadian prostitutes in ways that go beyond mere principle.  His latest graphic novel is about his history of paying for sex.  Indeed, he apparently hasn’t had sex without paying for it since the mid-90s (I’ve heard Montreal is a good place for that). 

Lest you think this is standard practice among libertarians, I should note I’ve never paid for sex and never would (people are callous enough about sex as it is) – but being a New York City-dwelling media guy, I am friends with an ex-prostitute (and she is far from my strangest acquaintance), Tracy Quan, who can be seen interviewing Brown here


If his life has been turned into a comic book, I hope it won’t be riddled with continuity errors, like the life of this man described by the Onion.  Speaking of biographical errors, I think it’d be funny if they tried to salvage that birther book Where’s the Birth Certificate? by slipping an insert photocopy of the recently-revealed long-form certificate into each copy of the book, and maybe slap a sticker on the cover saying “IT’S INSIDE!  FREE!”

Speaking of free bonuses and continuity errors, since it appears DC Comics may be rebooting their fictional universe’s history again in September, I think they should consider launching not just a Green Lantern: Hal Jordan comic but also a Green Lantern: YOU comic, filled with blank pages in which the reader can chronicle his own adventures as a member of the thousands-strong intergalactic police force, and the comic could come packaged with a plastic green power ring and a bag of crack. 

The rumors are flying that DC will cancel many comics (some of these things sell fewer than 10,000 copies a month – almost anything not involving some variation on the Justice League characters, in fact), restart other comics from issue #1, and maybe even seize the opportunity to alter Superman’s backstory a bit so that they owe fewer royalties to his creators’ estates (DC apparently not having full ownership of the very first issue of Action Comics from 1938 but controlling all concepts introduced to the series after that, or something along those lines).  I just want them to simplify Hawkman.  How hard would it be to have the Egypt-based WWII version die circa 1969 and get reincarnated on the planet Thanagar, instead of having the two of them walking around at the same time? 

No Spider-Man-type stuff tomorrow, though, I promise.  Instead: an actual spider!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mitch Daniels, Charlie Sheen, and Gibbon vs. Tigers

Oh, well.  With Daniels out, the only GOP candidates already in or expected to soon be in who have a shot, by my count, are Romney, Pawlenty, Paul, Johnson, Cain, and Gingrich.  I would love to see Paul or Johnson take it all the way, but my friend Alexandra Antonova may be right that I need to start paying more attention to Pawlenty (though I refuse to start calling him T-Paw – it just reminds me how bland he can be). 

On the other hand, there are about a dozen big sci-fi movies out next year I could focus on.  See, that makes me feel better already.  (Did you know Ridley Scott is doing an Alien prequel, thirty-three years after his original?)

Daniels isn’t the only important figure for whom we’ll look back to early 2011 with nostalgia, of course.  The other is Charlie Sheen, now officially replaced on Two and a Half Men, panned for his road show, and likely soon to be forgotten and/or in rehab.  But while his star shone so brightly, he gave us sayings that, as you may have seen, go better juxtaposed with cat pictures. 

And though he talked of “tiger blood,” he would do well to remember that gibbon beats tiger, as this footage clearly proves.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kitten Reverse-Rapture

Almost no one expects to see people rising into the air today despite one minister’s claims that the Rapture is due – but this being both the purported Rapture day and Armed Forces Day, not to mention this blog’s “Month of Animals,” I am reminded of a story from my own life involving war veteran Kyle Smith and kittens falling from the sky.

It was eighteen shockingly brief years ago (since which time, as this anecdote proves, virtually nothing has changed) that I was in St. Mark’s Comics waiting for Ali Kokmen to arrive so that we could walk to then-new libertarian-pal Chris Whitten’s apartment and lug back to my place a fake suit of medieval armor that I was buying from Chris as a decoration for my apartment (I’ve since moved to the Upper East Side, across from John Jay Park, but the armor is still with me – that my front door faces a park named after a Federalist Papers writer is coincidence).  But the relevant thing is:

While I was waiting for Ali, a panicked nerd came running into the comics shop saying, and I quote, “You gotta let me use your phone to call the cops – some fuck is throwing kittens out the window!”  And indeed some psycho – a psycho with an apartment on St. Mark’s, no less – was doing just that, and the cops were extremely prompt in responding and heading up to arrest the fellow, though I heard witnesses saying one kitten did not survive. 

I immediately called Kyle at the New York Post to tell him of the incident in case he thought it warranted a story and perhaps a Post headline such as “ST. MARK’S SICKO LOBS KITTENS,” and he considered it but was called away to report on Vince McMahon being arrested for steroids.  It’s a complex world.  (Note: Because it was 1993, I called Kyle on a “pay phone,” as in those distant days I did not yet own a cell phone.)

I believe there was a passage in the Book of Daniel that said there shall come a week when Israel is asked to return to its 1967 borders and Todd recounts the day that kittens did fall from the sky, and in that week the Earth shall endeth not, but I don’t claim to be an expert on Scripture. 

P.S. Humans know instinctively that they cannot always get the upper hand against other species.  An acquaintance of mine noted that one of his young sons insists that they deadbolt the door to their apartment every time they come in – because his brother told him a tiger lives in the building’s laundry room.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tiny Horse Runs Amok (but Is NOT Sign of Small Apocalypse)

•There’s something Best in Show-like about this tiny horse running rampant while the announcer drily explains the history of the event and breed.  They should use one of those things in one of those chase-the-chuck-wagon dog food commercials.  They’d save money on the special effects budget. 

•Tomorrow, if you believe that idiotic Christian sect (is that redundant?) with all the “May 21” doomsday ads, maybe we’ll find out if the four horses of the Apocalypse are larger than this. 

•Note WITH A SMALLVILLE SPOILER: Tomorrow’s Apocalypse is not to be confused with Apokolips, which arrived one week ago on the typically-mediocre Smallville finale.  The idea, revealed at the very end, that Clark and Lois faked the classic dweeb/hard-to-get act for seven years is strange but intriguing.  I would almost like to see that dynamic explored further – but not by the makers of this series.  Of course, it appears possible that Superman’s basic story will get rebooted twice in the next year and a half, once in the comics and once on the big screen, but those are stories for another time.

•To atone (before it’s too late!) for the dog food joke above, here’s a link forwarded by my vegan pal Diana Fleischman about a man who just wanted to take his horse on a train.  Having just seen and greatly enjoyed Duncan Jones’ sophomore effort Source Code, about a sci-fi mystery aboard a train, I can’t help thinking that if we replayed the events in that linked story in enough detail, we might understand them better – and have the basis for a film called Horse Code

P.S. My “idiot” crack above should not be construed to mean that Christians are any stupider than Michael Medved.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Racing, Rapping Hamsters

I think those rapping hamsters from last year's KIA car ad deserve their own TV series.  I like them more than those Geico cavemen. 

Some media studies class somewhere must be analyzing the ad as an example of how ethnic markers can exist in the absence of any human skin tone.  Is anyone upset about the hamsters?  Not that they should be.  I hope the world's moving toward admitting there are ethnic differences without seeing every difference as cause for conflict (or even a big deal, compared to individuals' differences). 

But I wonder: are campuses still p.c. enough these days, in the early-90s fashion I so often witnessed at Brown, that, for instance, some students flip out when they learn in pre-med classes that not all ethnic groups respond to all medications in precisely the same way, etc.?  Nothing scandalous or wrong with that, of course, nor with me hankering for Italian food instead of Chinese (which you may have noticed have taken somewhat divergent historical paths).  

Whether to, say, rerelease Song of the South, though, is something Disney still debates internally, according to a report mere months ago. 

But tomorrow: footage of a very tiny horse gone berserk. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jeremy Lott’s Hypocrisy, Me in DC, and Political Animals

Jeremy Lott literally wrote the book on religious-conservative hypocrisy – it was called In Defense of Hypocrisy – and it made the halfway-plausible argument, familiar not only to conservatives but to the Victorians, that some measure of moral inconsistency is inevitable and that this falling short of perfection is no reason to repudiate one’s ideals altogether.  It may be healthy and normal, even beneficial. 

That argument sounds very reasonable if you’re surrounded mainly by two groups: flawed but nice people, and moral perfectionists.  It looks more dangerous when you fall into the company of liars, cheaters, and other assorted assholes, who need no encouragement.

Speaking of which: I’ll be in DC today, so e-mail me (per “About/Contact” page linked in right margin) if anyone wants to meet up circa 10pm at a bar in the vicinity of the National Press Club, along with several other conservatives and libertarians, or else it’s back up to NYC on the train reading Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea for me.  (If it’s half as fun as seeing two Carneys and Dan O’Connor – the man who would be Rep for Williamsburg hipsters, Hasidim, and Chinatownfolk – last night at our monthly Langan’s event, I’ll be happy.  At the same time, I’m considering reconfabulating the monthly events I host in a hipper, more flexible space with a variety-show feel, so suggestions are welcome.  On a related social note: no matter how many Facebook friends I acquire now that I’m on there, almost exactly a third of them always seem also to know Nick Gillespie, a number I’ll refer to now as the Gillespie Ratio and take as an indicator that a third of my acquaintances are libertarians.)

But it was politicians in particular I was worrying about handing easy moral excuses, not just DC people in general.  And religious folk soothingly claiming that “Sin is inevitable” or that “Human nature is fallen, whaddayagonnado” may be the worst enablers (sometimes, the worst offenders).  With that in mind, some quick recent thoughts about various politicians, starting with a trip inside the mind of a hypocrite:

NEWT GINGRICH: Vanity Fair reported that his second wife (of three so far) asked Gingrich how he could extoll ancient virtues while privately doing things like trying to talk her into tolerating his extramarital affair.  He reportedly replied that people needed to hear his message and that how he lived wasn’t relevant.  If that’s really indicative of how he thinks, his conversion to Catholicism in 2009 seems unlikely to give him the cover with moralistic religious voters he was likely seeking in that season of hypocrisy. 

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: With his marriage falling apart almost the instant he’s out of office and reports of his lovechild with a staffer coming out, it’s starting to look like this very disappointing man, who entered the governorship talking like a Friedmanite and left governing like a green wuss, may be as sociopathic as, well, a killer cyborg.  (Speaking of which, there’s talk of another Terminator film with him, and real life begins to look a bit like the movies: The mission must be completed by 2018 A.D. or the rights revert to James Cameron, who might well make use of them.  James Cameron is ineviddibuhl.)

MIKE HUCKABEE: I suspect it was his producer Woody Fraser’s idea to make Huckabee’s announcement that he’s not running for president into a tense televised event – but it’s a very happy ending as far as I’m concerned.  The problem with Republicans, in a nutshell, is religion distracting them from the real-world task of shrinking government (and not even doing much to enhance morals, as noted above!), and Huckabee is a living embodiment of that problem.  Had he run, he was the potential death knell of all the positive, libertarian impulses percolating in the party due to the Tea Party movement, which is imperfect but clearly moving in a useful direction. 

DONALD TRUMP: His departure from the race, near simultaneously with Huckabee’s, gives me hope that what the press has been depicting as the second tier of Republican presidential candidates – who also happen to be the more-libertarian ones – will now rise to become the main tier in the polls.  If Palin doesn’t run either, then we will have gotten her, Trump, and Huck out of the way and may not need to fear Gingrich for the reasons alluded to above.  Then, an impressive pack of libertarians – Daniels, Paul, and Johnson – begins breathing down Romney’s bland neck, despite his inevitably brief rise for now (with Cindy Crawford’s help, I see – going for the Gen X vote, apparently).

Moving on, on that note, to politicians who are actually likable:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gibbon and the Decline of Empire (at Langan’s Tonight!)

By which I mean, (A) tonight at Langan’s (47th just east of 7th) you can catch me, the Manhattans Project, its guest of honor Dan O’Connor (an antiwar and libertarian Democrat), and coincidentally a posse of Tim Carney people from about 7-10pm, and (B) here, continuing my “Month of Animals,” is awesome footage of a gibbon taunting a dog.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gator vs. Cop, Man vs. the State

I think this May 3 animal-related news item has a certain rustic charm – and interesting legal fallout:

10-foot gator chomps on Fla. deputy's cruiser

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A 10-foot-long alligator has taken a bite out of a Florida deputy sheriff's cruiser...near the Gainesville Golf and Country Club...[T]he car's front bumper was heavily damaged...[T]he alligator was put down under the state's nuisance gator policy.  Under that policy, the trapper is allowed to keep meat and hide from the gator.

I feel I keep hearing contradictory things about whether alligators are dangerous, so I’m going to err on the side of avoiding them (unless I have this cat with me, of course).

But where does libertarian Democrat Dan O’Connor, who is running for U.S. Congress from New York City’s Chinatown/Williamsburg/etc. district, stand on a national gator policy?  Where does he stand on attacking police cars?  These questions and more YOU CAN ASK HIM TOMORROW (MON.) NIGHT BY JOINING US AT LANGAN’S BAR-RESTAURANT (47th just east of 7th), 7-10pm, at the monthly Manhattans Project social gathering.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chewie Raps, Granny Cares, Dinos Fight, Canada Mellows

•Chewbacca raps: "Let a Wookiee Win."

•In other geek news, tonight's the two-hour Smallville finale, after ten (mediocre) years.  I like the fact the show makes Anti-Life apostle Granny Goodness (seen throughout the second half of this clip) seem aggressively grandmotherly instead of like Jack Kirby in armor (while also in drag), the way she does in the comics. 

And I have to admit they even improved on Grant Morrison's improvement of the basic rationale for that set of seemingly-random Jack Kirby villains, making them a trinity of evil heralds for Darkseid afflicting mind, body, and spirit, respectively: Granny Goodness, DeSaad, and Glorious Godfrey (which they make a point of pronouncing like "God-free").  But will this Friday the 13th evening see the usually light show display even a moment of the kind of vicious, sadistic, almost Lovecraftian darkness Morrison gave these villains in Final Crisis?

•Speaking of Morrison improving on Kirby, Morrison's new movie project sounds like the closest thing the world's yet seen to a movie version of Kirby's Devil Dinosaur, one of my childhood favorites.

•On the topic of childhood influences: the more I meet like-minded semi-Canadians such as fellow libertarian Tricia Summers (celebrating a birthday tomorrow), the more I think we New Englanders -- and Pacific Northwesterners -- aren't just secular and mellow, I think we're de facto Canadians, superficial political differences aside.  Sometimes region matters more.  So I really should stop picking on Canada, especially with the merger coming and all.

I took a break from my "Week of Cats" entries today, but tomorrow I'll finish with a truly strange cat feat (aw, cat feet!).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cat Parkour

Here’s a (fake) cat doing parkour (the building-leaping “free running” used in so many action movies in recent years).  Here, aside from a few seconds of that ad, are cases of real cat parkour.  

Once, I might have looked to my friends who do urban exploration, such as the authors of Invisible Frontier, in hopes of finding people willing to learn parkour, but the post-9/11 world – even now that it’s post-bin Laden – is not a hospitable place in which to pull urban exploration stunts, as a few people learned just the other day. 

But then, PiecesofFlair founder Meredith Kapushion says she watched a live parkour demonstration once and spent much of the time marveling at the injury rate and thinking, “That shouldn’t bend that way.”  Today, on International Nurses Day, let us be grateful there are people to pick up the pieces. 

Tomorrow: Chewbacca.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Keyboard Cat, Hensel Twins, Neutral Milk Hotel, and God

•I am no animal welfare radical, but I have to say Keyboard Cat never looked very happy or gently-handled to me.  However, the song itself, I think, is funny – as is this (presumably consenting) human reenacting the famed clip and this still a bit violent-looking – but cuter – dog doing it.

•Also cute in a weird way: the astonishing so-called “two-headed girl,” actually the independent-minded but necessarily highly cooperative Hensel twins.

•They are not to be confused with Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 song “Two-Headed Boy,” which strikes me as being the sort of song that the stiffer Guided by Voices should have been doing but wasn’t quite.  More important, it strikes me in hindsight that the song is a pretty good choice for the position of “missing link between 90s grunge-type-stuff and 00s affected-folk-indie stuff,” though it’s a bit scarier than either.

•Conjoined Christian twins plus an organ-playing cat naturally remind me of this point:

When some say the media are too secular, I take it they don’t have in mind things like the Times piece about the (currently #1 bestselling!) book Heaven Is Real, a piece that features not one skeptical question about a child’s claims that while unconscious he visited Heaven (awww!)...a story it took the child years after the “fact” to fully formulate...years of having a preacher for a father, oddly enough.  Nope, the Times just uncritically repeats the family’s claims that it's a mystery where the kid could have gotten his notions about Heaven at so young an age.  So, gosh, they must be true.  America, you are a nation of imbeciles.

Intellectual maturity means being able to contemplate complexity (and doubt) without anxiety, and that means combining skepticism with the realization that neither biology nor the economy requires a central planner.  Anarchism and atheism should be as widespread as common sense – which ought to be common. 

P.S. If I offend anyone with that comment, he cannot become the first person to unfriend me on Facebook – I think someone beat you to it yesterday, and there is no built-in way to know who (though there is non-retroactive ’ware out there).  Believe it or not, I honestly can’t think of anyone I’ve offended lately.  (Maybe I’d better take things up a notch.  I trust the fledgling list will continue to grow.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maru the Cat (plus Revisionist Hasidic War History)

I do not say this lightly: This thirty-six-second clip is my favorite animal video of all time.  Maru, the cat in the video, lives in Japan, and the song heard is “Angel of Death” by Slayer, about German concentration camps.  If there were an Italian angle, we’d have quite the Axis of Cat Comedy.  Maru strikes me as more punk-rock than fascist, though.  Go, Maru, go!

I know it sounds like a made-up number, but according to Maru’s Wikipedia page, his videos have been viewed 90 million times.  If Maru had just ten cents for each of those hits, he would by now be able to afford most excellent super giant cat food bowl of especial delicacies!  Regardless, I am pleased by his success.

Speaking of the Jews and war: you thought I was exaggerating when I referred to Brooklyn’s hipster-Hasidim war in my entry Saturday, but this article shows how seriously unhip the Hasidim can be (sympathetic though I generally am to traditionalism): The Hasidic newspaper Der Zeitung photoshopped Hillary Clinton (and another female) out of the photo of Obama and company in the situation room during the bin Laden raid.  Women shouldn’t be mingling with men, apparently, and so…now they apparently aren’t.  You’d think Hasidim would know better than most people the dangers of revisionist history. 

I wonder if the ease with which they faked this has made any of the newspaper staff more likely to be birthers – or “deathers,” now that (right on cue) there are people out there who won’t believe bin Laden’s dead until we see the photo.  For the trifecta, might there be someone out there who thinks (1) bin Laden is alive and a fake raid on him was watched by (2) a Kenyan-born president who (3) was not accompanied by any women at the time?

The lies go so deep, Mr. Mulder (no, actually, they don’t – the world’s as boring and stupid as it appears to be, I’m afraid). 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mortal Cat, Immortal Tricksters

A “Week of Cats” within my “Month of Animals” is clearly necessary, and we begin with a link tweeted on April Fool’s Day by Nathan Fillion.

Speaking of tricksters – in myth, Odin was an even worse one than Loki, according to this assistant prof who, I will have you know, is an expert on folklore and ancient mythology (here contrasting the movie Thor with the mythological one – and with the drunken liars who surrounded Thor in those myths, no formula for a healthy parent-child relationship and not a reliable way to forge a hero).

And to compensate for the fact that this is largely a month of stupid video clips of animal doing silly things, here’s a relatively noble and serious item: a cat who needs your help to afford his rabies quarantine (who was tweeted about by Mary Katharine Ham, a.k.a. the funny political reporter who first posted a clip of my C-SPAN2 appearance last year).  The fundraising drive ends Saturday!

Tomorrow on this blog, though: quite simply the greatest cat video of all time, in my opinion.  Don’t miss it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bear vs. Bear

One last bear clip before turning to cats for the rest of this week: two minutes and fourteen seconds of two grizzlies fighting!

Mom likes both bears (the stuffed kind) and cats (the real kind), by the way, so this is a fitting entry for this special day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bears’ “Gonn-ads,” Maus, and More

Here’s an ACSH video I noted before with the Xtra Normal bears talking about paranoia about their “gonn-ads” being affected by chemicals (90 sec.).  I believe a staffer who co-wrote that went on to work at Murdoch’s Daily, so you see how ACSH can be a launching pad for hot media careers.

Meanwhile, mice – or rather Maus – is used to discuss the serious issue of Holocaust today at an event going on at this very moment about the practice of Holocaust Remembrance, at which Art Spiegelman appears and my fellow Brown alum Tim Snyder will boldly lecture about how ritualized remembrance can sometimes hinder the investigation required for serious scholarship (holding the event this past Sunday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, might have seemed more fitting – but then they couldn’t talk about bin Laden’s death, a wrinkle worth throwing into the conversation).

As long as I’ve veered back into politics, though, here’s something more my speed: Read this comparison of Reaganomics to Obamanomics by Peter Ferrara.  (No econ vs. econ, though, on this blog tomorrow: instead, it’ll be bear vs. bear!)

I must skip the Snyder talk due to a prior engagement in Williamsburg, but I will think of the eternal hipster-Hasidim war while I’m there.  By tradition, being in Williamsburg on Saturday helps compensate for the considerable hipness points I lost by spending last night watching Smallville and tweeting at libertarians about Thor.  It's a purity thing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gorillas, Bear, and Bigfoot

What could be more pulp/comics-like than yesterday’s epic Book Selections entry?  How about this?

Bigfoot is ostensibly man-like (or at least ape-like, or monkey-like or whatever), but remember that real conflict between Man and non-human animal rarely looks like that phony Bigfoot/bear battle.  As this article noted by Kelly Jane Torrance reminds us, too often in the real world Man’s war with Nature takes the form of a guy arrested for stabbing a goat while high on bath salts and wearing a bra and panties (sort of sounds like a scene from the Book of Genesis, reviewed in that same blog entry from yesterday I mentioned earlier).

Since this entry has been a tad unscientific, I’ll compensate with an animal video tomorrow from one of my former employers, the American Council on Science and Health

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Selections of the Month: Pray for Mjolnir (comics, movies, more)

It’s the National Day of Prayer (and Cinco de Mayo), and this week that means praying to the Norse god Thor, or at least attending the movie about the Marvel Comics version of him (join me in the lobby of the AMC 34th/8th Sunday at 4:30, ticket in hand, if you want to join me for the 5:30 show) and using the occasion as another excuse to talk about comics.  Mayhem, mayhap?

I am suspicious of anyone reluctant to celebrate heroes and the downfall of villains, which is why I think this gentleman on his ATV may be a much healthier celebrant of the Bin Laden take-down than some of my anti-interventionist and pacifistic acquaintances, despite what some might see as his lack of nuance.  (And don’t assume that al Qaeda members themselves are responding with renewed determination – this one’s already turned himself in, as sometime-war-poet Gregg Glory points out.) 

And Borat’s cousin – whose book on sociopaths and other empathy-lackers I’ll examine with fresh interest in the topic in August – might agree with me that there is something psychologically inhuman about indifference to the triumph of good over evil, even if indifference can make for sound scientific reasoning and, oddly enough, good comedy – as I’ll discuss in my June Book Selections entry, on Daniel Dennett, James Thurber, and related matters.  (By contrast, looks like about half of those self-reported birthers weren’t so crazy-stubborn after all.)

The “end of evil,” as David Frum once put it, may not be a realistic goal, but it is unnatural not to desire it, shameful not to pursue it. 

But enough science and psychology (unless you want to check out this periodical table of appearances by chemicals in comic book stories): on to a list of interesting comics (and related items, ten texts in all) so interesting I had to make exceptions over the past year to my avoidance of comics and read them.  I hope you’ll agree it sounds like I’ve gotten very choosy (and I’ll dedicate it all to Jackie “Perry White” Cooper, whose recent passing was noted by Jacob Levy – and occurs a mere week before the Smallville finale).


For real heroism, look to people such as the libertarian eulogized here by Jeffrey Friedman (who managed to be laissez-faire while still addressing problems like laid-off coal miners).  For unreal heroism, look to comics and sci-fi – but note the increasingly blurry line between these forms of reality and unreality, with self-proclaimed superheroes working to protect people on Long Island from a serial killer and even film directors such as the one slated to do the sequel to Taken giving themselves monikers like Olivier Megaton (he’s French). 

I.  In the beginning, there was the Book of Genesis

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

There Is Little That Is Permanent, but There Is a Bear and a Moose

I’ve noted before that it pleases me that ninety-seven year-old Grandma, who is still with us, was born before World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the creation of the Nazi Party, the completion of the Panama Canal, and the founding of Saudi Arabia.  Part of being conservative (in a good sense) should be recognizing that many things that pretend to be ancient or permanent are in fact recently-concocted fads soon to be exploded.  Recognizing how short-lived some seemingly-huge historical phenomena such as the Nazis and the USSR really were can help put things in perspective. 

And now Grandma has seen Bin Laden come and go.  She may yet outlive al Qaeda. 

Perhaps people’s revulsion at that group’s religiosity will also hasten the death of the false notion – treated as a timeless truth by the Cold War right and still believed by some – that religion is essential for the protection of the U.S. and Western civilization.  Just the fact that some conservatives keep mouthing that idea while, with the next breath, saying our current greatest foe is a band of religious fanatics is a reminder that people don’t choose to think too carefully about these formulations once they take on even the thinnest veneer of “time-honored wisdom.” 

Things change.  Until the moment they do, we are often told that the current situation is not only likely to prove permanent but is, in some deeper sense, the way things have always been (though Europe was still ruled by monarchical dynasties when Grandma was born, etc., etc.), and furthermore that our intellectual options are (alas!) very limited, usually to only two items (us or them, religion or immorality, government or mass starvation, etc.). 

Just be aware that when you say with a confidence born of timeless wisdom that religion is essential to public morals – or that government programs must be maintained if the poor are to get ahead – you may be saying so in words devised by a PR person as recently as 1973.  Lack of awareness of history (and thus change) creates a false sense of permanence.

And now, in honor of Grandma – and all who dwell in New Hampshire, whether they’ve been there a mere four months or are Seaveys who’ve been there a mere four centuries (that being only four times Grandma’s lifetime, keep in mind) – here is footage (from somewhere) of a bear hauling a moose carcass across a driveway.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baby Monkey, Obese Hedgehog, and More by Parry Gripp

We begin my “Month of Animals” entries with a bang, or rather with Parry Gripp, performer of simple, TMBG-like ditties that describe, usually in very literal, simple terms, stupid video clips from YouTube.  What a good and necessary idea.  Behold, then:

“Overweight Hedgehog” (complete with a glimpse of the very real St. Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital)

and three cat-oriented ones:

the very strange “Spaghetti Cat (I Weep for You)” (the title photo having famously been used as a baffling filler image during a morning TV show broadcast)

the artful “Pile of Kittens (in My Mind)” (perhaps their most artful – despite the disappointment of the video containing only one kitten, and not even the hamster promised by the lyrics; this one’s worthy of a New Wave band, which should perhaps make me rethink New Wave)

Of course, vegans, unlike utilitarians, know how to take the fun out of everything, so I’ve already been told that the baby monkey is probably gripping (no pun intended) the pig due to having lost its mother at a too-early age, but there’ll be more animal-exploiting fun ahead to compensate for that downer.  Next week: lots more cats, but this week: BEARS (good prep for Brown Reunion on the 27th-29th if perchance you’ll be there).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rand, Me, Animals, Vegans, and Blog Comments

Yesterday was a great blow against a living embodiment of coercion, which comes in forms other than the state, we must remember.  It's all right for everyone from Democrats to Republicans to libertarians to be on the same side in thinking that.  

On Facebook (where coincidentally, some of you will now see a photo of me with perhaps the most fiercely antiwar person I've met, Dan McCarthy from American Conservative), I said in a comment just the other day that Hayek and Keynes, though they did not rap together in real life, did perform watch duty together, keeping an eye out for Nazi bombers over London -- and even our fiercest economic disagreements are trivial compared to our disagreement with homicidal evils like the Nazis and al Qaeda.

But tonight at 6pm is nonetheless an NYU debate between liberal Ezra Klein and Objectivist John Allison.   And speaking of Rand...

This article almost makes it sound as though my friend Kyle Smith is the only reason for the beleaguered producer of the Rand films to carry on and make Parts II and III of Atlas Shrugged.

You know, by my crude calculations, only around 300,000 people saw the Atlas Shrugged movie -- about half the number who watched a YouTube clip from my C-SPAN2 appearance when it first appeared last year.  If I had only foreseen that, I would have said more about the importance of property rights or something.

And I think COMMENTS THREAD PROBLEMS ON THIS BLOG HAVE BEEN RESOLVED, so you can even post your own version of Galt's speech, if indeed you are inspired by any of the entries I post during this "Month of Animals" on the blog, which I admit will mostly just be stupid cat clips and the like -- but really good ones, so keep watching. 

Maybe some vegans will start an interesting debate or something.  They know better than anyone that the Internet is for porn for video clips of silly animals.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Instead of Celebrating May Day Today…

…consider attending a debate on the question "Is Capitalism Moral?" tomorrow 6pm at NYU: Objectivist John Allison vs. liberal Washington Post writer Ezra Klein.
I'm going but for the rest of May largely laying off the politics and the sci-fi/comics nerd stuff -- not to mention Twitter and Facebook -- in favor of, yes, just posting links to goofy animal videos on this blog (though I'll still see Thor and host Manhattans Project at Langan's on the 16th).  That should free up some much-needed time for matters both professional and personal.  But they'll be really good animal videos and will segue neatly back into matters more philosophical in June, so KEEP READING THIS BLOG DAILY throughout my "Month of Animals."
The most liberating political news of the past few days, though, may be Mitch Daniels pushing through a big school choice plan in Indiana (we may be hearing a great deal more about him soon).  Another step forward.