Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stewart on Fox News Bias and Bloviation

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
For Fox Sake!

It would be pretty difficult for me to argue that this clip from The Daily Show isn't one of the smartest, funniest and most prescient clips from the show's recent history - or certainly its history regarding Fox. Once again The Daily Show is one of the most populist, intelligent programs, an "opinion" program easily surpassing more serious programs on other networks. Blah blah - watch it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

So I don't have to be self-righteous ALL the time...

This makes me laugh. So I'm posting it.

EA Rickrolls Yahtzee Croshaw

Fans of Yahtzee Croshaw (Zero Punctuation) may enjoy this story. The rest may move on.

Torture, hypocrisy and self-denial

Boingboing links to an awesome Science Daily article on the psychological effects of torture on onlookers:
The rationale behind torture is that pain will make the guilty confess, but a new study by researchers at Harvard University finds that the pain of torture can make even the innocent seem guilty.

Participants in the study met a woman suspected of cheating to win money. The woman was then "tortured" by having her hand immersed in ice water while study participants listened to the session over an intercom. She never confessed to anything, but the more she suffered during the torture, the guiltier she was perceived to be.

The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, was conducted by Kurt Gray, graduate student in psychology, and Daniel M. Wegner, professor of psychology, both in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.


"Our research suggests that torture may not uncover guilt so much as lead to its perception," says Gray. "It is as though people who know of the victim's pain must somehow convince themselves that it was a good idea -- and so come to believe that the person who was tortured deserved it."

Not all torture victims appear guilty, however. When participants in the study only listened to a recording of a previous torture session -- rather than taking part as witnesses of ongoing torture -- they saw the victim who expressed more pain as less guilty. Gray explains the different results as arising from different levels of complicity.

This study is essential, though of course it's merely an offshoot of what people who have any idea of human nature already suspect - people create the reality that is most comfortable to them. We demonize people we need to demonize, as the alternative is to confront ourselves for misbehavior, callous treatment or shortsightedness. The use of strong torture methods in dictatorial, brutal regimes, and even in justifying more recent U.S. mistakes were strongly tied to a belief in the infallible nature of the torturer to presume guilt or innocence.


What happens if net neutrality fails?

Reddit user quink offers this startling glimpse of what would likely happen should net neutrality fail. Click on the image to enlarge:

I love the little honest touches in this one - the way the company compartmentalizes the internet as if certain functions can be experienced separately, rather than thinking of the internet as a massive, interrelated organic unit as most of us do, or tries to rely on the ignorance of the consumer to sell stupid services they shouldn't need in the first place. A classic case of "break it, then fix it for a price."


Thursday, October 22, 2009

R.I.P. Hulu

Maybe the headline is a little dramatic, but it seems that Hulu's transition to a paid subscription model in 2010 is going to lead us back from the age of watching TV online into the glorious new well-charted realms of downloading TV online and then watching it. It's an extra step for most people, but it doesn't play the same blasted car ad again and again.

Hulu's advertising flexibility aside, for the record I feel Hulu will probably survive online as a subscription service - the video quality is nice enough and the speed speedy enough that I doubt everybody is going to abandon our old friend when it gets too big for its britches. Still, anybody who knows their way around a torrent pretty much has no excuse for paying for broadcast television shows that you can't even download (unless Hulu makes some significant changes). We'll see. Well, those of us who don't forget about the site entirely in six months will see.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Intellectual Property destroyed as shop worker allowed to sing in store without performance license, artists suffer

In an unfortunate turn of events, the PRS for Music society of the UK (not really like the RIAA as they're non-profit and aren't a trade group but still comparable in their attitude) has decided to let a supermarket worker off the hook for singing in the store where she works without a performance license, after initially (and rightly) threatening her with a fine.

The organization has done good work in the past according to Wikipedia:
In 2008 the PRS expanded their legal battle to require licensing to include 61 year old mechanic, Paul Wilson, who plays his radio when he works by himself, a bakery that plays a radio in a private room at the back of the shop, a woman who plays classical radio to calm her horses, and community centres that allow children to sing carols in public.
Shaking down schoolchildren and horses is a good start, and this group's shown a tireless dedication in the past to removing music videos from the internet, a step closer toward every good citizen's ultimate goal of making listening to new music little more than a theoretical possibility. Those of us who love the feeling of surprise upon listening to purchased records for the first time (bought at random according to the cover art the way God intended) need to work harder to remove music, and possibly other sounds as well, from the public arena.

Singing in a store may not seem the same as boarding a merchant ship and killing
its occupants, but it's the exact same thing. In fact, "piracy" doesn't even begin
to describe the effect on artists, producers and, most especially, our precious,
precious music industry executives. Stay informed. Stay Jesusamericafreedom.

In a flagrant disregard for the rights of artists, performers and our precious, precious music industry executives, the organization elected to send this unrepentant copyright criminal a bouquet of flowers and an apology rather than stand up for the rights of those who write music and then let others hear it only over their cold, dead bodies. How much is a performance license anyway? Shouldn't we all keep ours in our wallets? "I'm sorry - I can't sing with you. I didn't renew my I'm Walking on Sunshine license."

The village store where Mrs Burt works was contacted by the PRS earlier this year to warn them that a licence was needed to play a radio within earshot of customers.

When the shop owner decided to get rid of the radio as a result, Mrs Burt said she began singing as she worked.

. . .

"When I heard that the PRS said I would be prosecuted for not having a performance licence, I thought it was a joke and started laughing.

"I was then told I could be fined thousands of pounds. But I couldn't stop myself singing.

"They would need to put a plaster over my mouth to get me to stop, I can't help it."

Making her get rid of her radio, which is a device that pulls music from the air that everybody can listen to for free, was certainly a good start. But I don't think I need to inform you of the gravity of this situation. Here's hoping that the people who initially made the decision to threaten this woman remain in their positions and then create a climate where artists can have the freedom they need to create the works of art that enrich our lives in the palm-scanned, soundproofed single-occupancy rooms in which we're permitted to listen to them.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tidbits and Pictures

I'm not sure it's really possible to take a good photo of Nancy Pelosi, and Drudge certainly has no shortage of unflattering portrayals. Everybody make a Star Wars joke.

In other news, Sarah Palin is going on Oprah to promote her printy-book Going Rogue: An American Life. Get ready for the book to contain embarrassing selections and Palin to sputter in interviews before blaming her ghostwriter and finally swearing off liberal interviewers who insist on context.

Finally, Barbara Ehrenreich had a really good interview with Jon Stewart on the danger of "positive thinking" as a philosophy - view it here.

Senior Citizens comment on MGMT to hilarious effect

This is genius. Old people watching, and commenting on, one of the most effed up (and, I believe, subtle and evocative, albeit horrific) music videos in recent memory. One of the video's commentors noted the distance between the preceding generations and ours - most young people, raised on irony, symbolism and meta-meanings to things (after all, that kid is really scared) wouldn't bat an eye at this stuff. The sustained look of horror in that woman's eyes at 2:20 is priceless and unnerving.

I laughed harder than I think I have in weeks, though there's that odd idea hanging in the rafters - what if they're all right, and we're sick for producing and watching this stuff? After all, it's not really a matter of being old and out of touch; the folks in the video were literally raised on a different diet of conceptions.

(Oh, and yes - the "mom" is Joanna Newsom, supposedly doing a spot-on send-off of Britney Spears.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Morons With Signs

The glorious tradition of modern uninformed process: Morons With Signs. The dumb leading the dumber has never been funnier.

More evidence that Glenn Beck's show is an elaborate, brainy farce

This woman's lab coat says "Richard." (Jump to 7:40 or see the pic below.)

Is she a doctor? Did she kill Richard and supplant his role on the show? See this screenshot for a better, albeit grainy, look:

It wouldn't be fair to read too much into this unintentionally hilarious image, but we are dealing with the master of tenuous connections, so I think for humorous effect I'll interpret this is evidence of faux-libertarian treachery backed by ACORN, the RIAA, Hagar the Horrible and the bass player from Styx.

Next week on Glenn Beck: horses with human masks arguing against stem cell research.

EDIT: To really ride with this as a serious point would be as dumb as attacking Obama for ordering spicy mustard. Read the comments below for some more context - I don't like Mr. Beck but this isn't one of the foundations of my argument.

Source: I'm not saying Glenn Beck [planted] fake doctors in his panel, I'm just saying this woman's lab coat says her name is "Richard"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dealing With Stuff #2

The point of dealing with stuff is acceptance, not internal combat and turmoil. I think a message such as this can provide an incomparable amount of comfort and provide a beneficial push toward internal security. Some might call it Mad Pride - I call it healthy (in both senses) common sense.

(This video is an episode of the Maria Bamford Show. You need to check out Maria Bamford - she's a fantastic, very human comic, easily my favorite.)

Dealing With Stuff #1

This is a repeat, but I feel an important one. Words of the illustrious Ze Frank:

"This is how I feel today. This is my baseline.

That's a trick. I learned that from an actor. I had asked her how she grounded herself, how she got rid of anxiety before she walked on stage. She said that there were certain things that were very difficult to control, and that how she felt at that moment was one of them. For her it was less about getting rid of that anxiety - less about subtraction - and more about recalibration.

She would pause for a moment to take what seemed to be her emotional temperature - a pause to feel the anxiety, the excitement, the sadness, whatever it was that day. She would try to do this without judgment, without separating out the bad things from the good things with an eye to change them, but rather taking them at face value.

Instead, she would recalibrate. The total of what she found would become her normal, the new baseline from which she would experience the world. Certain emotions can feed on themselves. It's easy to become anxious about being anxious, become more depressed about being depressed. The goal of the recalibration was to normalize these feelings, to make them things that you didn't have to apologize to yourself for, or worse beat yourself up about.

I like this idea, this idea I stole from the actor. It's the idea that you're constantly in flux.

This is how I feel today. This is my baseline."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bring your neighborhood into unnerving context...

Well, this is creepy - check out a map of all recently-reported crimes in your (or any) neighborhood at You can sort by the distance from your home, type of crime and how recent it was reported. Bonus creepy points for using the site to view the addresses and photos of registered sex offenders in your area. Eerie!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Some Pretentious Thoughts on Hip-Hop

People that willfully overlook hip-hop culture and music are generally uninterested in the same things that they claim the music lacks - subtlety, wit, meticulous construction and originality. Hip-hop may be artificial in some superficial ways - its use of samples, unified, particular slang and occasional braggadocio step on some nerves - though at its best, rap's social awareness, attention to meter and lyricial attention is unparalleled. Rap's voice came almost by definition from the marginalized of society, acolytes of the music who usually arrived at their standing through their hard work and attention to detail - a fact which lent the genre a weight and honesty lacking in the overproduced music of the time of its inception.

Socially-conscious rappers are keenly aware of their flaws, unafraid to be gleefully silly or fatalistically repentant as the situation requires. Most rap incorporates both a reverence for the musical game and a recognition of the evils therein. As AZ said on Nas' "Illmatic":

"We were beginners in the hood as five percenters / But somethin must of got in us cause all of us turned to sinners."

But what the concerned parents and commercial establishment usually overlook is that rap can be some of the most relevant, genuinely artistic music available. Like much that is controversial or worth experiencing, rap flirts between commentary, irony and experimentation, often moving uncomfortably into new territory as soon as you think you have it pegged down. MC Dälek may have put it best in describing his group's jagged, unsettling sound:

"If you listen to what hip-hop has historically been, it was all about digging in different crates and finding different sounds, and finding different influences to create."

Yes, much of rap has lost its roots and turned into yet another arm of the corporate game, as dozens of samey videos straightforwardly extolling the party lifestyle seem to attest. Still, despite its occasional flaws rap still has a role in our society and its musical landscape. As with any genre, it's the consumer's job to poke and prod at different faces of the music rather than blindly discarding an entire genre to knee-jerk reasoning. As popular as rap remains, and as terrible as most of it is (rap's quality ratio is no different than any other genre), this seems important to remember.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Google Games

Google has a feature which automatically fills in search results based on the recent searches of Google users. This leads to some truly non-sequitur results:

First, some of the great questions of history. . .

Some of the political results are particularly odd:

And my apologies to Japanese girls but Google's three-for-three on this one:

1:14 of genius

Gotta love that recontextualization.