Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Hippies Have Obama's Back

Grateful Dead Plan Fundraiser Concert for Obama - Truemors

Looks like Sen. Obama is tying up the aging hippie vote. I just hope it's not ten minutes of Sen. Obama followed by three hours of a guitar solo.

The Electric God of Modernity

Radio Tesla - Zoetica Ebb @ Coilhouse
Tesla vs Edison, fight! - Zoetica Ebb @ Coilhouse

I have such a tech fetish for Tesla, along with a lot of other people. I don't necessarily buy into the conspiracy theories but I do think Tesla had an understanding of one of the fundamental forces of the universe that few have even approached since. His genius still amazes us even today. If only I had the electric gods talking to me like Tesla did.

A Weekend Too Far

Fortunately there are few pictures of me in this set and plenty of my friend enjoying his thirty years of life in style. Well, pictures of him and the pleasantly lovely door girl at one of the dance clubs we landed at. I think I'll let you guess which one's are of me.

Drinkathon 2008

Water Produces the Best Sound

New mixes in the mix of newness. I learned tonight that I do indeed like Ghostland Observatory and MGMT, that Kid Sister has a great sound while rapping about people I'd sooner stab in the throat than shake hands with, that Beat the Devil has one of the best vocalists around at the moment, and that the Carps deserve far more attention than they are getting. These are the fruits of my web-driven head. Enjoy.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Whatever Happened to Weldon Kees? - Meredith Yayanos @ Coilhouse
Early Visual Media Archeology - David Pescovitz @ BoingBoing
Ornamental Typography - David Pescovitz @ BoingBoing

Versus doing three separate posts on these links I decided to combine them all together as they have an overarching theme of lost art and lost people. In particular, both my parents have a deep interest in old typography (my dad for his hand engraving, my mother for her calligraphy). Each of these articles put forth images and ideas long lost to the majority of people. The Coilhouse article on Weldon Kees quite nicely ties this all together as he was a man of many talents, something of a rarity these days. Avant-garde art and photography of the past do not receive the attention they deserve, especially when the beauty of such art reminds one of paths not traveled. How such art influences new artists and inspires their work depends on whether they have an awareness of this art. I think it's part of our duty as bloggers, cultural commentators and purveyors of the strange to put this kind of art on the forefront of the public consciousness. Reminding people that strangeness and beauty are not mutually exclusive and have existed for a long time is a valuable pursuit.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Stooge for a Stage

Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell - Spencer Ackerman

Foreign policy wonk, Spencer Ackerman, makes a pretty convincing argument that Sen. Obama won tonight's debate based on his position on the Iraq war combined with Sen. Clinton's bumbling response. Money quote: I don't know how a single Democratic voter watches that exchange and thinks, "Yeah, I'm gonna vote for Hillary Clinton! The war was a tough call and maybe it wasn't a mistake, but it's a mistake now!"

Super Tuesday Debate

Just finished watching the Super Tuesday debate and I have to say Sen. Obama won quite handily for one simple reason: he forced Sen. Clinton to play at his level. Most of Sen. Obama's campaign has focused on change: change in trajectory, change in leadership, change in mindset, change in participation. Part of Sen. Obama's platform has been to force the other candidates to play at a level above that of the typical political games. Sen. Obama, by remaining calm and reposed, was able to tackle even the toughest questions and put forth politically risky answers. What that resulted in was a response by Sen. Clinton to rely more and more on belated answers while Sen. Obama maintained a measured and crisp response. The zingers by both candidates were witty and humorous but, personally, I thought Sen. Obama's quips had more substance. The one remark in particular, that it is better to be right on the first day in office, was a deep wound to Sen. Clinton's argument for her experience. Never bitter, Sen. Obama kept a civil tone while exposing Sen. Clinton's weaknesses. Moreover, Sen. Obama took the bite out of Sen. Clinton's criticisms through that civility.
On some key point, Sen. Obama made policy remarks that I dearly wish he would give some of the backing logic for. Both his plan for voluntary health insurance while tamping down health premiums and his agreement with the issuing of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants have a clever logic behind them that belie Sen. Obama and his staff's intelligence. The issue of universal healthcare is one that Sen. Obama obviously cares about, but he has shown through his plan the realization that he cannot ramrod a huge bill through Congress all at once. By take the tact of bringing down healthcare costs first he makes a better argument for providing affordable universal healthcare, both for individual citizens and for the federal government itself. On the issue of driver's licenses, Sen. Obama again shows a practical first step towards achieving immigration reform. By urging illegals to obtain licenses the state and federal government have the ability to build a database of illegals and who to target once immigration reform is brought to the table.
Sen. Obama did very well tonight, though whether that will significantly improve his chances come Super Tuesday is questionable. I thought he outperformed Sen. Clinton on most issues and displayed a knowledge of policy that's necessary while not descending into the realm of wonkishness. Overall, I think Sen. Obama will come out of this week and next in a far better position. If the idea of a so-called 'dream ticket' becomes a reality, I think it will come in the form of an Obama-Clinton one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Worth More than a Hundred Pundits

Politics - xkcd

I think this statement by web comic xkcd pretty much sums up the sentiments of a lot of Americans when it comes to their support of Barak Obama. Beyond the sentiment that voting for Sen. Obama makes one feel 'proud', xkcd offers two points that I either hadn't known or thought of. One is Sen. Obama's support for the Open Source community and the use of open standards to create greater transparency between the government and the people. Sen. Obama's tapping of Lawrence Lessing's experience in understanding how the open source movement could help the federal government shows a lot about Sen. Obama's approach to government computing and software standards, along with records and document transparency.
The other point sounds a bit silly at first, but for a generation of 20-somethings raised on the cynicism of the Simpsons, the Daily Show and South Park, the desire to see Jon Stewart smile again is a strangely compelling reason to vote for Sen. Obama. The comics of xkcd are funny, witty, intelligent and, on occasion, incredibly sweet. So for it's writer to express such a sentiment is keeping within his character. I too want to see Jon Stewart smile again. He was the rallying point for me after 9/11 and I think for my generation, he can be a rallying point for a new politics. I hope you all give xkcd his due time and listen to his words. Whether you vote for Sen. Obama or not is up to you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Comments and the Strange World of Message Boards

I've witnessed some of the strangeness of message-board conversations, the trolls, the yes-men, the intelligent commentators, and the fierceness web debates can take on. The Newsarama message-boards are usually a lively affair, but then again, comic book fan boys are serious about just about everything. Those debates can take on surreal proportions as fan boys slug it out over the merits of an artist, the decisions of a company, the direction of a storyline or the characterization of their favorite characters by a new writer. The key thing commentators have to remember is to remain civil and the ones who garner the greatest respect are the ones who consistently make insightful or intriguing comments. Generally when those commentators weigh in on a subject the rest are ready to accept their wisdom and nibble at the boarders of the argument, seeking perfection.
Yes, message-boards are strange sometimes, but a new level of strangeness seems to have infected the comments section of several left-leaning blogs I read. To wit, I have watched as Clinton supporter after Clinton supporter waylay posts in support of Sen. Obama and those who offer their agreement with the remarks of the blogger. It's not quite troll-like behavior but does verge on it. What I find so strange though is the nature of the attacks on those who, at the very least, voice their agreement with a blogger who writes a post suggesting support for Sen. Obama. Now I don't necessarily know whether these attackers are Clinton supporters but they to display certain traits that mark them as such: a fierceness in their criticism of Sen. Obama, a push to ignore or spin questionable actions on the part of Sen. Clinton, and a tendency to accuse the media or those in the comment section of sheepishly following the Obamania.
Another strange element is the accusation that commentators who agree with pro-Obama sentiments are damaging the Democratic party or otherwise hampering the efforts of the Democratic party from attaining the Presidency. Now as an Obama support myself, I can't say I'm pleased with such sentiments but this has been an interesting primary season and I do think the attacks Sen. Obama has struggled against work to make him a better candidate for the general election. But there's an objective part of me that cringes whenever I see a post accusing Obama supporters of blind faith or levying attacks that rely on anecdotal evidence, the kind that are hard to substantiate with real evidence. It's...troubling to say the least. I believe that Clinton supporters do her a service by defending her in comment sections but I also believe they do her a disservice when they use such tactics to try and win a message-board argument. For one, it's a message-board argument. Only those who generally have a good grasp on the key elements of the issues and candidates post comments so attempting to persuade supporters of one candidate to switch their support is a bit of a lark. In addition, using such tactics as a means of winning these arguments only deepens the opposing supporters' beliefs. So I have a hard time seeing why Sen. Clinton's supporters would go so far out of their way over message-board comments. They display a rabidness that does not engender themselves to supporters of Sen. Obama or those sitting on the fence. I can't quite understand why Sen. Clinton's supporters believe they are doing anything good. The strangeness of message-boards doesn't quite encapsulate how strange these debates have become. It's a new arena I suppose, and a new tone for how message-boards will operate. I just don't get it yet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jumper Leads

Brain's on a temporary reboot cycle. Thoughts are gibbering on as gibberish thoughts do. Be back in head sometime soon, we think.


Clinton's Risky Gamble - Robert Novak @ Washington Post
The Second Black President - Andrew Sullivan
Ted Kennedy Matters - Marc Ambinder
The Black-Brown Divide - Gregory Rodriguez @ Time
Evolution - Andrew Sullivan
Why Ted Kennedy Matters - Jonathan Cohn @ The New Republic
Why Teddy Matters - Matt Yglesias
On Endorsements - Ezra Klein

I decided to give a round-up of various commentaries on the Democratic primary race and the endorsements of the past weekend for Sen. Obama (which, for the record, are JFK daughter Caroline Kennedy, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Noble prize-winner Toni Morrison). It was either this or a series of increasingly redundant posts, so you better damn well thank me. The consensus among left-leaning and independent bloggers and pundits (excluding baby-eating Novak) is that these three endorsements are big in a way that has yet to sink in. All three endorsements are seriously bad for Sen. Clinton and seriously good for Sen. Obama. Most of the electric ink has been spilled over Sen. Kennedy's endorsement as, unbeknownst to me, he is apparently the grand-old-man of the Democratic party, a kingmaker of sorts. The Kennedy endorsement throws a lot of weight (that's not meant as a pun) behind Sen. Obama going into the debate on the 31st and Super Tuesday the following week. Most of the pundits agree that Sen. Kennedy's stature in the Senate has given him a close view of how both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama operate, thus his endorsement of Sen. Obama is a serious snub to the Clinton campaign's claim to experience and ability to lead. Moreover, Sen. Kennedy's support among white working-class voters and Latino voters will most likely give Sen. Obama a boost among that much needed electorate.
Now Caroline Kennedy, I think her endorsement is the killer app of the Clinton campaign. Sen. Clinton's courting of the women's vote will take a serious blow among middle-aged women. Watching the response at American University to Caroline's remarks was astounding. How much that will affect the primaries I can't tell. Toni Morrison's endorsement will have the same effect as Caroline Kennedy's I think. To have the woman who called President Clinton the first black president come out in favor of Sen. Obama comes as a hard knock to the Clinton's standing among the black community. Mrs. Kennedy and Ms. Morrison's endorsements also stand as a rebuttal to those women who have criticized Oprah Winfrey for not endorsing Sen. Clinton. This is still a close primary race, but I think Sen. Obama has gained a distinct advantage against Sen. Clinton. What happens between now, the next debate and Super Tuesday is a big unknown, but an exciting one.

Quote of the Day

Via Ezra Klein's grandmother: "it's your generation's turn. We've screwed everything up. Now you get a chance."

This was part of her reasoning for voting for Sen. Obama. He goes on to describe how President Clinton's blundering actions and Caroline Kennedy's endorsement convinced his grandmother that Sen. Obama was worth giving a chance. Klein also notes how Caroline Kennedy's endorsement has had an effect on his mother as well, leaving me to wonder what effect said Kennedy's endorsement will have on middle-aged women in America. Being so young and never really taken by the Kennedy mythos I have a hard time understanding the value of such an endorsement. The Kennedy's have been just another political family for me but it appears that Caroline's endorsement matters a lot more than I would have expected. That Sen. Kennedy is endorsing Sen. Obama holds more value in my mind, but again, I was never caught up in the love of the Kennedys.

Silver Linings Amid Dark Clouds

Weak Dollar Fuels China's Buying Spree of U.S. Firms - Ariana Eunjung Cha @ Washington Post

I'm not an economist so take my opinion here with a grain of salt. Even so, I see the rapid rise in acquisitions of U.S. firms by Chinese ones as something of a positive. While the falling dollar makes it more difficult for U.S. firms to buy into foreign companies, the opposite is that foreign firms feel they have the ability to invest in American companies at bargain prices. Some may see a weak dollar as a sign of falling U.S. financial power in the world but if foreign companies believe that there are good investment opportunities in the states then that's a reassuring sign of the strength of the American economy. As Cha notes, we have experienced the same thing in the 70s and 80s with the Germans and the Japanese respectively. Yes, there is some warranted concern but that has more to do with the politics between China and the U.S. than with the economy. Chinese companies either operating or opening U.S. firms bring in much needed jobs and job security. On an even brighter note, such investments from China are a sign of a lessening militaristic stance against the U.S., if China has had one since the 90s. You don't press too many political hot buttons if you have serious investments in a particular nation. At the same time, yes it is worrisome that China will have greater pull with U.S. lawmakers since more American jobs will depend on China's money. But ultimately, this infusion of cash into the U.S. economy will help it stave off any serious recession. Now if only the price of precious metals like gold and platinum would come down then jewelers like me won't have to raise our prices so much.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Three-Fifthers of the Democratic Party

The Media's Three-Fifth's Compromise - Rikyrah @ Jack and Jill Politics

Spencer Ackerman's blog pointed me to this commentary on the Clinton camp's spin of the South Carolina primary. It really is quite good (despite the grammar nazi in my kicking in from time to time, though I'm no saint myself) and makes several astute points about what the Clinton spin entails, particularly if the Clinton's keep pushing it. That Sen. Clinton not only lost by a 2 to 1 margin but barely made second place herself was a considerable hit to her campaign. She compounded the wound by not giving a concession speech and then claiming that South Carolina didn't matter because of the larger black electorate in the state. As Rikyrah notes, the Clintons are essentially saying that black voters don't matter because of course they would vote for a black man over a white woman. Not only is that insulting to the blacks of South Carolina, it's insulting to blacks all across the U.S. While the Clintons can certainly count on the establishment leaders in the black communities, the more they push this kind of spin the more they will see black voters rally around Sen. Obama. It's not a wise course of action, but how can they back themselves out of a corner of their own making?