Friday, March 30, 2007

Google-Mapping NY to Dublin

Ask Google Maps for driving directions from New York to Dublin, Ireland and they'll give them to you, including this step, "Swim across the Atlantic Ocean 3,462 mi." Weirdly, they instruct you to swim to France, drive the Chunnel to England, then take a ferry back to Ireland. Surely there's a more efficient totally impossible route?

Update: Dave sez, "Of course, you'd have to swim about 4.9mph for 29 continuous days to achieve this time. Considering that the worlds fastest swimming records (in a 50-meter race) are just over 5mph... your mileage may vary!"

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Toronto billboard hacked by, hackers

I was not aware that Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell were sparring. They probably aren't really sparring, but are pretending to dislike one another for the sake of free publicity. Nevertheless, some folks in Toronto have hacked a billboard with Trump's cartoonish mug on on to read, "Rosie, will you marry me?"

Fox's Coulter 2.0

Rachel Marsden, in images captured from "Red Eye."

Conserva-babe and star-in-the-making Rachel Marsden has an, um, colorful past. What was Fox thinking?

By Rebecca Traister

March 29, 2007 | "Maybe [Pakistani cricket fans] should focus less on cricket and a little more on hygiene," opined Rachel Marsden on a recent episode of Fox News' middle-of-the-night talk oddity "Red Eye." Marsden was adding her two cents to a discussion of murdered Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer, and seemed unaware that she had said anything offensive. But her co-hosts, Greg Gutfeld and Bill Schulz, looked appropriately aghast; Gutfeld was quick to assure viewers that "Red Eye," the Fox-for-frat-boys show he's been hosting with gross-out gusto since Feb. 6, did not endorse Marsden's views on Pakistani hygiene.

Her colleagues may have been momentarily tortured by Marsden's loose tongue, but whether they knew it or not, they had been sticking it to her just the night before, when they brought up the Duke rape case. Gutfeld had asked what should happen to the accuser if all charges are finally dropped, and Marsden had jumped in with unusual speed, pooh-poohing possible repercussions for the woman who claimed she was raped by members of the Duke University lacrosse team a year ago. "Charges are laid, charges are dropped," said Marsden. "It happens all the time. Unless she can get charged with mischief and they can prove she lied, then no, [she shouldn't be punished]. That's the process and the process works." But, argued Gutfeld, "Don't you think that being accused of rape is as bad as being raped? Those guys' lives were ruined!" Marsden bit back, "Let's give it 10 years and see if their lives were ruined."

It was all business as usual at "Red Eye," Fox's bawdy gabfest of a grab at a youthful audience, starring Gutfeld, comic foil Bill Schulz, and Marsden, a statuesque Canadian who dissects the news with as much Coulter-esque zeal as she can muster while rolling her eyes at her male counterparts. But in the Duke exchange, any viewer who knew anything about Marsden, whom Fox is clearly grooming for brand-name pundit stardom, might have felt a fleeting moment of sympathy for her. That's because the 31-year-old columnist is already well known in her native Canada as an oft-accused and once-admitted stalker who made questionable rape charges of her own 10 years ago, in a case that eventually cut short the career of a university president and changed the tenor of harassment cases all over Canada. In 1999, a professor at the same university went to the police with charges Marsden was stalking him, and in 2004 she pleaded guilty to criminally harassing a former Vancouver radio host.

Should executives at Fox News have hired Marsden as a nightly contributor to "Red Eye," on which panelists chew over topics like sexual harassment, without disclosing how her history might color her views? In their yen for young male viewers, and their desire for a righty riposte to "The Daily Show," is it possible they prized Marsden's looks so much that they believed no one else would ever get past them? Did they think they could groom her to be an incendiary attention-getting conserva-babe of Coulter-esque proportions, when getting that coveted attention would guarantee the revelation of her Fox-unfriendly past? Or perhaps it was her scandal-laced life that made her enough of a celebrity to secure her a nightly perch in the first place.

"Red Eye," designed to appeal to the demographic most likely to be found on a beer-soaked dormitory couch at 2 a.m., is chock full of fart gags and homoerotic innuendo. Into this Pabst-and-poop-joke cloud of testosterone, it's only natural that Fox would want to bring a woman. A fox, to put no finer point on it. Enter Marsden, who for several years has been featured as the "Canadian correspondent" on "The O'Reilly Factor," who formerly decorated her Web site with alluring photos of herself, and who was once named "Republican Babe of the Week" by, an honor previously bestowed on Florida chad-harpy Katherine Harris, Laura Ingraham and, of course, Ann Coulter.

She also writes a weekly column for the conservative Toronto Sun, in which she revels in the sort of juvenile ad hominems about liberals beloved by righty louts. In the most recent, Marsden, an avowed disbeliever in global warming, ripped apart Al Gore's testimony in front of Congress, proposing that in a cross-examinations, lawmakers put this to the former vice president: "Al Gore could really pollute a bathroom ... Just look at the guy. If someone doesn't take away his pork 'n' beans, he's bound to get another one of those 'gut feelings' and mistake his own greenhouse gas production for science!"

Marsden grew up in a suburb of Vancouver. Her father, Claude, was a high school teacher who in 2000 had his teaching license suspended after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student. Marsden, in the bio on her Web site, describes growing up listening to Canadian talk-radio bulldog Jack Webster. "Listening to these radio shows during visits to grandma's house ignited a lifelong passion," writes Marsden, adding, "Rachel finds it cute when liberals think they have an original argument. Chances are she heard it for the first time at the age of 7." Marsden also writes that as a "former national level competitive swimmer who still holds records in BC, [she] lives for challenges and thrives on competition."

It was swimming that led Marsden to meet Liam Donnelly at the Westminster Club where they both swam in 1990, when she was 15 and he 22. Three years later she enrolled to study biology at the famously progressive, Utopian Simon Fraser University, where Donnelly was swim coach. In 1995, she accused Donnelly, who was not her coach, of sexual harassment and date rape, claiming that he repeatedly molested her over the course of a 16-month friendship/relationship. Donnelly claimed he was innocent, and on the advice of a lawyer, boycotted the university's investigation into Marsden's claims.

In 1997, SFU fired Donnelly. The university agreed to pay Marsden $12,000 to compensate her for injury to her feelings and the academic scholarship she lost during the case. It was reported that they denied her request to be part of the hiring process for a new swim coach.

Donnelly fired back, alleging that it was Marsden who had done the harassing. He handed over photos of the scantily clad student that he claimed she had slipped under his door, and released an e-mail she had sent him after the date of the alleged molestation that read in part, "I suggest that you just relax and let me undress you, touch you ... If you want, you can undo the garter and take off my stockings, take off my lace bra and underwear, and let your hands explore my body wherever they want to."

According to Donnelly, Marsden had been stalking him for years, making multiple hang-up calls and showing up at his home. Donnelly claimed that this behavior had begun as early as 1992 but had worsened over time. He alleged that by 1995, someone he believed to be Marsden had vandalized his car, strewn condoms in his driveway, posted graffiti advertising his number as a phone-sex line in campus bathrooms, subscribed to Playboy in his name, and left phone messages for him with a voice-altering machine. Donnelly later told the press: "She was everywhere. She would turn up at events where I was working. She was phoning me all the time ... She admitted she bought a voice-altering machine. That was the one that scared me the most. It sounds like the devil."

Donnelly had lodged complaints with his local police departments about these occurrences in 1992, and again in 1995, when he named Marsden as the person he suspected was behind them. Sgt. Don Brown, the policeman who had investigated his claims in 1995, told the Vancouver Sun that Marsden was not charged at the time, because "there were lots of little bits and pieces, but some of it was hard to attribute to one person."

After Donnelly's firing and his subsequent allegations against Marsden, the fight got complicated and ugly. Women's rights activists supported Marsden throughout her case; it was a post-Clarence Thomas universe in which the fight to keep women safe and empowered in classrooms and workplaces was finally being taken seriously. Feminist lawyer Anita Braha argued on behalf of Marsden; so did Simon Fraser's progressive president, John Stubbs. Accusing a young harassment complainant of being a scorned, obsessive lover sounded like a low trick to sexualize and blame the victim. Even Donnelly tried to distance himself from the backlashy whiff of the controversy. "People have turned this case into one about campus harassment, the feminists versus the reactionaries," he said to the press at the time. "I see it as a case of stalking."

Marsden admitted to some of Donnelly's counter-charges, while refusing to back away from her rape claim. She held a press conference in which she said she was a virgin at the time of the rape; she asserted that she gave Donnelly the sexy photos of herself after he had picked them out of her modeling portfolio, and she played the tape of a male voice she said was Donnelly's saying, "Call me." She claimed to have sent the suggestive e-mails in "a desperate attempt to entice [Donnelly] into meeting with me so I could obtain accountability and an apology from him for the abuse, harassment and rape I suffered at his hands." She had also admitted to sending him the Playboy subscription, reportedly telling the SFU panel in 1996 that she did it "with the hope that he would be able to take out his sexual frustrations on the magazine instead of on real women."

Two months after his firing, Donnelly was rehired, exonerated by the university of all charges. According to the mediation agreement between SFU and Donnelly, the original findings of the harassment panel had been based on Marsden's credibility, which had been cast into doubt by "inconsistencies between her statements before the panel and her response to Mr. Donnelly's harassment complaint [against her]." The school paid Donnelly $35,000 in legal fees and expunged his record of harassment charges. Marsden also kept her $12,000, meaning that SFU paid out to both sides of the conflict. An examination into what went wrong with the university inquiry culminated in the eventual resignation of president Stubbs, who stayed on as a history professor at the university.

Simon Fraser's harassment policy coordinator Patricia O'Hagan, with whom Marsden became close during the university's investigation into her claims, also left her job in the wake of the scandal. O'Hagan later alleged that Marsden had harassed her, claiming to reporters that the student had called her more than 400 times, tracked her down after she'd changed her number, and signed letters, "love from your daughter who loves you a lot." Marsden responded in kind, claiming that she referred to O'Hagan as mother to "set boundaries" with the older woman, who she said had repeatedly hugged and kissed her. "I felt strange," Marsden told the press, "and wondered what her intentions were." O'Hagan's lawyers told the press she "vehemently denie[d]" that she had had "any type of physical relationship" with Marsden. Two days after O'Hagan's harassment claim, it was reported that Marsden showed up at a conference at which O'Hagan was the guest speaker.

The sordid saga wreaked havoc on the lives of Marsden, Donnelly, O'Hagan and Stubbs. But it also took a steep ideological toll on feminists.

The whole disaster read like an Oleanna-style wet dream of the right's most misogynist thinkers, who love nothing more than a woman-makes-it-up tale to underscore the often-unprovable nature of harassment and rape claims. This situation, like the Duke rape case, was a no-win for anyone. Had Marsden been telling the truth about Donnelly, the barrage of sexualized invective hurled her way might have deterred any sane harassment victim from coming forward in the future. The suggestion that she was not telling the truth fueled the fire of those who routinely claim that women love nothing more than to lie about being assaulted and violated. As it was, Donnelly never followed through with formal charges against Marsden; the case was dropped; neither her culpability as stalker nor his culpability as rapist was ever legally established. Perhaps this small mercy in her own experience led Marsden to comment about the Duke case that "the process works."

But for women's rights advocates, the process did not work. They supported Marsden in her purported hour of need, only to get kicked in the gut -- not simply at the time, but by her current professional persona, much of which is accessorized with snappy anti-feminist quips about how Hillary Clinton "fills out a cup better than Peyton Manning."

"Oh god, she is feminism's worst nightmare," said Neil Boyd, an SFU criminology professor who claimed that Marsden harassed him too. Boyd was a vocal critic of SFU's handling of the Donnelly case; his 2004 book "Big Sister: How Extreme Feminism Has Betrayed the Fight for Sexual Equality" was inspired in part by the case. "She used these people, who were only too willing to jump on her bandwagon," said Boyd. "I'm not sure that she ever really presented herself as a feminist as much as she took advantage of an openness to victimization that existed on the university campus at that time."

Boyd remembered Marsden as conservative, even as a student. She would later tell BC Report magazine, in an interview titled "The 'barracuda' speaks," that "radical feminists work at SFU, but I never felt comfortable being lumped together with them." But at a 1997 press conference she sounded like a woman who shared concerns with women's rights activists, when she proclaimed, "It is my fear that the media sensationalism will prevent other victims from coming forward. This would be the biggest injustice of all. If I could say a single thing to the other victims of harassment, it would be not to suffer in silence. It is only in coming forward and speaking out as a lone voice that one can really begin to heal and that we can ever hope to put an end to sexual harassment."

Marsden eventually returned to SFU as a student, telling the press that she had nowhere else to go and had been living in her car. University officials warned her to keep her distance from Donnelly, and remove reference to him from her Web site, or else get thrown out of student housing. It was around this time that criminologist Boyd, then 47, accused her of stalking him.

By phone, Boyd explained that as he had been a vocal critic of the school's handling of the Donnelly case, he was surprised when Marsden showed up to take one of his classes. The university denied his request to be exempt from teaching her, but agreed that he wouldn't have to evaluate her, since it might be a conflict of interest. Boyd said that partway through the semester, Marsden sent him an e-mail saying that it was going so well, she thought he should be able to grade her. When he refused, he claimed, she began phoning and e-mailing him frequently, asking him out, and "showing up after talks I gave in the community, or after classes, wherever I might be." But Boyd, who has a background in law, kept all her calls and e-mail messages. In 1999, Boyd took these records to the police, who reportedly warned Marsden to stay away from him. According to Boyd, she did.

Marsden was next charged with criminally harassing former Vancouver radio host Michael Morgan in 2002. According to the statement of facts in the case, Marsden and Morgan met in 2001; soon after, he called the police when Marsden sent a teddy bear and flowers to his home. Marsden was warned to stay away from Morgan. But according to court documents, contact resumed and the two began a consensual sexual relationship several months later. When Marsden traveled to the U.S. in 2002, Morgan began dating another woman. According to the court summary of events, this didn't go over well with Marsden, and she began calling and e-mailing him repeatedly, also contacting his new girlfriend, his sister, his son and his business partner, and waiting for him outside his apartment. Police investigated at Morgan's house, where they listened to several phone messages from Marsden described in court documents as "vindictive and threatening." Morgan turned over 38 e-mails sent by Marsden between Sept. 20 and Oct. 10, 2002. According to the court, Marsden also rigged Morgan's computer to send her blind copies of every e-mail he sent to anyone.

In May 2004, Marsden pleaded guilty to the criminal harassment charges. Judge J.W. Kitchen of the criminal division of the Provincial Court of British Columbia sentenced Marsden to conditional discharge and one year of probation. Having completed the year of probation, Marsden is now considered not to have a criminal record. Marsden reportedly told the judge, "I promise that I'll never be back before this court for the rest of my life -- you have my word on that."

Around the same time, it was widely reported that Marsden, who was trying to build a career in conservative politics, was forced to resign as an aide to MP Gurmant Grewal, after it was discovered that she had been working for him under the name "Elle Henderson." The press, which had been feasting on Marsden for seven years, also tore her apart for fudging her online résumé, on which she claimed to have assisted Connie Chung at ABC (ABC denied at the time that anyone by her name had ever been employed at the network) and that her writing had appeared in the National Post and MacLean's magazine (at the time, she had only had letters to the editor printed in either publication).

Marsden had been for some years writing conservative political commentary, publishing it at EtherZone, PoliticalUSA, GOPUSA and on her Web site, Rachel Marsden's Web Lounge, which had morphed from a sultry site for those who might want to book her for modeling, acting and commercial gigs, into a sultry archive of her news analysis and scanned images of notes to her from people like Ken Starr ("To Rachel, with all good wishes"), and links to more photos of her. (Marsden has since buttoned down her Web site considerably; she is now featured only in a shiny leather suit.) Marsden also began hosting a conservative talk show on CITR radio in Vancouver; guests included Coulter herself, Andrew Breitbart and G. Gordon Liddy.

In 2005, Marsden was hired as a columnist by the Toronto Sun. Senior associate editor Lorrie Goldstein said by phone that Marsden approached the paper. "We certainly knew the controversy surrounding her," he said. "We asked the questions about those controversies and we were satisfied with her answers and we are very happy with her. In the dealings I've had with her she's been a consummate professional."

Marsden's current editor, Rob Granatstein, who took over the paper's editorial pages in December, agrees. "We're delighted to have her because she has quite a voice, let me tell you!" he said.

He's right about that. In a recent column, describing how Vice President Cheney survived a bombing during a trip to Afghanistan, Marsden wrote, "For Dick Cheney, it must have felt just like any other day at the office: Folks who don't shave, don't bathe, and want him dead. Wow, feels just like back home!" She's called the speaker of the house "President Pelosivic," and has referred (rather poetically, all things considered) to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's serving up "a triple scoop of crazy, sprinkled with crazy, and topped off with warm crazy sauce."

"I think you'll see her for a while to come, as long as she keeps doing what she's doing," noted Granatstein, who two months ago moved her column to Sunday, the Sun's "biggest read of the week." Of course, doing what she's doing involves saying rude things about the cleanliness of foreigners (and liberals) and cashing in on what is her already eroticized reputation in her native country. For a woman who has been repeatedly ravaged by sex-scandal news cycles, Marsden has shown no hesitation about working her leonine good looks, online and now on television.

As Marsden explained on a Web page for Americanada, the communications company she briefly ran, "Your image is your calling card." Marsden's image surely couldn't have hurt her with Fox News. Right-leaning media has for some time been building an army of attractive fire-starters -- Coulter, Ingraham, Malkin -- whose public personae teeter compellingly on the edge of Crazy Town. The left has not yet produced a comparable army of sirens. Peter Worthington, founder of the Sun newspaper chain for which Marsden writes, described Marsden to the Western Standard almost romantically, as "good looking ... articulate ... but nine miles of bad road." It's surely precisely this kind of noirish notoriety that made Marsden, with her skimpy journalistic résumé, recognizable enough to secure a regular column in a big Canadian paper.

As Marsden once told a reporter about the impact of the Simon Fraser case, "Fifty percent of people want to sleep with me, and the other 50 percent want to kill me." That's a formula that should sound familiar to readers of Coulter's "Godless."

Granatstein said that he could see Marsden at Fox News. "I think she's perfect for them," he said. "She's opinionated, she's loud, she's fun. I really think that might work out beautifully for everybody." He pointed out that given the rigmarole of paperwork it takes to get a Canadian situated at an American network, "they must have really wanted her."

Given the speed with which she moved from O'Reilly contributor to a regular gig, it is clear that someone at Fox really wanted Marsden, and really liked what they got. "Red Eye" senior producer Shelly Stevenson explained by phone that she didn't make the initial call on hiring Marsden for the program, but as the executive on the show, is a big fan. "Political expertise is what she brings to the show," said Stevenson. And it's true that Marsden was recently called upon to explain a reference to the Gulf of Tonkin to her slack-jawed co-hosts. "She has very passionate opinions," continued Stevenson, "she's articulate, intelligent, and we get a lot of favorable mail about her; I think the viewers connect with her." Stevenson also raved about Marsden personally, calling her "lovely, a team player who can't do enough for the show. From the bottom of my heart I like her very much, and I respect her." Stevenson confirmed that it would be fair to say that Fox is grooming Marsden.

Stevenson said she was "aware" of Marsden's history in Canada, and added that "we make no story selection based on her past or anyone else's past. I don't think I've ever seen her be unfair about any type of story that might tread near those waters. I would expect her to be as even and fair as anyone else. I would expect no less of her." Stevenson felt no compulsion to disclose Marsden's past experiences with regard to sex harassment stories. "I would not ask anyone else to disclose her past," she said. "And I think she's not the only woman who has had to deal with this -- it's a big problem out there in the world and if anything it has probably given her sharper insights on issues of gender." Later, when Salon followed up by clarifying that Marsden's past included more than her initial claims of having been harassed, Stevenson replied via e-mail, "I do not know every detail of Rachel's history in Canada, however I feel people should always be given the benefit of the doubt. She has clearly distinguished herself in the ensuing years and is entitled to move ahead with her future and the contributions she can make."

Marsden did not speak for this story. After two attempts to steer me to Fox News publicists who repeatedly informed me that they had nothing to do with controlling her press coverage, since Marsden is technically a contributor, not a Fox News employee, Marsden stopped replying to my e-mails completely. For two weeks, I made many further requests to speak to her both directly and through the network, with no luck.

It may be that even if her public record helped gain her the profile she needed to land her perch in punditry, Marsden feels no need to further mine her past exploits for ink. But it's not a realistic option for her: One need look only at Marsden's Wikipedia page to find reference to the Simon Fraser case. Nexis her name, there are hundreds of stories.

And after all, it is one thing to have a private past in which you behaved badly or got into youthful scrapes. It's another thing altogether when your misadventures result in institutional upheaval and someone getting fired and rehired, and when the scrapes culminate in harassment charges well into your adulthood.

And it's another thing again, knowing that these shenanigans have been documented by the press and the courts, to pursue fame by becoming a conservative noisemaker. Fair enough to leave someone's past alone, if they want to be left alone. But when you make it clear that you are dying to be noticed and now make a living attacking the kinds of ideological groups and institutions that were once your defenders: Well, that's downright impossible to ignore. To use a term that is infelicitous and inflammatory and offensive for a host of reasons with which Rachel Marsden should be all too familiar: It almost seems as though she is asking for it.

And whatever prompted Fox's willingness, or eagerness, to take a chance on her -- for her brains, or her legs, or perhaps even for the scandalous coverage they knew perfectly well she would eventually generate -- speaks to the kind of shifts in political coverage that these post-Coulter years have brought.

From Canada, Boyd speculated, "America loves redemption. It all depends on the spin you put on it."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Basil's had a makeover

New name, new look. Very attractive, aren't I?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Egypt, here I come

Be gentle with me..

Alen Boksic

A few years ago, when the languid striker Alen Boksic was reputedly pulling in £63,000 a week for putting in the odd performance for Middlesbrough, a friend of mine would accurately predict the Croatian's availability for matches simply by taking a detour past his house on the way back from work.

While the club issued medical bulletins and talked of late fitness tests my mate would shake his head. "No go for Maine Road," he'd tell me on Tuesday evening. "Super Al's bins are already out." Refuse collection day was Friday. You don't put your bins out three days in advance unless you've gone on holiday.

During his time at the Riverside a story about Boksic circulated around Teesside. In a classic Armani suit-and bovver-boots combination, the ex- Juventus star found himself partnered up front by Noel Whelan. He was not impressed. And who can blame him? Whelan was a hard worker, a bustler, but he carried all the attacking threat of Tupperware. At one point during his Boro career he had scored more goals in his own net than he had in the opposition's. Boksic may have been so slothful he appeared to be teetering permanently on the cusp of hibernation, but he had standards.

According to the story, one Monday, after a particularly inept display by the former Leeds target man, Boksic went in to see the Boro secretary. "What does Whelan earn per week?" he demanded. The secretary told him. "And how long does he have left on his contract?" The secretary told him and the striker stalked out. The next day he returned, waving a cheque.

"This is the money Whelan will earn during the rest of his time here. Give it to him now," he commanded , "and tell him to fuck off ."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Woody Harrelson's dad dies in prison

No wonder he smokes a lot of pot..

DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- Actor Woody Harrelson's father, Charles Harrelson, died of a heart attack in the Supermax federal prison where he was serving two life sentences for the murder of a federal judge, officials said Wednesday.

Charles Harrelson, 69, was found unresponsive in his cell on the morning of March 15, said Felicia Ponce, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman in Washington.

Fremont County Coroner Dorothy Twellman said an autopsy showed Harrelson had severe coronary artery disease. She said he probably died in his sleep. "It appears it was very sudden."

Charles Harrelson was convicted of murder in the May 29, 1979, slaying of U.S. District Judge John Wood Jr. outside his San Antonio, Texas, home. Prosecutors said a drug dealer hired him to kill Wood because he did not want the judge to preside at his upcoming trial.

Charles Harrelson denied the killing, saying he was in Dallas, 270 miles away, at the time.

Wood, known as "Maximum John" for the sentences he gave in drug cases, was the first federal judge to be killed in the 20th century.

Charles Harrelson was transferred to Supermax, the highest-security federal prison, after attempting to break out of an Atlanta federal prison in 1995. Other inmates at Supermax, about 90 miles south of Denver, include Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bombing coconspirator Terry Nichols and Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.

His son got his start in acting as Woody the bartender on "Cheers" beginning in 1985 and went on to star in films including "Natural Born Killers," "White Men Can't Jump" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt."

Woody Harrelson's publicist did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

The actor was just 7 when his father was first sent to prison, for murdering a Texas businessman. He was in college when his father was convicted of the judge's assassination.

Suck UK Dot Com!

I love this site and I want everything they have to sell. My favorites are the razor mirror and the villain chair:) Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I Hate Clowns (Too Much Joy)

When I was a kid my dad had pictures of these clowns
He hung them on my wall and wouldn't let me take them down
I didn't understand then and I still can't figure out
What those goddamn clowns were so sad about

A clown was my boss at every job I ever had
Clowns run all the record companies that ever said we're bad
A clown pretended to be a girl who pretended to be my friend
Ths world is run by clowns who can't wait for it to end

I have yet to meet a kid not scared to death of clowns
They can't walk and they don't talk they've got painted on frowns
A clown with a gun I hope I never see
Would he shoot himself or shoot me?

A clown taught every class I took at my old high school
Clowns all wear Speedos when they hang out by the pool
Clowns dress up like cops and threaten to call my folks
This town is filled with clowns who don't get my jokes

They fall on their asses
It takes lots of practice
They fall on their asses
It takes lots of practice
They fall...they fall

I have nightmares filled with clowns and you're there too
You have a big red nose and stupid floppy shoes
You're becoming one I can see the signs
I hate clowns almost as much as I hate mimes

A clown was my boss at every job I ever had
Clowns run all the record companies that ever said we're bad
A clown pretended to be a girl who pretended to be my friend
Ths world is run by clowns who can't wait for it to end
Wait for it to end...wait for it to

Gitmo Cell

Amnesty International has constructed a highly realistic life size replica of the Guantanamo cell where Australian David Hicks has been languishing for five years. There is a Quicktime virtual reality panorama of it here. Thanks to my little bro for this one.

Goals Of The Month January 2007

Can American Jews unplug the Israel lobby?

As Bush's unbalanced Mideast policies careen from disaster to disaster, people who don't toe the AIPAC line are beginning to speak out.

March 20, 2007 | Last week, a familiar Washington ritual took place: Leading American politicians from both parties lined up at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to vie with each other over who could pledge the most undying fealty to Israel. As usual, much of Congress showed up, half of the members of the U.S. Senate and more than half of the House, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with Vice President Cheney.

It was a typical AIPAC parallel-universe extravaganza, marred only by partisan rifts that have begun to appear over Iraq. (Even some of the AIPAC crowd, who overwhelmingly supported the war at the outset, have begun to realize that it has been a disaster for both the United States and Israel.) Cheney got a standing ovation, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said via a video link that winning the war in Iraq was important for Israel, Nancy Pelosi was booed for criticizing the war, a fire-breathing Christian dispensationalist who believes that war on Iran will bring about the Rapture and the Second Coming was rapturously greeted, and Barack Obama took heat for having the audacity to mention the suffering of the Palestinians.

But AIPAC showed its true power and its continuing ability to steer American Mideast policy in a disastrous direction, when a group of conservative and pro-Israel Democrats succeeded in removing language from a military appropriations bill that requires Bush to get congressional approval before using military force against Iran.

The pro-Israel lobby's victory on the Iran bill is almost unbelievable. Even after the nation repudiated the Iraq war decisively in the 2006 midterms, even after it has become clear that the Bush administration's Middle East policy is severely unbalanced toward Israel and has damaged America's standing in the world, Congress still cannot bring itself to stand up to the AIPAC line.

The fact that AIPAC, which is ranked as the second-most powerful lobby in the country (trailing only AARP, but ahead of the NRA) virtually dictates U.S. policy in the Mideast has long been one of those surreal facts of Washington life that politicians discuss only when they get near retirement -- if then. In 2004, Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings had the bad taste to reveal this inconvenient truth when he said, "You can't have an Israel policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here." Michael Massing, who has done exemplary reporting on AIPAC for the New York Review of Books, quoted a congressional staffer as saying, "We can count on well over half the House -- 250 to 300 members -- to do reflexively whatever AIPAC wants." In unguarded moments, even top AIPAC figures have confirmed such claims. The New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg quoted Steven Rosen, AIPAC's former foreign-policy director who is now awaiting trial on charges of passing top-secret Pentagon information to Israel, as saying, "You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin."

Until 9/11 and the Iraq war, this state of affairs was of little concern to anyone except those passionately interested in the Middle East -- a small group that has never included more than a tiny minority of Americans, Jews or non-Jews. If the pro-Israel lobby wielded enormous power over America's Mideast policies, so what? America's Mideast policies were always reliably pro-Israel anyway, for a variety of reasons, including many that had nothing to do with lobbying by American Jews. And the stakes didn't seem that big.

But in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war, that all changed dramatically. 9/11, and the Bush administration's response to it, made it inescapably clear that America's Mideast policies affect everyone in the country: They are literally a matter of life and death. The Bush administration's neoconservative Mideast policy is essentially indistinguishable from AIPAC's. And so it is no longer possible to ignore it -- even though it is a notoriously touchy and divisive subject.

The touchiest aspect is the role played by pro-Israel neoconservatives in laying the groundwork for the Iraq war. Much of the media has been loath to go near this, for obvious and in some ways honorable reasons: It feels a little like "blame the Jews." But that taboo has faded as it has become clearer that "the Jews" are not the ones being blamed for helping pave the way to war, but a group of powerful neocons, some not all of them Jewish, who subscribe to the hard-right views of Israel's Likud Party. This group no more represents "Jews" than the Shining Path represents "the Peruvians."

Logic and forthrightness traditionally take a back seat to timorous self-censorship when it comes to discussing these matters. But in addition to the war debate, other watershed events have helped erode the taboo against discussing the power of the Israel lobby. The most important were the publications of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's "The Israel Lobby," and Jimmy Carter's "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." The overwrought reaction to Mearsheimer and Walt's piece, ironically, only supported its thesis, while the opprobrium heaped on Carter only succeeded in making it clear how little room there is for open discussion of these issues in America.

For all these reasons, a powerful spotlight has been turned on the pro-Israel lobby. And there are signs that increasing numbers of Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, are willing to openly question whether it is in America's national interest for AIPAC, whose positions are well to the right of those held by most American Jews, to wield such disproportionate power over America's Mideast policies.

As a group, American Jews continue to be staunchly liberal. A new poll shows that 77 percent of American Jews now think that the Iraq war was a mistake, compared with 52 percent of all Americans. (Jewish support for the war has collapsed: A poll taken a month before the war showed that 56 percent of Jews supported it, somewhat below the national average at that time.) Eighty-seven percent of Jews voted Democratic in 2006. And although data here is murkier, polls also show that most American Jews hold views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are to the left of AIPAC's.

What all this adds up to is that for liberal or moderate American Jews who don't support Bush's war in Iraq or his "war on terror" and who are willing to look at Israel warts and all, the fact that AIPAC has anointed itself as the de facto spokesmen for American Jews is becoming more and more unacceptable. And increasing numbers of them are beginning to speak out.

One of the most trenchant commentators is Philip Weiss, a regular contributor to the Nation. Weiss' blog, MondoWeiss, offers informed and passionate discussions of what he calls "delicate and controversial matters surrounding American Jewish identity and Israel." He routinely skewers attempts by mainstream Jewish organizations and pundits to lay down the law on what is acceptable discourse. This means being willing to look at off-limits subjects like "dual loyalty." When the American Jewish Committee, a powerful advocacy group that shares AIPAC'S line, issued a reactionary response to the Mearsheimer-Walt piece and the Carter book, accusing Jewish intellectuals who didn't toe the party line on Israel of being "self-haters," Weiss pointed out that the heavy-handed attempt had backfired -- instead of silencing dissenting voices, the AJC piece revealed for all to see the "anti-intellectual, vicious, omerta practices of the Jewish leadership."

Other widely read writers who have been outspoken on formerly taboo subjects include Matthew Yglesias of the American Prospect and Glenn Greenwald of Salon. Both Greenwald and Yglesias, for example, punctured a classic attempt by the Jewish establishment to smear Gen. Wesley Clark, who, saying that he feared that Bush might be preparing to attack Iran, added, "The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers." Clark was immediately -- and predictably -- accused of being anti-Semitic for referring to "the New York money people" and implying they wanted war with Iran. But as both Yglesias and Greenwald pointed out, everything Clark said was demonstrably true. Adding insult to injury, Greenwald proved it was true by citing such right-wing, pro-Israel media sources as the New York Sun and the New York Post.

Of course, a few blogs, articles and organizations do not necessarily a movement make -- certainly not one capable of standing up to a deep-pocketed powerhouse like AIPAC. But there are other signs that the hegemony of AIPAC and its ilk is weakening. Last year liberal Jewish groups like Americans for Peace Now, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Peace and the Israel Policy Forum succeeded in handing AIPAC a legislative defeat, persuading Congress to gut a harsh AIPAC-supported bill that would have cut off all aid to the Palestinian people. These groups still have only a fraction of AIPAC's clout and money. But as Gregory Levey noted in Salon, there has been talk of a new lobby, possibly bankrolled by billionaire George Soros, which would compete with AIPAC. If such a group comes into existence -- and it's much too soon to say that it will -- the entire playing field would be changed.

How long AIPAC will hold sway depends on how long it can convince politicians that it speaks for American Jews. It doesn't, but only American Jews can prove that. American politicians are not going to stop paying homage to AIPAC until there's an alternative -- and only Jews can provide it. Are liberal Jews really beginning to turn speak out against AIPAC? And if not, why not?

To try to get some answers, I called M.J. Rosenberg, the director of policy analysis for the Israel Policy Forum, a Washington-based liberal counterpart to AIPAC that advocates muscular U.S. support for a two-state solution in Palestine. Rosenberg worked for AIPAC between 1982 and 1986, leaving when he became disenchanted with the group's hard-line response to the Oslo peace process.

I asked Rosenberg how AIPAC has been able to maintain its power.

"Although they [AIPAC] don't represent anything like a majority of American Jews, they may represent a majority of those who are most interested in Israel," Rosenberg said. "American Jews who care about Israel and other things are more likely to be supporters of the IPF kind of approach. I think Jews who care only about Israel are closer to the AIPAC position. In our politics today, single-issue voters and donors tend to have clout out of all proportion to their numbers. That's nothing new. My father used to tell me that in the 1930s when you had any kind of a meeting of liberals, the Communists always prevailed because they were the most single-minded -- everybody else would go home. Things go to extremes. And that would apply to the right-to-life movement and the gun movement as well. We always claim we're the majority -- we are, but we have a soft majority. And they've got a hard minority."

Why weren't more American Jews with moderate views on the Middle East stepping forward to challenge AIPAC and its hawkish policies? I asked Rosenberg. Was it because they were afraid of being morally blackmailed -- facing the predictable accusations of being self-hating Jews, disloyal to Israel, collaborationist "kapos," and so on?

"I think the number of people in that group is relatively small," Rosenberg said. "I think the much larger number are people who are absolutely indifferent. And therefore they're not susceptible to moral blackmail because they will never hear what AIPAC or the IPF or any of the Israel organizations say. I don't know what percentage it is, but my guess is that no more than 40 percent of American Jews think about Israel in any way, shape or form. Most of them live their lives, like most people do. So we're fighting over people who think about it at all, and as I said the single-issue ones tend to be more with AIPAC for now. We're trying to get the rest. But I do think that as time goes on, with more and more young people, that moral blackmail thing doesn't work anymore."

Rosenberg said that long-term demographic trends were working against AIPAC and its fear tactics. The AIPAC leadership, which he described as a "true believer [on Israel] crowd with money," is "a much older crowd," he said. "Their children and grandchildren don't have those views. As we get further from World War II, it's harder to scare young people into support for Israel. They will support Israel if they believe in Israel and if Israel appeals to them. But those scare tactics, 'write checks because there's going to be another Holocaust' -- that's doesn't work with the under-60 crowd. The people who demonstrated against the Vietnam war in the '60s, they're just not going to buy into the 'Hitler is coming' stuff. They're just too smart for that. I've got kids in their 20s -- the idea of telling them that America could be a dangerous place for them? They would laugh in my face. That's ridiculous."

Rosenberg also pointed out that "Israel's popularity with American Jews has gone down since 1977, when Begin became prime minister. The way Israel was sold, the Leon Uris Israel, was the Israel of the kibbutz, this socialist paradise. And that's totally changed now. A lot of the glow is really gone, which makes me sad, because I'm very involved with Israel and I care a lot about Israel."

Rosenberg said that one of the best things American Jews can do to educate themselves about Israel is to read the Israeli press, which routinely prints pieces far more harshly critical of Israel than anything found in the American media. "If people who don't follow the situation closely started to read the Israeli press, started to read Haaretz, they'd realize how much debate there is there, and how many people feel terribly about what's happened to the Palestinians, and how many people are determined to break out of this situation," Rosenberg said. "And they'd realize that Israelis in general feel that the rhetoric of American Jewish organizations is about as outdated as the last century. It says nothing to Israelis. They laugh at that kind of rhetoric. If American Jews saw what the debate is like there, that would make Israel more popular. The more knowledge, the better. American Jews would see that the kind of liberal humanitarian views they have on issues here are perfectly legitimate in Israel, and perfectly common in Israel, even though in the mainstream American Jewish organizations they're considered off-center."

Rosenberg makes an interesting comparison vis a vis American Jews' evolving attitudes to Israel: "Look, 25 years ago you couldn't even talk about the Palestinians. I mean, Golda Meir said there was no such thing as a Palestinian. Now there's not a single major Jewish organization except the far-right outfits that doesn't give at least nominal support to the two-state solution. So it's moving. It's kind of like the civil rights movement in this country. It's not perfect, but you see the change. I would say that 90 percent of American Jews understand that there's going to be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. That's what most Israelis know is going to be the future. So that's something."

Liberal American Jews are in a difficult situation, with powerful and understandable emotional crosscurrents pulling them both ways. If they're liberal, antiwar, anti-Bush Democrats, willing to look critically at Israel, you'd think they might be willing to speak out against AIPAC. But why should they? Like most Americans, most Jews are probably sick of Israel's endless conflict with the Palestinians, don't know much about it, and aren't that interested in learning. Everyone knows that holding strong opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a surefire ticket to painful arguments - possibly within one's own family. Much easier just to let AIPAC be in charge of speaking for Jews on Israel and be done with it.

American Jews may not be as susceptible as they once were to the old fear-and-guilt approach, as Rosenberg suggests, but for many Israel remains something of an untouchable subject. They may not support it 100 percent, maybe not even 50 percent, but they're still not ready to do anything to undercut a group like AIPAC that does. For some, this is simply a reflection of a more or less ardent Zionism. For others, the reasons can be subtler. For Jews who have little attachment to their religion or their cultural traditions, supporting Israel -- which for many, unfortunately, means actively or passively supporting AIPAC's position on Israel -- may be a way of demonstrating that they haven't completely abandoned their heritage. The internalized second-class status of being in the diaspora, too, may play a role: "Who am I in New York City to say anything against a guy in the West Bank facing suicide bombers?" As Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent and my longtime Salon colleague Aluf Benn once told me, "For American Jews, Israel is a cause. We Israelis don't see it that way."

We find ourselves in a very strange situation. America's Mideast policies are in thrall to a powerful Washington lobby that is only able to hold power because it has not been challenged by the people it presumes to speak for. But if enough American Jews were to stand up and say "not in my name," they could have a decisive impact on America's disastrous Mideast policies.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Grace Kelly

Do I attract you?
Do I repulse you with my queasy smile?
Am I too dirty?
Am I too flirty?
Do I like what you like?

I could be wholesome
I could be loathsome
I guess Im a little bit shy
Why dont you like me?
Why dont you like me without making me try?

I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
Ive gone identity mad!

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why dont you like me?
Why dont you like me?
Why dont you walk out the door!

How can I help it
How can I help it
How can I help what you think?
Hello my baby
Hello my baby
Putting my life on the brink
Why dont yo like me
[ these lyrics found on ]
Why dont you like me
Why dont you like yourself?
Should I bend over?
Should I look older just to be put on the shelf?

I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
Ive gone identity mad!

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why dont you like me?
Why dont you like me?
Why dont you walk out the door!

Say what you want to satisfy yourself
But you only want what everybody else says you should want

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why dont you like me?
Why dont you like me?
Why dont you walk out the door!

I Like to Watch

The incomparable Heather Havrilesky tells us more of what's wrong (and very right) with TV today. She's one of the wittiest writers around and I can't wait to see her get bigger exposure.

Pin the tail on the whoring sea donkey! From "Pussycat Dolls" to "The Agency," a new generation of aspiring hoochies is mentored by their hoochie mama hens.

By Heather Havrilesky

March 18, 2007 | "I think the Pussycat Dolls have had a large influence on my generation, and that's why I think I've gravitated towards their music." -- Natascha, 19

Every so often, a cultural groundswell crashes down on us with a force so strong, it knocks us off our feet and grinds our faces into the sand. Whether Natascha is referring to the Pussycat Dolls' seminal hit "Don't Cha" (as in "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?") or to the inspirational message that the Pussycat Dolls have to share with aspiring hoochie mamas nationwide, one thing is for certain: A new generation of ladies has risen up to shake its collective ass in the face of mankind, and to take its God-given place on the drool-spattered strip-club stage of history.

Sure, we could point to the early precursors of this movement, the dadaist forefathers to their surreal rise to power: Madonna, wet T-shirt contests, "Dirty Dancing," "Baywatch," the neo-feminist insistence that dressing like a slut was a form of empowerment, the Spice Girls, Victoria's Secret, Maxim, the rise of high-end strip clubs, Hugh Hefner's kitschy but effective "Meet my five hot-slut girlfriends" publicity campaign, "Girls Gone Wild," Christina Aguilera's insistence on describing just how nasty she could be, Hooters, Britney Spears' transformation from winsome Lolita to "Slave 4 U"... The cultural precedents are countless, so countless that most of us can take at least part of the blame for the ass-shaking revolutionaries we created. Whether we purchased a Wonder Bra or proclaimed our right to wear short shorts to high school or hummed a few strains of Prince's "Dirty Mind" way back when, we were inadvertently sowing the seeds of a whole new generation of filthy 'ho flowers, little ladies who dress like Godless whores and talk like drunken sailors and swing their hips like wanton harlots, honeys who are not only dirty and shallow, but who proclaim their right to be dirty and shallow like they're engaged in a vital and important grass-roots struggle to safeguard the enduring freedoms of womankind henceforth.

Hell, maybe they are. All I can see are their bubble asses shaking in my face. And strangely enough, Generation Whoring Sea Donkey wouldn't have it any other way!

Sighs and dolls
Yes, yes, I know. Those nasty, filthy little sluts, who do they think they are, etc., etc. But isn't that the desired response for any generational uprising? When a generation stomps its 7-inch stiletto heel and says, "I'm here, damn it!" aren't we supposed to cringe and wince at the fact that their butt cheeks are falling out of their short shorts? When we avert our eyes but we still can't help noticing that their boobs are propped up so high that one of their nipples is showing, doesn't that mean, for them, that freedom is still on the march?

But, just to be clear, while we all sang along with dirty lyrics when we were 12 years old, these girls make Prince look like Bing Crosby. They don't dream of being Madonna or even Britney Spears, they dream of squatting on the floor of a shower stall for a photographer from Maxim. Wanting fame for fame's sake is perfectly fine to them, and Paris Hilton or Anna Nicole Smith or Nicole Richie aren't punch lines, and no amount of scary bootleg porn videos or crotch flashes or driving the wrong way down a freeway, high on Vicodin, can change that. When card-carrying whoring sea donkeys are interviewed, they don't talk about their love of acting or singing or dancing or fashion, they talk about turning men on -- as if that's a difficult thing to do!

Fascinating, isn't it? Even though men think about sex so much that a glimpse of a bare toe will make them go wild, even though it's not actually necessary for a girl to take off half of her clothes and get on all fours to get a man's attention, these little dears seem downright anxious to do just that!

But the women I find the most heroic and courageous are the hoochie-mama hens, the slightly older, Gen-X, whoring sea donkey mentors who believe wholeheartedly that they're instilling strength and confidence in their charges when they instruct them on how to bend over a pool table. Take Robin Antin, creator of the Pussycat Dolls and a central character in "Pussycat Dolls Presents: The Search for the Next Doll," (9 p.m. Tuesdays on CW), the latest television show to suggest that the whoring sea donkeys are storming the gates, ready to rape and pillage and take what's rightfully theirs -- namely, lots of skin-tight T-shirts that say "Daddy's Girl" on them in hot-pink glitter.

Now, as you may recall, the Pussycat Dolls started as a group of not-quite-famous L.A. hotties who wanted an excuse to wear sexy lingerie onstage, but didn't necessarily want to get naked, girls who wanted to, like, perform and stuff, but they couldn't, like, sing or anything. In order to avoid singing, they lip-synched, and in order to make the whole thing seem vaguely dignified, they called it burlesque, and they performed at super-classy venues like "The Viper Room" and "Caesar's Palace." (Yes, in L.A. and Vegas, such places are actually considered classy, just so you understand the particular species of sea donkey we're talking about here.)

Even if you don't find a whole generation of aspiring sea donkeys all that scary a concept, that doesn't change the fact that a handful of glorified strippers transformed, rather seamlessly, into a Grammy-nominated pop group, and now that pop group has its very own one-hour infomercial running on the CW.

But since you don't care about such terrible shows, you probably don't care to know that, in the second hour of aforementioned infomercial, Pussycat founder Antin (sister of "Blow Out's" weepy, temperamental hair stylist Jonathan Antin) takes the girls out to a bar where women in lingerie are posing in lighted boxes, boxes that are strategically located behind the bar so that men will gather around and end up spending way too much cash on drinks while drooling over the goods on display. Soon after the group has arrived, Antin points to the embellished mannequins and says, "One of the ways to understand what confidence is all about is [by] doing things like that."

At first, some of the girls gasp in horror. After all, generational repercussions aside, many of them actually have good singing voices or they're trained dancers or both, and perhaps they only know the Pussycat Dolls from their hit songs and remain unaware of their exalted-stripper roots. Would it really be appropriate to dance like common whores, providing cheap eye candy for the middle-aged horndogs boozing it up around the bar?

But then Antin and some of the more "confident" girls make it crystal clear that it's not only acceptable but positively cool to pose and pout for randy strangers, and suddenly all the girls are ooing and ahing over the microscopic push-up bras and metalic thongs waiting for them in the dressing room. Oh my gosh, this silver butt floss has my name on it and everything!, they gush to each other, feeling very honored and special, and everyone happily climbs into the lighted boxes and then, afterwards, takes turns marveling at how much dignity and self-esteem this girl or that girl demonstrated when she kicked up her long legs or straddled the little chair or got on all fours and made porno faces.

But look, let's not jump to conclusions. Maybe these girls are just exercising their power by strutting their stuff. Maybe some of them are post-feminist scholars and they're subverting the dominant paradigm of objectification by taking ownership of the terms and symbols of the whore and repurposing those terms and symbols in deeply empowering ways... you know, like by imitating the storefront prostitutes of Amsterdam.

Even so, it's hard not to want to grab a big coat and cover up those mostly nude teenagers and take them out to a diner and buy them a nice, hot reuben and some chicken soup and explain to them that, even when you're "confident" or you're subverting the dominant paradigm, even when you're talented and extremely nice and you can do whatever you want and who cares what anyone thinks anyway, it's still not ultimately great for your self-respect to wear butt floss and make porno faces in public.

But I know you don't want to think about this awful show, so you especially don't even want to hear about the part where the sea donkeys' mentors and tutors draw very fine lines between what's acceptable and what's not acceptable in the sea donkey world. Take choreographer Mikey Minden, who shouts at one girl while she's dancing, "Don't be cheesy! Don't be cheesy! Don't bob your head like that!" as if it's possible to put on ass pants and sing a reimagineered, vastly inferior version of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" without being cheesy.

Using the appropriated terms of his fellow mentors, Minden explains to the camera, "Brittany is a really confident girl, but unfortunately her confidence makes her dance like a Stripperella!"

Brittany, in turn, explains her well-considered approach to the Pussycat mystique: "You know, I'm a confident dancer, I've been a go-go dancer, and if that style looks trashy or stripper-like to Mikey then ... whatever." There it is: Whatever! The whoring sea donkey's call to arms!

You and the sea donkeys have something in common, then, since you say "Whatever!" to such apocalyptic bits of TV programming, and therefore aren't in the slightest bit interested in hearing that half of the girls get some kind of a virus or terrible stomach flu before their first big audition, so that they're all lying around on the ground next to the stage with IVs going into their arms and Antin is telling them that sickness better not stop them from performing since the actual Pussycat Dolls have to perform sick all the time. And since you'd rather not know how sadistic and strange that scene was, you probably don't want to know that the Irish Times Weekly reported that a panel discussion at South by Southwest revealed that the Dolls are actually paid employees of their label and don't have any say in what they do or how they do it, like normal artists might.

Despite the starry-eyed teenagers lining up to be the skankiest showgirls of all, there's almost nothing normal or artistic about the Pussycat Dolls -- which is why they're so obviously destined to rule the known universe.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Amnesty International Ads for Gitmo Prisoners

Here is a series of ads from Amnesty International (in Spanish) asking why prolific American serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Pee Wee Gaskins received due process, but Guantánamo detainees have not. All three ads are made to look as if they were written in blood. This one reads:

"Ted Bundy was accused of torturing, raping, and assassinating at least 100 women, including a girl. He went through 3 trials and countless appeals before his case was resolved. He had due process of law. Why does a Guantánamo prisoner not get the same?"

Home Depot thinks 'Lorem Ipsum' is Spanish

Consumerist Flickr Pool member brylyn says, "Saw this while shopping for ceiling lights in Home Depot."

For those of you not familiar with 'lorem ipsum' it's commonly used placeholder text dating from the 1500's. The text was created by scrambling words from a passage of "de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Bush Does Brazil

Popular fella, this Bush guy..

It bothers me when I can't figure out people's damage. It's because I firmly believe everyone has some and, while I know it's a very cynical outlook, I don't feel comfortable until I get an inkling of what it is.

What I do with it then, is sort of empathize with it. It allows me to relax about my own shortcomings. And while it's true that a certain amount of knowledge about someone lends you power over them, I'm not the type to overtly exploit that.

I have enough problems keeping my own life on track, without looking at everyone else's. I really believe that life is a series of one-person races. I know competition exists, but I largely eschew it's principles. In fact, I hate it. I don't like to get beaten by someone (at anything) and I don't like beating people (at anything). I enjoy the game, the interaction, the camaraderie, the battle of brawn and wits...but not the victory or underlying gloating. I really, really hate.

I don't know why I'm writing about all this. My original point was that nobody has their shit together, especially me. That said, I need to do a better job of directing my life towards a more productive place. I'm simply not a kid anymore.

And guess what? I hate that too.

Grace Kelly (Mika)

This song could easily be in a John Cameron Mitchell film, but it's fun and he does remind me of Freddie Mercury...the subtext to all that is that it's a wee bit gay, and like any self-respecting straight man, I'm mildly perturbed by my attraction to it.

I should relax...I mean, it's not a penis, is it?

Anyways, he's going to be huge (not like a penis) and with songs like this, it's not that difficult to work out why.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The girl who's hair was too big for her mugshot

Anna Clifford was busted for drunk driving in Mephis, Tennessee. I dig her 18-inch mohawk. From the Daily Mail:

Police spokesman Sergeant Vince Higgins said: "We have to take the mugshot picture as the person looks at the time of the arrest, so we needed to make sure we got all her hair in.

"When we pulled her over she had been driving with her sunroof open to allow room for her hair. I don’t know what she'd do if it rained."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sabotage - Beastie Boys

One of the best videos of all time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

1999 Man United V Bayern Munich Champions League Final

Still brings tears to my eyes..

Monday, March 12, 2007

Free Kareem

Here's his story and it's saddening and maddening. Please go to this website and donate money. Be it because you lament the loss of democracy and human rights in Egypt or simply feel for the injustice meted out against a brave, vocal young man, your feelings only carry weight if they translate into actions. And your donation will help do that. Click here or on the picture above to be redirected to his site.

Amy Winehouse -You Know I'm No Good

Best song of 2007. She is absolutely fantastic and I can't wait for her album to come out...tomorrow! Listen to this and if it doesn't haunt your soul...well, then you don't have one. Absolutely amazing song.

'A Jungle Recipe, Fit for a King!'

An eBay auction for a 45-year-old can of Hobo Soup recently ended. If you weren't the lucky winner, don't despair. You can still buy it -- 24 cans will cost you $50.

Hobo Soup was "born" in the restless, creative mind of Lem Kaercher, a small-town newspaper publisher from Ortonville, Minn. In 1953 Lem went into the "jungles" of Ortonville in search of a feature story on Mr. Hobo, long an American legend. At the conclusion of his visit, Lem was treated with some old-fashioned original homemade Hobo Soup. A hobo himself as a young man, Lem felt the world should share in this fine cuisine. For years, a proper canner was sought, and finally in 1960, Lem and son, Jim, finally saw a dream come true... Hobo Soup on the grocer's shelf -- "A Jungle Recipe, Fit For A King!"

Ingredients: water, beans, dehydrated potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, celery, dehydtrated onions, bacon, turnips, salt, butter, modified food starch, tomato paste, dehydrated peppers, m.s.g., monosodium glutamate, flavorings, sugar, smoke flavoring, spices.

This Is The Last Time

This is the last time
That I will say these words
I remember the first time
The first of many lies
Sweep it into the corner
Or hide it under the bed
Say these things they go away
But they never do
Something I wasn't sure of
But I was in the middle of
Something I forget now
But I've seen too little of

The last time
You fall on me for anything you like
Your one last line
You fall on me for anything you like
And years make everything alright
You fall on me for anything you like
And I no I don't mind

This is the last time
That I will show my face
One last tender lie
And then I'm out of this place
So tread it into the carpet
Or hide it under the stairs
Say that some things never die
Well I tried and I tried

Something I wasn't sure of
But I was in the middle of
Something I forget now
But I've seen too little of

The last time
You fall on me for anything you like
Your one last line
You fall on me for anything you like
And years make everything alright
You fall on me for anything you like
And I no I don't mind

The last time
You fall on me for anything you like
Your one last line
You fall on me for anything you like
And years make everything alright
You fall on me for anything you like
And I know I don't mind

Saffron Burrows and Fiona Shaw

I can't believe Saffron Burrows is in a relationship with Dame Fiona Shaw (of Harry Potter fame). It's well documented that Saffron is bisexual...but it bothers me that ugly women are scoring hotter babes than I will ever have!

Hossam "Ghastly" Scores against Chelsea!

Developers dig pit around man's house

A man in China refused to sell his house to project developers, and so the developers dug a deep pit around the man's house.

The Chongqing Zhengsheng Real Estate Company wants to turn the area into a £40m 'Broadway' square, including apartments and a shopping mall.

But the owner of the villa says he won't move out unless the company pays his price -- the equivalent of £1.3 million.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Click on this picture, Fido!

Ravages of War

One of the most iconic images of the Iraq war was taken by Nina Berman in a commercial portrait studio in small-town Illinois. You've probably seen the photograph. A young couple stands side by side facing the camera. There are all the usual accouterments: the frosted, school-photo backdrop, the red bouquet precisely matched to the red trim on the bride's white gown. The groom wears a decorated dress uniform. It could be any couple in any town -- except that the groom's features have literally been melted off. He has no nose, no chin, no ears and no hair. His head appears to attach directly to his shoulders, and his face is so badly burned that it's a struggle to decipher his expression.

The bride's expression is equally opaque. Some people think she looks stunned. Others describe her expression as anxious, or even fearful. Her mouth turns down slightly at the edges, but her wide brown eyes gaze straight ahead and something about the set of her jaw suggests resolve. Some viewers strenuously deny that there's anything unusual about the young woman's countenance at all.

The portrait is just one of a much larger series Berman shot on assignment for People magazine showing Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel's recovery, homecoming and wedding day. Berman was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas to meet Ty, and his fiancée, Renee Kline. At the time, Ty was 24 and Renee wasn't quite 21. The two had been high school sweethearts and were engaged before Ty's second tour in Iraq. But in 2004, Ty's tour was cut short when a suicide bomber blew up near his truck during a routine patrol. The searing heat melted most of the skin off Ty's body and left him blind in one eye. His skull was so badly shattered that doctors had to replace it with plastic. Ty was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he underwent 19 surgeries. Berman completed the series over the course of three separate visits, first chronicling Ty's convalescence, and then, following his release, the couple's marriage in late 2006.

Four weeks ago, Berman's wedding portrait, "Wounded U.S. Marine Returns Home From Iraq to Marry," won the World Press Photo competition for portraiture in 2006. The World Press Photo competition is the most prestigious international award for photojournalism. Since then, the image has been viewed online hundreds of thousands of times, sparked countless blog posts and endless comment threads. Everyone sees something different.

Salon reached Nina Berman by phone to talk about the story behind her haunting image.

Can you describe the circumstances under which the prizewinning photo was taken?

It was their wedding day. Before they went to the high school where they were married, they went to a commercial portrait studio. I normally don't find those commercial studio pictures very interesting. They seem fake. People just put on a happy face. But then I thought, this is a different wedding picture, isn't it? So I kind of stepped back. I thought, it's the same as having someone with their body blasted off in a high school yearbook.

Rituals like this, young people getting married, if this doesn't say that this war is having an impact, I don't know what does. It just cries out to people -- hey, this war is real. There's a very palpable reality to this war in certain communities. It's right there, not in the cities or on the coasts. Most people in the media and the cultural elite don't know anyone in the military. My whole goal is to say, hey, this war is not some kind of abstract thing.

How would you describe the photo?

It's a very static picture. It's a moment stopped in time. That picture said to me that this was a moment of reflection and quiet. A break from the wedding day craziness.

In the portrait, Renee has a kind of haunted or overwhelmed look. And she seems to have that same haunted expression in several of the photos in the series, like the shot of the two of them on the porch. Did you see that same expression on her face at different times when you were shooting the series?

I did. I was looking for a way into her soul. To see into her eyes, if she was thinking about something else than what was happening right in front of her. But I never asked her about it. I felt like she could have offered it up. Sometimes I feel free to ask probing questions, but not this time.

How would you describe the expression on Renee's face?

I don't know. That's what's so interesting about it. It suggests something different for everyone. For me, it seemed like this one brief moment to take stock.

Some people have asked whether the expression was just some kind of fluke, whether it might have been unrelated to the wedding or Ty's disability --

Yes, you can say, "She was exhausted," or "They were hung over" -- they were -- or "They just wanted to get this over with and get out of there so they could have fun." That's part of it too. But that's not what makes pictures interesting. What makes pictures interesting is that they provide the space for the viewers to contemplate.

What's the public response been to the picture?

I've published photos that generated a lot of response before. But this time, there was this crazy cyber-response. A hundred thousand people saw it through Fark in one day.

Has the reaction been generally positive?

What other people bring to the picture is extraordinary. I got linked to by everyone from pro-war sites to antiwar sites to sites dedicated to love and Valentine's Day. Then there were other people who were interested in the picture as photographers.

No one's said that it was a cheap shot. Most people are heartbroken. That's what sort of shocked me. They'll say, "I cried for days," or "I've never seen anything like this." Personally, I didn't feel any of those things.

How many frames did you shoot of the couple in that pose?

Just one frame of that pose. I also shot some from the side. I thought those were a little more artful, a little softer. Then I came around to the front. I liked the flatness to it. I like that it had almost a snapshot feel. It didn't require a lot of technique to take that picture. It's a standard wedding photograph, but something's different. The war is affecting our rituals, our daily rituals. Look around.

When did you first meet Ty?

I met Ty at Brooke Army in Texas. He was near the end of what was a 19-month recovery there. Renee, his fiancée, was down there and his mom, Becky, was there with him as well.

Was Renee living with Ty at the hospital?

They were all camped out at this place called Fisher House, which is a nonprofit group that provides housing for military families whose loved ones are receiving medical care. One of the issues in this war is that many of the wounded are really, really badly wounded -- they don't need one surgery, they need 30 surgeries that can go on for over a year. So in order for a family to be with a wounded loved one that whole time, they might have to quit their jobs and move -- and the government doesn't pay for that. Maybe it'll pay for a week, and that's it. Fisher House helps them stay longer.

What did you think when you first met the couple?

The first time I [met them] I was shocked. I was scared about the assignment. I had photographed really burned vets before, but [this] was a People magazine story, and I was concerned that they picked someone who was so shocking-looking that it was going to be a super-sensationalist piece. I was afraid viewers weren't going to be able to look at Ty, so when I first saw him I was put off, for maybe five minutes. But then his disfigurement just sort of faded away. I would watch and see how the rest of the public looked at him. In some pictures you can see that.

Like the shot of the little girl in the candy store?

Yes. I asked Ty, what do little kids say? Do little kids get scared? In my book, I'd photographed a really severely burned soldier. And when I was with him I'd see kids shy away and he would smile at them.

Ty would just laugh -- he's got a great sense of humor. Kids would say, "What happened to your ears?" and he'd say, "The bad guys took 'em." They'd say, "What happened to your nose?" and he'd say, "The bad guys took it." I guess he tried to make some little game out of it to deal with it.

Did you get a real sense of what Ty was like as a person?

It was difficult for me to know what was Ty before the injury and what was Ty after the injury. Because he's got an almost aloof manner. He's not that communicative, and he's got an acid sense of humor. He was closed up at Brooke Army. I never really saw him smile much. When he went home to Illinois I started to see more expressions -- which as a photographer I was always looking for. But because of his burns and the way his face is, it's hard to see expressions.

So the injuries and his burns made his face somewhat inscrutable?

Yeah. I was always looking for signs of life in his face. And then one day, once he was back in Illinois, I went to this thing with him. He and his friends really like this Ultimate Fighting Championship show on TV. This one day, he was with all his old friends from high school and he was like one of the guys. You could see the personality coming back and you saw the smile as he'd stand up pumping his fist for his favorite guy. You started to see the person come back in his face.

Does his family see him as the same guy?

They see him as kind of the same guy. I know when he was at Brooke Army he was super-depressed. During my visit there he was really itching to leave, but things were being held up. He'd sit in there and watch a lot of TV, and he was kind of aloof to his family. I was really surprised by that, but his mom and Renee would laugh it off and go, "Oh, that's Ty." But I think when he got home, his personality came back, which is kind of remarkable.

He had a reputation at Brooke Army of being this super-positive character. He would go in to the other soldiers and Marines who would come in really sick and cheer them up. All his therapists said he was a completely remarkable person for surviving and having a very positive attitude. He seems to be the kind of guy who always looks forward, doesn't look back. He's not super-reflective about his experience. Never talks politics. I asked him if he ever watched the news or read the papers and he said, "No, I figure that if I need to know something, someone will tell me."

Can he get work?

No, there's no work -- though he can drive fine and I think mentally he's all there. He can concentrate. He can certainly hold a conversation and all that. They pulled a toe and gave him a thumb from his toe, but he's lost several fingers on his good hand, and he wears a prosthesis on the other side.

I was in Illinois the day his medical discharge came in and Ty was really sad. He would very much have liked to have stayed in the Marine Corps. For a lot of these guys it's a very hard moment when they realize that their life in the military, which they put so much stake in, is finished.

What's Ty's plan for the future?

He wants to raise a family, he wants to have kids. He wants to be a dad. That's his big dream for the future.

What's Renee like?

Renee is a 21-year-old who has been through so much in the past couple of years. Her dad was killed in a quad-bike accident shortly before Ty's injury. I'd say she's fairly outgoing and honest. Renee comes from an even smaller town than Ty. They live about two hours from Chicago, but if you asked them how to get to Chicago, they couldn't really tell you. They couldn't tell me. They live in a community where people don't leave. They're not worldly characters.

I don't think she ever doubted that she was going to stay with him. They were high school sweethearts. I think it's common in that town to get married young. And I don't think she could have conceived of a future living in that town having decided not to be with him. But I also think she really loves him. They remind me of a married couple that has been married for 30 years. They weren't very romantic with each other at all, but there was a real bond there.

Do Ty and Renee do the usual stuff that 20-something couples do socially?

Yeah, they go out drinking. She's more active than he is. They go out. Everyone there drinks a lot.

How did you get interested in photographing wounded veterans?

Looking back I guess it's been something that's always been of interest to me. I've been a photographer for over 15 years. I've worked for a lot of different magazines, here and in Europe. But I was a print journalist before I was a photographer. In 1987 I followed a group of Vietnam vets on one of their first trips back to Vietnam. I got very in-depth with one or two of those soldiers and saw the psychological battle and also the physical battle. Some of them had Agent Orange poisoning and various other issues. It was clear to me that war goes on long after the armies leave.

Since the war in Iraq began, I've spent a lot of my time photographing the war wounded -- physically wounded and mentally wounded. That work turned into a book called "Purple Hearts Back From Iraq." The series with Ty and Renee was an outgrowth of that work.

Are you ever shocked by what your pictures reveal?

I am shocked sometimes. That's why photography can be such an intimate art. People are always trying to put masks on and defenses on. In this picture, we're seeing the moment that those two are experiencing, and they are experiencing it alone -- that's what I got from their body language. No one's around. The other members of the bridal party have moved away from them. It's before the wedding photographer steps up. They're standing together, they're clearly united. They're going to be joined for life. But the way their eyes are, you can tell they're not looking at each other. No matter how in love you are, you're always alone.

When I did my other work on wounded soldiers, I thought really carefully about how I wanted to present them. I almost always photographed them alone, even if they had loving parents or girlfriends or wives. That was a choice because I wanted to show how lonely and isolating it can be for them. I realized when I took this picture that sometimes you can show being alone much better when there's another person in the frame.

A lot of powerful pictures, and a lot of gory pictures, have come out of the Iraq war -- but this one seems to have a unique effect on people. Why do you think that is?

It's funny the things that will make people stop and look around. Sometimes it's just the surface things. I think the picture challenges a myth that's out there, which is that that we take care of our own. Anyone who has worked with soldiers and vets knows that's bullshit. But people buy it. The idea is he's at Walter Reed and he's going to be OK. They put their magnets on their cars. A lot of committed journalists have been punching holes in that myth for a long time. But you still see the stories about everything's great because there's a guy at Walter Reed with a computerized leg.

It took mold on a wall to blow the whole Walter Reed thing open. But mold, that's just on the surface. I was at Walter Reed in October 2004. I knew about the place, that they couldn't take care of all the guys they were sending in. There were so many bigger things compared to the dingy rooms. It's very peculiar what sets people off, what just gets people to look around.

The response to the photo reaffirms my belief in the power of photography. My photograph became a way for people to discuss issues and to feel things. Maybe somehow this picture will be a wake-up call.