Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nerd Fun: Christmas Prank at Cambridge

I'm delighted with this holiday practical joke: some enterprising pranksters placed a Santa hat atop a spire at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

The authorities (of course) were not amused.

FYI: Cambridge does have a long and legendary history in student pranks. It was, after all, the site of what is arguably the greatest student prank of all time.

(OK, rival Oxford! It's time to step up.)

An International Court for the Environment?

*MM wrinkles her nose.* It's only an idea, but it's one that hints at the Great Green Power Grab that hovers behind all the eco-moralistic-pietistic babbling.

Anyway, good luck with that, pal. I think we all know how well stuff like Kyoto works. Not at all.

Quirky Euro Files: 20 Things to Do with a Haggis

November 30 is St. Andrew's Day, celebrating Scotland's patron saint, so I can't help myself. Here's an amusing list of 20 things that you can do with a haggis, that Scottish dish/punch line.

Don't make me quote the conversation that Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert had about haggis in "Highlander."

The Scotsman newspaper, by the way, is hosting its annual Haggis Hunt. Can you find the elusive wild haggis? (Gotta love that Scottish sense of humor.)

*MM goes back to making cookies while compulsively humming "Scotland Depraved" -- err... she means, "Scotland the Brave"!*

Film Culture Commentary: Thankful for Robert Downey Jr.

Too true. MTV names Robert Downey Jr. the actor we're most thankful for in 2008. Plus, what an appropriate mix of entertainment news and holiday themes!

Blurb:
When the movies brain trust here at MTV News bandied about names for the one actor we are ultimately most thankful for in 2008 it was a no-brainer. Which actor energized and elevated two blockbusters to heights above and beyond what any of us expected? We knew he was an amazing actor but ... a superhero? A dude playing the dude disguised as another dude? For those reasons and more, Robert Downey Jr. is the actor we are most thankful for.

MM in the Kitchen: Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

Holiday food fun time! I'm visiting and baking for Alessandra and Foxtrot before school starts again tomorrow (*sigh*). I don't want the holiday weekend to end!

Here is one version of the recipe for oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries ("Craisins"). I almost always use chocolate chips, though, not white chocolate. Sometimes I add chopped nuts too -- walnuts, usually, but any kind of nuts will do. Do what you like.

The cookies are delicious and, because they have oatmeal in them, I don't feel quite so guilty about eating them.

Quirky Asia files: Awesome Food Art in China

Take a look! A Chinese artist has re-created some famous paintings -- using vegetables.

Euro Notes: Cafe Culture Under Threat in France

Oh, no! Due to the rising economic pressures, cafes are closing all over la belle France, and its famous, celebrated cafe culture is suddenly looking vulnerable.

(Add too the fact that smoking was recently banned in French cafes. Sic transit gloria mundi -- or at least a venerable and beloved (if not too healthy) way of life. )

Here are a few piquant quotations from cafe owners opining about their current plight:

Daniel Perrey, 57, owner of the Café du Crucifix in Crimolois, blamed social change, saying: “Sadly, it is the end to a way of life. The culture is changing, and we feel it.” . . . The cafe, he said, is a kind of public living room, especially in small towns and cities, and it is suffering as habits and laws change.

“We need the cafe to have an equilibrium between the village and the world outside,” Mr. Perrey said. “Without the cafe, you lose the conviviality. You lose your mates. Business agreements are made behind the zinc” of the bar.

“We have to be very careful,” Mr. Perrey continued. “If we standardize everything in France, and we study everything, and forbid everything, we destroy respect for our culture. We need to preserve the cafe bar. What is a village but a cafe, a school, a pharmacy, a bakery and a city hall?”


If we standardize everything...If we forbid everything... haven't I been saying for a long time now that the nanny state habit is harmful? Here's one more reason why it is.

The most absolutely damning lines have to be these:
In Paris, Bernard Picolet, 60, is the owner of Aux Amis du Beaujolais, which his family started in 1921 on Rue de Berri. “The way of life has changed,” he said. “The French are no longer eating and drinking like the French. They are eating and drinking like the Anglo-Saxons."

The French are turning into ... Anglo-Saxons? Mon Dieu! The horror! Leave it to the French to insult the Brits and Americans even in the middle of their own cafe cultural crisis. On the other hand, my favorite lines come from this disgruntled cafe owner, who used the opportunity to bash the government-bailout-mania that reigns in Europe as well as (now) in the US:

Edouard Etcheverry ... [is] the owner of L’Express, a crowded bar and restaurant on the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.

He pointed at a customer sitting alone at a table drinking a glass of tap water. “That’s our new customer!” he shouted. Then he turned to a group of bank employees at another table and said, “You see, they got 386 billion euros from the government, but they can’t spend a cent when they come here!”

Poor Monsieur Etcheverry!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kitchen Notes: I Need These Hats

Oh, I need these hats! I've just GOTTA have the one with the lattice crust.

Quirky Asia Files: Robot Actors in Japan

Of course it's Japan! Robots are acting on stage.

Can the day be far off when robots are grubbing for Oscars?

Still, the phenomenon of robots acting could explain Keanu Reeves's expressionless acting. He's a robot. Or something.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

China: Former HK Governor Says China is a "threat to democracy"

This is too interesting not to post. Christopher Patten, former British governor of Hong Kong, has spoken with the BBC on the topic of China. See what he has to say about China as a threat to democracy:

The threat looming from China is not to do with cheap exports but the "dooming of democracy", former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten has told the BBC.

Lord Patten said China promoted the idea that one could get rich without needing democracy - and such an idea posed a threat to the West.
The prose is rather breathlessly exaggerated, but there is an interesting idea behind all the panicky-sounding words. Now, I'm not so sure about the supposed "dooming" of democracy -- that sounds much too excessive a pronouncement (and anyway, democracy as an idea has PLENTY of passionate adherents around the world).

No, the idea to think about is how China is an influence on the rise and spread of real, meaningful democracy in certain places in the world -- and I mean it's a bad influence. I think, though, that the chilling effect China has on democracy is more to do with emerging systems (or the potential for such emergence) than with the established democracies of the West per se. You don't need another rant from me about China's international shadow (and how it often cynically protects thugocracies) or the entire mess with HK democracy and even Taiwanese democracy.

As for the idea that you can get rich without needing democracy . . . Well, that's another can of worms that I don't have time to open right now. All I'm going to say now is that China's economic "miracle" (or whatever you want to call it) has come with a huge non-financial price tag in mass human misery (but away from the shiny cities that China likes to show Westerners), environmental degradation, and the intensification of internal social schisms. The rich have gotten richer, but in many cases the poor have gotten poorer, and these are real problems for the Middle Kingdom in the long run. The China cheerleaders can rah-rah all they want, but the reality is that China is not a free country and indeed in many ways is a pressure cooker internally.

As for me, I remain committed to the idea of free markets and free people. If you really want a rant, here's me ranting about money-making and democracy in a Taiwanese context.

OK, I'm back to pre-holiday work and madness!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nerd Journal: Holiday Hiatus, MM Offline

I have too much work, plus Thanksgiving is coming. I'm going offline for a few days to get some work done! Right now I am basically flipping out from too much work and stress.

I do love blogging, but it's also an addiction, and I guess right now I have to go (pardon the pun) cold turkey.

I'll be back in a few days!

I leave you with best holiday wishes and a link to my pick for Thanksgiving cooking abomination of the year. YUM-O. Or not!

DVD for the Weekend -- "Frequency"

All this recent flutter of talk about "Twilight" and sickly-sweet schoolgirl infatuations has made me slightly ill. Any sensible person will tell you that romantic love isn't the only kind of love worth having. Somewhere in all this, the idea of family has been lost or forgotten. (UPDATE: The love of friends is also essential, even if I didn't explicitly say so previously. Sorry for any confusion. Anyway, friends are, in many ways, the family that you choose for yourself.)

I'm tired of squealing "Twilight"-mania. I need an alternative. So I give you a DVD movie recommendation for the upcoming holiday: the 2000 film "Frequency," starring Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid.



Underrated and underappreciated, it's both time-twisting science-fiction crime drama and a character-driven ode to the love of a family, especially the enduring, persevering, and devoted love of a father and son. I still can't hear the word "Chief" without getting all sappy - and I'm not a sentimental person. The ending of the film chokes me up every single time.

There's some wish fulfillment fantasy in the film too, no doubt -- but the drive here is for a family reunited and made whole. More, the way for that to happen is for father and son to work together and make it happen. This isn't only fantasy; this is also a more realistic look at the work and effort that goes into a family -- and it's also an inspiration to appreciate that and roll up your sleeves and work on that. In all honesty, little romantic dreams are fun and everything, but the dream and hope of a loving family is something so fundamental that it aches.

Note too that protagonists of the film are a firefighter and a police officer -- everyday heroes who do the hard and often dangerous work of serving others. The film's special effects are minimal; what really drives the action are the characters.

(By the way, when you're done with "Frequency," you can go on to watch "Supernatural" with an eye to the family theme, especially the devotion between the two brothers.)

The Garth Brooks song from "Frequency" isn't too shabby either if you listen to the lyrics:

Taiwan: Differing Opinions of the Chen Shui-bian Arrest

Worth a thought, as several analysts and political science professors discuss the Chen arrest.

RELATED POST: Taiwan divided over the arrest.

"Twilight" as Cartoon

This is absolutely hilarious.

Car Love: the Electric MINI Cooper

It is ADORABLE, though too expensive for a campus nerd. I've always thought it'd be fun to drive a MINI Cooper, even if I'm not using it to steal gold bricks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kitchen Notes: The Random Recipe Generator

This is too funny, but don't try to make any of the "recipes"! They're all randomly created from random words by the computer, so I can't guarantee the quality! I just refreshed the page and got this amusingly nauseating "recipe":

Chicken Salsa

Serves 4

You will need:
  • 4 oysters
  • 120g chicken
Instructions:
  1. pre-heat the oven to 220 C
  2. fry the oysters until browned
  3. put the oysters in the fridge to set
  4. microwave the oysters
  5. sauté the chicken
  6. bake for 80 minutes and serve hot
YUM-O. (And yes, Il Barista, I said that just for you, babe.)

Film Culture Commentary: Top 100 Movies Based on Books

This list of book adaptations is practically begging for you to argue with it. Have at it! Enjoy!

The difficulty is that books and movies are two completely different modes of storytelling. I had descanted on one case recently. Anyway . . . A few of my favorites:
  • "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"
  • "The Princess Bride"
  • "The Hunt for Red October"
  • "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy

Friday Fun Video + Satire Alert: the Awesome Chinese Government and Justice System

Something new and delightful from the kings of satire who produce The Onion:



China's Andy Rooney Has Some Funny Opinions About How Great The Chinese Government Is

Movie News: I Am Chagrined As "Twilight" Premieres + Dazzling "Variety" Review

The day has dawned. I shall run and hide from the pop culture tidal wave that is "Twilight"-mania! My movie news sources are predicting a $65 million opening weekend for this.

Oh, don't you worry: La Parisienne and I intend to go see this flaming heap of toxic waste because we are quite determined to go and mock it. We've got a raging case of "Twilight" Derangement Syndrome! We're not going TONIGHT, though. No, tonight all the real "Twilight" fanatics will be storming the cinemas to see the limp, insipid, cloying tale of self-absorbed pretty boy vampire and self-absorbed idiotic human girl. (GEEZ, I feel the sudden urge to watch Buffy and Angel.)

You know I love pop culture, but there really are parts of it that make me cringe. The entire "Twilight" phenomenon is one of them.

Anyway, I have been amusing myself by reading movie reviews of the film. The critics have been drawing blood, and I am feeling sharkishly gleeful. Try this for instance, or this one by Variety. The latter has some of the best lines yet:
But even with angsty rock songs, lurching camerawork and emo-ish voiceover at her disposal, [director Catherine] Hardwicke can’t get inside the head of her young protagonist, Isabella “Bella” Swan (Kristen Stewart); consequently, Bella’s decision to get hot and heavy with a hot-and-hungry vampire, far from seeming like an act of mad, transgressive passion, comes across as merely stupid and ill-considered.
Tee-hee! Same goes for the book too. The Variety review is a joy, and on this Friday morning, it's better than coffee and muffins for starting my day. I can't help but give you another slice of it:
. . . the chain of events laid out in Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay -- Edward’s initial and inexplicable hostility toward Bella, his habit of rescuing her from contrived endangerment scenarios, their playfully barbed flirtation, his revelation of his identity as a self-controlled but still-lethal bloodsucker and, finally, their mutual surrender to their feelings -- proceeds with none of the inner logic necessary even for a tale of the fantastic.
HA! Since I'm evil and evil loves company, I shall leave you with this last bit:
But as helmed by Hardwicke, the actors’ early, awkward interactions feel particularly forced, and the script gives Stewart virtually nothing with which to convince the audience of her transcendent love for a guy who’d just as soon drink her blood as jump her bones.
ROFL. Ooooh, OUCH! I love it.

None of it's a surprise, though: consider the source -- the worst-written, worst-conceived book I've read in ages, the book that my elegantly literate friends love to hate. The Variety reviewer even mentions this: "Meyer’s often embarrassingly overripe prose." What an understatement!

Click on the "Twilight" tag below for more happily unfettered TDS.

UPDATE 1: Awesome takedown by the New York Times and its comment on Edward: "the poor boy has been defanged and almost entirely drained. He’s so lifeless, he might as well be dead — oops, he already is."

UPDATE 2: This review says the film has the same effect as the book, which I said was unintentionally hilarious in its badness -- HILARRIBLE, as the Kamikaze Editor says. Look at this:

"Twilight" can't fail. Even if it had scenes of naked men doing interpretive dance or sad clowns singing German opera, the screen adaptation of the hit Stephenie Meyer novel would slay the box office competition.

Sadly, the humor from "Twilight" doesn't come from interpretive dance or singing clowns.

Like a taco burp, it arises unbidden at all the wrong moments.

When Bella stumbles, as she does at least three times, it's funny. When the vampires first appear, looking anemic, unblinking, and impractically coiffed, it's funny. When Edward catches a whiff of Bella in biology, it's downright hilarious.

Hm. It sounds pretty hilarrible!

UPDATE 3: RottenTomatoes -- 44% and holding for now.

I love reading reviews for bad movies. The reviews themselves become the entertainment in verbal excoriations!

UPDATE 4: Blogfriend and gentle reader Christian Toto piles on with his humorously critical review: "Like, OMG, Vampires!"

UPDATE 5: MTV's inimitable Kurt Loder is deliciously contemptuous. FilmThreat is too. I got more entertainment of these piquant reviews than ever I did out of the book!

Geek News: the Petaflop Computer

Wow!

And there I was thinking that "petaflop" is the term for animal rights fanatics failing miserably in their latest ad campaign.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Movie Review: Kyle Smith on "Twilight"

The delightful Kyle Smith has just seen "Twilight." How does he begin his review? With these priceless words, that's how:

"Where's Buffy when you need her?"

Geek Fun: "Star Trek" + "Smallville"

Right on the heels of the new "Star Trek" movie trailer comes this humorous mashup combining that trailer with the opening sequence of "Smallville." Enjoy!

Kitchen Notes + Geek Fun: A Food Carving of Jar-Jar Binks

From a gentle reader comes his delightful how-to guide to making a food carving of Jar Jar Binks.

Another Taiwanese-American's Political Thoughts

See what physician Paul Hsieh of Denver, Colorado, has to say about limited government and individual rights and freedoms.

By the way, I agree with nearly everything he has to say, including his home truths about the GOP's "Religious Right" faction -- a faction I do not support.

Oh, here's a cool blurb:

My parents immigrated legally from Taiwan to America over 40 years ago. They had very little money, but they worked hard, sent two children to college and medical school, and are now enjoying a well-earned and comfortable retirement.

Their life has been a real-life embodiment of the American dream. America is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world precisely because our system of government allows honest, hard-working people to prosper and thrive.

Our system is a testament to the genius of the Founding Fathers, who recognized that the proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Hence, I believe the Republican Party should choose the first path - the path of limited government, separation of church and state, and protection of individual rights.

This is the America that brought my parents from a ocean away in hopes of a better life for themselves and their children. This is the America I want to live in. And this is the America I want the Republican Party to stand for.

Hear, hear!

Welcome to Reality: Former Khmer Rouge Supporter Says "Sorry"

The fantasy: the Khmer Rouge were courageous revolutionary freedom fighters!

The reality: the Khmer Rouge were a lot of murderous, bloodthirsty thugs and *unprintable*s whose Communist tyranny slaughtered nearly 2 million people in Cambodia.

The BBC reports that Gunnar Bergstrom, a former fan of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, has finally woken up to the reality and gone public with it. How much are you willing to wager that Mr. Bergstrom, in his Rouge-happy days, was a pie-eyed idealistic young leftist with a penchant for self-deception, denial of the truth, "Communist chic," and no conception of objective reality?

Well, I suppose I should give Mr. Bergstrom credit for being able to realize and admit his error in judgment. The world has one fewer "useful idiot."

One more note: Mr. Bergstrom is Swedish. Don't you find it rather interesting that so often Communist-fans come from comfortable, safe, free countries? How many Communist-fans do you find who live or have lived in Communist hellhole nations?

I cannot tell you how much I hate Communism. I hate it WITH FIRE.

US Postal Service: Taiwan = "Province of China"

Michael Turton has this new bit of information, and I am not amused! What fresh hell is this?



Going postal.

Taiwan: Nerd Analysis and Fallout from the Chen Arrest

Newsweek has a decent analysis of the political storm in Taiwan. Do read.

Here is a bit of it about the KMT and the judiciary:
. . . . before Mr Chen’s arrest, twenty prominent international Asia specialists, including Professors Arthur Waldron of the University of Pennsylvania, Bruce Jacobs of Monash University and June Teufel Dreyer of the University of Miami, along with former Far Eastern Economic Review Taipei correspondent Julian Baum, issued an unprecedented open letter expressing “deep concern” at the behaviour of Taiwanese prosecutors. “It is obvious that there have been cases of corruption in Taiwan,” they wrote, “but these have occurred in both political camps.” The recent detentions, they said, had created an impression that the KMT authorities “are using the judicial system to get even with members of the former DPP government.” They accused prosecutors of “a basic violation of due process, justice and the rule of law,” by holding several detainees incommunicado without being charged, and of “trial by press” by leaking detrimental information to the media. They suggested that such actions were jeopardizing the achievements of Taiwan’s transition from one party rule (by the KMT) to democracy in the late 1980s and early 90s.

The letter is on a petition site here and gathering signatures (some of the signatures, though, are clearly posted by Internet trolls).

The Newsweek bit also has this to say about Ma specifically:
“Chen Shui-bian was a very divisive figure,” says Frank Muyard of the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China. “People hoped Ma would be more conciliatory – they saw him as a gentle, well-educated, nice person who would help Taiwan come together and do something for reconciliation. But he hasn’t done that. Now many people see him as partisan, too eager to please China – they don’t trust him to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty.”
Well, well, well, surprise, surprise. The Slick Smiling Sinophiliac Ma!

If Chen was divisive by enlarging rifts between China and Taiwan, Ma is divisive by enlarging rifts within Taiwan itself. I'm about willing to argue that Ma is more pernicious and ultimately far more harmful: cozying up to China while fomenting internal Taiwanese dissension is a recipe for disaster. Besides, Ma's actions seem well on their way to creating more anti-China sentiment on the island than Chen's.

RELATED POST: Taiwan is divided over the arrest of former president Chen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TV Pop Culture Slugfest: Is "Supernatural" as Good as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"?

The Cine-Sib, that prince of Evil Enablers, has just emailed this link. He seems determined to open Pandora's Box -- or at least to start a big nerd/geek argument. Here it is:


Oh, boy. But is this really comparing apples and oranges?

When I first fell prey to "Stupornatural," I said (and I quote): "'Buffy' or 'Angel' at their best could run rings around silly 'Supernatural' . . ."

I still stand by that, though I now have to add that "Supernatural" at its best can match the wit, humor, action, creativity, and character development of those Whedon icons and flawed but lovable, heroic characters. See "Supernatural" and its quippy dialogue, great music, and pop culture savvy that give the demon-hunting ethos a real spark and sparkle. I give you my favorite episodes as evidence:
  • The season finale of season 1, "Devil's Trap." Some of the best drama anywhere is about making tough choices, and the finale's treatment of humanity versus obsessive vengeance was very compelling. Add too the character development and the meaning of "family."
  • "Tall Tales," season 2. Hilarious from start to finish. Besides, do I need to say anything more than "aliens slow-dancing to 'Lady In Red'?" Plus, this episode has the "nerd vibe" of being on a college campus.
  • "Hollywood Babylon," season 2. Self-referential horror-flick amusement at the expense of the entertainment industry . . . plus Gary "Lumberg" Cole.
  • "What Is and What Should Never Be," season 2. This was the episode that convinced me once and for all that Jensen Ackles can actually act and is more than his (admittedly very) pretty face. This episode pulls even at my black, cold heart every time. Every single time.
  • "All Hell Breaks Loose," the season finale of season 2. Nearly perfect. Choices and consequences. Did I say nearly perfect? Plus Papa Winchester.
  • "A Very Supernatural Christmas," season 3. OK, so this wasn't a perfect episode, but one thing makes up for all its flaws: the Winchester boys use a Christmas tree as a deadly weapon. No, really! Awesome.
  • "In the Beginning," season 4. It's Skinner from "X-Files" and a dizzyingly fascinating trip to the past. I have to hand it to Eric Kripke's crew: it's done a good job over time of developing the Winchester backstory.
  • "Monster Movie," season 4. An entire episode in black-and-white, this tribute to old-school Hollywood monster flicks was a joy.
  • "Yellow Fever," season 4. Ackles as comedian is a laugh a minute, plus "Eye of the Tiger."
As La Parisienne has stated, the character of Dean Winchester "grows on you" with time and development, and he has turned out to be one of the interesting characters on TV. His motivations are simultaneously very simple and very complicated. Also an advantage for the show: Bobby Singer. Bobby rules.

As for the venerable "Buffy," I'm not going to list every "Buffy" episode of note, but you'd be hard-pressed to find too many episodes that can surpass these:
  • "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," season 2. Nothing says hilarity like a love spell gone horribly wrong. Xander's musical walk down the hall, being ogled by every female in Sunnydale High, is priceless.
  • "Becoming," the season finale of season 2. Love. Duty. Sacrifice. Choices. Tough choices.
  • "The Wish," season 3. Vampires rule in an alternate universe, plus the great phrase "Bored now."
  • "Graduation Day," the season finale of season 3. Fire bad tree pretty, and the combination of mayor, principal, exploding Sunnydale High, and a graduation ceremony turned epic battle is just too good to ignore. I love this episode. LOVE IT.
  • "Hush," season 4. Silence is golden . . . except when it's lethal.
  • "The Gift," the season finale of season 5. Buffy Anne Summers: She saved the world a lot.
  • "Once More, With Feeling," season 6. This is the gorgeous musical episode, complete with the cast performing their own vocals. Fabulous example of how good TV can be.
  • "Tabula Rasa," season 6. Hilarity -- but with a sober finish.
  • "Two to Go" and "Grave," the season finale of season 6. Vengeance and humanity -- plus, a resurgent Giles. And Xander!
Oh, and one of the series' best characters is -- who else? -- Spike. He turned out to be far more complex and -- dare we say it -- far more human than most of us gave him credit for being at the beginning.

So, "Supernatural" versus "Buffy"? Hmmmm. THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS!!

Nerdworld Soundtrack, Bailout/Financial Apocalypse Edition, Part 17: Muse

It's been a long time since he last addition to the Apocalypse Mix. I haven't had much inspiration, and I've been lacking a sense of humor about the ongoing money mess. Frankly, it's been easier to get angry or depressed than snarky and feisty.

BUT! You can't keep a good woman down, and I'm back with the latest sarcastic musical response to Paulson's Follies and the general GLOBALFINANCIALDOOMOMGWE'REALLGOINGTODIE.

I give you the oh-so-aptly named "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse. Yes, that just about describes the financial situation (as previously noted by the indispensable Onion too).

Also, given Paulson's bait-and-switch about the $700 billion bailout, check out the lyrics: "You caught me under false pretenses." Heck, yeah.

Previous tracks in my list of Music for Money Madness were:

As always, feel free to suggest even more songs in Comments.

Movie News: the Michael Bay-ification of "Star Trek"

Ace of Spades has a post on the upcoming "Star Trek" flick.

Some Trek fans are already sounding alarms. I'll withhold judgment until I've actually seen the whole movie. Still, a thought for this "reboot" of Trek: WWGRD? What Would Gene Roddenberry Do? (Not make it suck, that's what.)

Oh, and the Cine-Sib emailed to say that a new trailer is now online at the official movie website.

Taiwan: Stupid Monetary Policy + "Voters Versus Taxpayers"

Taoyuan Nights has an interesting post. Do read! Blurb introduction:

Taiwan’s latest plan is to hand out free money to lots of people. That way, we won’t be in recession any more! Hurray!

Just one problem. It’s completely stupid and it doesn’t work.

Oh, my.

Ma had gotten himself elected partly because of his promises to revitalize Taiwan's economy. How's that going for ya, pal? I thought so.

China to US: Selling Defensive Arms to Taiwan is "Needling" Beijing

*Sigh.* Same old line again. Dignified Rant had commented on an earlier round of this, and I think his opinion still holds true for the latest iteration. UPDATE: He has a note on this latest session of Chinese finger-wagging.

My total-reductionist version of everything:
  • China to Taiwan: "Hey, Taiwan, join us or we'll turn you into dust. PS -- coastal missiles are at 1000 and counting, FYI, and we're increasing our military budget again."
  • Taiwan to China: "Uhhh..."
  • Taiwan internally: *DPP/green and KMT/blue slugfest*
  • Taiwan to US: "Hey, US, will you sell us some defensive arms like you're supposed to under the Taiwan Relations Act?"
  • US to Taiwan: "OK, but -- uh -- we still support the One-China Policy."
  • Taiwan to US: "Whatever."
  • China to US: "Stop interfering in internal affairs! If we want to crush one of Asia's best democracies, that's our own business!"
  • US to Taiwan: "Here's an arms package."
  • Taiwan internally: *political in-fighting in the legislative yuan*
  • US internally: *stalling and wishy-washy yapping in Congress and White House*
  • Taiwan-friendly bloggers and supporters: "Enough already! Hurry up and be serious about defense, people!"
  • China to US: "You are provoking us, gweilo!"
  • MM: *eye roll*
  • Ma in Taiwan: "Everyone's fine! No problems with China! Peace in our time in the Taiwan Strait!"
  • Tens of thousands of anti-Ma protesters in Taiwan: "You've got to be kidding."
  • Ma approval rating: "Goodbye, cruel world!" *jumps from roof of Presidential Palace in Taipei*
  • MM: *bangs head on keyboard* Ai-ya.

Taiwan: Nation Divided Over Arrest of Former President Chen Shui-bian

When Chen was first arrested, I knew things would become nasty quickly, and so they have. I'll try to write a commentary later (after school), but for right now, try reading this bit from the BBC: "Taiwan divided over ex-president's arrest."

My short version: Chen's arrest is now (and perhaps has been from the beginning) not only a matter of his possible involvement in corruption and shady financial dealings. The entire situation pits the IDEA of the DPP against the IDEA of the KMT, and by "KMT" I mean ALL of it, both the shiny new face of it (Ma) and all the long years of bad associations and memories from the KMT's martial-law, one-party-rule past. Some people are seeing Chen's arrest as being politically motivated, and -- coming as it does after the Chen Yunlin visit with its police/crowd disasters and ongoing protests -- it LOOKS bad, regardless of whatever Ma's actual purpose or plan is (assuming that Ma has one).

Chen may not be an angel, but by turning him into a martyr, the KMT has inflamed the situation and made "the two Taiwans" even more volatile.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Movie Madness Returns: the Holiday Movie Season!

I do love my movies. This means that for me, the year is broken up into Summer Movie Season, Holiday Movie Season, and the Limbo of Lame Flicks that occupies all other times. Generally speaking, summer is for blockbuster, loud, colorful, mindless fun, while winter is for family films, often second-tier action movies, silly holiday-themed flicks, and Oscar Bait. Lots and lots of Oscar Bait.

Summer 2008 was, overall, a good one, buoyed up by the joys of "Iron Man," The Dark Knight," and "Tropic Thunder."

Now it's time to look forward to the holiday movie season. What flicks will I be going to see with my cronies? I'm thinking these:
  • "Quantum of Solace." New James Bond film. What can I say? Granted, Dirty Harry hated it and Christian Toto isn't crazy about the movie either, which means that I lower my expectations. Also, can someone please tell me what the heck is a "quantum of solace"? And can solace actually be measured in any meaningful way? Why does the title sound like something right out of a physics seminar? One more thing, if I may: I know the whole "Daniel Craig is Bond" is an attempt to reboot the franchise, but are the moviemakers going to wipe out everything that make a Bond flick a Bond flick and not just another spy action movie? I'm talking about Moneypenny, gadgets, quips, giggleworthy names, and all that.
  • "Bolt." OK, fine. It's a cutesypoo cartoon. Puppies.
  • "Twilight." Oh, this thing is going to be dreadful, so naturally La Parisienne and I are planning to go see it so we can mock and jeer. Hey, nobody said you had to like a movie in order to see it. In fact, we're thinking that a happily harsh little hatefest might be cathartic!
  • "Australia." Why? I want some gorgeous Aussie cinematography, that's why. I don't care about Nicole Kidman, but Hugh Jackman's OK.
  • "Transporter 3." I won't be going because I want to, but I can guarantee you that the Cinema-Mad Sibling will want to see it -- and will drag me along. Same for the next one:
  • "Punisher: War Zone."
  • "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Science fiction! Admittedly, the presence of Keanu Reeves (have you noticed that his expression never changes from movie to movie?) is something of a warning, but then again, it couldn't possibly be worse than "Constantine."
  • "The Tale of Despereaux." It looks like "Ratatouille" Redux, but a little cuteness might be good after the guaranteed bloody nonsense of "Transporter" and "Punisher."
  • "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Fascinating premise, but I don't care much for Brad Pitt. Makeup should be amazing.
  • "Defiance." A girl can only watch a certain number of World War II period filcks over Christmas holidays, and I think I'd rather see Daniel Craig than Tom "Valkyrie" Cruise.
I'm not even really excited about any of these. I feel jaded!

Nerd News: Students Call Professor "Racist," Professor Sues

I can't make this stuff up if I tried.

BONUS: The Onion is involved. Because the offended students didn't understand it. Really.

DOUBLE BONUS: The professor in question has this to say:
“When I started teaching 10 years ago, I thought universities were the quintessential market place of ideas. I was so naïve, and so, so wrong,” he said. “It’s not an open market place of ideas — I hope we can get back to that notion because our society desperately needs places where we can have truly free discussion. I just can’t say I see that in the American university today.”
All I have in response is: "Well, DUH."

Movie News: New Trailer for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

Behold!



This new trailer should make me feel better, but it doesn't. July is a long way away, and next week "Twilight" will launch its gruesome assault on pop culture everywhere.

Dear Warner Brothers,

Thank you so much for reminding me that the Harry Potter film was originally scheduled to be released next week, but then you pushed that date until July 2009. Thank you for bringing up such a painful memory. while you're at it, why don't you give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice in it?

Also, thanks to your rescheduling, the cinematic abomination known as "Twilight" is hitting the cinemas next week to take advantage of Potter's retreat. It's probably going to do very well, thereby ensuring a near future dominated by idiotic dreamers who think, "Hey, isn't it great to fall in love with something that wants to eat you?" I, and people like me who really want a gigantic epic struggle between good and evil, Harry and Voldemort, a battle full of sacrifice and heroism and characters whom we love, will instead be given a cotton-candy confection of bad dialogue and worse characterization.

In sum, Warner Brothers? I HATE YOU. Perhaps I may even hate you as much as I hate Edward Cullen and Bella Swann. Now that's some serious hatred.

Sincerely yours,
MM, disgruntled movie fan

Taiwan: the Presbyterian Church Speaks on Current Events

Michael Turton has the link to church leaders expressing concern with Ma's government.

My relatives are part of the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church; they are associated with the Tamsui church (Tamsui is now a suburb of ever-expanding Taipei).

Monday Therapy Geek Fun: What If the Matrix Ran on Windows?

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse, College Football Edition: Baylor Defeats Texas A&M 41-21

"If I hadn't been there and seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn't believe it either." ~ Foxtrot

The Cine-Sib and his buddies were at the football game earlier tonight, and he called me to report that Baylor University had not only defeated but massacred the famous football team of Texas A&M University. Baylor? Defeating the Aggies? I didn't believe it! Baylor's infamous for being the weak spot in its college football group, and A&M just as famous for being very good. I called up Foxtrot, who had also been at the game with Ladybird and other friends, and that's when she said that line about being an eyewitness.

So it's true. The final score was 41 to 21. Baylor beat A&M. It's a sign of the Apocalypse!

UPDATE: I called Thalia, who responded, "What? It's the end of days!"

The Comedian Versus the Food Snobs

Comedienne Jessi Klein takes aim at pretentious foodies, and the result is very funny indeed! Even the title is a joy: "Foodies Give Me Indigestion."

"Twilight" Derangement Syndrome: Edward Cullen's Guide to Vampire Dating

This is snarky, sarcastic, and simply hilarious. It's written from Edward's perspective, and it starts off like this:
Have you recently found yourself a member of the illustrious immortal community? Or are you an older vampire who has been out of the dating scene for a while? If you are interested in trying to have a normal life and remain a somewhat sexually active "teen" with the mortal kind, I'm here to help. My name is Edward Cullen and I'm a 108-year-old vampire living in a smokin' teenage body in the Pacific Northwest and I've had some recent success in wooing the ladies. I'm happy to share my tricks of the trade. One thing you must remember no matter what, though: don't listen to those werewolves. They think they are so awesome because girls dig the hot-blooded hairy guys, but they so overuse their line about "imprinting" on their soulmate. Whatever. Follow my simple guidelines and you'll have the ladies eating out of your cold, dead hands in no time.
"Dating for Undead Dummies"! I'm thinking that the best way to combat the rising horror of "Twilight" is to respond with humor.

By the way, I've added "Twilight" as a tag so you can track my rising revulsion through blog posts.

Geek Fun: The New Old "Enterprise"

OK, Star Trek fans (and Cine-Sib). It's time to opine whether you like the design for the new "Enterprise" starship or not. Here's a graphic juxtaposing the new movie version and the first movie version. Link via The Movie Blog.



The USS Prime Directive? What Prime Directive?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

TGIT, "Stupornatural" Fans! A Little REO Speedwagon for My Evil Enablers

Yes, it's a little "Supernatural" in-joke, but you don't have to watch the show to appreciate a little silly REO Speedwagon! Dedicated to my Evil Enablers. You know who you are! (Oh, and Il Barista too.)

This is also a report on my free-falling addiction. Do you remember how a while back, I swore that I wouldn't turn into a Jensen Ackles fangirl? OK. La Parisienne and Kamikaze Editor said that they are not fanGIRLS; they are fanLADIES. And if I'm honest, I have to add myself to their number. I said I wouldn't develop any attachments to Ackles' character of Dean Winchester, but my music video selection should tell you something. As La Parisienne declared, "Dean grows on you." I see that all my past dismissive, hubristic statements about the show are roaring after me like nemesis in a Formula 1 racecar.


Bailout Boondoggle Update: Financial Apocalypse = Discovery Channel Animal Show

The ongoing insanity of the $700 billion bailout in the GLOBALFINANCIALMELTDOWNWE'REALLGOINGTODIE
UNLESSWEGIVEPAULSONBILLIONSOFDOLLARSWITH
NOACCOUNTABILITYOVERSIGHTORTRANSPARENCY has taken another nasty turn.

Take a look at this report and tell me if it doesn't make you just hopping mad if you're a concerned, responsible taxpayer. Watching the lobbyists flock to the moneypot is absolutely disgusting.

This whole situation is like one of those programs on the Discovery Channel where the camera goes out to the Serengeti to watch hyenas and vultures fight with each other as they strip meat from the bones of some poor dead prey animal that a predator has killed.

And, yes, the carcass is called The Great American Taxpayer.

Great Moments in Research: UK Chemists Find Formula for Perfect Pudding

British chemists have made a research breakthrough! Get ready to rejoice as they announce that they've found . . . the perfect height for Yorkshire pudding. Seriously.

Way to go, British research scientists! Meanwhile, Taiwanese research scientists . . .

Friedman to Obama Fans Abroad: "Show Me the Money."

Thomas Friedman goes all kinds of awesome nuclear Jerry Maguire on Obama's overseas admirers. Talk is cheap! At least Friedman's got a firm grasp on the very transitory nature of public international "goodwill." Blurb:

To all those Europeans, Canadians, Japanese, Russians, Iranians, Chinese, Indians, Africans and Latin Americans who are e-mailing their American friends about their joy at having “America back,” now that Obama is in, I just have one thing to say: “Show me the money!”

Don’t just show me the love. Don’t just give me the smiles. Your love is fickle and, as I said, it will last about as long as the first Obama airstrike against an Al Qaeda position in Pakistan. No, no, no, show me the money. Show me that you are ready to be Obama stakeholders, not free-riders — stakeholders in what will be expensive and difficult initiatives by the Obama administration to keep the world stable and free at a time when we have fewer resources.

Examples: I understand any foreigner who objected to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the gross mishandling of the postwar. But surely everyone in the world has an interest in helping Obama, who opposed the war, bring it to a decent and stable end, especially now that there is a chance that Iraq could emerge as the first democracy, albeit messy, in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. Obama was against how this Iraq war started, but he is going to be held responsible for how it ends, so why don’t all our allies now offer whatever they can — money, police, aid workers, troops, diplomatic support — to increase the odds of a decent end in Iraq? Ditto Afghanistan.

The U.N. says it doesn’t want Iran to go nuclear and doesn’t want the U.S. to use force to prevent Iran from going nuclear. I agree. That’s why I want all those people in China, France, Russia, India and Germany who are smiling for Obama to go out and demand that their governments use their tremendous economic leverage with Iran to let the Iranians know that if Tehran continues to move toward a nuclear weapon, in opposition to U.N. resolutions, these countries will impose real economic sanctions. Nothing — and I mean nothing — would more help President-elect Obama to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran than having a threat of biting Chinese, Indian and E.U. economic sanctions in his holster.

President Bush, because he was so easily demonized, made being a free-rider on American power easy for everyone — and Americans paid the price. Obama will not make it so easy.

So to everyone overseas I say: thanks for your applause for our new president. I’m glad you all feel that America “is back.” If you want Obama to succeed, though, don’t just show us the love, show us the money. Show us the troops. Show us the diplomatic effort. Show us the economic partnership. Show us something more than a fresh smile. Because freedom is not free and your excuse for doing less than you could is leaving town in January.



Now all this is fine and good, but I am unconvinced that anything really substantive will change any time soon in, for instance, Brussels, much less Beijing or a revanchist Moscow. It simply isn't really in these folks' fundamental interest to cooperate with America, no matter who is in the Big Chair in the Oval Office. These politicians and powerbrokers want to carve out increasingly large spheres of influence for themselves. Plus, it's easier to be passive or flat-out obstructionist -- easier to blame America for everything and then demand things from it.

UPDATE: Dignified Rant has a few thoughts too.

School Choice for Me, But Not for Thee

BINGO. More here and here.

If I were a parent, you can wager your last chocolate bonbon that I would be demanding school choice. YOU BETCHA. As things are, I'm still demanding it on principle.

Defining the Terms of the Argument: Free Markets Versus Capitalism (and All Versus Corporatism)

Very interesting post on the use and meanings of the terms "capitalism," "free markets," and "corporatism." Go read. (Take a look at some of its links also.)

RELATED POST: Other words and definitions that matter: "Financial crisis" versus "economic crisis."

Geek News from Taiwan: Fastest 60GHZ Wireless System on a Chip -- 100 Times Faster Than Wifi

And for less than a dollar!

Techno-splendor is made in Taiwan (specifically by the computer geeks at National Taiwan University). Awesome, geek-tastic news. Details:
National Taiwan University announced their latest invention System on a Chip (SOC) . . . the smallest such product at the lowest cost and consuming the least electricity. The NTU research team claims that the transmission speed of the chip is 100 times as fast as WiFi and 350 times as fast as a 3.5G cell phone.

Jri Lee, professor of the NTU Graduate Institute of Electronics Engineering . . . indicated that the chip size has been reduced to 0.5 millimeter, one-tenth of that of existing chips, and the cost is less than one-tenth of the traditional communication module and could be further lowered to only US$1. When used in portable communications products the chip should have a huge market.

. . . According to Lee, the new chip can download a 4G DVD film to a computer in ten seconds, whereas it took ADSL 1.5 hours, WiFi 2 hours and Bluetooth 4.5 hours to complete the task. IBM Corporation and U.C. Berkeley have been conducting similar research, but the SOC the NTU research team invented has the highest speed to date.

Oh, man. TECH LUST!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Satire Alert: Should the Government Stop Dumping Money Into a Giant Hole?

You know, given the government (and I mean both parties in Washington) and its addiction to OPM and ever-increasingly stupid ways to spend it, I found this Onion satire hysterical -- and all too close to the truth. Oh, add too the latest twist on Bailout-a-palooza: let's bail out the car companies too, and oh, by the way, we're pulling a big "bait and switch" on that $700 billion bailout package! Geez.

Enjoy the video. (Slight language warning.)


In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

Taiwan: USA Today Interviews Ma Ying-jeou

USA Today has a new interview with Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou. Note the question about the Chen Yunlin visit. See this too:
Q: How do you reassure Taiwanese that your government is not going to sell them out to the Chinese?

A: Several major newspapers and institutions have conducted polls. The majority support what the government did. They also supported the result of all the negotiations… Even before Mr. Chen arrived, opinion polls showed that 65% of people welcomed him. But Taiwan is already a fully democratized society. Different people do have different views. Those who went to the street to demonstrate – some of them said that we are selling out Taiwan. But when we ask them, Could you just tell us in what sense did we sell out Taiwan, no one can answer. When we make the air transport more convenient – is that a sellout? When we improve the postal service to make special delivery possible is that a sellout?

Once Taiwan became a democratic society you hear different voices. I have already made it clear that my door is open to the opposition leader (Tsai Ing Wen). I hope I could meet with her … I consider myself a democratic leader willing to engage the opposition on issues of mutual concern or issues that would help our country.
If you were worried about Ma's accommodationist leaning toward Beijing, would this answer make you feel any better? I mean, seriously, now.

Also, the name of Hu Jintao appears in the interview too. May I remind you of this?

RELATED POST: Time magazine's interview with Ma (August 2008). I had followed the interview with a rant. I also said that Ma's happy-clappy emphasis on students was foolish. I have a follow-up. Remember how in the August interview, Ma was babbling on about how students would (more or less) vindicate his approach? Wake up and smell the jasmine tea, pal, because last time I checked, Taiwanese students who are in the news are the ones who are protesting against YOU.

Taiwan + Nerd News: Wild Strawberries Student Movement Update

The Wild Strawberries protests (first noted in this post) are ongoing. The students have launched an English-language blog. See a bit more from an Israeli PhD student who is currently in Taiwan.

Also, see this letter by a professor to the Financial Times. In it he rakes Ma over the coals for playing carelessly with Taiwanese sovereignty (and its freedoms and liberties) during the shambolic Chen Yunlin visit.

Nerd News: Law Student 1, Robber 0

The straw that broke the camel's back? A laptop computer. Blurb:

Arizona State University student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars.

When the man asked for Botsios' laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.

"I was like, 'Dude, no -- please, no!" Botsios said. "I have all my case notes…that's four months of work!"

Police said Gabriel Saucedo entered Botsios' apartment through an open window early Thursday morning. When Botsios woke up, Saucedo threatened him with a baseball bat, police said.

He was just like, 'I'm going to smash your head in,'" Botsios said.

At that point, the law student wrestled the bat away and began punching Saucedo, Botsios said.

"I basically grabbed him and threw him this way, and he held onto the bat so it threw him to the ground," he said.

Police said they took Saucedo to the hospital for stitches before they arrested him on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping. Other than a bruised knuckle and a few scratches, Botsios was unharmed.

. . . he said he is happy that his laptop is unharmed.

"It's my baby," he said. "Don't mess with my computer."

Oh, I hear that! I back up all my files often, but I would be lost without my laptop!

Also, part of me is quite happy that the rightfully outraged "victim" uncorked a justifiable can of self-defense whoop-@$$ on the intruder. Defending oneself and one's property is a right and a duty. Things could have been much nastier if the intruder had a gun, but he was wielding a baseball bat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taiwan: Former President Chen Shui-bian Arrested Under Corruption Charges

Suspicion of embezzling and corruption has put Chen into handcuffs. More here. Not too many details are available; I'll keep watching the news from Taiwan. Things are probably going to get nasty -- quickly.

The Cure for Everything

Go here!

Shiba Inu puppies will cure any gloomy, grumpy day.

MM in the Kitchen: Strawberry Sour Cream Bread

All this recent talk about "Taiwanese strawberries for freedom!" has made me think about eating strawberries.

This looks like a good recipe for strawberry sour cream bread.

A Week Full of Historical Memories

It's been quite a week so far. I haven't time to do individual posts, but I give you:
  • The 19th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The 233rd birthday of the US Marine Corps
  • Veterans Day today
See, not everything is all gloom and doom.

The Wall fell *19* years ago? Has it been so long? I remember watching it on TV as it happened. I was very young, but it was one of the moments that turned me into the unrepentant freedom-cheerleader that I am today. (That, and something else that happened in the same year, but I digress.)

Happy birthday, USMC. Tough, tenacious, and dedicated -- No better friend, no worse enemy. Someone recently told me that I was like you. I took it as a far greater compliment than I deserve.

Shout-out and appreciation to veterans in American history and what they did for the cause of liberty both at home and abroad. From Valley Forge to Normandy, it was no small thing.

Nerd Notes: Intellectual Groupthink?

Here's a thought and a blurb:
How have intellectuals managed to be so wrong, so often? By thinking that because they are knowledgeable — or even expert — within some narrow band out of the vast spectrum of human concerns, that makes them wise guides to the masses and to the rulers of the nation.

But the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking.
Hmmmm.

Oh, and yes, I do love that old quotation by Buckley about the faculty of Hahvahd.

P.J. O'Rourke and Michael Steele on the GOP

O'Rourke and Steele have some home truths to deliver, and I must say that I agree with nearly all of it.

As I told Thalia recently, I'm a libertarian/conservative, which means that these days I'm not really a Republican. (The whole "big government GOP" was a deplorable mess that flies in the face of both true libertarianism and true conservatism. Yes, I include "compassionate conservatism" in this.)

Here is a great quotation from Steele in his call for the party to return to its founding principles:
Our faith in the power and ingenuity of the individual to build a nation through hard work, personal responsibility and self-discipline is our uniting principle. That is the sacred ground upon which our Republican Party was built. For the sake of all Americans, it is the ground we must reclaim.
Preach it!

On the O'Rourke side, his piece is a little long-winded, but he has some points to make. I particularly like his shot at the "social conservatives," a group that's too easily attached to some of the zealots of the "Religious Right." Everybody pay attention to this: "The law cannot be made identical with morality. Scan the list of the Ten Commandments and see how many could be enforced even by Rudy Giuliani."

I give you also a bit from the humorous O'Rourke on taxes, fiscal responsibility, and government spending:

Yes, we got a few tax breaks during the regimes of Reagan and W. But the government is still taking a third of our salary. Is the government doing a third of our job? Is the government doing a third of our dishes? Our laundry? Our vacuuming? When we go to Hooters is the government tending bar making sure that one out of three margaritas is on the house? If our spouse is feeling romantic and we're tired, does the government come over to our house and take care of foreplay? (Actually, during the Clinton administration  .  .  .  )

Anyway, a low tax rate is not--never mind the rhetoric of every conservative politician--a bedrock principle of conservatism. The principle is fiscal responsibility.

Conservatives should never say to voters, "We can lower your taxes." Conservatives should say to voters, "You can raise spending. You, the electorate, can, if you choose, have an infinite number of elaborate and expensive government programs. But we, the government, will have to pay for those programs. We have three ways to pay.

"We can inflate the currency, destroying your ability to plan for the future, wrecking the nation's culture of thrift and common sense, and giving free rein to scallywags to borrow money for worthless scams and pay it back 10 cents on the dollar.

"We can raise taxes. If the taxes are levied across the board, money will be taken from everyone's pocket, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and least advantaged will be harmed the most. If the taxes are levied only on the wealthy, money will be taken from wealthy people's pockets, hampering their capacity to make loans and investments, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and the least advantaged will be harmed the most.

"And we can borrow, building up a massive national debt. This will cause all of the above things to happen plus it will fund Red Chinese nuclear submarines that will be popping up in San Francisco Bay to get some decent Szechwan take-out."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nerd Journal : "Twilight" Derangement Syndrome

I have "Heroes" on for background noise while I work on a paper, and an "exclusive preview" of the upcoming film "Twilight" has just finished assaulting my optic nerves.

This movie's ad campaign is one of those rarities in this day and age of focus groups, polling, slick marketing, etc. What's the oddity? The simple fact that every new advertisement makes me hate "Twilight" even more than I already did. And believe me when I say that I started with flat dislike. The feeling, now exacerbated and aggravated by print ads, trailers, and TV spots, has become a full-blown orgy of total, bloodthirsty, soul-rending hatred for abysmally written book, creepy vampire lover, stupid human girl, and all.

A note: the TV spot featured a little introduction by Rob Pattinson, the British actor who plays Edward Cullen. Pattinson looked and sounded mortified to be associated with this entire project. Well, it seems the young fellow might actually have some good taste.

For now, I will fantasize about sticking Edward Cullen in an empty warehouse and then throwing in Buffy Summers, Faith Lehane, Van Helsing, Blade, Sam and Dean Winchester, and all the weapons these delightful vampire-hunters could possibly desire or imagine. Add too La Parisienne, Kamikaze Editor, and myself sitting in box seats for the best view. POPCORN TIME! (Scornful catcalls, boos, and hisses optional.)

UPDATE: Even better: a video skewering "Twilight" for the tripe that it is. Bonus for La Parisienne: a little musical fun about halfway through!

Taiwan + Nerd News: the "Wild Strawberry" Student Demonstrations

The student protests against Ma are picking up steam. The movement now even has a name: "Wild Strawberry." (I'll explain in a minute.)
  • I had first mentioned student action here.
  • Michael Turton interviewed one of the student protestors.
  • eTaiwanNews has more.
As for the "strawberry" name, I quote the student in the Turton interview:
Q: So what do you call yourselves? The Wild Strawberries? Why that?

A: Because people say -- in Taiwan many of the media organizations say -- that young people are just like strawberries [weak and easily bruised --mt]. We think we're not like that, and we wanted to show that we could do something.
Sounds good to me!


Geek Fun: Snoopy, World War 1 Flying Ace

I'm not ashamed to admit it: I think this looks pretty darn cool -- and funny! (Now come sing "Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron" with me!)

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Hello Kitty Collection from Zales

Yes, ZALES, the famous jewelry merchants and purveyors of fine diamonds.

Take a look at Zales' utter and prostrate capitulation to the tyranny of Her Imperial Cuteness. Take a look . . . if you dare!

By the way, if you look at the actual URL of that link, you'll see that it ends with the words "HK_Collective." Call me crazy, but the last time I was terrified by the word "collective," it was the Borg. Hello Kitty's not unlike it, after all: Resistance is futile!

Monday Therapy: An Amazing A Cappella Tribute to John Williams

And done with a Star Wars twist! Lyrics here. See how many movie themes you recognize in this delightful musical confection of a tribute to composer John Williams (via The Movie Blog):



John Williams is THE MAN!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What Are Your Chances of Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse?

Alessandra got 55%. I got 37%.

"Dude, I'm screwed," I moaned.

She grinned. "You're zombie chow!"

Gentle reader, what are your chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse?

(OK, now I have the sudden urge to see "Shaun of the Dead". . .)

Nerdworld Soundtrack: A Little Travis Tritt

Today's sassy selection mirrors my current outlook: "Here's A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)" by Travis Tritt.

Sing it, Travis!

Nerd Notes: A Harvard Econ Prof's Advice for Obama

From Hahvahd economics professor Greg Mankiw comes some practical advice for the incoming president. I really like this bit:
Pay attention to the government’s budget constraint. The nation faces a long-term imbalance between government spending and tax revenue. The fundamental problem is that the federal government has promised the elderly more benefits than the tax system can support. This fiscal imbalance will become acute as more baby boomers retire and start collecting Social Security and Medicare.

Yet during the campaign, you promised that you would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, that you would vastly expand health insurance coverage, and that you would never cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age. You will almost surely have to renege on some of these promises. As your economic team will often remind you, even if the laws of arithmetic are ignored during campaigns, they provide a real constraint when making actual policy.
"The laws of arithmetic"! Tee-hee! Remember what I said earlier about the hard realities of actually governing instead of campaigning?

Taiwan Commentary: One China and Two Taiwans

Interesting piece that makes a good (if grim and sobering) point:
Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin was wined and dined by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan and People First Party Chairman James Soong, and pro-unification groups and people from the corporate sector also welcomed his visit last week. This is one of the two Taiwans.

On the other hand, Chen could not go to southern Taiwan and was in effect grounded in Taipei. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) staged protests and besieged the hotel where Chen was staying. Demonstrators tied protest ribbons around their heads and carried national flags. This is the other Taiwan. Under the shadow of “one China,” the “two Taiwans” failed to communicate with each other and were wary of each other, as if the real enemy for each of them were not in China, but in Taiwan.

Beijing has remained consistent in its “one China” policy, but has become much more flexible in its application. The Chinese government grasped the strategic advantage of the KMT’s return to power in May to confine the future development of Taiwan through various agreements signed by both sides . . .

Meanwhile, the distance between Taiwan’s ruling and opposition parties seems farther than that between Taipei and Beijing.

The conflict between the pan-green camp and the pan-blue camp did not end after the presidential election, and cross-strait relations are the main focus of contention between the two parties. While welcoming Chen’s visit, the KMT has actually widened the gap between the “two Taiwans.”
Well, OBVIOUSLY. Ma and his KMT have been doing grave damage, and while I'm not willing to call it "irreparable," I am most unhappy and increasingly concerned.

As for the comment that the distance between KMT and DPP is wider than the gap between Taipei and Beijing? Again, this is obvious. Why should there be a gap between Taipei and Beijing if Ma is doing everything in his power to accommodate Beijing? Meanwhile, Ma's plummeting approval rating of some 20% and the increasing public protests indicates a groundswell of dissatisfaction among the ordinary citizens.

Side note: I am sure that I don't have to remind you of my personal opinion of Lien Chan and James Soong.

Euro Notes: Iceland in Full Financial Free Fall

Poor Iceland.

Look at this assessment from economist Jon Danielsson from the London School of Economics:

"No country has ever crashed as quickly and as badly in peacetime."

Ouch. Previous post here.

Remembering Forgotten History: The Swiss Student Who Tried to Kill Hitler

His name was Maurice Bavaud, and he was a 22-year-old theology student when he attempted to assassinate Hitler at a Munich rally in 1938. He was eventually executed in Berlin in 1941.

The Swiss government has rehabilitated his memory and acknowledged that, at the time, it should have done more to save him.

Bavaud's 81-year-old brother Adrian has this to say: "Switzerland should be proud of someone like Maurice."

A Commentary on Race, Politics, and History

Michael Gershon of the Washington Post has written a lovely little piece that you ought to read. I give you a blurb on his being both an Obama-skeptic and yet appreciative of the historical overtones of the election:
This presidency in particular should be a source of pride even for those who do not share its priorities. An African American will take the oath of office blocks from where slaves were once housed in pens and sold for profit. He will sleep in a house built in part by slave labor, near the room where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation with firm hand. He will host dinners where Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 entertained the first African American to be a formal dinner guest in the White House; command a military that was not officially integrated until 1948. Every event, every act, will complete a cycle of history. It will be the most dramatic possible demonstration that the promise of America -- so long deferred -- is not a lie.

I suspect I will have many substantive criticisms of the new administration, beginning soon enough. Today I have only one message for Barack Obama, who will be our president, my president: Hail to the chief.

Indeed, indeed.

Now, since I am evil (and you know that I am), I cannot help but point out: Lincoln and TR were members of which politician party? I'm just sayin', is all.

A Kind Word from Down Under

I'm so used to hearing hateful anti-American rants that when someone from a foreign country says something nice about my own country, I'm pleasantly surprised. Take a look at this bit of Australian appreciation.
It is indeed a wonderful thing for the US to have its first black president. No African-American child need ever fear there is any limit to what they can achieve. Whatever you think of Obama's policies and capacity to govern well -- and I have my doubts -- his election is a powerful symbol of America's inclusiveness and opportunity. Which other big, rich, predominantly white society has elected a member of a racial minority to be its head of government? Not Australia.

So as we salute Obama, let's salute America as well.

The left liberal caricature of America was always nonsense. The militarism of American society is vastly overstated, just as its profound willingness to make sacrifice for other people's freedom is under-appreciated.
Thanks, mate!

RELATED POST: Brit Stephen Fry looks at the US of A.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wealth Redistribution: A Practical Approach

Awesome beyond words!

Kitchen Notes: Toast Art!

From some inspired/insane Argentines comes this mural created from 2,500 pieces of toast:



Frakkin' toaster!


All I can think of now is sweet cream butter and orange marmalade. LOTS AND LOTS OF ORANGE MARMALADE. And a big pot of tea, too.

PS: Want more toast and toasters? Try the Toaster Museum. No, really!

OK, all this talk of toasters makes me want new episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" very, very badly.

Nerd Notes: Oxford's List of Top 10 Irritating English Expressions

Via Neatorama comes this rather amusing look at linguistic pet peeves!

This post is dedicated to gentle readers and lovely language mavens La Parisienne, Kamikaze Editor, Alessandra, and MJ of Metrolingua.

Idiotic Statement of the Day: Racist Rant from Austrian Journalist

You know, over the course of the election, I've heard all kinds of racially-based statements (most of them were stupid, such as the "if you don't vote for Obama, you're racist" meme or the grossly oversimplified "racist America" babblings in the international media).

But nothing I've seen or heard yet even comes close to this utterly unhinged, racist rant from Austria. Culprit: veteran journalist Klaus Emmerich.

BONUS: He still says Americans are racists. (So much for the idea that we should vote for Obama to "prove" that we're not racist. Vote for him, and we're still racist, apparently. Well, I didn't vote for him at all, so am I some kind of double-bad racist? Going on!)

DOUBLE BONUS: He is supposedly an expert on the US. I guess Mr. Emmerich didn't pay much attention to pieces of American history known as the abolitionist movement, the Emancipation Proclamation, the American Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the civil rights movement, etc.

TRIPLE BONUS: he makes a sexist comment about Michelle Obama. She's just "a black, very good-looking woman."

Looks like Klaus just had his Dan Rather moment. It's a good thing Klaus is retired, I suppose! But it's sad, really, how after a long and solid career of journalism, he has to do something so revolting.

Taiwan: the Chen Yunlin Visit

Read Michael Turton (plus links to many other analyses) and Brian Dunn on the new economic pact between China and Taiwan, along with its troubling corollaries both political and military.

Things are not good at all. AT ALL. Many of the Taiwanese know this and are deeply worried. Look at all the protests and demonstrations. But the Slick Smiling Sinophiliac Ma is rushing ahead anyway. The man is a disaster.

Good grief, I cannot believe all this is happening!

UPDATE 1: Ma is so much of a spineless jellyfish that he can't even defend his own official title and position. He called Chen by Chen's title. Chen called Ma "you." No title, no honorific, nothing. It's insulting.

UPDATE 2: the Chen Yunlin visit has deepened an already large rift between "the two Taiwans."