January 30, 2009

Hat Envy

Per The Oregonian, The Smithsonian wants Aretha's hat.

(Is that Al giving her the thumbs-up in the background?)

One Londoner wonders forlornly, "We make the world's best hats, so why don't we wear them? British women should emulate Aretha Franklin and don magnificent head-gear."

UPDATE: Arnold wants it, too. (Sorry about the bad psd job [by whoever made the pic], but right now I just don't feel like cutting the hat out to fix it.)

Flight of the Conchords, for Real


"Joshuah Bearman alerted me to David Dixon's amazing audio archive website, which has links to audio files that people recorded at home and unwittingly sent to Napster.

"'This was right around the time that Napster was just beginning to penetrate into the average computer user's lives. At the same time, an audio utility program called MusicMatch Jukebox was also being widely used, since it was often pre-installed on off-the-shelf PC's. MMJ allowed you, among other things, to make recordings using the cheap microphone included with the PC, and save the file in mp3 format. If you didn't give the audio file a name, it assigned a default name "mic in track" followed by a number. Now if you were also running Napster, and you were careless enough to be sharing everything on your computer (which *many* were), then anyone also running Napster could just do a search for "mic in track" and find and download these personal recordings, usually without your knowledge.

"'I am that guy. I've amassed many, many hours of these recordings, which provide endless voyeuristic entertainment. Typical recordings were of people singing, rapping, or playing along with the radio (often badly), kids practicing their school book reports, audio love letters, kids being silly, and so forth. One of my finds was a 14-minute-long recording of a guy praying very fervently and emotionally, even lapsing into glossolalia. I've posted many of my favorites on my webpage, for free.'"

Joshuah Bearman, via boing boing (thanks, ben!) Check out Joshuah's other rec'd links, including a QVC spoof by ten-year-olds or a "jug band hillbilly cover version, or really sequel to," Juvenile's Back That Thing Up.

Imagining Ten Dimensions

Some physicists believe there are eleven; see here and here

For what it's worth, Kundalini yoga posits that we each have eleven bodies.

I'm rooting for twelve.

January 29, 2009

January 28, 2009

Obama's Disappointing Appointments per Naomi Klein et Al.

Very rough transcript of video of Klein here, which is unfortunately interrupted by an odd interlude of pop-tuneship (emphasis supplied):

" . . . we're seeing these very disappointing appointments partly because we have not been honest about the Clinton years . . . it was a nice message to present the 90's as these "wonder years" in contrast to the Bush years; and that created a situation in which you could have a Larry Summers presented as a wise man instead of going down with Alan Greenspan -- Rubin and Summers should have gone down alongside him. It was an election strategy that relied on intellectual dishonesty. Now, Obama has already won, so there's no reason to be pandering in this way. Now, there's going to be a stimulus package, but how is it going to be paid for. Obama promised to increase taxes on the wealthy; Emmanuel has hinted they might not do that. And there's a huge fight over the kinds of taxes paid by hedge funds; and Larry Summers is coming straight from managing a hedge fund, one of the most secretive hedge funds around. The real question is not will they spend taxpayer money on infrastructure; they will. But will they rack up huge deficits, or will they actually pay for this with taxes on the wealthy, which is what they promised to do; because if they don't pay for this in an equitable, progressive way, there will be a huge economic crisis down the road, it will be blamed on Obama, and then there will be a wave of privatizations of these new investments in public spending, and there will be a whole new bubble."
Klein is i.m.h.o. a very smart person.

I've been keeping notes on Obama's appointments, and they're not totally reassuring. In particular, on the economic front, despite what corporate media types say, there were plenty of people who did see our current crisis coming. Not one of them has been given any responsibility for pulling us out of it; instead, we're entrusted entirely to those who helped engineer it.

I don't have time to edit the following info properly but I don't want to hold it back any longer, so here it is; sorry it's a bit raw:

Some Got It Right:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123086035502948067.html : For years, they were the party poopers: financial prognosticators who, amid the ebullient stock prices and effervescent home values that defined the early 21st century, warned of trouble. In hindsight, they're the ones who got it right -- or, at least, some of it.

Often mocked for predictions that seemed outlandish at the time -- big banks will fail, Fannie Mae will go bankrupt -- a few of these outliers, including money manager Jeremy Grantham, mutual-fund manager Bob Rodriguez and brokerage-house owner Peter Schiff, were among the first to describe key parts of the U.S. financial meltdown.

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2009/01/no-one-saw-it-coming-really/ : Mr. Rajan Was Unpopular (But Prescient) at Greenspan Party [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123086154114948151.html ]:

“It was August 2005, at an annual gathering of high-powered economists at Jackson Hole, Wyo. — and that year they were honoring Alan Greenspan. Mr. Greenspan, a giant of 20th-century economic policy, was about to retire as Federal Reserve chairman after presiding over a historic period of economic growth.

Mr. [Raghuram G.] Rajan, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth Graduate School of Business, chose that moment to deliver a paper called “Has Financial Development Made the World Riskier?” [http://www.kc.frb.org/publicat/sympos/2005/PDF/Rajan2005.pdf ]

His answer: Yes.

Mr. Rajan quickly came under attack as an antimarket Luddite, wistful for old days of regulation. Today, however, few are dismissing his ideas. The financial crisis has savaged the reputation of Mr. Greenspan and others now seen as having turned a blind eye toward excessive risk-taking.”

From http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2008/11/11/The-End-of-Wall-Streets-Boom?print=true# : Michael Lewis, Meredith Whitney, Steve Eisman, Vincent Daniel, Danny Moses, Ivy Zelman, Jim Grant, Dan Gertner

Henry Blodget

Now that we're mired in the worst economic crisis since the Depression, forecasters who didn't see it coming are consoling themselves by saying, "no one saw it coming." This is hogwash. Many people saw it coming: Gary Shilling, Nouriel Roubini, Jeremy Grantham, Dean Baker, Peter Schiff, Robert Shiller, et al. They just don't happen to work for major investment banks.

It is true that the folks who work for major investment banks didn't see it coming. Historians will eventually determine whether this is because the major investment banks uniformly employ boneheads, or, more likely, because, when you work for an investment bank, it is easier to conclude that now is always a good time to buy stocks.

(None of these people have been given any responsibility in Obama's admin.)
And Some Didn't:
See Naomi Klein at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDvRfkfMpp8&eurl=http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=385x265682

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/10/business/10rubin.html?_r=1&hp :

Robert E. Rubin, the former Treasury secretary who is an influential director and senior adviser at Citigroup, will step down after coming under fire for his role in the bank’s current troubles, the bank confirmed Friday.

Since joining Citigroup in 1999 as an adviser to the bank’s senior executives, Mr. Rubin, 70, who is an economic adviser on the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama, has sat atop a bank that has made one misstep after another.

When he was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, Mr. Rubin helped loosen Depression-era banking regulations that made the creation of Citigroup possible. During the same period he helped beat back tighter oversight of exotic financial products, a development he had previously said he was helpless to prevent . . . .

WSJ Says That Crash Promulgator Plays Central Role in Planning Obama Economic Policy


The Wall Street Journal told readers that former Treasury secretary and Citigroup honcho Robert Rubin is playing a central role in designing President Obama's economic policy. It would have been appropriate to note that with the possible exception of Alan Greenspan, Mr. Rubin is the person most responsible for the policies that lead to the current crisis.

Mr. Rubin was a staunch advocate the policy of one-sided financial deregulation under which the government ignored prudential regulation while continuing to allow major banks to benefit from the government's "too big to fail" insurance policy. Mr Rubin also actively promoted an over-valued dollar which led to the enormous trade deficit of recent years. In addition, he had a "bubbles are fine" approach that allowed huge asset bubbles to grow unchecked.

The WSJ does note that Mr. Rubin personally profited from these policies in his role as a top Citigroup executive, but it does not point out the extent to which he was directly responsible for the policies that have produced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. If Mr. Rubin is in fact playing a large role in determining the economic policies of the Obama administration, this should be serious cause for public concern.

http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/2009/01/january-10-2009-hornswoggled.html :

Ilargi: . . . . Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin are the finance powerhouses in the upcoming Obama administration. They were in the exact same place 10 years ago. This time, they bring along a protégé in Tim Geithner, who will be the fall guy if all goes wrong. And they know it will go wrong; they've seen it before. They're not dumb. They're just sick, not stupid. They know it will go wrong, because everything they've done so far has failed. Only, that's not what they see. They can't see it, because they are gambling addicts. And as you can find out in Gambling Anonymous meetings, the addicts are masters in distorting their own perception of reality. Rubin and Summers differ from most addicts in that they are in positions to control what is legal, which is quite close to what is real, and what is not.

The November 12, 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (officially named the Banking Act of 1933), enforced through the signing into law of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act by Slick Billy Clinton, gave them access to depositors’ money, and thus made it legal to use people's savings for "investments". 9 years later, those savings were all gone. Today they have an even larger pool of dough: the money of all Americans, and all of their children. This is what you're looking at when you see Henry Paulson, Barney Frank, Ben Bernanke or Barack Obama talk about bail-outs and rescue plans. It's all about providing the world's most megalomaniac gamblers with cash for their addictions. There's nothing else, that’s all there is.

The banking industry had tried to get rid of Glass-Steagall for a decade, but, aside from minor changes in 1980 and 1982, it wouldn't be until Rubin and Summers were at the helm, as Treasury Secretary and Deputy Secretary, that they succeeded in pushing through the repeal. After setting up the procedure, Rubin left the government on July 1, 1999, and joined the newly formed Citigroup, leaving Summers as Treasury Secretary to execute the plan and have President Clinton sign the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act into law.

Citigroup was put together in 1998 by combining Citibank and insurance slash finance company Travelers. The only way this combination made sense was for the Glass-Steagall Act to be gone, since the Act barred banks merging with insurers. Citi would have had to shed many valuable assets within the next 2-5 years to remain within the law. But then-CEO Sandy Weill stated at the time: "that over that time the legislation will change...we have had enough discussions to believe this will not be a problem“. In other words, the fix was in. The fact that Rubin joined the company months before Clinton signed Gramm-Leach-Bliley only serves to confirm that.

* * * * *
Of course the Fed chairman during all this time was Alan Greenspan. In 2000, the trio of Rubin, Summers and Greenspan successfully argued for the deregulation of the derivatives trade. This enabled Citi and Goldman Sachs, as well as other major Wall Street players, to increase their bets and gambles manyfold. And let me repeat: it took just 9 years for them to burn through all customer deposits. And then some.

[More at link above.]

The nomination of Admiral Dennis Blair for Director of National Intelligence cannot be permitted to pass under any circumstances.

As reported by Democracy Now, when genocidal monsters in the Indonesian military were committing massacres in East Timor, Admiral Blair DEFIED his orders to get them to stop, and instead gave them encouragement to continue. He then lied to Congress about it all. No such loose cannon with such blood on his hands can be allowed in the new administration. The links to both these video stories can be found on the Reject Blair Action Page below:

Reject Blair Action Page: http://www.usalone.com/reject_blair.php


Re- Dennis Ross, to be retained under the Obama admin.:

"In 2006, Ross joined a cast of neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks in supporting the I. Lewis Libby Defense Fund, an initiative aimed at raising money for the disgraced former assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in connection to the investigation into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name. Ross served on the group’s steering committee along with Fred Thompson, Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes, Bernard Lewis, and Francis Fukuyama.24 The group’s chairman was Mel Sembler, a real estate magnate who serves as a trustee at AEI and has funded the group Freedom’s Watch."

"After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ross supported the advocacy work of PNAC, a neoconservative-led letterhead group that advocated overthrowing Saddam Hussein in response to the attacks, even if he was not tied to the them.26 Ross signed two PNAC open letters on the situation in post-war Iraq, both published in March 2003. The first of these, “Statement on Post-War Iraq,” was issued on March 19, 2003, the day before the United States began its invasion. The letter argued that Iraq should be seen as the first step in a larger reshaping of the region’s political landscape, contending that the invasion and rebuilding of Iraq could “contribute decisively to the democratization of the wider Middle East.” Other signatories included Max Boot, Eliot Cohen, Thomas Donnelly, Joshua Muravchik, and several other core neoconservatives."

(The above quotes are from Right Web's Profile of Dennis Ross.
http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/4786.html )

The Trouble with Sanjay Gupta
By Paul Krugman / The New York Times

So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

Link: http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mikeinthenews/index.php?id=12995
NY Times link: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/the-trouble-with-sanjay-gupta/
MORE at http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x4779242
Just sayin' . . . .

This morning's reports about Health and Human Services secretary-designate Tom Daschle, his tax troubles and the money he earned in recent years from interests in the health care industry that he would oversee, include:

• A New York Times report that Daschle, "was aware as early as last June that he might have to pay back taxes for the use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm, but did not inform the Obama transition team until weeks after Mr. Obama named him to the health secretary's post."

• Word in The Washington Post that financial disclosure forms show that "Daschle's expertise and insights, gleaned over 26 years in Congress, earned him more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry, and perks such as a chauffeured Cadillac, according to the documents." The Times comes up with a larger figure. Daschle earned "more than $300,000 in income from health-related companies that he might regulate as secretary," it says.
The NYT notes,
As a politician, Mr. Daschle often struck a populist note, but his financial disclosure report shows that in the last two years, he received $2.1 million from a law firm, Alston & Bird; $2 million in consulting fees from a private equity firm run by a major Democratic fundraiser, Leo Hindery Jr. (which provided him with the car and driver); and at least $220,000 for speeches to health care, pharmaceutical and insurance companies. He also received nearly $100,000 from health-related companies affected by federal regulation.
Also, according to Common Dreams (citing WaPo), Daschle was among the Dems who voted for the bankruptcy reform bill, which made it much for difficult for consumers to actually discharge their debt, after receiving $45,000 in political contributions from CitiGroup during the previous six years. "I've never seen a bill that was so one-sided. The cries, claims and concerns of vulnerable Americans who have suffered a financial emergency have been drowned out by the political might of the credit card industry," said former Dem. Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum now head of Consumer Federation of America. A similar bill had been vetoed by President Clinton.

Further UPDATE: Per Juan Cole,
Meanwhile, it is rumored that among the main shapers of Obama's Iran policy will be Dennis Ross, the head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the think tank of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. During Ross's tenure there, the WINEP website carried a call to bomb Iran; a paper arguing that nothing bad would happen if the US did bomb Iran; and it listed as a WINEP associate Daniel Pipes, who spent most of his waking hours during the past year decrying Barack Obama as a stealth Muslim and an apostate (which was it?) and who has repeatedly said racist things about Muslims. Turning Iran policy over to the Israel lobbies, the major agitators for a US war on Iran, is a very bad idea . . . .
Further UPDATE: Via boingboing,
Snip from a post by Alan Wexelblat on the alarming number of copyright maximalist lawyers being appointed by the Obama administration to the Department of Justice. Bad news for people who believe in copyright reform, and greater freedom to share, remix, and reuse content online. Snip:
First off, there's the #3 man at Justice, Thomas Perrelli, accurately described by CNET as "beloved by the RIAA". Not only has this guy been on the wrong side in the courtroom, he's fingered as instrumental in convincing the Copyright Board to strangle Web radio in its crib by imposing impossible fee structures.

* * * * *

Then there's the #2 man, currently slated to be David Ogden. If that name only rings a faint bell it's because you have to cast your mind back to Eldred v Ashcroft, the argument on whether retroactive copyright term extensions were legal. Sitting over there on Ashcroft's side? That's Mr. Odgen. For extra-bonus ick points, Ogden also was involved in defending the heinous COPA legislation, fortunately now dead and buried (but not forgotten).

The capper on this line-up of suspicious characters is Donald Verrilli, now up for Associate Deputy Attorney General. This specimen of legal acumen is front and center in the Cartel's jihad, having appeared for Viacom when it sued YouTube, for the RIAA against Jammie Thomas, single mother. And if we peer back a little farther, we find Verrilli's dirty fingerprints on MGM v Grokster.

Koons Does Dallas

Photo by snarky (cropped by moi).

New Meme: "Too Big to Save"

"Fact #1. Too big to save. Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup, Inc. have combined assets of $3.9 trillion, or 43 times the size of the Treasury bailout funds they've received to date.

"Fact #2. Bigger losses ahead. Even before any further declines in the economy, an unusually large portion of their assets are already in grave jeopardy — commercial real estate loans going sour, credit cards loans tanking, auto loans sinking, and residential mortgages turning to dust. Now, as the economy continues to tumble, avoiding much larger losses will be almost impossible.

"Fact #3. Big derivatives players. Bank of America and Citigroup are the nation's second and third largest high-rollers in the derivatives market, with a combined total of $78 trillion in these bets outstanding. That's over ten times the derivatives that Lehman Brothers had on its books when it failed last year.

"Fact #4. They've bet far too much on each other's failure. Bank of America and Citigroup are also the second and third largest participants in the most dangerous derivatives of all — credit default swaps. These are the big bets that financial institutions make on the failure of other major companies."

More here.

Texas Transportation: Zombies Ahead

We knew that; but the news is, I'm approvingly citing Fox: "[t]ransportation officials in Texas are scrambling to prevent hackers from changing messages on digital road signs after one sign in Austin was altered to read, 'Zombies Ahead.'"

January 26, 2009

Doing Great:

" . . . McDonald's said Monday its 2008 net profit soared 80 percent from a year [ago], lifted by growing demand from consumers seeking low-cost meals in a deepening global recession." More here.

Animal House

Sorry, my source didn't source it. Click on the pic to enlarge.

January 25, 2009

Words to Live By:

Select All; Command Copy; Command Paste; Command Save; Select; Command Delete; Command Save.

From c-cyte Aphorisms.


Go here, and be sure to scroll all the way down.

(Thanks, Paul!)

January 23, 2009

Why Republicans are Delaying Holder's Confirmation:

" . . . U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island, today sharply criticized the argument some Republican members of the Committee are making for delaying a vote on the nomination of Attorney General-Designate Eric Holder:

"'Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have asked Eric Holder to make a commitment, before he is even confirmed, that he will not prosecute any Bush Administration officials for their involvement in acts of torture during the last administration.

"'Anyone familiar with the criminal justice system . . . should know that a prosecutor should make no determination about who to prosecute before he or she has all the facts, and particularly not in response to legislative pressure.'"
I.e., we'll block you 'til you promise not to do your job ( -- exactly what we've had from Repub. gummint for the last 8 years {no one hired unless they could be relied on not to do their job}).

And if that weren't bad enough:
"'I believe they are delaying Holder's nomination to shorten the time between the day Holder takes over and the day the statute of limitations on [the] violations of FISA [that] Bush committed on March 11, 2004 start to expire -- that is, March 11, 2009, just seven weeks away.

"'At yesterday's Progressive Media Summit, I had an opportunity to remind Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of that timeline. I reminded him, too, that Bush seems intent on delaying the time when an Article III judge assesses the evidence in the al-Haramain document, which probably proves Bush broke the law.'"
I have not personally verified the facts or all of the law re- the statute-of-limitations issue, but I can confirm that if there's an applicable statute of limitations, and no prosecution is commenced before it expires, the "evil-doers" are home-free.

If you find this delay unacceptable for that or any other reason, pls tell the two senators blocking the nomination, Senators Spector and Cornyn (I'm especially talkin' to you, Pennsylvania and Texas residents!), which you can do here.

More details here, here, and here.

Colbert Warns Remixers

In case you missed it:

(Thanks, Ben!)

January 22, 2009

Kevin Bewersdorf

I really like Kevin's work.

He deploys various media; you can see more photos and other kinds of work on his website.

(And he writes; and he played a leading role in, co-wrote and made music for the movie, LoL, which I really enjoyed.)

Bewersdorf will give an art talk on Thursday, Jan. 29, at 6pm at CentralTrak (800 Exposition, Dallas).

He's rep'd by and/or gallery; here are some images from his last show there (with Guthrie Lonergan).

January 21, 2009

Snarky's Fave Twitterer

Can't resist quoting in full (you're the best, snarky!):

Fireland — so many great ones, but here are three six of my favorites (couldn’t narrow down any further):

I dunno. It’s nice having HDTV and Coke Zero and Tumblr and all, but the world really hasn’t been the same since God killed Nell Carter.

Where’s my glue gun?? You guys, it’s only a week till Thanksgiving and my Jordache short shorts aren’t going to fucking bedazzle themselves.

Lassoed the cat’s legs in under 17 minutes! Not too bad for someone who flunked out of rodeo college and just drank a Zima he got on eBay!

Well actually the difference between Helvetica and Arial is pretty glaring if you oh my god this is why I haven’t had sex in twenty months.

I told Dad we needed to start sharing our feelings. He told me to get a blog. So I did. He leaves the same comment on every post: LOL FAG

I keep accidentally getting Tom of Finland toothpaste instead of Tom’s of Maine. It makes me feel fresh but also … confused.

Manicure Printer

More Great Photos from the Inauguration

via The Boston Globe, here (thanks, Ben!)

This photo (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images) shows residents of Kibera, one of the poorest quarters in Nairobi (in Kenya, where Obama's father was born), gathered to watch the inauguration.

More great photos at the link above.

Satellite Pic

And I heard on NPR there were thousands more with tix who didn't get in, due to security or other snafus -- hmmm.

At Last: Coolness + Hotness Combined

Or as another pundit put it,"Yes We Can! Make the Stimulus More Stimulating."

Hope that lasts Michelle; Barack may be pretty busy for a few years.

January 20, 2009

Prez Obama's Inaugural Address

Full transcript below.

So far the commentators have been rather unenthused.

I found the speech substantively highly satisfactory. Yes, it was somber -- Obama may well have no more than four years in which to try to address the horrific problems created at break-neck pace over the preceding eight years and more. And Obama's already shown he can inspire "rock-star"-like enthusiasm; he didn't need to do that again today, and if he had, it might not have particularly furthered his goal (in fact, I can easily imagine certain constituencies using it against him). Rather, his goal, I hope, was to make sure everyone understands the gravity of the difficulties we face, and to further the work he's already begun on solving them.

Here's the full text of Obama's speech (all emphasis supplied), with a few of my thoughts bracketed and in blue (I think I heard the address at least 30 times today; if you did, too, you can just read the blue {heh heh, my} parts).


"My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

"Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents." [Since the Bush administration has wrought far more damage to our federal constitutional rights than any other in my lifetime, I'm very glad Obama's actually taught constitutional law -- per Wikipedia, for twelve years. Here and in many other parts of the speech, he places a reassuringly strong emphasis on the importance of those rights.]

"So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age." [The commentators I've heard so far have discussed the speech as a message to conservatives, to U.S. citizens in general, and to the world; but I also heard this and other portions of the address as a message to Congress, whose failure to make the "hard choices" strikes me as particularly culpable and destructive -- choices such as to stand up against tax cuts that mainly benefit the top 1%; to stand up for needed regulation of financial markets, or environmental protections; to stand up against the invasion of Iraq, etc.] "Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

"These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

"We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom." [I hope he's saying, our greatness has resulted as much or more from the efforts and ingenuity of the common people as it has from Wall St. "innovators" and the like.]

"For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

"For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

"For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. [They did this not just for themselves, but for us, their children, and for ours.]

"Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

"This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

"For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply." [The commentators I've heard so far have failed to note that this specifically follows mention of the "big plans" Obama thinks are needed. They may be correct that it refers to other things as well, but again, to me, this seemed directed toward conservatives in Congress who have already expressed opposition to spending plans aimed at creating jobs, etc., as opposed to just handing cash and tax cuts to economic elites. And when Obama says "[t]heir memories are short," I can't help but think how these same critics voted to give Sec. of the Treasury Paulson billions to bail out elites, with no oversight or, so far, accountability.] "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government." [Hallelujah. The Bush administration's record reads like one determined to prove government cannot work, at least not for you and me. History proves otherwise, but we need the reminder. And transparency is crucial; anything less is an invitation to abuse.]

"Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good." [In my view, our current economic crisis can ultimately only be solved from the bottom up. Even elites cannot prosper, if only they can afford to invest or buy goods or services. Many of them don't care whether such investors and consumers live in the U.S. or elsewhere; if people here are tapped out, there are others in other countries. I care about people in other countries; but I do also care about us here in the U.S., and there can be no recovery here without jobs here, too.]

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." [Again, I hope this is a reference to a goal of restoring our constitutional rights. I've heard commentators refer to torture and Abu Ghraib; I'm hopeful Obama also means our First and Fourth Amendment rights (freedom of speech and peaceable assembly and freedom from searches and seizures {including warrantless spying} without probable cause), as well as the constitutional checks on executive tyranny, among others.] "Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law" [as contrasted with the defiance of the rule of law by the current administration] "and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations" [this "charter" being the constitution and Bill of Rights, "expanded" by, among other things, amendments such as the 13th abolishing "involuntary servitude"]. "Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions." [This as well as the reference to the "blood of generations" reminds us that the hardships we face now are no greater than those our parents and ancestors endured in order to give us the opportunity to pass on to our own children the same rights and ideals, as well as the "task" Obama refers to below.] "They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." [Again, I find this paragraph reassuring. It reminds me of both eastern and western teachings to the effect that power used unwisely depletes itself, while power used wisely increases itself; physical and material force are inefficient and costly tools.]

"We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness." [I believe it's a well-accepted socio-historical fact that the greatest flourishings of civilization and culture have often occurred after diverse peoples have come into contact with and mixed with one another]. "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect." [I do not take this so much as a reference to Obama's father, as one commentator suggested, but rather to our mutual interest in peace, among other things, and the respect to which I believe all humans are entitled.] "To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." [I can't help but think this would include the Bush administration. In any case, I'd say, we will all be judged on what we build, AND on what we destroy. We must hold ourselves responsible for all our consequences, not just those we wishfully hoped for.] "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it." [Almost none of us can afford to behave as if we can wall ourselves off from problems in the rest of the world. I do not suppose Obama had in mind the fact that the City of Dallas has decided to approve a request to transform the neighborhood in which Bush recently bought a home into a "gated community."]

"As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

"For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job, which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate." [Totally agreed. In fact, I blame various media machines and those who control them for keeping Americans as divided and diverted as they've been; and I'm struck that another smart strategy Obama seems to be deploying is to simply by-pass the corporate media, going directly to the people both via the Internet and physically, by means such as his "whistle-stop" tour to D.C.]

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

"This is the price and the promise of citizenship." [Totally agreed. We're citizens, not just consumers. There can be no greater purpose in life, than to help make the world better; and there is no greater opportunity to do that, than during difficult times.]

"This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

"This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

"So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt," [and truly, I understand, it hung by a thread] "the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"'Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].'

"America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

During the last few decades, many presidents, rather than leading us, have instead sought to manipulate us by appealing to our more childish, wishful selves -- describing whole countries as good or evil, with the U.S., of course, always "good"; telling us we can have our "cake" -- our tax cuts -- and a greater society, too; encouraging us to consume without restraint; etc. They analyzed us in order to discover what our smallest selves wanted to hear, and while we listened to their siren song, they went ahead and did what they wanted to do, to the detriment of us and our children.

Obama's speech is in part an important experiment in appealing to our larger selves, to determine whether we are now ready to listen as adults, to rejoin the "reality-based community," bring ourselves to face the problems we've allowed to multiply, and work together to fix them.

And I hope by this point, most of us find it more reassuring to hear our leaders acknowledge real problems, rather than continuing to be told reassuring tales.

Bush started worrying about his legacy near the end of his second term. Obama's clearly been working on his since some time ago.

I have reservations about many of Obama's appointments, etc. to date, and I remain horrified at his vote on the FISA bill. But this speech makes me feel more hopeful.

(Photos from Spiegel Online.)

P.S.: Per AP, that stumble during Obama's oath of office was caused by Bush appointee Chief Justice Roberts, who mixed up the word order. Obama waited for Roberts to correct himself, which Roberts did, before proceeding.

P.P.S.: Nice slide show here.

UPDATE: The Daily Show was awesome tonite.

January 19, 2009

Happy Martin Luther King Day

You're probably super-saturated by now, but if not, it's worth hearing again, esp. now.

January 18, 2009

Bush's Legacy

per K. Olbermann's "8 Years in 8 Minutes":

Hack Attack on Snarky!

. . . by self-labelled "Arab Muslims," though I wouldn't necessarily take that for certain; you never know who might hope to sow ill-will toward them. Anyway, someone hacked one of my fave blogs, by one of my fave friends, creator of subversive crossstitch and kitty wigs. The hacked blog is snarkymalarkey; the pic at right shows what the hackers put up in its place (click on the pic for a more legible version); as of this posting, snarkey's URL brings you to a WordPress "error" notice.

First of all, all sympathy to snarky. Tryin' to find a positive angle on it, possibly it's a bit of an honor for your blog to be deemed impt. enough to be targeted by hackers in far lands (notice to hackers, not only am I not in that class, but I'm backin' this up daily from now on).

Second, I think this may actually be a relatively cool response to what's been happening lately in Gaza. All of Hamas's rockets since the "cease-fire" have killed 13 Israelis; innocent, Palestinian deaths since Israel launched its recent offensive number over a thousand.

Imagine if your kid were blown up.

(And like, how many of us speak/spell Arabic? {Damn few; and 'member how B*sh fired a lot of them for the crime of being gay?})

UPDATE 1/19/09: snarkey's back, better than ever!

January 16, 2009

Prospect.1; KK Projects; Tony Oursler

Remember Prospect.1 (2008), the largest biennial of international contemporary art ever organized in the U.S., previously blogged here?

I just learned my favorite project at KK Projects was by Tony Oursler. (I don't recall any signage or mention in the printed materials . . . . Sincere apologies for my failures and ignorance, both being infinite.)

See KK Projects for their visuals (click on biennial, then on tony oursler; some of the stills are by my own Ben!); and my vidi of the piece, here.

This all takes place on a block of very small, clapboard houses damaged by the flooding following Katrina. But there's a giant house on the corner, with a paucity of windows facing the block of small houses; and those windows there are, are shuttered, boarded up, or even barred.

Many houses in N.O. still have not been repaired and remain boarded up, so you almost might not particularly notice this house; except that faint sounds and ethereal music emanate from it. You follow the audio, discover that a few small, round holes have been drilled into the ground floor walls, and peer inside. You see video -- I wish I'd watched it through, but I didn't; but I think it had to do with New Orleans denizens, and music -- projected onto the interior rooms of this monolithic, foreboding house -- against a backdrop of shelves, a chair, and various implements.

Eyes, belly-buttons, voices, instruments, apertures.

January 15, 2009

Smooth New Dance Moves

(Thanks, Ben!)

The Meaning of "Action Figure"

E.g., I have a Shakespeare "action figure"; and it means I often get to expend extra action putting his feather pen back in his little fist.

He's worth it.

Happy Belated Holidays

January 13, 2009

Looking for a Safe Investment?

(Here's the, um, money shot; your reward for slogging through these posts.)

We knew it was imminent. All those motorized dildos, but no . . . ?

(Thanks -- of course -- Ben.)

January 12, 2009

Rebecca Carter

Just got these photos of her work in the (anti) Formula show at 500X. If I understand correctly, Carter sews this work on cellulose paper which she subsequently dissolves; the remaining thread is then installed on the wall with pins. The shadows cast create a disconcerting, eyeball-jiggling jitter. I thought her Bed L.E.M. was especially wonderful. Carter also works in video.

Komfort Thru Kool-Aid

Dunno know 'bout you, but I'm keeping a close watch on Obama; and so far, his picks aren't totally reassuring.

When I was 10, I was best friends with Donna Drvaric, who, like me, liked to read.

My parents did a good thing when they chose to buy a tract home on a lot that backed onto Whitnall Park. The park is still there, in a suburb of Milwaukee, which had had a socialist government for many years and thus had stellar infrastructure (many socialists were, far as I can tell, and still are, about serving people – they created a great public school system {my highschool had everything from auto shop to 4th-year Latin, plus a calculus course that made my subsequent East Coast college calculus seem aimed at retards}, the best-designed freeway and other infrastructure in any city I've ever lived in, plus great public parks, among other things {I wish they'd taken a shot at health care}).

So anyway, on the border of my parents' yard and this really great park, I and my sis had located/enhanced what we called a fort but what I also thought of as a refuge. Boulders, trees, and a flat spot.

So during this one summer, Donna Drvaric and I regularly mixed up whatever combination of available Kool-Aid flavors we imagined might be most ambrosial (we had to complicate things); assembled selected fruit (we'd gotten the idea that fruit amp'd the luxury factor); gathered up our current reads and some comfy quilts; spread out in the leafy half-shade of our fort; and spent a decent number of summer days there, reading, eating fruit, and drinking Kool-Aid.

It was Donna's slightly older bro who intro'd me, in one afternoon, to both Love Potion No. 9 and Do Wah Diddy:

Check that drummer. Sorry, they f'd up the end; here are more versions, all enjoyable; but mysteriously, they all kinda f' the endings up:

Four decades later, when my mom was on her last cancer, I shot the pic below as she walked through our "fort" into the park.

January 10, 2009

Re- the Current Economic Crisis,

good summary of where we are, how we got here, and how to fix it, here (6:50 min.)

Photo-Mosaic Sculptures

Rusty Scruby's new show, which opened last nite at The M.A.C., is his most wonderful yet. (Rusty is rep'd by Pan American Projects.)

Made me want to track down images of work by a couple of other artists whose work involves cutting up photos. The second work shown (on the left below) is by Oliver Herring; the last two are by by Osang Gwon.

January 9, 2009

Update on CentralTrak Schedule

The Wim Wenders screenings and the two Art+Tech talks have been deleted (I wondered how they were going to do everything). There's still lots to do; see the official calendar here, and my updated post here.

January 8, 2009

Something from Nothing.

That's the job description for gods and us as creators. Here, John Cage plays 4'33" by David Tudor.

"I have nothing to say, and I am saying it."

I agree with many of the comments on this video; also, for me, this piece evokes the ultimate inadequacy of all attempts at expression(/articulation) (although those attempts may be our salvation); the longing for space in which to hear one's self (as well as the need to narrow one's focus enough to hear the all-important background noise); the relief of a release from the burden of all of the foregoing, if only for a set time. All of that is too specific, but, I hope, suggestive.

The piece is very existential, I think; and I relate to it because I believe meaning is something we have to manufacture for ourselves, and we can do it out of almost anything, or nothing -- and that we must try to hold ourselves responsible for what we make.

Reminds me of a poem by Wallace Stevens (excerpt):

One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail.
One beats and beats for that which one believes.
That’s what one wants to get near. Could it after all
Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
To a crow’s voice?