Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quote of the Day + HopeChange Chronicles: Obama's Foreign Policy

Caroline Glick is not impressed:
From Iran to Venezuela to Cuba, from Myanmar to North Korea to China, from Sudan to Afghanistan to Iraq to Russia to Syria to Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration has systematically taken human rights and democracy promotion off America's agenda. In their place, it has advocated "improving America's image," multilateralism and a moral relativism that either sees no distinction between dictators and their victims or deems the distinctions immaterial to the advancement of US interests.
The whole thing is beyond even the most extremist parody of Realpolitik's worst excesses.

Even more damning is this passage:
So if Obama's foreign policy has already failed or is in the process of failing throughout the world, why is he refusing to reassess it? Why, with blood running through the streets of Iran, is he still interested in appeasing the mullahs? Why, with Venezuela threatening to invade Honduras for Zelaya, is he siding with Zelaya against Honduran democrats? Why, with the Palestinians refusing to accept the Jewish people's right to self-determination, is he seeking to expel some 500,000 Jews from their homes in the interest of appeasing the Palestinians? Why, with North Korea threatening to attack the US with ballistic missiles, is he refusing to order the USS John McCain to interdict the suspected North Korean missile ship it has been trailing for the past two weeks? Why, when the Sudanese government continues to sponsor the murder of Darfuris, is the administration claiming that the genocide in Darfur has ended?
The only reasonable answer to all of these questions is that far from being nonideological, Obama's foreign policy is the most ideologically driven since Carter's tenure in office. If when Obama came into office there was a question about whether he was a foreign policy pragmatist or an ideologue, his behavior in his first six months in office has dispelled all doubt.
An additional thought: Is it now safer and more beneficial/advantageous to be one of America's enemies than one of her friends and allies?

I can't quite believe it's come to this. But even the most cursory glance at Obama's domestic policies reveals pretty much the same desire to operate on ideology despite the strictures of objective and practical reality. It's almost the active, aggressive desire to live in defiance of reality. Seriously, why else would any sane person decide unprecedented government spending and interference in the private sphere is the way to resuscitate a moribund economy? what person with even a rudimentary grasp of international history could have given the (in)famous "Cairo Speech" with a straight face?

Nerd Notes: the Apostrophe Abuse Blog

This is for La Parisienne, the Kamikaze Editor, the Opera Diva, MJ, and everyone else who cares about language and good grammar.

Behold the Apostrophe Abuse Blog!

It's a very common error, but apostrophes don't belong in plural nouns. See:
  • Cat = a small four-legged creature, genetically related to the lion and tiger, that believes it is the furry lord of the universe and expects you to treat it accordingly
  • Cats = more than one cat
  • Cat's = belonging to the cat
  • Cats' = belonging to multiple cats

(Special shout-out to the small four-legged furry lords of the universe worshipped by their loyal human acolytes under the names of Aslan, Munchkin, Stanley, and Texas Ranger.)

What Predictable Hell Is This? -- The Taxman Cometh

Everybody with two or more brain cells saw this coming.

Technically, I suppose, it's not really "FRESH" hell, just a new iteration of the old "tax-and-spend" idiocy. Now it's "tax-borrow-and-spend-ourselves-and-our-kids-into-economic-serfdom."

Oh, and for the record, I don't CARE that Obama promised not to raise taxes on people who make less than $250,000. Promises made on the campaign trail are worth precisely nothing after the election. I'm telling you right now that taxes plain or stealth are coming for EVERYBODY.

Don't even get me started on the Big Green Omnibus Energy Tax -- I mean, cap-and-trade! (Note to Senate: KILL THIS MONSTER. NOW. Note to the House: You belong on the reeking, fly-infested compost heap of life, somewhere between the coffee grounds and the potato peels.) I see no point to impoverishing everybody and then demanding that they pay more taxes.

Nerd News and Analysis: One Professor Considers Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship

Good grief. Well, at least some scholars like the professor-author are trying to combat the mess of misinformation. And hey! it appeared the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Then again, I'm pretty that the "persistent myths" are greatly fed by identity politics and the industry of grievance-mongering.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Film Culture Commentary: the 50 Greatest Movie Trailers of All Time

Of course, that's up for debate! Nevertheless, here is the list -- and each movie title links to a separate page with more details AND (even better) video of the trailer in question.

See, a really great trailer makes you want to run out and see the movie.

Enjoy! (Via the Rhetorican.)

Oh, I can't resist. The Cinema-Mad Sibling and I really enjoy stand-up comedian Pablo Francisco's parody of movie trailers (and he does do an uncannily accurate impression of the famous "movie trailer voice"). Here it is:

Sometimes the trailer ends up being better than the movie! On that note, check out what the Onionistas did last summer:

Quirky Euro Files: The UK and the World Worm Charming Championship

This is the biggest can of worms ever! OK, now let's go fishing with them.

Analysis: Jose Maria Aznar on Iran and Dissidents

Former Spanish prime minister Aznar has a new editorial on Iran. Blurb:

Those who protest against the blatant electoral fraud that handed victory to the fanatical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are in reality demanding a change of regime. Thus, the regime has resorted to beating and shooting its citizens in a desperate attempt to squash the pro-democracy movement.

This is no time for hesitation on the part of the West. If, as part of an attempt to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, the leaders of democratic nations turn their backs on the dissidents they will be making a terrible mistake.

President Obama has said he refuses to "meddle" in Iran's internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity. If the international community is not able to stop, or at least set limits on, the repressive violence of the Islamic regime, the protesters will end up as so many have in the past -- in exile, in prison, or in the cemetery. And with them, all hope for change will be gone.

To be clear: Nobody in the circles of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or Ahmadinejad is going to reward us for silence or inaction. On the contrary, failing to support the regime's critics will leave us with an emboldened Ahmadinejad, an atomic Iran, and dissidents that are disenchanted and critical of us. We cannot talk about freedom and democracy if we abandon our own principles.
Do read the whole thing.

RELATED POST: Natan Sharansky on the same topic.

Quote of the Day: Vodkapundit on the Cap-and-Trade Energy Bill

Eloquence from Vodkapundit as the bill passes the House of Representatives:
Never have so few stolen so much from so many to achieve so little.
The cap-and-trade energy debacle is both a massive tax increase and an even more massive government power grab. I suppose that in scope its ambition is exceeded only by its stupidity. What are people thinking to justify raising energy prices in a time of soaring unemployment and economic recession?

Quirky Asia Files: Disgustingly Cute Little Japanese Robot Makes Coffee

From TokyoMango comes this video. I don't know what to say . . . You'll just have to see it for yourself! Even the music is cute. Il Barista and Noli Me Tangere!, this one's for you.

Well, OK, but can she make a real espresso? Here's more on the little robot named Hina.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kitchen Notes: the Incredible Awesomeness of Being a Carnivore

Tigerhawk has the photo, and I absolutely HAD to show you. (Oh, and Il Barista? This one's especially for you, pal.) Click to enlarge:

You will recall my previous carnivorous rants (such as this one). If you're in a carnivorous mood yourself, just click on the "PETA = People Eating Tasty Animals" tag!

Nerd News: the Angst of Being a German University

Problematic at present.

The news story supports what I've heard from some fellow nerds, including Nerd Lords. There's a little diaspora of German professors and students to the US (though the British diaspora seems bigger). Brain drain?

Nerd News: the American Historical Association Versus Russian President Medvedev

I usually have little but contempt for professional nerd organizations that like to issue dicta on current issues. Usually the self-absorbed nerd-diktats are idiotic and overreaching (as when they claim to speak on behalf of others -- such as dissenting members of those organizations). Even so, credit must be given where credit is due, and this time the American Historical Association (AHA) has done something worthwhile.

The organization of historians has written a letter of protest to Russian Putin puppet president Dmitri Medvedev. The topic of concern? Medvedev's recent creation of something that is (terrifyingly) called the "Commission to Counteract Attempts at Falsifying History to Damage the Interests of Russia."

What fresh hell is this? Tell me if I'm crazy, but that sounds far too close to an office designed to whitewash and censor history -- to politicize history.

More here at the Russian Front blog (great name, by the way), which observes that the the Commission is made of 28 members. Of those, only 3 have any claim to be historians. The rest are bureaucrats and Duma representatives. Uh-oh.

Here is the text of the AHA letter in PDF format. (Note too an interesting -- and true -- criticism of some of the wording in that letter. True dat, but I'll go out on a limb and say the AHA deserves some props for saying anything at all -- and therefore displaying some tiny hint of a moral backbone . . . or perhaps just a notochord, but better than nothing.)

The Michael Jackson Media Frenzy: Rachel Lucas Speaks For Me

Rachel has hit the nail on the head. (And saved me from having to write an identical post!)

Also while we're on the topic, Pursuit of Serenity has sent me this most relevant link.

Nerd News: Admissions Scandal at University of Illinois Law School

How much does it cost for an unqualified student to buy his way into that law school? Apparently the price tag is jobs for 5 graduating law students. It's a jobs-for-admissions scandal.

Bonus 1: The unqualified student was supported by disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Really.

Bonus 2: The investigation is part of a bigger mess in which politically-connected and influential "patrons" supported applicants and therefore distorted the entire admissions process with a big dose of nepotistic favoritism.

Oh, and the job guarantees for the 5 graduates seem to be for people at the bottom of their class. Remember that law school rankings are influenced by their graduates' job placements. Corruption-a-palooza!

Apparently dirty Illinois political culture has seeped into the campus. Pathetically and laughably awful and stupid.

Science Fiction Writing: Genres Within the Genre


Quirky Asia Files: Thailand's Elephants and Panda-Envy

Oh, my!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Natan Sharansky on Dissent, Freedom, and Iran

Do read. If you are unfamiliar with Sharansky, he knows a bit about freedom, oppression, and being a dissident; he spent 9 years in a Soviet gulag.

Nerd Journal and Quote of the Day: Your Own Personal Judgment

"There is something immoral about abandoning your own judgment."
-- Bruce Greenwood as JFK in Thirteen Days (2000)


(Rajesh, I thought of you when I heard this! It is quite Objectivist, no?)

I'm back to writing research papers, and you all know that when I do, I'm watching movies too. I simply can't work in total silence. So I have "Thirteen Days" in the DVD player this afternoon. It's underrated, really, and it's quite a good film dramatizing the Cuban Missile Crisis (and so I can even think about it as "historiography" and therefore a type of "nerd work" . . . OK, OK, it's a stretch, I know).

Taiwan: Islands, China, and Military Scenarios

Dignified Rant has an analysis.

Friday Fun Video: Segways + Fire + Musical Instruments = ?

From Miss Cellania comes this link to an amazingly creative performance at a French arts festival. Enjoy -- and marvel at the performers' incredible skills (now THOSE are mad skillz):

Nerd News: Iran -- 70 Professors Arrested After Meeting with Mousavi

Not good at all. At least most seem to have been freed now . . . but since Iran's banned foreign journalists from doing their jobs, one wonders about the accuracy of all sorts of things.

What Fresh Hell is This? New York State Will Pay Women For Their Ova In Stem Cell Research

Here is the news blurb:

New York has become the first state to allow taxpayer-funded researchers to pay women for giving their eggs for embryonic stem cell research, a move welcomed by many scientists but condemned by critics who fear it will lead to the exploitation of vulnerable women.

The Empire State Stem Cell Board, which decides how to spend $600 million in state funding for stem cell studies, will allow researchers to compensate women up to $10,000 for the time, discomfort and expenses associated with donating eggs for experiments.

. . . The little-noted decision two weeks ago puts New York at odds with policies in every other state that provides funding for human embryonic stem cell research and with prevailing guidelines from scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences.

Wait a minute. So we're going to create an entire new little creepy industry here? A creepy little business? And how is this not trafficking in human body parts?

Look, it's one thing to buy and sell plasma for established uses in the blood banks. But human ova for experimentation is something else. I'm not liking the moral and ethical implications of this -- it looks to me like turning eggs and embryos (and even the potential egg donors, the women involved) into commodities to be bought, sold, and traded for experiments. And what about oversight?

I'm not liking how we're rushing into this with nary a thought for the moral, ethical, and even social and political implications. Are we doing things because we CAN, without much thought for whether we SHOULD? And with taxpayer money too. I wonder what the taxpayer thinks of this. I wouldn't want my taxes going to fund a practice that I find ethically unclear. And hey, there's Government again involved, which you know I don't like at all.

This whole scenario isn't the same thing as infertile couples buying ova from healthy women so the couples can then have BABIES. (Of course, I'm not too thrilled about that practice either! Or its occasional undercurrent of eugenics and the desire to have a "designer baby." Archived satire here.)

Besides, what about the women who are supposed to be these egg donors? I just don't see that financially stable ladies would much be doing this. So . . . what? Can we even think for a moment about the potential for exploiting (likely poorer women) here? The extreme would be the horrible thought that some women might end up depending on this practice and becoming "egg cows" or something.

Overall, I'm NOT liking the turning of people into commodities, properties, statistics, groups for identity politics, objects, or anything other thing that diminishes the individual and his/her rights, liberties, and freedoms.

Today New York State says, hey, let's pay women for some bits from their bodies if the ladies are willing to give up those bits. In the name of science! In the hope that one day this will lead to better medical science! It's for the Greater Good. No worries, right? What could possibly go wrong? Oh, my.

(If I ever write a sci-fi novel about a future dystopia, I just might start out this way! In it, I'll even have a character who argues that, ladies, if you're not using your ova, it's your patriotic duty to give them up for the benefit of A Better Society rather than let them "go to waste." Of course he would be some slimy government creature and propagandist. What happens if you don't cooperate?)

We can argue about stem cell research itself, embryonic and otherwise, in another post or something.

Where's the UN on Iran?

Claudia Rosett asks a pointed question. Indeed. Where IS the UN on Iran?

Really, I'm beginning to see no real need for us -- or anybody -- to keep cozying up to the UN, stroking its ego, funding it various laughable "human rights conferences," and in any other way legitimizing and empowering it as some force of global diplomacy. When things actually matter, it's basically useless.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quirky Asia Files: The Source of Some Australian Crop Circles

This is an actual news story from BBC News. I swear I didn't make this up. Really!

Amusing Movie Review: the Entire Michael Bay Oeuvre

You may remember the BBC's movie critic Mark Kermode for his magnificent takedown of "Angels and Demons." Now he reviews, as he says, all of Michael Bay's work in 1 minute without the use of a single word. Oh, I'm not going to say that it is completely fair, but it is funny.

Movie Review Preview: the Cine-Sib On "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen"

The latest Michael Bay is currently being savagely ripped to bits even by Michael Bay fans, so I don't know what's going on.

The Cine-Sib went to see it at the midnight premiere on opening day, and these were his first responses:
Comment the First: "Two words: Constructicons Unite! And you thought they gonna be Megan Fox. LOL."

Comment the Second: "... cinematic junk food for the masses. It is highly recommended to disable one's higher cognitive functions as one enters the premises (i.e. check your brain in at the door)."
Overall, he seemed to think it was loud, silly, obnoxious fun despite its various flaws. I will attempt to extract a full review (or at least a haiku) from him soon.

I'm going to try and see the movie myself today or tomorrow at a matinee -- I'm not paying full price for this apparent scrap heap! (Please no shaky-cam, pleasenoshaky-cam!) For the record, I liked the first Transformers flick -- or at least I thought it was entertaining enough to watch once.

And if the flick turns out to be awful ... Could it possibly be any worse than sci-fi/fantasy disasters The Chronicles of Riddick, Constantine, Kull the Conqueror, Van Helsing, Elektra, the Star Wars prequels or -- to step outside specific genres to find the worst cinema bomb of any genre in the last 10 years -- Alexander? Nothing's THAT bad. All right, now I'm just inoculating myself against the rising suspicion that Transformers 2 is going to be terrible.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A History Lesson: Are We Repeating Japan's Economic Mistakes of the 1990s?

Are we heading for an American version of "the Lost Decade"? Reason argues that the policies of the Obama Administration are making this scenario more likely by repeating Japan's failed attempts to stem that recession. *Shudder.* For the record, I must sadly say that Obama -- however eloquent and polished an orator he is -- has now (to me, anyway, a self-confessed history nerd) established a depressing pattern of either not knowing history or of mangling it to suit whatever purpose he happens to have at the moment.

Back to the Japanese history lesson for our current American mess. Click here for the video. See also this and this.

You may remember that back in February 2009 I had posted about Japan's misguided government policies that brought about "the Lost Decade." Do read it.

For crying out loud, government. Cut taxes for everybody and stop spending already!

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: A Fan-Made Video for "Green Lantern"

Somewhere out there is a comic book and movie fan who (a) wonders what it would be like to see a great trailer for a "Green Lantern" movie, and who also (b) has some rather impressive video editing skills! Observe:

(Oh, La Parisienne, this one is especially for you and Captain Tightpants.)

Satire Alert: US Government Sells Gold Reserves for Cash

Oh, how I do love the Onionistas:

US To Trade Gold Reserves For Cash Through Cash4Gold.com

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nerd News: Colleges Strive to Ensure Intellectual Diversity

That's the headline, anyway. O RLY? Related post here.

Quirky Euro/Asia Files: A Little French Town and the Chinese Communist Party

Fascinating connection, though I would just as soon have strangled the CCP in its cradle, no matter where it happened to be.

Nerd Analysis: Fouad Ajami and Obama's Persian Tutorial

Professor Ajami has some interesting things to say.

Film Culture Commentary: Michael Bay

The Times of London has a bit about the famous moviemaker who is renowned for, as the article words it, "a brutal screen aesthetic of synapse-splitting mayhem" that has made him "one of the most commercially successful and yet critically reviled directors of the modern movie era."

For the record, the Cine-Sib and I love Bay movies (for the most part -- "Pearl Harbor" was more or less awful and rightfully lampooned by the "South Park" guys in "Team America: World Police"). Yes, we will go see "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." It will be silly, colorful, explosive summer popcorn fun. There's something simply fun and unfettered about Bay, and I really like that about him. He's the magic of a boy's childhood imagination turned loose on the big screen.

It is OK to enjoy the sight of gigantic space robots blowing things up! If I ever become too nerdy and snooty to appreciate a summer popcorn flick, then stage an intervention, please.

Note the "Michael Bay" tag. And remember this?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Quote of the Day: Obama's Response to Iran -- "Diplomatic In the Worst Sense"

This is from an editorial in the left-leaning Nation:
The president says he entertains "deep concerns about the election" in Iran. Well, who doesn't? Expressing concern is "nice," it's "diplomatic"--in the worst sense--but it is not sufficient to the circumstance...

By every measure, the US president's response has been less than that of other world leaders, especially French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has branded the announced election "result" a fraud and bluntly decried the government's clampdown on dissent "brutal," "totally disproportionate" and "extremely alarming."

Read the whole thing. Hmmm, are we all neocons now?

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: a Little Star Trek Parody

The Sibling always finds the most amusing silliness. Enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

China: Ghangzhou's New One-Dog-Only Policy

"One child only" and now "one dog only"? Behold a fresh round of heavy-handed statist dicta in China. Here's a poignant little blurb:
GUANGZHOU, China - Mrs. Chen can't imagine abandoning one of her two best friends: her scruffy terrier mutt and a white fluffy Pekingese mix with buggy eyes.

But that's what the government in this southern Chinese city wants the middle-aged housewife to do when a one-dog policy takes effect in Guangzhou.

Beginning July 1, each household can raise only one pooch. The regulation won't be grandfathered in, so families with two or more dogs will apparently have to decide which one gets to stay.

"It's a cruel regulation. These dogs are like family. How can you keep one and get rid of the others?" said Chen, who declined to give her full name because she feared the police would track her down and seize the dogs.
Poor Mrs. Chen. Notice too why she refused to give her full name to the journalist.

And hey, where's PETA in all this?

Friday Fun Video: A Dormitory Light Show From Poland

This post is dedicated to the tech-loving, car-loving, pop culture-obsessed Cinema-Mad Sibling.

Via Miss Cellania comes this great little YouTube video. Some imaginative students at Poland's Wroclawska University of Technology created a sound-and-light show using the lights of their dormitory and the theme song of a certain pop culture classic of a 1980s TV show starring a talking car...

Enjoy. Technophiles and geeks almost always pull off the best pranks.

Disgustingly, Oddly Cute: Japan's Baby Anteater

Via Ninme comes this footage of a baby anteater in a Japanese zoo. It's not traditionally cute, perhaps, but strangely endearing all the same!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nerd Notes: History's Most Famous Libraries

See the libraries that once made bibliophiles rejoice -- and, in some cases, still do.

Geek News: The 18-Foot-High Mech Suit

(This for the Cinema-Mad Sibling, who is on pins and needles waiting for the new "Transformers" flick to premiere.)

This news story will make any geek's heart skip a beat. In a nutshell: Life imitates manga. (Again.)

Quote of the Day: Meddling in Iran

The quote:
If we're going to be blamed for meddling in Iranian affairs, we might as well actually meddle!

Why would just speaking up undermine his strategy of talking? I mean, Iran continues to support operations that kill American soldiers and continues to support terrorists. Yet that doesn't make President Obama less likely to talk to Ahmadinejad. Why must we walk on egg shells to appease thugs like Ahmadinejad?
And if I may mangle the words of a famous American founder, "If this be meddling, then make the most of it!"

I have always found the extreme logical outcome of "realism" in international relations to be a convenient excuse for moral cowardice and the willingness to condemn other people to misery in the name of "stability."

MM in the Kitchen: "Supernatural Brownies" Disappoint

They're not bad brownies, really. But the disappointment comes from figuring out that in reality, despite the name, they had absolutely nothing to do with Jensen Ackles or Jared Padalecki.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Geek Fun: New Video Game -- "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

It's the perfect combination of weather, food, and video gaming. Be sure to watch the trailer at the link.

Oh, official website here. It looks like quirky, silly fun.

("Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" has no connection, alas, with the Weather Girls' famous song, "It's Raining Men.")

Quirky Asia Files: Japan's "Grass-Eating Men" Cause Social Concern


Quotes of the Day: Communist Oppression in China

The ladies speak out.

From the wife of a Chinese democracy and human rights activist:
“We, the Chinese human-rights activists, are like the Jews were in Nazi Germany. We can be arrested, jailed, killed at any moment at the Communist Party’s whim. Why the Western media, political leaders, and intellectuals do not support us more is a mystery to us. When we all disappear, you will ask yourself why you did not do more. But it will be too late then.”
From 86-year-old Chinese economics professor Feng Lanrui, who left the CCP after the Tiananmen massacre:
“We are like everybody else on earth ... We want the same democracy you have. We know perfectly well what a democracy is. We do not want a repressive regime in the name of so-called ‘Chinese characteristics.’”
READ THE WHOLE THING. Read it, and don't you dare tell me that democracy is not culturally compatible for Asians. That's multicultural garbage too often used to excuse Asian tyrannies and abandon Asian democrats. Read it, and don't you dare tell me that Communism is not one of the most horrifying evils ever perpetrated by human beings on their fellow man.

Clueless UN Nuclear Flunky Wakes Up, Says Iran Wants Nuclear Bomb Technology

Thanks a lot, Captain Obvious! *snort of derision*

Bonus: this story appeared in the New York Times.

Iran and Nerd News: 500+ Arrests, Including Students at Campus Clashes

The Guardian reports that Iran has arrested some 500 activists, reformers, journalists, and students as the post-election protests continue.

Here is a blurb about students specifically:
The detention of prominent people has added to multiple arrests of students at Iran's universities. An estimated 200 were arrested after clashes at Tehran University at the weekend, although many were later released. More than 100 were taken into custody on Monday after security forces fired tear gas at protesters at Shiraz University.
I add a personal opinion that the completely spineless non-response and seeming lack of interest from the Obama White House is a towering disgrace. State's bit with Twitter was good, but not enough.

One more thing: See this from CNN. The remark about Iranian students comes around the 0:50 mark.

Linguistic Lunacy: the "New York Times" and Its Vocabulary


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

British Airways Asks Staff to Work for Free

British Airways has asked its 40,000 staff to work without pay for up to a month as the ailing airline seeks to cut costs.

The group, which made a record £401 million loss in 2008 amid surging fuel prices and a collapse in premium-fare passengers, is seeking to reduce costs dramatically and has already offered staff unpaid leave or a reduction in hours.

Willie Walsh, BA’s chief executive, has now gone a step further by asking staff to volunteer for between one and four weeks of unpaid work in what he says is a “fight for survival.”

Mr Walsh, who said last week that he would work for free in July, has set a deadline of June 24 for employees to volunteer for unpaid work.
And this is legal in the UK?

Nerd Notes: Conservatism and the University Curriculum

Read this interesting article and this equally interesting follow-up.

My addition: the last thing we need to play identity politics here. I.e., NO to some strange "affirmative action for conservatives (or libertarians, since I am more libertarian as time goes on)" to find some Token Conservative to fill a diversity quota.

Quote of the Day: Leftism and Good Intentions

I wish I could have said it so pithily myself:

It is one thing to assume (at least, for the sake of argument) that a liberal like Obama desires what is good for America. It is another thing to assume that a liberal actually knows what is good for America, or that, knowing what is good, he will actually pursue the good competently and persistently. The history of liberalism disproves any such assumption.

We may give liberals credit for their good intentions – how else shall they pave the road to hell? — but we can never credit liberals with good sense.

If life has taught me anything, it's to be extremely wary of pie-eyed dreamers and messianically-minded do-gooders with good intentions and no common sense.

Furthermore, as a teacher, I've heard the "good intentions" argument from students more often than I care to remember -- usually in the form of "I tried, Miss Minerva, I really, really tried!" But in the end, all I grade are RESULTS. In my experience, the more a person cries about having and exercising "good intentions," the worse his or her actual results -- and, subsequently, actual grades. Sorry, folks, having good intentions does not absolve you of responsibility for failure either in the classroom or in real life. I guess I'm just horribly objective and merciless that way.

Quirky Euro Files: Cow Fighting in Switzerland

No, I didn't say "bull fighting." I said "cow fighting." And it is a completely different matter. (Be sure to take a look at the photo gallery.)

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: a Bit of 19th-Century Spanish Guitar

Yes, for once, the Cine-Sib recommends not something visual, but something musical. This piece is "Gran Vals," originally by 19th-century Spanish musician Francisco Tárrega, a legend on the guitar.

While you're listening to the piece, see if any part of it sounds . . . familiar somehow. Post your answer in Comments!

Oh, what the heck. If you want Spanish guitar with a bit more fire and a more modern twist, try listening to THIS. It's called "Siente Mi Amor" and it's the music for the closing credits of "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." It will knock your socks off. You won't believe who's singing it either. (Oh, all right: I confess: This is also an excuse to post a little bit of Antonio Banderas for the ladies. And guys? Don't complain: there's a bit of Salma Hayek for you!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quirky Asia Files: In Japan, Samurai Are Chick Magnets

Ah, Japan. What would I do without your quirky news stories to distract me from my academic research?

One question: Who didn't know that oh-so-masculine samurai are chick magnets?

Geek Fun + Kitchen Notes: Star Trek Cakes

Ooooh, I'd love to assimilate these delicious-looking desserts! Resistance is futile.

I'm especially fond of the Starfleet cupcakes...

MM in the Kitchen + Movie Fun: Puerco Pibil from "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"

I'm in a fun mood. The Sibling and I, with Il Barista, La Parisienne, and the Kamikaze Editor, had a food-filled reunion this past weekend, and on the agenda was an absolutely sinfully gluttonous visit to a fabulous Mexican restaurant.

I had the puerco pibil (also called cochinita pibil), and that was in honor of one of the Cine-Sib's favorite movies, Robert Rodriguez's quirky "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" (2003) -- which we watched again on DVD recently. (Great cast of Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, and Salma Hayek.)

Here's a recipe for puerco pibil. I intend to try making it sometime in the next few days. (I need to add something to my South-of-the-Border repertoire besides the now-famous salsa verde carnitas, after all. Oh, and since I am evil, I can't help bragging: Il Barista ordered carnitas at lunch, and he said he liked mine better. AWESOME!)

But here on the blog, it's really much more fun (a) to see the dish's appearance in the film and then (b) see writer/director/producer/overall cinema Renaissance man Robert Rodriguez's personal take on the dish (available on the DVD of the movie).

Bring on the puerco pibil! For your culinary and cinematic pleasure, I give you:

The clip from the film:

The Rodriguez recipe (caveat: he says a rather naughty word in the first few moments of the clip, but it's clean for the rest of it):

OK, I'm going to make this dish and hope nobody shoots me afterwards.

Netanyahu's Speech and the Issue of State Recognition

This is making news everywhere, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Israeli PM Netanyahu recently gave a major policy speech (full text here) in which he said he would accept a Palestinian state if it were demilitarized and if it recognized the state of Israel.

The opposition's responses to the speech have not been encouraging. Indeed, I am seeing plenty of responses reported saying that Netanyahu has ruined chances for peace by the content of his speech. See Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's quote: "Netanyahu's demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state is ruining the chance for peace . . . not Egypt, nor any other Arab country would support Netanyahu's approach." (And Egypt is one of the Arab nations at peace with Israel.) Meanwhile, there is some reporting that the Palestinian Authority suggested that the speech would trigger a new intifada.

I should point out that the mere fact that Netanyahu even said anything about accepting a Palestinian state is a huge move for him. It marks the first time in his entire career that he has accepted the idea. But he will receive no credit for this.

As always, I find it terribly ironic (and to mention woefully counterproductive) that there is so much overwhelming pressure on Israel to accept a Palestinian state but nowhere near as much pressure for the other parties to accept the state of Israel in return. I thought it was now the communis opinio and everybody's starting-point that a two-state solution is the way to go. Call me crazy, but to me a "two-state solution" entails each state accepting the existence of the other.

Quote of the Day: In the Wake of Iran's "Election"

Take a look:

The prevailing U.S. view, articulated by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry last week, is that the Iranians have a "right" to uranium enrichment. Will we continue to honor such a supposed right now? The hopes of many reasonable Americans has long been that it would be possible to establish a dialogue with Iran given the country's diversity of opinions and its cosmopolitan traditions. But when democracy is seemingly crushed or at the very least undermined, the government defines itself by the degree to which it does not reflect the views of its citizens. Since governments rather than general populations control nuclear programs, shouldn't the recent events give us reason to reconsider our recent drift toward acceptance of Iran's nuclear aspirations?

That's a rhetorical question. Of course it should. We should not acknowledge international "rights" of countries that deny fundamental rights to their people.

Also this:
In order to have an effective dialogue, the other party must have a certain measure of credibility. One must be able to trust that such a dialogue is being conducted in reasonably good faith, not just a far less promising "going through the motions" affair. If we have witnessed an unprecedented, bare-knuckled power grab overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, what does that tell us about his inclinations about meaningful compromise on the nuclear issue?

. . . I question the prudence of simply plowing ahead on engagement as if nothing has changed the potential state of play between Tehran and Washington.
Well, DUH!

Downsizing Detroit and Bulldozing Baltimore

Oh, my.

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: "Storm Warriors"

The Cine-Sib suggests the following trailer for "Storm Warriors." It looks good, and the cast is full of Hong Kong actors. A bit more info on the film here. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Photo of the Day: Fascinating Shapes for Human Communities

Do take a look! (Via Neatorama.) Thanks, Google Maps!

Nerd News + Quirky Asia Files: Taiwan's 96-Year-Old Grad Student

He's just finished his master's degree in philosophy. Take a look at "Grandpa Chao" in all his graduation glory. A bit more here.

The Taipei Times says that Chao is 98 and that he had retired in 1978.

In any case, congratulations, sir!

Quote of the Day: Mark Steyn on Nanny Government and the Infantilization of the Citizenry

The quote:
A society of children cannot survive, no matter how all-embracing the government nanny.
Read the whole thing. Also: Grow up, people.

(Look, I don't want my own parents -- or anybody else, for that matter -- telling me what to do, let alone the government. Step off, man.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

North Korea: Grooming the Next Kim for Power

Kim Jong-Il's son Kim Jong-un has a new name. He is now "Brilliant Comrade." You'll recall that Kim Jong-Il is "Dear Leader" and his father Kim Il-sung was "Great Leader." As every good little autocrat knows, a major prerequisite for power is the acquisition of an overblown propaganda-name fit for a cult of personality!

The Foreign Policy blogger who linked to the story has an interesting observation, though:
I can't help thinking that the progressive downgrading from "Great Leader" to "Dear Leader" to "Brilliant Comrade" could become problematic. What comes next? Decent Administrator? Qualified Manager? Righteous dude?

Geek Fun: How to Turn Your Kids into Trekkies

A link-gift from Objective Extrospection, this list of 10 tips is absolutely hilarious. Here is one example:
Tip #10: Talk like William Shatner: “Hey… kids. Time… to… take out the trash.” They’ll soon wonder who holds the patent on this eloquent way of speaking.
Oh, click on the link. MAKE IT SO.

Quirky Asia Files: Awesome Asian Airports

According to a new survey, Seoul, South Korea, has the world's best airport.

Out of the world's top 10 airports, 6 are in Asia! I give you the top 3:
  1. Seoul, South Korea
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Singapore
Number 4 and the first non-Asian hub on the list is Zurich, which is ranked the best in Europe.

The best North American airport, FYI, is Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas.

Congratulations to all the great airports! Now, for a little humor, I give your the Onion's fake Franz Kafka International Airport. (Its nearest real-life cousin is, I think, the horrendously awful London Heathrow -- from hell's heart I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee! Or not.)

Satire Alert: US Occupies GM, Establishes Secure "Green Zone"

Ever-prolific satirist Scrappleface strikes again!

I await the protests: "US out of GM!" Or even better: "No taxpayer dollars for failing companies!"

Signs of the Apocalypse: Bill Maher and the New York Times Criticize Obama?

It's a sign of the Apocalypse. Leftist comedian Bill Maher has written a piece in the Los Angeles Times criticizing Obamessiah. Even Maher's had enough of the ceaseless media coverage and Obama's apparent addiction to media attention. Really?

Here are a couple amusing blurbs:

Blurb the first:
President Obama should just join the cast of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" It's not that farfetched; he's been on everything else. I'm still a fan, but there's a fine line between being transparent and being overexposed. Every time you turn on the TV, there's Obama. He's getting a puppy! He's eating a cheeseburger with Joe Biden! He's taking the wife to Broadway and Paris -- this is the best season of "The Bachelor" yet!

Blurb the second:
I mean, selling the personal part to stay popular, I'm all for it, but you got us already. We like you, we really like you! You're skinny and in a hurry and in love with a nice lady. But so's Lindsay Lohan. And like Lohan, we see your name in the paper a lot, but we're kind of wondering when you're actually going to do something.

An even bigger sign of the Apocalypse -- Maher actually wrote the following:
Remember during the campaign when John McCain attacked Obama for acting like a celebrity and we all laughed at the grumpy old shellshocked fool? Well, it turns out he was right.
Oh, my!

Add to this another sign of the Apocalypse: Obama-loving New York Times (!) actually printed a piece complaining that Obama blames Bush too much. Well, whaddya know? Maybe I'm actually not a bitter, ignorant, right-wing nutjob racist hatemonger for making the same criticisms (well, among others).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quirky Euro Files: Corporate Advertisement-Propaganda-Agitprop from Russia

Via the Foreign Policy blog comes this indescribable video from Russian gas monopoly Gazprom. I don't even know what to say. You'll have to watch the insanity for yourself (yes, it has English subtitles):

The lyrics are crazy. I like the line "Don't try -- you'll never ever find a surer friend than Gazprom!" Oh, my.

Apparently the Gazprom corporate anthem is real. For a satirical song about Russian gas, see this (via Radio Free Europe).

Geek News: Top French Court Declares that Internet Access is a Basic Human Right

Oh, here we go.

I'm telling you, pretty soon everything (from health care to organic tofu-burgers) will be a basic human right except self-determination and individual liberties. Oops, did I say that out loud?

Anyway, blurb from the news:

France's highest court has inflicted an embarrassing blow to President Sarkozy by cutting the heart out of a law that was supposed to put France in the forefront of the fight against piracy on the internet.

The Constitutional Council declared access to the internet to be a basic human right, directly opposing the key points of Mr Sarkozy's law, passed in April, which created the first internet police agency in the democratic world.

The strongly-worded decision means that Mr Sarkozy's scheme has backfired and inadvertently boosted those who defend the free-for-all culture of the web.

100 Great Movie Lines in 200 Seconds

Via the Rhetorican comes this delightful video:

Quote of the Day: Insta-Prof on Government Spending

The Insta-Law Professor has this great observation:
Drunken sailors generally spend cash that they’ve already earned themselves, rather than running up debt to be paid by others. If our politicians started spending like drunken sailors, it would in fact represent a dramatic improvement.
Oh, my!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Video of the Day: Daniel Hannan on Gordon Brown, the Labour Party, and the EU Elections

The EU elections this past weekend yielded some interesting results. This little video by British member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan is a great bit of commentary.

It also wins the prize for "best use of a children's book in an EU political context" and "best use of movie references and ancient Greek theater terms in an assault on Gordon Brown." (You may recall that I previously posted Hannan's glorious excoriation of Brown and his miserable economic policies.)


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Quirky Euro Files: Baby Quail Catapulting in Spain

WHAT? This definitely qualifies as "weird with crazy on top."

Nerd News: Ahnuld Schwarzenegger Terminates California Schoolbooks?

Ninme links to this story from California. Oh, my.

Note too the witty headline that reuses the titles of one of Ahnuld's action flicks. Blurb from the story:

Californian schoolkids have been told to throw away their textbooks to help the state avoid bankruptcy.

But they won't need total recall: they're going digital instead.

The textbooks have been terminated by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilding state governor who says they are "outdated" and too expensive.

I'm of two minds on this one. The whole textbook publishing industry is a big racket -- especially on college campuses where students are regarded as cash cows -- but going full digital can be problematic. We need standards of accuracy. Goodness knows I already have enough goofy kids who think that if they read anything on the Internet, it must be true -- regardless of the source.

Amusing Video of the Day: Internet Culture + Italian Pop

The Eurovision madness may be over, but it's always a good time on MM Blog for Euro-pop!

This video accompanies the song "Parla Con Me" ("Talk With Me") by Italian musician Eros Ramazzotti. I find it rather catchy both in its tune and its images. Enjoy -- and you don't really need to know Italian to do so:

RELATED POST: the Social Media Blues musical.

Fiscal Conservatism in Europe?

Oh, please let this be true in the sense that somebody somewhere -- anybody anywhere -- realizes that ever-increasing, reckless government spending is not the answer. I'm so tired of shouting into the whirlwind here.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Nerd News: Write or Die!

I just received something fun in my inbox from gentle reader Pursuit of Serenity. It's a writing tool called "Write or Die" -- really! -- and it's supposed to "cure" procrastination. Here's the YouTube demonstration.

Will it help me write my nerd research papers? I am going to find out! I think I'll try out the "Kamikaze Mode"... BANZAI, dissertation!