Saturday, June 30, 2007

10 Overrated Things


Where to start? Priests, rabbis, sheikhs are all middle-men in man's spiritual quest for elevation. And like all middle-men, a great deal of energy is expended justifying their presence and mobilizing the less-educated among their flock in a bid for power and status. Not a very spiritual goal, is it? While the quest to get closer to one's spiritual destiny is admirable and arguably what separates us from the animals, the way those shysters and snake-oil salesmen hijack religious ideals and use them to justify abominable acts of hatred and intolerance, for their own personal glory, causes me to regard them on equal footing with war criminals, child molestors and dentists.


What's the big fucking deal? Are you seriously telling me that you find a bundle of rocks THAT fascinating? It's the emperor's new clothes all over again. What's worse is that our proclivity to hang on to our past leads me to the 800 pound gorrilla in the room that no one is talking about: [whisper] we must not have much in the present..


I've always liked the idea of monogamy and can't argue against its virtues: providing security and a stable framework for life..but how can one ignore its limitations? The sex is akin to eating a diet of ONE thing for the rest of your life and the conditions of marital success are such that neither party is allowed to change (read: grow) during the course of said marriage, lest they leave the other behind. My solution: turn it into a lease: five or ten years renewable, with a series of objectives that must be accomplished or the lease may be terminated. Oh, and how about four weeks vacation per year?


Uggghh....contrived to the utmost degree, not funny, not real, not plausible, not smart..I could go on.


I've railed against this before and while I believe in its importance, I can't deny my belief that the complexity of modern life has turned friendship into a nebulous and ill-defined realm. For instance, friends who live in other parts of the world..I value their memory but is a mere memory enough? How about friends who fit in one setting but not in others, because you or they are "not in that circle"...can friends be a product of function? I struggle defining who my friends are not because I don't like the people in my life but because I'm unsure of what their impact is in my life and mine in theirs.


This game is over-hyped. Lost in the controversy of a game about carjackings, cop-shootings and armed robbery is a ridiculously bad control system and a ludicrously cliched storyline. A game for morons.


Feminism and anti-racism are obsolete - at least, in their traditionally understood roles. Both still occur but the intellectual battle has been won and the results are there for everyone to see. What we're facing now is an apologist system that rewards people for being a certain race or a certain gender without evaluating merit. Worse we seem to have entered an era where criticizing members of that race or gender, will tag you with the label of a something-ist.




A system that requires something that would appear to be obvious and yet isn't prioritized or valued: compassion.

NBA Basketball

Stop travelling. Bring back the handcheck on defense. Stop expanding. Stop guaranteeing players contracts in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Stop travelling. LeBron is shit. Dial up the intensity, not the corporate friendliness. Stop travelling.

10 Weighty Words

Blithe: Lacking or showing a lack of due concern

Sanguine: Cheerfully optimistic

Churlish: Rude and Boorish

Unctuous: Unpleasantly and excessively ingratiating in manner or speech

Feckless: incompetent; not fit to assume responsibility

Obsequious" Attempting to garner favor through flattery

Peripatetic: Walking or wandering about

Fatuous: Asinine; devoid of intelligence

Deleterious: harmful in unseen or unexpected ways

Thursday, June 28, 2007

O Rudy, I Hardly Knew Thee

Faced with sinking poll numbers, Giuliani is blaming Bill Clinton for doing nothing about Islamic terrorists. But what did he do?

By Joe Conason

June 29, 2007 | Rudolph Giuliani probably possesses many fine attributes, but originality isn't one of them. Stung by the revelation that James Baker III had essentially booted him off the Iraq Study Group because the New York mayor was too busy giving lucrative speeches to bother attending the group's sessions, he deployed a familiar Republican diversion.

He blamed Bill Clinton for 9/11.

With Giuliani's poll numbers declining and his front-runner status threatened by former Sen. Fred Thompson, he can't be blamed for wanting to change the subject, and his preferred topic is always 9/11, which allows him to remind everyone of his finest hour and to pose as the nation's potential savior in 2008. Speaking at Pat Robertson's Regent University June 26 -- where he also continued his servile pandering to the religious right -- Giuliani accused the former president of failing to confront the threat from Islamist terrorism, dating all the way back to the first bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993.

"Islamic terrorists killed more than 500 Americans before Sept. 11," he intoned. "Many people think the first attack on America was on Sept. 11, 2001. It was not. It was in 1993 ... The United States government, then President Clinton, did not respond. Bin Laden declared war on us, [but] we didn't hear it." He went on to accuse all of the Democratic presidential candidates of being "in denial" about terrorism and wanting to "put the country in reverse." Democrats, he warned, "can't face this threat. They couldn't in the 1990s."

Now that belligerently partisan speech struck some reporters as a big contrast with remarks Giuliani made last September, when he piously urged everyone to refrain from blaming either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks. But as close observers of the former mayor can attest, what he really meant was that nobody else should place blame for 9/11 on Clinton. He reserved that privilege for himself, since he is, according to his own description, the man who knows more about the threat of terrorism than anyone else.

But let's forget Giuliani's hypocrisy and arrogance for a moment and simply dissect this specimen of demagogy lie by lie. It's a useful exercise, because we are sure to hear much more of the same from him before this campaign is over.

What does Giuliani mean when he says that President Clinton "did not respond" to the first bombing of the World Trade Center? At the time, there was no evidence linking Osama bin Laden, then still a fairly obscure Saudi millionaire, and al-Qaida scarcely existed. Former CIA director James Woolsey has said that the earliest inkling of any connection between bin Laden and the 1993 bombing came two years later. Until the FBI investigation resulted in the indictments of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and his network, nobody knew for certain whether a terrorist group or a foreign state was responsible for the '93 attack.

So Clinton didn't "respond" by launching missiles or sending special forces because there was no proven target for that kind of military action. As a leading authority on terrorism, Giuliani ought to be aware of those very basic historical realities. But by saying that the Democrats couldn't face the threat of terrorism in the 1990s, he is suggesting that Clinton did nothing as president to confront Islamist violence. Not only is that implication false, but it turns a decade's history backward. Whenever Clinton behaved resolutely abroad, it was the Republicans who sought to weaken him -- and the United States -- with partisan assaults on his foreign and security policies.

When Clinton tried to sustain the U.S. mission in Somalia, for instance, Senate Republicans (including John McCain) cut off funding and demanded retreat. When Clinton struck al-Qaida installations in Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, those same Republicans and their media allies complained that his actions were merely a "wag the dog" distraction from impeachment -- and later whined that he hadn't done enough to get bin Laden. Later still, they stopped worrying about bin Laden when the Bush administration decided to essentially give up on apprehending or killing the al-Qaida leader. That includes Giuliani, incidentally, who has never demanded that his friend Bush live up to the promise to get the terrorist chief "dead or alive."

The list of Clinton's actions against terrorism and specifically against al-Qaida is long; the list of his efforts to prepare domestically against a terrorist attack, even longer. He and his aides tried to warn the incoming Bush administration about al-Qaida's plans to attack the US, but they were brushed aside, as were the study group led by former Sens. Gary Hart and Warren Rudman; Bush's counterterrorism director, Richard Clarke; and CIA chief George Tenet.

As for Giuliani, what did he do after the '93 bombing? In their reporting for "Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11," journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins went to great lengths to find out. The answer, they discovered, was that he did nothing. And he said nothing. After he was elected mayor later that year, he still did and said nothing about terrorism, a pattern of inaction and inattention that continued for years, even as the trials of the bombing perpetrators went on in his city -- and even as federal investigators uncovered terrorist plots to blow up the Hudson River tunnels and other major New York City targets.

Eventually, as Barrett and Collins reveal in their stunning book, Giuliani made a series of foolish, self-serving mayoral decisions that exacerbated the damage and deaths caused by the terrorists on 9/11. More recently, his stupidity and vanity almost led to the appointment of an unqualified felon named Bernard Kerik as America's secretary of homeland security.

It is Giuliani, not Clinton, who has the most to fear from an honest examination of what happened in 1993 and its aftermath. His presidential candidacy will implode on the day that Americans finally grasp the full truth about his performance as mayor.

The Passion of the iPhone

Bruno Rocks

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Why the iPhone matters

Everything you've always wanted to know about Apple's new phone, and why it could change your life even if you don't buy one.

By Farhad Manjoo

The iPhone -- Apple's first phone, which could either be its last phone, or the world's first truly great phone and the only phone you'll ever need -- comes out Friday. That's 170 days since CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the device at the Macworld show in January. It's been a long wait. Jobs is fond of announcing new things when they're ready; he bounds onto the stage, surprises you with something he insists is truly new and delicious, puts on a flawless demonstration (during which he'll say "Boom!" a dozen or so times), and by the end you're ready to stop by the Apple Store to unload your cash.

The iPhone is different; Jobs is making us wait like never before. People who follow Apple have been anticipating the phone for years, and in the past six months, speculation about all it can do has consumed techies to the point that you fear for some people's sanity were the phone to disappoint. You know something's really big when it goes meta, and with the iPhone, now, we're in several layers deep -- journalists are writing not only about the iPhone, but also about how people can't stop talking about the iPhone, and about how the press can't stop writing about how people can't stop talking about the iPhone. The sane response -- and I don't blame you -- is to wish that people would just shut up already about the iPhone. The great gadget blog Engadget even put out temporary iPhone-free RSS feed to accommodate such phone-weary readers.

This article is about why you should care despite the hype. Let's call it an attempt -- one necessarily flawed, because the thing is not yet out -- at a sophisticated exegesis of a sociological phenomenon. I'll cover what's important about the iPhone as well as why the buzz about the iPhone makes sense -- why, that is, you should care about the phone even if you don't plan to buy one.

Let's do it Q&A style, starting at the basics:

What is an iPhone?
Jobs' standard line seems filched straight from a Ron Popeil demo. The iPhone, he says, is three amazing devices packed into one: it's a fantastic phone, it's the best iPod Apple has ever built, and it's a groundbreaking "Internet communicator" that makes the Web more portable than it's ever been before.

This last one is key. We all have phones and iPods, but the portable Internet is a fairy tale every tech company has been laboring to realize for a long while. So far, we've got nothing very great. The best portable Internet app is e-mail on a BlackBerry, and it feels stunted compared with what you get on a full machine.

Apple says the iPhone will give us the Internet on the go -- and because Apple has a vaunted history of making good on big claims about consumer technology, it's wise to take it seriously.

So that's why people are nuts about the iPhone -- because you can search Google on a bus?
Well, don't underestimate the importance of searching Google while you're riding a bus. The tech world is betting big on "the mobile Internet," which could prove to be a huge pastime and, thus, a huge business opportunity.

But that's only the brainy reason people like the iPhone. There's a more visceral appeal to the device, a sensation it triggers somewhere below the neckline, and to appreciate this effect I'll have to refer again to Ron Popeil. Malcolm Gladwell once pointed out that Popeil designed his mega-bestselling rotisserie cooker, the Rotisserie Showtime, with television in mind. The infomercial maven labored over the precise slant of the Showtime's glass casing in order to bathe the rotating chicken in light; he spent many hours tinkering with the speed of the rotisserie's motor, getting it so the meat cooked to a mouthwatering golden brown.

Gladwell writes that "Ron understood that the perfect brown is important for the same reason that the slanted glass door is important: because in every respect the design of the product must support the transparency and effectiveness of its performance during a demonstration -- the better it looks onstage, the easier it is for the pitchman to go into the turn and ask for the money."

You can say the same thing about Steve Jobs, who has been endeavoring all his life to create electronics that are transparent and visually stunning, things that part us from our money not for what they do -- or not mainly for what they do -- but for the surpassing style with which they do it. When he unveiled the Mac more than 20 years ago, Jobs rigged up the machine to play "Chariots of Fire" and to announce to a crowd of astonished fans, "Hello, I'm Macintosh." Why do you need your computer to tell you who it is? You don't. But the demo sure showed off the little guy well.

Aesthetics are the essence of iPhone's buzz. The phone is, like all other Apple products, beautiful -- palm-size, just a couple of buttons and an all-glass face that, if it works as it should, will respond to the slightest touch. Only folks who haven't seen its interface wonder what's so great about the iPhone. It's just amazing. A two-finger pinch zooms in -- boom! -- and a pull zooms out, a flick of a digit slides through a list of song names or contacts, and when you flip the iPhone on its side, its picture also adjusts to the new orientation. As it is for every celebrity, our love for the iPhone is mainly about its face. The big question is whether its charms go deeper.

Are you saying the iPhone may not work as well as Apple says it will?
The question is really unnecessary: When the iPhone goes on sale, the marketplace will decide, as the MBAs say, whether it's any good. We're already seeing the earliest assessments, and soon everyone will begin to weigh in. Newsweek's Steven Levy got to try one, and he likes it. So do the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, David Pogue of the New York Times, and USA Today's Edward C. Baig.

Yet the iPhone is so different from everything else on the market -- and so few of us have had any time with it -- it's really quite difficult to resist wondering if its function may not live up to its form. In particular, there's the keyboard. The iPhone's sleekness depends on few buttons. But will a screen-based keypad really work well in the real world? Can you dial on this thing when you drive, or type e-mails without much frustration? If you're on the fence about the phone, and if typing is important to you, it'd be wise to wait to try it out before you jump in.

There's also the problem of AT&T, the phone's exclusive cell provider. Will AT&T's network -- and the iPhone's support for only the slower EDGE rather than the faster 3G networking spec -- prove hardy enough to deliver a truly functional "mobile Internet"? These are questions for which we have no answers yet.

So is it possible the iPhone could flop?
Only a fool would predict doom for the iPhone. Apple aims to sell 10 million iPhones -- that is, it wants to capture less than 1 percent of the cellphone market -- in 2008. Nobody's betting it can't; it plans to ship 3 million units to stores this Friday, and it could sell out in a matter of days.

The more interesting question is, what would constitute a success for the iPhone -- what numbers would justify the hype? Apple controls more than two-thirds of the market for portable music players, but nobody believes the iPhone could capture such margins in the cell business, which is an order of magnitude bigger and far more varied than the market for iPods. More than 200 million cellphones are sold every year. If people just can't get enough of the iPhone, if it breaks past the 10 million mark and Apple starts releasing all kinds of phones -- cheap ones, small ones, colored ones -- as it did with the iPod, the thing could alter the cell industry as we know it.

What do you mean the iPhone can change the larger phone business?
Let me tell you a story. Last week I met with Jon von Tetzchner, the CEO of the Norwegian Web browser company Opera. Von Tetzchner was in San Francisco to promote the latest version of Opera Mini, a small program that people can download on their phones to speedily breeze through the Web. Surfing the Web on Opera Mini on an ordinary cellphone isn't as pretty as surfing the Web on the iPhone, but it's still quite useful. Through an ingenious server-caching system, the program shrinks down most Web sites so they come to your phone blazingly fast, and it allows you to scan and zoom in to Web sites in much the same way that you can on the iPhone.

Opera Mini will work on just about any phone on the market today -- except the iPhone. (That's the other problem with Apple's phone: It's locked down to other developers.) I asked von Tetzchner whether this worried him. In releasing a program for people to get the Web on their phones, wasn't he just going to get soaked by the upcoming iPhone tsunami?

But von Tetzchner sees the picture exactly differently. Let's say Apple sees crazy success, selling more iPhones than Steve Jobs ever dared dream -- 20 million, 30 million, even 50 million phones over the next couple of years. How will its competitors react to this assault? Obviously, they'll produce better phones. They'll design better hardware, they'll spend more on their user interfaces, and they'll turn to software companies -- companies like Opera -- for help in improving the Web on mobile phones.

And this gets to why you should care about the iPhone even if you aren't buying one. Today everyone uses a Mac. Even if you've got a Windows PC at your desk, you're really sitting down to a computer based on an idea first offered to the public by Steve Jobs in 1984. The mouse, the menus, the windows -- they were all on Mac first, and they spread to those of us who didn't buy directly into Jobs' regime only because Apple's competitors saw the Mac's features as vital to their own success. Go out to any consumer electronics store now and you'll see the same dynamic playing out for music devices: Everything on the market looks and feels like the iPod and offers much the same features.

It could happen for phones, too. You may not buy an Apple, but it's possible your next cellphone will claim to be a fantastic "Internet communicator" and will offer a great way to surf the Web. If that happens, thank Apple.

OK, you convinced me. The iPhone will be big. How do I get one?
You line up. The iPhone goes on sale on Friday at 6 p.m. at every Apple and AT&T store. You'll need to part with $499 for the phone, and at least $60 a month for a cell plan, and you've got to sign up for a two-year contract. Good luck.

All Eyez on Me

The Price is Right

I was standing at my local coffee place this morning, staring at possibly the finest-looking woman in North America. She was in line before me and she was quite striking: over six feet tall, brown hair cut perfectly with subtle shades of red, beautiful skin that glowed seductively beneath the morning sun, deliciously full lips and legs that went on for miles and miles. A real head-turner and believe me, heads were turning.

It was then that I noticed that her business suit still had the price tag on it, protruding and resting quite comfortably on her shapely behind. I stared at it again. Yep, there was no mistaking it: $272 and a bar code. So what to do now? If I don't tell her, she could go to her meeting and be embarrassed by a co-worker or, worse, a superior. If I do tell her, its an awkward conversation, I may potentially have to explain why I was staring at her ass and if I run into her again, she's going to avoid me like the plague.

I thought long and hard. Beads of sweat started appearing on my forehead (but that could have been because it was close to 92 today). I took off my sunglasses and gave the price tag one last look, in the hope that it may offer some kind of hithero unseen way out of this moral dilema. She began to walk away, after getting her half and half and wholewheat bagel. It was now or never.

A voice cut through my indecision; it was Sam, the coffee man:

"Hey, sweetheart. Sold, at that price!" he leeered, as he pointed at her tag. She turned around, looked at where he was pointing, smiled sheepishly before tucking it in and hurrying off down the road, doubtless towards the nearest ladies'.

Sam looked at me, grinning and bobbing his head. Clearly, his day had been made. "What'll it be, champ?"

"Black, no sugar" I muttered to my thunder-stealer. "Champ."

Worst Pun in an Album Title

Does it get any worse than 'Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins'? If it does, please don't write me and tell me about it.

I only have so many ribs, Noel Coward.

7 Reasons why exhibitionism rocks

I don't know why, but this blog makes me smile and harbour a seedling of hope. I mean, its a pair of exhibitionists posting dirty pictures of themselves...but there's mad romance in that. First, they're married. Second, they're in their forties. Third, they seem blissfully unaware (or they couldn't care less) of how they come across. Fourth, they think people should see them doing it! Fifth, she calls him 'Midwestern City Boy' and he calls her 'California Girl'. Sixth, consider this utterly charming bio:

About Us:
The life and times of a happily married couple in Ohio. We are 43 years old and like sex, computer games and the Internet. We have two kids, a son, 16, and a daughter, 14.

What else do you fucking need????

Lastly, anyone who has sex this many times (based on the sheer number of pictures and updates) with no signs of abating (or straying, I might add), deserve a mention on my blog. The exposure alone (never a happy choice of words with public fornicators) on my blog should ensure they get the visibility (here we go again) they deserve.

Don't rush their site all at once. Ramblefish is built to handle the millions who visit..not all blogs are as lucky.

Click on the picture to visit but note: Definitely NOT safe for work! The faces are blurred and the pictures are medium shots, but there's no doubt what they're up to. At least, that's what I think they're up to...its been a while.

Snow Patrol good, Arcade Fire BAD!

I don't rave a lot about Snow Patrol on these pages because, truth be told, they're a little under the radar. I don't even know what the band looks like. This despite the irrefutable brilliance of 'Final Straw'. Buy it, borrow it, steal it, just get it and play it. A lot. The songs will creep under your skin and will satisfy your cravings for the slow and melodic and the fast and the same time! Swear to God. I have no idea how they do it. You can't go wrong with "Run", "How to be Dead", "Chocolate", "Wow" or "Stealing Cars".

On the other hand, if you'd like to experience a fate worse than a lifetime of Chinese water torture, go ahead and illegally download any of Arcade Fire's irredeemably bad albums. I say illegally download as I don't want to chance that these ass clowns will make enough money for their pitiful screechings to be considered a commercial success, hence resulting in more releases. The only release I felt after listening to their faux-contemplative whine-of-an-album, was that of my soul departing my body through my tightly-clenched butt. It was painful. And not good pain, either. Any band that goes on about using new instruments on their follow-up album (a pipe organ, if you can believe that) deserve to be garrotted, professionally and personally. Funeral? I only lament that yours wasn't forthcoming before you chose to subject the world to this dross.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

An untitled Salvatodor Dali about venereal disease. Check out how their heads make the eyes and their bare thighs (above the stockings) form the teeth of a skull. Not one of the master's more subtle pieces.

Squirrel Relocator

I love the hand in the bottom left hand corner of the screen with the scissors. This kind of evil I can totally get behind.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Escaped convict recaptured

My favorite story on CNN today. Amazingly, the fake mustache employed by Mr. Allgier in his escape, succeeded in fooling no one.

Breastfeeding Fatwa causes stir

Wikipedia's even got an entry about it.

One of Sunni Islam's most prestigious institutions is to discipline a cleric after he issued a decree allowing women to breastfeed their male colleagues.

Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt's al-Azhar University said it offered a way around segregation of the sexes at work.

His fatwa stated the act would make the man symbolically related to the woman and preclude any sexual relations.

The president of al-Azhar denounced the fatwa, which Dr Atiya has since retracted, as defamatory to Islam.

According to Islamic tradition, or Hadith, breast-feeding establishes a degree of maternal relation, even if a woman nurses a child who is not biologically hers.

In his fatwa, Dr Atiya, the head of al-Azhar's Department of Hadith, said such teachings could equally apply to adults.

He said that if a woman fed a male colleague "directly from her breast" at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work.

"Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage," he ruled.

"A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed."

The legal ruling sparked outrage throughout Egypt and the Arab world.

On Sunday, Dr Atiya retracted it, saying it had been the result of a "bad interpretation of a particular case" during the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

Egypt's minister of religious affairs, Mahmoud Zaqzouq, has called for future fatwas to "be compatible with logic and human nature".

Five forwards to fill the boots of Thierry Ennui

Nicolas Anelka £11m
He scored in the Double-clinching FA Cup final in 1998 as a teenager and has unfinished business at Arsenal. Wenger has never ruled out his return and the maturity he now displays after converting to Islam is an important factor, but overriding that are the Frenchman's goals. More direct than Henry, he would thrive on the numerous, often-squandered chances the Gunners create.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar £15m
Thirty-seven goals in 48 league appearances for Ajax over the past two seasons have launched him into the top rank of European strikers. An established Holland international at 23 years old - having leapfrogged the out-of-favour Ruud van Nistelrooy in the pecking order - he could be another promising addition to Arsenal's strike force but would probably seek first-team guarantees.

Carlos Tevez £20m
The 23-year-old Argentinian's success in almost single-handedly securing the survival of West Ham United has seen him linked with all of European football's giant clubs, including the Italian champions Internazionale. But that might be as much the attempt of his handlers, Media Sports Investment, to raise his market value: whether that should be at £20m is debatable.

Obafemi Martins £13m
The Nigerian devastated Arsenal in Inter's 3-0 Champions League win at Highbury in September 2003. His 11 Premiership and six Uefa Cup goals were a more-than-respectable return for a first season in England. His Newcastle team-mate Michael Owen, thanks to his release clause, would be more affordable at around £9m but his wage demands make him expensive.

Samuel Eto'o £30m
The Cameroon international has a few negative issues surrounding him. He is as truculent as a young Anelka, he will be expensive - in terms of wages and transfer fee - and, like Martins, is due to jet off to the African Nations Cup early next year. He is, however, a marvellous goalscorer who would thrive on the service from Arsenal's generous midfield.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Talullah Bankhead

"I was raped in our driveway when I was eleven. You know darling, it was a terrible experience because we had all that gravel"

Friday, June 22, 2007

Amy Fughouse

From the very funny gofugyourself blog:

I know Amy Winehouse is all wacked looking as part of her thing -- you know, with the beehive full of bats and the wild eyeliner and the mad tats and the drinking and the carousing. Her look works for her, and, of course, it helps that her album is really good, since it's way easier to excuse nutty behavior when the person doing the behaving is nutty AND talented, rather just nutty and, you know, nutty. However, you have to draw the line somewhere. And for me, that line is dental in origin:

There's being cracked out stylistically and then there's looking ACTUALLY cracked out. Baby, I don't care if you don't want to go to rehab, but you have GOT to go to the dentist.

Comics fans, grow up!

With the rise of the graphic novel, comics have hit the big time. It's time for fans to quit whining and celebrate their favorite art.

Editor's note: The following essay is excerpted from "Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean" by Douglas Wolk and published by Da Capo Press on July 2, 2007.

By Douglas Wolk

June 23, 2007 | It's frustrating to love comics, because there's so much cultural baggage that goes along with loving them. The blessing and curse of comics as a medium is that there is such a thing as "comics culture." The core audience of comics is really into them: we know that Wednesdays are the day when new issues appear in the stores, we populate endless Web sites and message boards, we preserve our comics with some degree of care even if we think of ourselves as "readers" rather than "collectors." A few times a year, we congregate at conventions of one kind or another. (The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival -- which is happening this weekend in New York City -- is one of our Sundances, where small-press and independent publishers display their wares; Wizard World Chicago is where the superhero buffs go; Comic-Con International, held in San Diego at the end of July, is where everybody goes.) We gravitate to our kind.

That's part of the problem. Over the last half century, comics culture has developed as an insular, self-feeding, self-loathing, self-defeating fly-trap. A lot of the people who hit their local comics store every Wednesday think of comics readers as some kind of secret, embattled fellowship. (That's why most comics stores are deeply unfriendly places: everything about them says, "You mean you don't know?" In some of them, even new pamphlets and books are sealed in plastic before they go out on the shelves; if you don't walk into the store knowing what you want, you're not going to find out.) It's a poisonous mind-set for any number of reasons, the biggest one being that to enjoy a comic book, you either have to be a Comics Person or be able to explain why you're not really a Comics Person.

That incestuous relationship between audience and medium has been encouraged by the big comics publishers. Mainstream comics pamphlets that are incomprehensible to anyone not already immersed in their culture aren't just the standard now; they're the point. If you pick up a story crammed full of inside references, and you're enough of an insider to catch them all, you're going to feel like it was made just for you, and it will intensify the sense of difference between you and "normal people." (I know from experience; some of the comics I enjoy most are stories I can't explain to a lot of my friends without using phrases like "pre-Crisis continuity" and "the 616 universe," sounding severely schizophrenic, or both.)

Then there's the name-and-class problem -- not just the way the wretched term "graphic novel" has come to be a euphemism for "comics," but the reasons it caught on. The origins of "graphic novel" are slightly murky -- it seems to have been first used in the '60s as a name for a potential "higher" form of comics, and it was popularized by Will Eisner's 1978 book "A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories." (As its title suggests, Eisner's volume is not so much a novel as a collection of four not-all-that-long stories linked by their setting.)

But the "novel" part of "graphic novel" blots out the idea of short fiction and nonfiction -- it's odd to call, say, books of reportage in cartoon form by Joe Sacco and Ted Rall "novels," or to suggest that memoirs by Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar are fictional, or that a collection of short pieces by Ellen Forney or C. Tyler is actually an extended, unified story. Given how long it takes to draw comics, the idea that the "novel" is the default form for the ones with high aspirations is also pernicious, because it suggests that shorter stories can't be serious. (Working on short fiction or poetry carries about the same prestige as working on a novel, but if you're drawing comics, that's not the same thing as working on a graphic novel -- which is why too many young cartoonists start in on novel-length pieces before they've developed storytelling skills.) "Graphic narrative" sounds like a euphemism twice removed from its source, and still has the unfortunate resonance of "graphic" with the way it tends to be paired with "sexuality" or "violence." And "sequential art" sounds utterly arid.

The class implications of "graphic novel" almost instantly led to the term's thorough debasement. As a ten-dollar phrase, it implies that the graphic novel is serious in a way that the lowly comic book isn't. That, of course, leaves it open to being co-opted by anybody who wants to dress up their inept little drawings in a jacket and tie, which is why shitty forty-eight-page superhero stories started to be sold as "graphic novels" within a few years of the appearance of "A Contract with God" -- 1983's "Super Boxers" could have killed off the prestige of any term attached to the form.

Even so, to this day, people talk about "graphic novels" instead of comics when they're trying to be deferential or trying to imply that they're being serious. There's always a bit of a wince and stammer about the term; it plays into comics culture's slightly miserable striving for "acknowledgment" and "respect." It's hard to imagine what kind of cultural capital the American comics industry (and its readership) is convinced that it's due and doesn't already have. Perhaps the comics world has spent so long hating itself that it can't imagine it's not still an underdog. But demanding (or wishing for) a place at the table of high culture is an admission that you don't have one; the way you get a place at the table of high culture is to pull up a chair and say something interesting.

So what do people who are committed to feeling like embattled outsiders do? Fetishize the object that symbolizes their difference from everybody else, naturally. The first wave of comics collectors were trying to preserve the past of their culture -- to rescue the ephemeral pamphlets that made up comics' fragile history from the quick and sure destruction they were intended for. They wanted to hold on to the pleasure their favorite comics gave them, and perhaps to understand how years' worth of stories about particular characters might fit together into a grander narrative than even those stories' creators imagined. There's something honorable about that.

The preservation impulse turned into a collector's impulse -- what was once called "the nostalgia market." Uncommon issues, naturally, were worth a bit more, then a lot more, then became the object of speculation. Publishers started to play on the idea of collectibility (in 1965, Marvel launched a series reprinting comics that had been published less than four years earlier, "Marvel Collectors' Item Classics"). And people started to hoard new comics with an eye to their future financial value, not the future pleasure to be had from owning them.

There was once a kind of nerdy charm to the collectors who sought out old comics in "pristine mint" condition -- cover still glossy, no dings or dents on the spine -- and valued them according to their historical importance as well as their condition. First appearances of favorite characters were in high demand, and so were issues with well-loved artists, and a few more specialized kinks. "The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide," updated annually, singled out horror comics involving the "injury-to-eye motif," for instance.

Sometime in the '80s, though, there started to be collectors who cared only about the investment potential of their comics and didn't have any particular interest in reading them. I worked in a comic book store in the mid-'80s, and I loathed the customers who came up to the counter with their own plastic bags and acid-free cardboard backing boards to begin the process of preserving their investments right away. It was easy to spot the kids who would become those collectors, too: they'd look quizzically at the first issue of some new series, and ask, "What's this going to be worth?" (I always told them that if I knew what things were going to be worth, I probably wouldn't be working behind a counter.)

No one ever really made their fortune as a comics investor, but the legions of clueless speculators brought on a few boom-and-bust cycles in the industry. The comics speculation game got a slightly disgusting twist in 2001, with the launch of Comic Guaranty LLC and "slabbing." CGC, as it's better known, grades collectible comics for condition on a ten-point scale, then seals them between hard plastic slabs, so that they can never risk being damaged -- or read-again: perfect financial fetish objects, entirely severed from their original aesthetic purpose.

That's the sort of protective response that's arguably appropriate for a singular object whose meaning as art can be experienced through clear plastic -- something with what Walter Benjamin called "aura." There's something almost parodically wrong about seeing a piece of mass-produced entertainment framed like an irreproducible original. Naturally, the art-comics world mostly thinks of CGC and comics investment as beneath contempt -- one piece of industry slang is "FYOV," the "forty-year-old virgins" who fuel the collector market. (It was around long before the movie.)

At the same time, even within art comics, there's a longing for the medium to get more of something that's usually called "legitimacy." There's an element of comics culture, sometimes called (a little derisively) "Team Comics," that gets excited whenever anything that looks like that acknowledgment or respect I mentioned above turns up in the outside world -- a college class on the graphic novel, a Hollywood movie based on a graphic novel, a newspaper or magazine article about a cartoonist, somebody reading a comic book on a TV show. Different segments of Team Comics take notice if a TV character is reading a new issue of "Aquaman" or Lynda Barry's "One!Hundred!Demons!," but the principle is the same.

Both the "Team Comics" culture vultures and the alternate-cover-hoarding mavens are driven by the desire to turn their hobby into some kind of success or validation, whether through affluence or cultural power, and that impulse is directly connected to the class aspirations that afflict the entire medium. A lot of comics readers are unhealthily attached to the idea that everyone else thinks what they do is kind of trashy and disreputable, and that they have to prove their favorite leisure activity worthy of respect -- to show the world that they were right all along.

It's probably time to let go of that strain of earnest defensiveness. The snobbery of the rest of American culture toward comics is, if not entirely gone, dissipating quickly. In late 2006, Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel "American Born Chinese" was nominated for a National Book Award (in the Young People's Literature category); when one commentator -- Tony Long, a blogger at Wired News -- opined that it shouldn't have been nominated because it wasn't prose, the comics world jumped down his throat. But it's not as if literary culture revolted as one: Long appears to have been the only voice of dissent, and as clueless as part of his argument was (he noted that, well, he hadn't actually read "American Born Chinese"), his point that Yang's book was the wrong medium for its award was at least debatable.

What's actually happening in culture at large is more like everyone trying to jump on the comics bandwagon -- as a 2004 New Yorker cartoon's caption put it, "Now I have to pretend to like graphic novels, too?" The medium's new enemies are internal: the much less casual snobbery of the commercial mainstream and the art-comics world toward each other, and cartoonists' nostalgic yearning for the badness of the bad old days. Reading only auteurist art comics is like being a filmgoer who watches only auteurist art cinema, but more than a few art-comics enthusiasts wouldn't dream of picking up a mainstream comic book, even as entertainment. Likewise, plenty of superhero buffs can't imagine being interested in some actionless black-and-white independent comic.

The most frustrating effect of the art/pop divide in comics, though, is nostalgie de la boue. A lot of the best cartoonists of the moment have picked up their visual vocabulary from the crap and hackwork of the past, and they're fondly and unhealthily attached to it in a sentimental, self-loathing way, as a curdled by-product of the attachment they felt to it as children. You can find this fascination with the feeble, uninspired comics of the artists' youth in Chris Ware's "Rusty Brown," in Dan Clowes's "Ice Haven" and "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron," in Ivan Brunetti's "Misery Loves Comedy," and in a lot of other art comics, and it's an utter drag. Robert Crumb is a particular offender: most of his early work riffed on the toothless pop culture of his youth, and his drawing and sense of humor still haven't entirely let go of fifty-year-old issues of "MAD."

In mainstream comics, nostalgie de la boue manifests itself as stories whose main point is to trigger nostalgic responses in their older readers -- forgotten Golden Age characters being trotted out again and integrated into the tapestry of continuity; "retcons," or "retroactive continuity," meant to explain apparent contradictions in old comics or draw connections where there hadn't been any intended in the first place. The inbred children of that approach are stories nostalgic for old retcons, attempts to recapture the past of attempting to recapture the past, even if it wasn't that good the first time and was even worse the second.

Nostalgia, especially nostalgia for childhood, is a heavy burden for a medium to bear, and comics have been carrying it since the culture around them began to coalesce. The comics collecting market was called the "nostalgia market" at first; The Comics Journal was renamed from The Nostalgia Journal. The earliest books of essays about comic books were collections like "All in Color for a Dime" -- reminiscences of early childhood experiences with funnybooks. As far as thinking about what makes comics interesting, though, nostalgia is poison -- not just because it makes people overvalue the stories that fueled their childhood fantasies but because it makes them misunderstand the reasons why the good stuff or even the resonant crap affected them so strongly, and what exactly might have been messed up about it, or the way it made them feel the first time around.

'In constant sorrow, all through my days'

Marble Binary Adding Machine

Useless, nerdy but impressive.

Time displacement experimental video

I need somthing to wake me up

Thursday, June 21, 2007

'Tell your God to ready for blood'

Problem Light (Steampunk Edition)

Turn it on when you have a problem. That's all it does!

Seriously, Patrick Kovacich made this steampunky "Problem" light that you can switch on when your life is giving you problems; he lavishly documented the build in a Flickr set so you can make your own.

The Dude Drops In

I tripped on a cloud and fell 8 miles high/ I tore my mind on a jagged sky/ I just dropped in, to see what condition my condition was in!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Carmen's problem with her parents

The wave of ad hominem arguments she's likely to face.

Beyond the Multiplex

"Lady Chatterley": Love and liberation in an English garden, en traduction français

Viewers will no doubt like and dislike Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley" in ample numbers, but the picture itself is an impressive construction that seems indifferent to such concerns. Watching it is something like swimming in the ocean: You have an idyllic, sun-struck dip for a while, and then the sun goes behind a cloud and you get stung by jellyfish and heaved up on the beach, shivering, half-dead and slimed with seaweed. It's all the same to the ocean.

Let's deal with the dumbest and most obvious question first: This movie's in French, but the setting has not been transposed or anything. It's set in post-World War I England and all the characters are meant to be English. This is no stranger, when you think about it, than staging a version of "Les Misérables" or "The Three Musketeers" entirely in English. (There are numerous French film adaptations of English literary classics, but we don't often see them here.) You just have to deal with this when watching Ferran's film, and it's clearly going to be distracting for some viewers.

There were moments when I literally forgot about the language issue, but this "Lady Chatterley" (whose director has long been an esteemed behind-the-scenes figure in French cinema) is a work of translation in various senses. It's not just a film in the French language; it's also a French interpretation of a fundamentally English story about class and sex and liberation. As presented by Julien Hirsch's moody camerawork, the lush, dripping forests of Clifford Chatterley's estate, so suggestive of somethingness, don't look quite like any English woodlands I've ever seen. While Ferran certainly imbues this landscape with a sort of immanent eroticism, there's also a philosophical, almost diagrammatic element to her film. This is D.H. Lawrence rendered in the metric system.

Ferran and her co-writer, Roger Bohbot, have not in fact adapted Lawrence's famous and formerly banned "Lady Chatterley's Lover," but rather "John Thomas and Lady Jane," his second draft of the same story. (The better-known version was the third draft.) So the earthy gamekeeper who redeems our heroine from her sexless marriage to a crippled aristocrat-turned-industrialist is named Parkin, not Mellors, and he's genuinely working-class, not the officer-class rebel of the final version.

"John Thomas and Lady Jane" also features less conversation than "Lady Chatterley's Lover," which makes it better suited to film adaptation. We don't get Lawrentian soapbox speeches from these characters, and for that I am grateful. As Parkin, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h is a thick, oblong man rooted in his rubber boots, hair swept high off his peculiar forehead. He's disinclined to converse on topics more introspective than the nesting habits of birds. Standing upright, her consciousness all in her shoulders and bright face, the fluttery Connie Chatterley of Marina Hands yearns to draw him out, but also fears driving him away.

Despite its peculiar Frenchification, Ferran's "Lady Chatterley" gets much closer to Lawrence's intentions than any previous film version. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is up to you. The author's anger about class repression can only seem antique to a 21st-century audience (and certainly never had the same significance in France), but Ferran grasps that Lawrence was in a certain way quite moralistic about sex, and would surely have been horrified by the use of his novel's title as a synonym for pornography.

This "Lady Chatterley" may resemble Lawrence's awkward, earnest, rapturous poetry more than it does his fiction. Yeah, we see Parkin -- we never learn his first name -- and Connie do the deed on the floor of his toolshed (get it?), under a tree, on a rug before the fireplace and right down in the gloppy mud. (There is full mutual nudity but no actual on-screen poking.) But the sex is more a means than an end, that end consisting of running naked through the rain, twining flowers in each other's hair (on heads, and elsewhere) and generally becoming one with the explosive fecundity of nature.

I'm not being facetious, nor do I deny that most of us could use a dose of that kind of eroticism. Lawrence always risks becoming ridiculous with his passionate sincerity, his naive and angry primitivism; you either ride along with him or you don't. Ferran's picture has some of that quality too, but in its measured pace and calculated loveliness tries to walk an unstable line between the Anglo-Saxon and Gallic notions of sex and sensuality, so famously incompatible. If a film can be both lush and cold, both erotic and cautious, that film is "Lady Chatterley." It's a picture to honor and appreciate, not necessarily to love.

"Lady Chatterley" opens June 22 in New York and Stamford, Conn.; July 6 in Chicago; July 13 in Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Philadelphia; July 20 in Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle; July 27 in Baltimore; Aug. 3 in Providence, R.I.; Aug. 10 in Santa Fe, N.M.; and Aug. 17 in Atlanta, St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio, with more cities to follow.

"Broken English": For those who thought the "Sex and the City" women were undermedicated

So Zoe Cassavetes is the daughter of independent-film pioneer John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands, a fact that will be mentioned by every journalist who ever writes about her from now till the day she dies (when it will be in her obituary). Just thought I'd get that out of the way. Holding her feature-film debut, "Broken English," up against her dad's work is of course fundamentally unfair. But it's such a strange combination of chick-flick cliché and raw, naked, uncontrolled emotion that one needs to find some standard of comparison.

Then there's the equally unwarranted but irresistible question of how much Nora, the main character memorably played by Parker Posey, is based on Cassavetes herself -- and whether or not Cassavetes is aware how unflattering a portrait it is. From the moment we meet her, Nora seems to be one of those flibbertigibbet middle-class women in the 28-to-32 age bracket who's having an almost inexplicable breakdown. Instead of embracing her fleeting youth by dating a zillion guys, traveling the world or studying Zen or parasailing or Kurdish or pastry, she's working a well-paid but depressing Manhattan hotel job and marinating in booze, pills and crappy self-esteem.

I don't mean to sound unsympathetic; anguish is always real to the sufferer, regardless of his or her objective circumstances. But Nora is a pit of boundless unhappiness, well beyond the normal confines of the moody romantic heroine. Over lunch with her hellish, meddlesome mom (played by Rowlands, naturally enough) she begins weeping and moaning aloud: No man will love her, she's a wretched mess, etc. To the extent that Cassavetes is resisting formula, I admire her, but she may have been too hypnotized by the uncanny, repulsive specter Posey has conjured up. For this kind of movie to work, we need to see the main character's essential lovableness, not to be thinking: Jesus, honey, you're right, you're a freak. No self-respecting guy would marry you if the only other women alive were Ann Coulter and Joan Rivers.

Nora's supposed best friend, Audrey (Drea de Matteo of "Sopranos" fame), is a perennially scowling, yuppie-nightmare wife who seems devoted to projecting her own unhappiness onto Nora. Does Cassavetes realize how little these two women like each other, and how much of their relationship is a vampiric exchange of hostility? Maybe she does; she has certainly made de Matteo look haggard and worn despite her noteworthy curves, something of an accomplishment in itself.

Justin Theroux injects some actual enjoyment into the proceedings as an asshole TV actor with a Mohawk (he's the star of some show called "The Hit Man") whom Nora foolishly sleeps with -- you can't say it's against her better judgment because she doesn't have any. Hemmed in by her job, her mom, her married friends and her self-loathing, Nora barely notices Julien (French heartthrob Melvil Poupaud), the Gallic playboy in a silly hat who hits on her at a party. Of course he turns out to be the guy who's throwing a metaphorical rope into her well of despair, but the question remains: Dear God, why?

OK, the Sydney Greenstreet chapeau isn't working, but Julien is a slim Parisian charmer with large, soulful eyes and a Marlboro tucked behind his ear. The overeducated young women of New York are pretty much at his disposal. What draws him to this ambulatory panic attack? Cassavetes doesn't come close to answering this question, and doesn't seem aware that it is a question. Posey has been justly acclaimed for her work in this movie, but the character she creates is a horror show. If you take Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and the City," but subtract the wardrobe, the capacity for self-reflection and about half the gawky sex appeal, and then add a substance-abuse problem and an incipient personality disorder, you've got Nora.

"Broken English" shifts from awkward, agonizing realism to pure fantasy about two-thirds of the way through, which is quite a relief. Once you accept that Julien actually likes Nora and that for no particular reason they lose contact and she has to go to Paris, grumpy Audrey in tow, to find him, we've entered the cloud-cuckoo-land of romantic happy endings. Removed from her milieu and given the mission of finding herself, Nora lightens up and becomes something like a tolerable human being for the first time.

Despite its schizophrenic nature and often disagreeable characteristics, "Broken English" has flashes of something. You might say it has an integrity of purpose, if not of execution. Maybe it will serve to exorcise Zoe Cassavetes' demons, and she can decide whether either of its narrative modes, anguished John Cassavetes-style naturalism or light comedy, is actually hers.

"Broken English" opens June 22 in New York and Los Angeles; July 6 in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington; July 13 in Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Santa Cruz, Calif., and Austin, Texas; July 18 in Lake Worth, Fla.; July 20 in Charlotte, N.C., Santa Fe, N.M., and Wilmington, Del.; July 25 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; July 27 in Little Rock, Ark.; and Aug. 1 in Portland, Maine, with more cities to follow.

"Black Sheep": Woolly, cloven-hoofed, methane-spewing monsters must die!
These days I'll cut any horror director some slack who declines to follow Eli Roth down the dead-end path of gruesomeness for its own sake. My objections are aesthetic, not essentially moral, although you could argue that somewhere down the line the two intersect. We see all sorts of random strangers -- visiting European and Japanese businesspeople, mostly -- getting their necks ripped out and arms chewed off by mutated flesh-eating ovines in Jonathan King's "Black Sheep." Jolly good fun, I say.

King wants to sizzle your biscuits a little, like any decent horror-phile, but his bloodshed and impressive creature effects (by the WETA Workshop, of "Lord of the Rings" fame) are folded into a good-humored pastiche whose ingredients are a bit of "Night of the Living Dead," a little "Island of Dr. Moreau," a fair dose of "The Fly" and a topping of self-deprecating Kiwi humor. It reminds me more than a little of "Frogs," a 1972 movie with Ray Milland and Sam Elliott whose half-intentional comedy I did not appreciate at the time.

What's the use of plot summary, honestly? Genetic engineering experiments on a remote New Zealand farm result not just in a new breed of man-eating mutton, but also (in an unexplained turn of events) in vampire-style sheep whose bite turns people into half-sheep, half-man monsters. What else do you want to know? Does it make any sense? Of course not.

Acting is only so-so, although Peter Feeney makes a fine impression as the unctuous Angus Oldfield, who has turned his great-granddad's New Zealand sheep farm into a sinister monster-breeding facility. His estranged brother Henry (Nathan Meister) comes home after many years in the big city and becomes our hero, hooking up along the way with a vegan hippie chick named Experience (Danielle Mason), who's actually there to liberate the persecuted wool-bearers, as well as to read chakras and critique the farm's feng shui. (Special marks to Tandi Wright for her sexy, bespectacled, incorrigibly evil scientist.)

Can you really make the dullest and most docile of domesticated animals into convincing monstrosities? I don't know about that, but the effects are impressive (the half-sheep creatures indeed bear a resemblance to LOTR's Orcs) and King's action scenes are ludicrous, horrifying and gratuitous in the finest monster-movie tradition. In the larger sense, the movie plays for laughs, but the actors never do, and here and there threads of actual darkness poke through the farce. If you've ever actually laughed out loud at a "Toxic Avenger" movie, this one is for you.

"Black Sheep" opens June 22 in New York and Los Angeles; July 6 in Chicago and Minneapolis; July 13 in San Diego; July 20 in Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Rochester, N.Y., and San Jose, Calif.; July 27 in Atlanta and Nashville; Aug. 3 in Charlotte, N.C., Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis; Aug. 10 in Seattle and Aug. 17 in Tucson, Ariz., with more cities to follow.

"Manufactured Landscapes": The beauty, and terror, of what we've done to our planet

From the opening shot of Jennifer Baichwal's "Manufactured Landscapes," which may last 10 minutes, you're either with her film or you're not. Her camera pans and dollies down the immense expanse of a Chinese toy and electronics factory, many football fields in length, while the rows of workers in fluorescent yellow go about their machinelike tasks. Baichwal's film is about an artist, Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, but it's really about what Burtynsky has chosen to look at, aspects of modern life most of us choose never to see.

Baichwal's camera accompanies Burtynsky to unimaginably huge piles of coal; to the mile-and-a-half-long Three Gorges Dam, with its 120-mile-long reservoir; to the factories where circuit breakers and household irons and oil tankers are built and to the ass-end places in the world where they end up when we've thrown them away. Without a single moment of polemic, Burtynsky's pictures -- and Baichwal's document of how they are made -- asks urgent and painful questions about what we have done to the world, whether it's been worth it and what, if anything, we can do to change it.

Burtynsky avoids questions of human suffering, but it's here all the same as we watch teenage boys in Bangladesh clear crude-oil scum by hand from the holds of tankers left for dead on the "shipbreaking beach" at Chittagong. Or when we see old Chinese women who may never have seen a working computer, but spend their working lives smashing old motherboards and monitors (and releasing heavy metals into the environment) to scavenge scraps of reusable metals. "Manufactured Landscapes" may tell you more about how the 21st century world actually works than you really want to know, but it's a heartbreaking, beautiful, awful and awesome film.

"Manufactured Landscapes" is now playing at Film Forum in New York. Other cities should follow.

You'll laugh, you'll cry

Click here for the most dramatic chipmunk on the planet.

Window or Aisle, Cunntt?

Isabel O'Meara booked a flight on Southwest a week ago and ended up with the most inappropriate confirmation code ever. She just blogged about it, with a scan of the receipt in question here.

Back in WWII, when the UK was being pounded by daily barrages of high-explosive, the government's message to the people was Keep Calm and Carry On. Not "ZOMG TERRISTS GONNA KILL US ALL ZOMG ZOMG ALERT LEVEL BLOODRED RUN RUN TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES MOISTURE BOMBS ZOMG!"

Now you can get it on a shirt, and remember a time when governments tried to keep us safe by making us secure, instead of scaring the shit out of us.

Lennel Dunbar aka Mr. Romance

This is why God invented Flash, apparently.

United GDPs of America

Here's a map of the USA where the states have been labelled with the names of countries with comparable GDPs -- California is the same size as France; Texas, Canada; New York, Brazil, and so on.