January 31, 2010


So I finally saw Matteo Garrone's much-lauded film about a variety of people caught up in the world of the Camorra, and I have to say this is one of those cases where near-universal praise seems warranted. It's a great piece of work that paints very well just how broadly and deeply the world of organized crime touches so many otherwise disparite people.

Posted by armand at 10:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2010

The State of the Union 2010

As the president began speaking I switched from CBS to NBC - after 10 minutes of inane commentary from Bob Scheiffer and Jan Crawford I couldn't take any more.

It's 9:41 - still no mention of health care? Wtf?

I'm not sure I really get the math on his college tuition proposal.

All in all I'd say it was a strong speech - but the social scientist in me knows that it's not likely to make much of a difference to what goes on in DC.

Gov. McDonnell opens the Republican response with a joke that seems to imply entertainment/sports news is more important than debating public policy - that says so much about the Republican party of today. Oh and now he's praising the slave-holding Jefferson who thought the future of the country should be making us a farming nation. How can you doubt this guy's judgment on economic policy? And apparently government is bad - basically, "I've got mine - the rest of you can suck it."

Republcian policy proposals - they aren't long! Read our pamphlets or look on line for our pithy slogans. They'll solve all your health care problems.

Off-shore oil drilling is the bomb!

We love the troops even more than Democrats! We love war in Afghanistan! We hate law! Errr, we hate laws that apply to terrorist suspects. Scott Brown is the the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.

Innocent human life must be protected (unless it looks like it might be a terrorist?).

God god god god god god god.

Posted by armand at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Link Science

What, you mean those guidelines are more stupid than they sound?

Gentle giants need warm weather to survive.

Timmeh! Way to miss the message.

Send good vibes to fellow townie John Cole.

God hates shrimp. For good reason.

Reproductive coercion, yet another mechanism of control.

Too depressing? How about some kitchen hacks? No? Bizarre emergency room visit causes?

Posted by binky at 12:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 26, 2010

People Who Died

Jim Carroll was just one of the people who died in 2009.

This video was made by a friend of the blog, and his flying monkey assistants. Baltar's writing a review of the shows, with links to downloads of the live shows. More soon.

Posted by binky at 06:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2010

Additional Questions

Following up on armand...

...if the Supreme Court just said, essentially, that corporations/unions have as much free speech as individuals (and thus they can spend money to buy political adds) then either:

1. Like individuals, they are limited to spending $2000 per election per candidate OR

2. Since corporations/unions can spend unlimited funds, then individuals can as well.

Or am I misreading this: the individual limits apply to contributions to specific campaigns, where the recent decision just said that corporations/unions can spend money on political speech like an individual, and individuals can already spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech (either themselves or by funneling it through PACs/501c3s).

In any event, I assume the FEC needs to specifically spell out how they are going to interpret the ruling, given the rather important election coming up in ten months.

Posted by baltar at 08:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2010


2009 was a strong year for animated films. 9 had one of the best trailers of the year. Finally watched it this evening, and I can sum it up in one word - disappointing.

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Previewing the Grammys (Coming Up on the 31st)

I kind of love the conversation with two teens in the Album of the Year discussion.

Posted by armand at 07:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Just now I got a call from the WV Democratic Party asking if they could count on my support for a donation of $100 or more. I laughed and said "no way." Then the caller said, "I know times are tight right now, so perhaps we could count on you for fifty?" I said, "Well, maybe if I could count on Democrats in Congress not to roll over on health care." She didn't get that that was a "no."

Posted by binky at 12:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


How awesome is this?

The actress - who is known for her individual sense of style - will be the face of both the label's menswear and womenswear collections for its spring/summer 2010 campaign.

Posted by binky at 12:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 22, 2010

Arlen Specter: "Act Like a Lady"

If I was Joe Sestak I'd be putting together an ad right now, combining this with clips of Specter questioning of Anita Hill. You know, if Sestak still has any interest in winning the primary.

Posted by armand at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2010

Good Dog Too

Goodbye Beckham.

Posted by binky at 11:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Does Citizens United Square With Caperton?

To me, there'd seem to be some tension there.

Posted by armand at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats Have a 78 Seat Majorty in the US House

There aren't the votes, Speaker Pelosi? 39 Democrats would have to vote against the party to block passage of the Senate bill. You really can't put a whip organization in place that passes it while still letting 38 members vote no?

Posted by armand at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2010

Damn Democrats

...And I say this as a newly-minted one, too.

As of about 9:30PM, they seem to have lost Ted Kennedy's seat to a Republican. Perhaps Coakley will pull it out (she's behind by about 100,000 votes out of 1.5 million with 71% counted), but that looks unlikely.

Only...ONLY the Democratic party could lose Ted Kennedy's seat when it actually mattered (going from 60 supposed votes in the Senate to 59 means they can't break filibusters).

Of course, why you need 60 votes to pass legislation in the Senate is unknown to me; the Republicans aren't actually filibustering (you need 60 to end debate under regular rules, if the other side filibusters), and their are procedures to pass things with less than 60 votes (reconciliation, for example).

But I don't want to get sidetracked. The important point here: Democrats are idiots. Remember that, if nothing else.

UPDATE: And, in just a few minutes, we've gone to down by 100,000 votes out of 1.8 million (82%). The Democrats remain idiots. That's unchanged.

UPDATE AGAIN: Coakley has conceded. Does anyone know what Brown stands for? I'm assuming he's not a moderate Republican (those have been hunted to extinction), but I'm wondering how much of a wingnut/cruchy-nutball he is. Health care may be dead; Obama may not get anything whatsoever through the Senate until after the midterms (he hasn't gotten much from them up to this point in any event). The Dems remain idiots.

Posted by baltar at 09:24 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

RIP: Spenser

Robert B. Parker, creator of the Spenser series of detective fiction, died Monday at home.

I was a fan of the Spenser books; not literature (in the sense of what is considered high art), but very well written, sparse, funny, direct books. I don't know how many years I've been reading Parker, but it has to be something close to twenty (the last paperback I've got is "Pale Kings and Princes" which came out in 1989; everything more recent I've got in hardcover, which meant I started reading him around that time). I liked the sensibilities of Spenser; his goal wasn't to right all the wrongs in the world, but to right the wrongs within his own orbit. Don't change the whole world, but do what you can to make things right. That's not a bad philosophy for life. Of course, it was fiction, so Spenser always won; but the moral certainty that Spenser had that he was doing right was a clear line through all the books. It resonated with me more than with the other great modern mystery writers (Connolly, Leon, Camilleri, Rankin; there are others). Lest you think the books were moralistic, note that I got more laughs out of Spenser than most other writers. Even after all these years the first book (Godwolf Manuscript) is still an entertaining, funny read (and it was published in the mid 1970s, I think). I also liked how Parker's characters worked simple, local mysteries: who murdered the banker, the high-school kid, the software developer. Spenser never saved the country from terrorists, or stopped a rogue military unit from killing Congress, or any of the other outlandish plots the thriller writers come up with (which can be entertaining); all Parker's plots, in the end, were fairly simple and not headline-grabbing. That simplicity was also refreshing.

I never got so much into his other series (Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall), though they weren't bad. I got those from the library. It was Spenser, however, who was his first and best creation.I used to look forward, once a year, to getting a new Spenser novel and spending an evening reading. I'll miss that.

He died at his desk, so the stories say; given how prolific he was (3 books a year, recently), that seems somehow appropriate.

I'm not sure I believe in an afterlife or not, but I hope Parker is there. If he is, I'll bet he's writing. He never seemed to stop; I imagine he's still doing it, somewhere.

Posted by baltar at 05:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 18, 2010

Nurse Ratched and Bob Roberts

Daniel Drezner has a funny analysis of the Coakley versus Brown contest in Massachusetts.

Posted by armand at 05:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scott Horton's Article on the Gitmo "Suicides"

I'll be interested to see how much coverage this story gets. I'm guessing not much.

Posted by armand at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Golden Globes 2009 - The Fashion

The awards were largely a bore, and followed the money. Avatar, The Blind Side, Sherlock Holmes, Up, The Hangover (The Hangover?!?!?!?), if your film made a bundle and/or you showed up in a lot of magazines, you won.But of course the Globes are as much about the clothes, so whose did you like? I was a fan of Penelope Cruz, Zoe Saldana, Chloe Sevigny, Livia Giuggioli (Mrs. Colin Firth), and most of all, Emily Blunt.

Posted by armand at 08:42 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 17, 2010

The 2009 Supporting Actress Blogathon

One of my favorite things in the world of blogging is StinkyLulu's analysis and support of strong Supporting Actress performances. Today she is hosting her annual blogathon in which readers submit appreciations of various performances from the year just past. At the moment there are posts on 24 women (or sets of women) up, and I imagine there will be more posted before the end of the day. It's a reminder of movies and performances I know I need to see (like those in An Education, The Princess and the Frog, and A Single Man) and performances I loved (The Women of In The Loop). But it's also great in that it points out performances I'm unaware of and might want to check out (Kristin Chenoweth!?!) and in that it provides thoughtful appreciations for performances I probably didn't give enough credit to. In that vein, so far my favorite post is on Amber Heard. The Informers was not a good movie, but a good case can be made for her performance in it.

Posted by armand at 03:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Your Congressional Trivia of the Day

When Chris Dodd leaves office less than a year from now, there will be no more members in office who served on the US House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Posted by armand at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2010

Gov. Manchin and "Honey"

Well, at least he apologized. But to say something like that, and in a professional setting? Can't say I'm surprised though.

Posted by armand at 07:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2010

(In)Justice in the UAE

It remains a deeply troubling place. A prince is found not guilty on torture charges.

Sheikh Issa bin Zayed, brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the United Arab Emirates (and on of the world's worst sons), was acquitted yesterday of charges that he tortured an Afghan business associate on his ranch. A video leaked to ABC News shows Issa firing an automatic weapon around the man, stuffing sand in his mouth, sodomizing him with an electric cattle prod, lighting him on fire, and pouring salt on his bleeding wounds, but the court accepted his defense that he was drugged by his associates and was not aware of his actions.

While a raped British woman is brought up on charges.

In Dubai, a 23-year-old woman from London was assaulted by a waiter in a hotel toilet. She was celebrating her engagement with her boyfriend. The Muslim woman of Pakistani descent and her boyfriend went to the police and were themselves promptly arrested for "illegal drinking" and having sex outside of marriage. During the police interview, the woman admitted to sharing a hotel room with her 44-year-old fiancé and sharing a few drinks in celebration of their upcoming marriage. The couple is facing a six-year charge on the sex allegation alone.
Posted by armand at 01:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Briscoe v. Virginia

So the argument of over half the states as to why Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts needs to be overturned less than a year after it coming down is ... doing what's constitutional is too expensive? Well sure they have other arguments, but those were rejected last term. Last term's ruling was a 5-4 decision with Justice Scalia writing for a majority that included Justices Stevens, Thomas, Souter and Ginsberg. So whether it stands would seem to depend on Justice Sotomayor.

Posted by armand at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 11, 2010


I'm not sure why I'm disturbed by this, but I am.

Renting textbooks? It's just....wrong. I don't know why. It just is.

Posted by baltar at 08:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No, Duh.

The NYT notes that intel analysts are awash in data from the drones flying over Afghanistan and Iraq. Really? Whoda thunk it; more sensors equal more data; more data and the same number of analysts equals less analysis.

Of significantly more relevance is a report by the top military intel General in Afghanistan, essentially saying that the entire intel process is crap; we are concentrating intel assets on finding bad guys, not on understanding the people and the country (which should be a priority given our strategy in Afghanistan).

Note that the first problem (too much data) is actually an instance of the second (bad data); the drones are not being used to find out about the people of Afghanistan, but seem to be entirely used to find bad guys. This is what the General is complaining about.

Posted by baltar at 07:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2010

The Golden Ratio in Science News

Interesting: "Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB), in cooperation with colleagues from Oxford and Bristol Universities, as well as the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, have for the first time observed a nanoscale symmetry hidden in solid state matter. They have measured the signatures of a symmetry showing the same attributes as the golden ratio famous from art and architecture."

Posted by armand at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2010

The Best in Art Direction, 2009

The guild nominates its favorites in film and television. Given my tendency to respond to aesthetics perhaps it's not a surprise that every one of my favorite network shows other than Gossip Girl and Lost is among the latter nominees. As to the movies, the Oscars only nominates 5 films total, but the guild nominates 5 each in Period, Fantasy and Contemporary. From what I've seen I'd give it to Up in the Air for Contemporary, and my favorites in fantasy are Where the Wild Things Are and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Posted by armand at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Terrorist Attacks in the US Under Bush

Since the malignant narcissist who used to run New York can't recall any acts of terrorism on US soil under the George W. Bush administration (you'd think the man who was mayor of New York on 9/11 and who says little more than noun verb and 9/11 would remember that), let's make a list: 9/11, the attack on the El Al counter at LAX in 2002, the anthrax attacks, the attack on the Jewish center in Seattle in 2006, several attacks on health care clinics - what am I missing? Even if I'm not missing any, the mayor is wrong - but then it's not like this is the first time Giuliani's been a shameless, vicious, self-serving liar.

UPDATE: I suppose we can add UNC and the DC sniper to the list.

Posted by armand at 09:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2010

What Was the Sexiest Romance on TV?

That's your pop culture question of the morning (apropos of a little post on Buffy/Spike being sexier than Buffy/Angel). Any thoughts?

Posted by armand at 09:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 06, 2010

4 Races Reshuffled in 24 Hours

Ummm, wow. 4 big or just-became-big statewide races just moved around a lot. And unusually, though the changes were four major Democratic politicians dropping out of races, in all likelihood that probably helps the Democrats overall. In order of the Democrat dropping out:

Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry announced he will not seek to replace retiring Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Considering how unpopular she is, and how terribly he'd been polling I think this helps the Democrats - though that's contingent on who they can get to run instead of Cherry (and no, George Perles and Alma Wheeler Smith, both currently running, are not the answer the Democrats need).

Sen. Byron Dorgan's retirement moves a seat that was likely going to remain with the Democrats into the likely Republican column. Depends on who runs of course but generic Rs outpoll generic Ds in that state, and should he wish to run, the incumbent Republican governor is very popular.

Gov. Bill Ritter's retirement is good for the Democrats. Ritter's poll numbers were middling at best (accent on the at best), and there is a very strong bench of more popular Democrats in the state. I'd say that's one statehouse that just became more likely to stay in Democratic hands.

And Chris Dodd's retirement almost certainly strengthens the Democrats' hold on that Senate seat - especially since it seems Richard Blumenthal is going to run for he seat.

So overall that's one of the most endangered Democratic Senate seats probably becomes safe for them, one Democratic Senate seat is probably lost, one Democratic gubenatorial seat becomes a likelier hold, and now the Democrats at least have a fighting chance in Michigan - if they can get a better candidate to run.

Posted by armand at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 04, 2010

The Burj Khalifa

In the wake of Dubai's financial troubles and Abu Dhabi's bailout, the Maktoum's are renaming their most impressive landmark after the leader of the oil-rich emirate (and the UAE).

Posted by armand at 10:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Your Songs of 2009

Since none of us want to be at work today, here's a little diversion for anyone still reading the blog. Since there's a fair bit of diversity in our group when it comes to musical preferences (well, a fair bit for a small group), it might be interesting to know the following - what are your songs of 2009? And you can define that any way you'd like to define that (best ones, the ones that are in your head most often, the ones you think will stick with you, etc.). For me such a list would include La Roux's Bulletproof, MGMT's Kids (yes, I know it was a late '08 release, but if the Grammys can count it as '09, so can we), Lily Allen's The Fear, Black-Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling, Phoenix's 1901 (just because it's the only song in the universe in more ads than that song by The Temper Trap doesn't mean it's not a good song), and Lady Gaga's Bad Romance and Poker Face. Perhaps oddly given how much I listened to them at different parts of the year, no one song really stands out to me from the recent offerings by Passion Pit, Metric, and Britney Spears.

Posted by armand at 01:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Boise State Versus TCU

Why wait until Thursday night to watch the national championship? I'd say we call that championship game #2, as the first bowl-season battle of unbeatens is tonight in the Fiesta Bowl. Go Broncos!

Posted by armand at 09:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2010

Paranoid Park

After watching this 2007 Gus Van Sant film, shortly after seeing Up in the Air, I'm mostly thinking I really need to download some Elliott Smith. I'm also thinking really horrible things about Taylor Momsen, but that's not exactly new. This followed Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days, and in that tradition is a rather slow and dreamy wandering, in this case a look at the life of a teenage boy who is processing (or not) his involvement in a horrible event. I'd say that all of these films but Gerry work in one way or another. But while this effectively captures its protagonist and is rather prettily shot, it doesn't reach the heights of Elephant. Van Sant fans should like it a lot. But I can also see people kinding it dull and dreary. Of course if you are looking for laughs, this isn't the film for you. My other dvd of the holiday weekend, season 1 of Frisky Dingo, provided some of those.

Posted by armand at 11:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 02, 2010

Confirming Karzai's Cabinet Nominees

Or rather, not confirming them. That's what the parliament in Afghanistan chose to do to over two-thirds of the people put forward by President Karzai. However, the nominees most strongly backed by the United States were confirmed. The one woman put forward by Karzai was not.

Posted by armand at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack