Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All Hail the Wikileaks

Because I have my finger to the pulse, I've had wikileaks bookmarked for several years now, but it's certainly been exploding lately. Up now, a giant leak of international diplomacy documents, most of which are pretty damning.

The article linked above hits some of the highlights, but most of them shouldn't be too surprising if you follow the news. You see, it turns out many world leaders may not do the things they say publicly but may (gasp!) do all sorts of shady things when they think no one's paying attention.

But even bigger than the leaks themselves are the reaction of the American press to them. While you could guess politicians wouldn't be too happy about them, as Glenn Greenwald points out, you might think the press would be interested in somebody doing their job for them. But that's not the case after all -- instead it seems most members of the mainstream press are incredulous that someone dare ever release information about our government. As Greenwald horrifyingly points out, when they finally received them, the New York Times -- you know the supposed investigative journalists who hold the government accountable -- made sure to run everything past the government (and censor what they were told to) before printing.

Because why would a free press ever run anything without government consent? That's just crazy! Man, it's a good thing we don't have censorship here, unlike all those scary countries without our beloved Freedoms™.

Oh, and don't forget to keep your eyes posted for more from those wikileaks rapscallions, as they've hinted they have a good deal of sensitive information on major banks and other financial institutions in the US...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goodyear? No, It Was The Worst

Legendary actor and comedic hero to every weird kid who sits in the back of the lunchroom quoting stupid movies to his two friends, Leslie Nielsen died this past weekend. Because all are probably familiar with his story of stone-faced serious actor completely cashing in on that image late in his career to become one of the funniest movie straight-men of all time, there's not really much I can add here that will be a revelation for anyone.

But as someone who, like countless others in my generation, had their comedic world view completely shaped by Nielsen's work in the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker parody movies, this is truly a tragic time. I don't think anyone will ever be better at rapid-fire zaniness or straight-laced delivery of absurdist dialogue like he was.

And while I'm tempted to just start listing every great line the man ever delivered (and Lord knows some people are heroically doing just that), I figure it's more appropriate to leave you with the one line that will be most indelibly connected to him for the length of time recorded film exists.

Yes, surely I'm speaking of:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pope Officially Says Condoms "Kinda OK"

In a huge reversal of previous doctrine, Pope Benedict the XVI (P Benz, to his friends) has officially announced that condoms are kinda ok, sometimes, in some very limited circumstances.

While he didn't go anywhere near saying it's ok to wear condoms in AIDS ravaged parts of the world or, say, as a realistic way to cut down on the number of abortions in the world (less unwanted pregnancies = less abortions, one might argue), but it's still a pretty big announcement. Previously the only way to prevent a pregnancy or STI in the eyes of the Catholic church was to either never have sex or pray about it and hope God smiles upon your request, so it's pretty big to have the Church officially acknowledge that just maybe the use of condoms might not only not cause the end of the world but may actually help some people out.

Coming on the heels of saying the Beatles ain't so bad, it looks like the Church is starting to catch up to the 1960s, which is something, I guess...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why We Stay

Outsiders often have a hard time understanding the Twin Cities appeal -- it gets really cold here and there has to be nothing to do because it's the Midwest and as such not constantly commented about on tv, right?

I see this a lot as a grad student, when every year we get a fresh batch of folks from all over who seem to question why they bothered to come all of this way and who dread not being in New York or California or wherever the fuck they're from that they can't shut the hell up about.

But nearly all of them become at least partial converts to the charms of the TC and even if they don't end up staying here, at least they recognize how awesome this place really is.

And if you yourself need to brush on understanding why you're here (or learning about why you're stupid for not being here), the City Pages has handily assembled 50 reason why living here rocks. From noted local celebs to the fact that the stodgy St. Paul/fun Mpls split makes us "like an awesome giant mullet," I think this pretty much captues the gist of why the Twin Cities is great...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In Case You Live On Mars...

...in a cave, with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, there's this really sweet new Girl Talk mixtape making the rounds of the interwebs.

Called "Illegal Art" because it's full of, well, illegal samples, it will thoroughly rock your ass off of your face. And if you've been waiting for that Fugazi/Beyonce/Beatie Boys mashup you've heard in your head all your life, then you're in luck. That not your cup of tea? How about the Simon and Garfunkel/Li'l Jon crossover?

Or really, if you like recorded music at all, you'll probably find something you like in there. Don't trust me? Well GT handily supplies a list of every song and artist sampled (in easy-to-use alphabetical order!)

Go download it before the inevitable mass lawsuit takes it down and makes it slightly more inconvenient to find a copy...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who's Crazier? A Fun Morning Quiz

Glenn Danzig and Glenn Beck -- one's the preeminent metal Satanist of our times, and one is the preeminent tinfoil hat nutjob of our time. Yet both are named Glenn and both are batshit crazy (yet still have pretty big followings despite how humorously over-the-top their stupidity is).

But can you tell the difference between something crazy said by Danzig and something crazy said by Beck? For example, which of the pair said "The Satanists in today’s world ... look rational, look open-minded. They’re tolerant."

That would actually be Beck. Check out the full quiz here. It reminds me a lot of a quiz I saw a long while back asking you to figure out if a quote was said by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or Osama Bin Laden.

In either case, it just goes to show you that crazy-ass extremists all over the world are pretty much the exact same thing, just with different boogeymen for us to hate and fear...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Guide to Grading

While I've long held that the best way to grade papers is just to give everyone a B and then when the 3 students who care about their grades complain to you, give them an A. Then everyone's happy, and it doesn't even look like grade inflation.

But somebody came up with an ever more clever way to go through all their grading. Check it out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

He Just Keeps Getting More Hilarious

Fresh off announcing that he's the Taylor Swift of presidents, the hilarity of Bush II just continues to give and give, much like the president himself refused to do (to anyone but major energy and defense companies).

In what can only be called one of the most apt metaphors for his entire presidency, it turns out Bush likely plagiarized multiple portions of his own biography.

Of the many sources he plagiarized, the funniest is that he apparently borrowed extensively from Bob Woodward's 2002 book that the White House widely denounced as being inaccurate. I've yet to hear comment from the Bush White House about this book, but I can only assume Ari Fleischer will soon be denouncing this book from sometime in 2004...

Friday, November 12, 2010

"I've Tried to Follow Everything in The Bible, Even The Parts That Contradict The Other Parts!"

Some smart ass atheist organization has put together this handy chart of every passage of the Bible that directly contradicts another passage.

It ranges on everything from the pretty inconsequential (what color were Jesus' robes?) to things that might make a bit more impact on all the talk of Biblical literalism that is plaguing our nation (e.g. "Does God love everyone?" and "Do Christians need to follow the laws of the old testament?").

Figuring out what the Bible actually says on important matters is actually really important, given how many Americans inexplicably think everything in the Bible is literal truth (criticize what you will about the Catholic church -- and there's plenty to criticize -- but at least we realize you're not supposed to take the thing literally).

And it's not just crazy people living in shacks writing anti-government manifestos who have this belief, but elected officials. Elected officials such as John Shimkus, who is seeking the chairmanship of the Congressional Energy Commission, who actually said that global climate change is not something to worry about because God promised He would never destroy the Earth again after the great flood. And no, that is sadly not an Onion headline, but an actual argument made by a man who may soon chair one of the most powerful committees in Congress.

Maybe Mr. Shimkus needs to take a good look at the chart below, and in the words of whomever posted this chart to the website I'm stealing it from: “So to anyone who thinks the Bible’s the last word on anything, remember this: It isn’t even the last word on itself. “

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baseball Nerditry

Over at The Week, there's an article utilizing the best in theoretical physics (fun!) to determine the longest home run theoretically possible under the constraints of time, space, and human ability.

Turns out it would 748 feet, but would have to be hit by a someone who's 6'8" and ~240 pounds with less than 10% body fat hitting a 111 mph fastball. Sounds simple enough.

But even beyond the fun of physics calculations, the article's got some general fun info about hitting. It's often been said the hardest thing to do in sports is hitting a round ball with a round bat, but when you consider the physics of it, it becomes even more impressive.

Some fun facts from the article include that the average pencil is about twice as big as the margin of error for hitting the sweet spot on the bat and that a 99 mph fastball gets to home plate literally faster than the blink of an eye (395 milliseconds to 400 for the blink).

Go read it, it's worth your 5 minutes...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

How Much Do You Pay in Taxes?

A recent Government Accountability Office report has found that 2/3rds of foreign companies and well over half of all US companies doing business in America paid no income taxes at all for at least one year for the period from 1998-2005. Only slightly fewer companies paid no income taxes for at least two years during the same period.

Of course, this is not because they didn't have any taxable income or because they were operating at a loss (they had well into the trillions of dollars of sales), but because they were able to use tax loopholes to shift expenses to off-shore tax shelters or use any other number of financial mumbo jumbo tricks to hide their taxable income.

Not to sound too dangerously radical, but if you or I skipped out on paying our income taxes for multiple years, we could probably expect a visit from the IRS, not to mention some stiff fines and probably a little jail time to boot. This, of course, despite the fact that your taxes, my taxes, and taxes of everyone you've ever met or known don't even add up to a fraction of what one of these companies would owe if they were scrupulous.

But if I've learned anything about capitalism, they get away with it because the people who runs these companies are smarter and worker harder than we do, and that's why we're stuck paying our taxes like suckers, and they're busy swimming in giant pools filled with gold coins and yelling at their butlers for not properly polishing their monocles...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

This Will Go Very Well

They're tearing down the Spectrum stadium in Philadelphia and have an interesting idea on how to get rid of all of the stuff inside of it -- for $25, you can get three hours inside to take away anything you can carry.

This includes seats, t.v.s, office furniture -- literally anything not bolted to the floor or wall.

Seeing as we seem to annually have a stomping death on the day after Thanksgiving sales (and in those you actually have to pay for the stuff you grab), I can only imagine that when it's a one-price free-for-all this will not go particularly smoothly...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Worst Moment of the Bush Presidency?

What would you guess it was?



Mission Accomplished?

That whole shredding the constitution thing?

Nope. According to W himself, it was the time Kanye West was mean to him on tv.

He has gone from being the Inspector Clouseau of presidents to the Taylor Swift of presidents in one hilarious interview...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Trans Basketball and Our Fucked Up Gender Relations

So Kye Allums, a member of the George Washington University Women's Basketball team, is transitioning to life as a man but will continue to play for the women's team. The story for most people seems to be "GWU is playing a transgender person on their team," which I'll admit, is an interesting story. And good on the folks at GWU for being apparently really cool with the whole thing.

But to me, the more interesting story is in NCAA by-laws (isn't that always where the action is at?). It turns out the NCAA not-too-surprisingly doesn't have a very well fleshed-out policy on transgender athletes. But the rules they do have tell us a lot about how the NCAA still views male and female athletes here in the enlightened 21st century.

It turns out female-to-male transitioning people can play for either men's or women's teams, but male-to-female transitioning people can only play for men's teams until they've undergone at least one full year of hormone therapy.

You know, because men are better than women at everything, so while a woman can make a feeble attempt to play a man's game, it's just unfair to all those little, fragile women to let a man play against them unless he's become thoroughly woman first...

Monday, November 01, 2010

What's Better Than Actually Being There?

While I heartily support the concept behind the March to Restore Sanity/Fear of this past weekend, I wasn't about to do something rash like fly halfway across the country just to be there. No, like any good American, I DVR-ed the telecast of it and have yet to bother actually watching it. That seems more in keeping with the spirit of the rally anyway.

But I am enjoying the steady stream of pictures of clever signs coming in. since I'm usually the jackass at a regular protest holding some sort of irony-steeped cynical sign, I really appreciate an entire rally full of them. See an immense slide show of some god ones (and some not very good ones) here.