Wednesday, December 31, 2008

That's Sir Terry Pratchett, Thank You



There are times when the phrase “Absolutely, totally, gobsmackingly, mindbogglingly amazed” just doesn’t cover it, but I find that in the Queen’s New Year Honours list I am now a Knight, for services to literature. This means that fans, while not calling me Sir, must now refrain from throwing things. Regrettably, no sword is included in the box :)

What more can a modest Knight say?

Happy New Year, which on Discworld is the Year of the Pensive Hare.

Terry Pratchett

Go here if you want to see where Discworld is made.

Via Pharyngula.

P.S. His new book is called Nation. Follow that link to the Amazon page and there's a video in which Terry describes it. It's not Discworld; it's set in a world remarkably like our own.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Start Stockpiling .22 Rifles

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Via The Cheeseburger.

A Parrot Toys With Mild Inconvenience; Also, Owls!

Cat and parrot

For those who can't play the video: It's a parrot that sidles up to a cat no bigger than itself and starts fiddling with the cat with one of its claws. Is it trying to pet the cat? Is it grooming the cat (don't they use their beaks for that)? Is it trying to grip the cat and sit on it? Is it a blind man touching the elephant? There's a definite whisker twirl in there somewhere, and eventually the cat gets tired of it and gently bites the offending appendage; but if you're looking for a screaming fight to ensue, you'll be disappointed. They seem to be the best of friends.

For those who can't play the video above, here's something in which the Japanese toy with the feelings of a South African breed of owl:

Okay, I'm ambivalent about this. It's interesting to see and to learn, but I'm not taken with the sound effects and the laughtrack. I think it's part of what turned me off of America's Funniest Home Videos, ultimately: I don't want that sort of entertainment, because that owl cannot understand what is going on, and reacts to the sight of other owls. Those are fascinating behaviors, but is laughter the appropriate response?

Via Cute Overload.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Two People Made One In Marriage And Exit Interviews

”His inner core and his belief in freedom, and that means not just freedom from terrorism, but freedom from disease and freedom from illiteracy is what really is the basic of American values and that’s what I think he’s shown the whole time he’s been president,” [Laura] Bush said.

Whoa, there, ma'am, I think you got your agenda mixed up with your husband's. You're the caring, nurturing one who makes sure all the kids in the world are safe, healthy, and well-educated, and he's the tough-love, no-nonsense one who kills them after they fuck up, or convinces them to join his Army so they can kill other children who've fucked up.

And by "fucked up," I mean "chosen to be born a foreigner." It's worse if they chose to be born with lots of melanin in their skin, of course, since they all hate us, but the dark ones hate us more. It's either "born a foreigner" or "born in the States, but charged with a capital crime." The Way of Bush is a narrow one, indeed.

Via Pandagon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

While we were having our wonderful Christmas, many people in Kingston, Tennessee were having a terrible one:

The Kingston Fossil Plant burns coal, and dumps the ash into a number of retaining ponds, trying to contain it so that we don't kill ourselves with the afterproducts of our modern life. Monday morning, early, one of those walls failed and dumped a deluge of crap into the Emory River Valley. The Emory feeds into the Clinch River, which eventually dumps its waters into the Tennessee, which flows down into Alabama, back across Tennessee, and across western Kentucky before it hits the Mississippi.

I am fortunate enough to be upstream from this catastrophe, both on the Clinch and the Tennessee, but millions of people live downstream. This threatens Chattanooga, for instance, and Nashville, not to mention the people of Alabama and Kentucky.

Not to mention my wife's grandmother, who lives just off the Tennessee.

And the national cable news airheads, and the national print press, and the national blogs are ignoring it. Quoth PZ Myers:

We're looking at a major environmental catastrophe, bigger than any oil spill, and most of the news media are silent about it. I checked CNN, MS-NBC, even Fox News…not a word. The local newspapers have a few articles, and the regional blogs are trying to follow it, but otherwise, I guess we're going to pretend it didn't happen.

In fact, due to being unplugged for the holiday, I didn't hear about it until today.

No one got seriously hurt, so thank God for small miracles, but we don't want Bush's FEMA anywhere near us, thank you very much.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ihr Ausweispapieren, Bitte

CHECKPOINT ARRESTS: A DUI checkpoint in Wilmington on Friday night resulted in 16 people being charged with drunken driving. Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione, who heads the New Castle County Checkpoint Strikeforce, said police set up a checkpoint from 9 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday at Pennsylvania Avenue and Tower Road. Officers also recovered a stolen vehicle and arrested five people on fugitive warrants, four on drug counts and 42 for other charges.

So, these cops, who were looking for drunk drivers, arrested 67 people, of whom 16 were driving drunk. The other 51 were not driving drunk, but they were wanted for something, so the cops arrested them.

As Slacktivist notes, in order for the police to know who's wanted, they have to run an ID check. Is that within the purview of a drunk driving checkpoint? How does running papers help the police determine who's drunk? This sounds a whole lot like everyone's papers were checked and the cops arrested those who were caught in their nets.

This checkpoint was so successful, I'm sure it's going to be repeated. Where? When? How often? Are the checkpoint cops going to be issued their own uniforms? Are their powers going to stop at checking IDs for warrants? How long before a K9 unit gets assigned routinely to any checkpoint? Will the cops be empowered to search your car on suspicion? Will they fall under the expanded FISA powers that don't seem to be going away, giving them all the time they need to get a search warrant after the fact?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Vacation

I'm off for a few days to see the family. I probably won't post anything else here for about a week or so.

Just a notice for my legion of adoring fans.

Thanks for putting up with Zappadan! Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008


Rev. Joseph Lowery, on Rick Warren's invocation:

“By the time Aretha sings, the poem is read, people may have already forgotten what Warren said,” Lowery said.

Buuuuuuuuuurrrrrrn, man.

Other than that, he's "not getting into it." Probably a wise choice to steer clear of the whole thing. Me, I've done put my foot in it.

Last Day of Zappadan

Party 'til morning.

Muffin Man, the Palladium in New York, Halloween 1977.

"Wind Up Working In A Gas Station," off of Zoot Allures.

And, what the hell, so very not safe for work, and so very wrong, but also so fun:

"Stevie's Spanking," at the same venue as the first video, but four years later, in 1981.

I'd like to think, if you notice Frank's guitar smoking, it's because of his mad skillz, but he really stuck his cigarette on there.

Happy Zappadan, everybody!


I think that Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood had an encouraging effect on my creativity, especially because of the Land of Make Believe. We even had a little black cat doll we called Ms. Kitty when we were younger.

This is the first time I've seen this, and I must admit it was moving.

Via Epic Win.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Zoot Allures

The title track off the album of the same name. The YouTube page says this was recorded at the Pier in New York in 1984.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Titles. Titles Are Good.

Via Aaron Williams, here's a little one-minute painting that I think comes off well:

And here's today's Zappa video:

Another track off of Zoot Allures. This is a fan video. Get a load of the rhinestone-coated lips around 1:11 or so.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Slime Amidst the Finery

When I was starting my freshman year at Centre, the spectacle at the end of orientation was a performance by a hypnotist and prestidigitator, whose name sadly has escaped me. One of his tricks was to take a group of volunteers and first convince them that a strip of cloth, gauzy and red, was the funniest thing they'd ever seen, and its black counterpart was the most disgusting thing they'd ever seen.

He presented them with the red cloth, and they laughed and stomped and clapped and made a joyful noise. While they were thus occupied, he handed it to one of the girls in the group, and closed her fist over it firmly; as the laughter died down, he told the girl to open her hand.

In her palm was the black cloth. The laughter died into an embarrassed silence. Mute, the girl, her fingers stretched flat, tipped her hand slowly until the black cloth slipped off and drifted to the stage.

And so, while I am overjoyed and glad that Barack Obama has invited Aretha Franklin, Itzak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and the poet Elizabeth Alexander to perform at his inauguration, to say nothing of the legendary Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, amid all this joyful noise is a man we may very well regard as the most disgusting thing we have ever seen. Rick Warren has glibly recited the "abortion is the New Holocaust" meme; he supported Proposition 8; he called for the assassination of Ahmedinijad; and he doesn't seem to be bothered to be seen with someone (Barack Obama) he recently likened to a Nazi. This is a man who deserves to be tipped disgustedly to the floor amid deafening silence.

By no means do I want to kill the joyful noise over Alexander, Ma, Franklin, Perlman, and Lowery, nor over Barack Obama himself. But I find all my joy evaporates, and my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth, when I consider that among their number is Rick Warren. When the crowd cheers for any of the others, will he mistake the accolades for his due?

Above all else, I am still left to wonder: Why, Obama, why?

Givin' The Bee Gees A Run For Their Money

I can't find which album this is on. Nevertheless, there was a studio version, because it showed up on the compilation album Strictly Commercial.

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, 1932-2008

Oh, the things that may have been, were it not for Executive Meddling.

That's Majel Barrett (left) as Number One and Jeffrey Hunter (right) as Captain Christopher Pike. Also, Leonard Nimoy has his back to the camera.

But NBC didn't think we were ready for a woman in command of a starship, even if she's only the first officer.

So Majel got along in supporting roles, as Nurse Chapel, then as Lwaxana Troi. And she's always been the voice of the computer.

But it could have been very different.

Pleasant sailing, Ms. Barrett.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yes, Yes, Yes

Dear Mr. Obama:

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) has reportedly been selected as the next Secretary of Labor. The daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants and the only congressmember of Central American descent, Solis is strongly pro-union earned a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO last year.

Physicist John Holdren has reportedly been selected as the president's science adviser.

More like this. Many, many more like this. All of them like this. Please.

No more people who broke the country.



That is an image of the American Flag. It is not really an American Flag, if I were to print it off, it would be toner on paper, not nylon or silk, not flying on a pole.

Were I then to set it on fire, do you think people would say, "Eh, it's just an image, it's not like he really burnt a flag"? Were I a government employee, it would cause a big old scandal and I'd likely lose my job.

Apparently, were I a government employee and I mimicked groping a Senator in a sexual way, my job would still be safe. Jon Favreau is still employed by Mr. Obama, and still working away:

The job requires him to work unnoticed, even in plain view, so Jon Favreau settles into a wooden chair at a busy Starbucks in the center of Penn Quarter. Deadline looms, and he needs to write at least half a page by the end of the day. As the espresso machines whir, Favreau opens his laptop, calls up a document titled "rough draft of inaugural" and goes to work on the most anticipated speech of Barack Obama's life.

So not only has he not been disciplined for a gross display of sexual harassment and insubordinate attitude, he's working on the first speech Mr. Obama will give as President.

I salute Hillary Clinton and all other women in the federal government for persevering at their work in the face of such blatant lack of disapproval for such displays of disrespect and entitlement. I certainly wouldn't want to work under similar circumstances.

Outdated Figures of Your Mythology

Destined to be replaced with a circular motion:

To sum up, there's a waterfront hotel that lets you fish out of your sea-facing windows. A band took rooms there, and rented some fishing poles, and had a fun time with an ichthyoid and a willing young woman. And this was related to Frank Zappa at second or third hand, and he passes it on to us here.

Taking the Thumb Off the Scales of Good and Evil

Because the merchant has been shorting us on Evil.

Rick Warren, firebreathing queer-basher, is going to give the inaugural prayer on January 20. Obama's staff has released the following talking points

* This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.

And the good citizens of Rock Ridge were at their most open, accessible, and inclusive when they declared they'll take the n-----s and the ch*nks, but they don't want the Irishmen.

* In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world’s most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.

And then they chose Rick Warren. Are they saying they want his brand of broad appeal?

* Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He’s devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis.

Unfortunately, the evangelical movement's tactics in "addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis" is to blame it all on Teh Ghey, discourage actual study of the problem, and push for global gag rules on condoms.

In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren’s leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.

And oh, how we wish he hadn't. Is this really an argument for why Warren should be allowed to speak at the Inauguration? Tit for tat?

* The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what’s important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America’s promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.

You know what would move us toward social justice? You know what would restore our moral leadership abroad? Gay marriage. An end to gay bashing. Who are we trying to impress by denying people the basic right to happiness? Iran?

* As he’s said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That’s the only way we’ll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.

But they don't want to compromise. That would be betraying God's principles (as they understand them). It would also mean giving up some of their hoarded power. And if they won't compromise, how is that unifying?

* The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.

And that's great. But why are we balancing Rick Warren, hateful homobigot, with Joseph Lowery, staunch advocate and defender? Are we going bipartisan, not just between Democrat and Republican, left and right, but also between hate and love? We got a hate quota now, to balance out our love? Why are we suddenly True Neutral?

* And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

Yeah, but then you've got a homobigot giving the inaugural prayer. Lovely example of solidarity, there. And what exactly is this group going to do? That's a wonderfully vague talking point. How will they participate? Which group is it? Why don't you say?

Hat tip to Pam at Pandagon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow That, Despite All Your Efforts To Train Them Not To, The Huskies Have Pissed On

Bo Dee Oh Doh Doh Doh:

Another track from Zappa's solo album, Apostrophe.

Posted because Me Mum and Me Da have gotten the first Kentucky snow of the season.

Tomorrow: The Mud Shark that is destined to be replaced in your mythology!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Dude, F----- My Parents," He Said

"'Cause they named me Adolph Hitler Campbell. Oh, meet my sisters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler. Man, do we wish we could divorce those jerks."

Or at least that's what I hope they say, twelve or so years down the line.

I need a drink. Or at least some Moon Unit:

She and Frank collaborated on this song, which got Frank widely recognized as a creator of "novelty songs." He hated that.


Atrios, via Glenn:

The Obama campaign didn't exist to make me feel good, and the Obama presidency won't either. I don't especially like his people punching the dirty fucking hippies under the bed, but on the other hand if they manage to convince people that Obama is a sensible centrist who wants to do sensible centrist things like build SUPERTRAINS, get out of Iraq, not torture people or invade random countries, strengthen labor protections, reduce income inequality, improve education, provide health care for people, and reduce poverty, while those DAMNED DIRTY HIPPIES just won't shut up about their magic ponies, it's fine by me.

For years we've had Democrats railing against those crazy hippies as an excuse to not do all of those things. If Obama's people are going to rail against the hippies and use it as an excuse to do them, fine with me. If.

Don't hold your breath, there, Duncan.

So Barack Obama is building a Trojan Horse out of appointments of people to his right, and the exclusion of everyone to his left. Is it full of lefties, inside all those righties, ready to leap out and enact a progressive agenda on the unsuspecting Troy that is Congress? Is it full of neocons who are going to shout MORE MORE MORE and push more soldiers into Iraq? Is it empty? Is it, in fact, going to be taken into the walls of Congress and then catapulted onto the unsuspecting heads of the left-progressives?

In short, are the Republicans going to be fooled? I don't care if they are or if they aren't, voluntarily giving up what political power you have scrabbled for over the last 50 years in the hope that it will somehow start raining ponies is not worth it. If they are fooled, you won't get credit. If they aren't fooled, you won't get ponies. In either event, you won't have any power left, and you'll have to start over from scratch. And, if somehow we do see all kinds of ponies, who's going to let us ride any? We're just DAMNED DIRTY HIPPIES, after all, we didn't lift a finger to make ponies drop from the sky. Get a job, dirty hippies!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The War On Christmas: Jews and Immigrants

Via Pharyngula, I have found an interesting article by Max Blumenthal on The Daily Beast about who started the War on Christmas. It probably won't surprise you to learn that it's all the fault of white supremacists and anti-immigrants.

Back during the culture wars of the 1990s, Peter Brimelow, then a Fortune magazine editor, grew incensed with the increasing use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” by retailers like “I just got real interested in the issue,” Brimelow told The Daily Beast, “because I noticed over the years there was this social shift taking place where people no longer said ‘Merry Christmas.’”

He tried to get the National Review interested, but a shift in editors around the end of 1997 put the kibosh on that, and the NR only ran one column on it, in 2001. Brimelow was pushed out of NR with help from younger conservatist columnists like Jonah Goldberg, and went on to found the webzine, the leading anti-immigrationist website named after the first British child born in North America. The irony here is palpable.

He attracted several like-thinkers and started blaming (who else?) the Jews for his imaginary War on Christmas.

The winner of Brimelow’s 2001 War on Christmas competition, a “paleoconservative” writer named Tom Piatak, insisted that those behind the assault on Christmas “evidently prefer” Hanukkah, which he called the “Jewish Kwanzaa,”

Phht! Coffee all over the monitor here! Channukah, really? The "Jewish Kwanzaa?"

I think I just got dumber.

So, anyway, nobody paid a whole lot of attention to Mr. Brimelow until the World Trade Center fell and all of a sudden it became imperative to our very survival to cultivate racism and invade countries for being the wrong color and having oil. Then, suddenly, the War on Christmas took off. Following what David Neiwert calls the "transmission belt," this massive lie flowed from Brimelow to Rush Limbaugh to Bill O'Reilly, who made it his pet issue.

Of the conservatives who once dismissed his Christmas crusade, Brimelow remarked with a self-satisfied chuckle, “They went over to the dark side.”

Oh, wow. That statement is just packed with smugness and self-righteousness. How can someone be so self-congratulatory about being so wrong?

Sunday, December 14, 2008


This is in Sweden, 1973. It's about someone who dreams of being a dental floss rancher, raising silkworms and riding a "pigmy pony" all along the borderline.

Montana is the last track on Over-Nite Sensation, which apparently is a well I'm going back to plenty of time without realizing it.

Apparently Tina Turner liked the rough cut she heard so much that she volunteered herself and The Ikettes to sing some backup lyrics on the album version. Unfortunately, she's nowhere to be seen on tour, which is a shame.

Barry Miles wrote a biography of Zappa (entitled, simply, Zappa) and states that Ike Turner was less than taken with the song. He listened to less than a minute of it and left the studio.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Very Loud Threat To Our Children

This is Frank in Paris in 1980 performing the title track of his rock opera Joe's Garage, which is all about making music illegal. In keeping with the conceit that it's a public service announcement by the people who have made music illegal, Joe's girlfriend runs off with the roadies of a rock band and Joe falls in with Lucille, "who gives him an unpronounceable disease," leading to the second song in this video (which begins about 2:30 if you want to stop it).

Yes, that's right: Zappa went there. Later on in the opera, Joe keeps slipping into worse shenanigans. It's a sort of a "fatal glass of beer" story, with mad axe riffs instead of alcohol.

Oy, But Fun Oy

So one of the local television stations showed Hogfather tonight at 7.

As I write this, it has just gone off the air with a special cameo by Terry Pratchett as The Toymaker, and it's just gone 11.

Ion TV managed to stretch the bugger to 4 hours with commercial breaks.

Oy, but fun oy. Can I do something else now?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kids! Eat Your Vegetables!

Dweezil and his band cover this song from Absolutely Free!, the second Mothers of Invention album. Unfortunately, a lot of the melody is carried by the keyboards, leaving not much of Dweezil in there.

Bettie Page, 1923-2008

Rest in peace.

This Telegraph article is the obituary I found via Pharyngula. It's pretty detailed about her life and times up until she found Jesus and started following Billy Graham in 1958, then it glosses the next 50 years, as though her modeling career were it.

Also: Her photos may be considered tame by today's standards, but there is still toplessness if you google Bettie Page, even with safe search on. Just FYI. Also, I was hard pressed to find a photo of her that didn't involve ropes or spanking or something. Here I thought she was just a bikini pinup.

Remember This?

The Fisher-Price Barn.

One of those doors was connected to a mechanism that was supposed to moo when you opened it, but I think we wore ours out; all I can ever remember it saying is "Blart!"

Also, I think we lost one of the pigs. Maybe two.

Via Once Upon a Win, nostalgia for thirtysomethings!

Connectivity Issues Suck

Anyway, no video yesterday because the Intertubes got clogged.

So here's yesterday's Zappa video -- "I'm the Slime."

Harlan Ellison called it The Glass Teat.

If only it were so simple as turning off the television. We have to instill in future generations the will and motivation to go out and find things out for themselves, rather than sit at home vegging in front of the tube. That means we need energy. That means we need to be able to support ourselves, even the least among us, without working ourselves to exhaustion. That means overhauling our economy and, to a larger extent, our society.

Another track from Over-Nite Sensation. Some things just never lose relevance. As a song of its times, however, it anticipates the Central Scrutinizer of Joe's Garage, another implacable, all-controlling figure (not coincidentally the role that Frank reserved for himself in that odd little rock opera; the title role went to Ike Willis). Is this spectre of loss of freedom tying into the American legend, or is it part of the zeitgeist of the Cold War? Is the Slime, in other words, generic, or specifically Communist?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"She-3PO?" Really?

Via Petulant at Shakesville, I found an article in the Sun entitled "Inventor Builds She-3PO Robot."

Here are the Sun's opening graphs:

SHE is the perfect wife, with the body of a Page 3 pin-up and housekeeping skills that put TV’s Kim and Aggie to shame.

Her name is Aiko, she can even read a map, and will never, ever, nag.

Uh huh, because that's all the important things in life, amirightfellas? Let's just reinforce some gender stereotypes, yes?

But that's the Sun for you: Unreconstructed. They ain't the Mail, in that they don't call for Muslims' heads on pikes every time England gets some rain, but it's like they've never even heard of Women's Lib.

But there's offense to be had here even when you look past the Sun's writing to see what inventor Le Trung has to say:

Le said: “Aiko is what happens when science meets beauty.”

Yeah, a very narrow, patriarchy-defined beauty, which nevertheless cannot avoid looking like it just stepped out of Madam Tussaud's. I don't know what he used as a skin analogue, but it dips right into the uncanny valley.

He says he wanted to make a robot to care for the elderly, but he's strayed "off-course" and wound up with a Stepford wife. Her abilities to clean and fetch him drinks are touted, but I'm sure there are large gaps; she is not an AI, she's just an android; and one who can't even walk at that.

There are larger issues here, of course; why make a caretaker robot with a gender? Would it not be better to make something that looks more like C-3PO -- Le's admitted inspiration -- rather than creeps people out?

And, of course, the Sun asks the obvious question of the Neanderthal presented with something that has been designed to look like a runway model:

Le says his relationship with Aiko hasn’t strayed into the bedroom, but a few “tweaks” could turn her into a sexual partner.

Le said: “Her software could be redesigned to simulate her having an orgasm.”

Oh, yes, why have the real thing when a convincing simulacrum will suffice?


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Well, It's *A* Zappa

Dweezil Zappa and Steve Vai vamp during a rendition of "Dirty Love:"

"Dirty Love" was the third track on Over-Nite Sensation (1973), Frank's first gold record. It followed the blisteringly satirical track "I'm the Slime," which featured an implacable monster oozing out of the TV.

This is Zappa's eldest (with the Zappa-blazoned guitar) and his long-time collaborator Steve Vai at a tribute concert shortly before Zappa's death in 1993.


Pam Spaulding has video of Jon Stewart's interview with Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was on the Daily Show to plug his latest book, Do The Right Thing. I can't figure out how to embed the video, so if you want to see it, I'm afraid you'll have to click through to Pandagon.

I think the thing that Huckabee said that was really telling was that proponents of gay marriage hadn't "convinced" enough people. Is that it, Mike? Really? When I woke up this morning I didn't know it was high school debate club day.

Is Mike Huckabee really open to persuasion? I don't think so. Are any of them? I don't know. Certainly the Republican candidates this past year were invested in projecting the image that they were not persuadable about this matter. Even the Democrats would only go so far as to allow that perhaps we should only have a civil union law.

Huckabee also argues that we can't have equality because "gay marriage" is an oxymoron; he argues that for 5,000 years "marriage" has been defined as one man, one woman. Stewart quickly countered that in the Old Testament marriage was one man, five hundred women, or it was conquest and rapine, or one man and his chattel. It seems to me that Huckabee is making an argument about semantics support his position; an argument ad Webster's, if you will.

What if the next edition of Webster's defined marriage as "two adults who have promised to love and cherish each other and forsake all other intimate relationships," eh? What if we change the definition? Huckabee seems to suggest that he'd be satisfied with that. Male bovine digestive end product, I say.

I will end with this quote from John Stewart, who was really on the money:

I think it’s a travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to ‘make their case’ that they deserve the same basic rights.


Via Pharyngula, here's an AOL poll regarding W's recent comments about his religion.

This is interesting. While "Is the Bible literally true?" is tied at 50/50, Creationism is beating Evolution as the origin of life on Earth 47-35 right as I type. However, 44% of respondents say that Bush's religious views are "not at all" similar to theirs, and asked if Bush's views affected his policies, "Yes, and it bothered me" is winning 42-34 over "Yes, and that's fine," with the remainder going to "No."

Of course, the number of respondents is different for each poll. More people are voting on Biblical literalism and creationism than on the other two questions. However, and considering that there's no way for me to know how many respondents answered the polls in which combination, it would seem that if Biblical literalism is 50-50, then Creationism should be closer than 47-35. I guess there are creationists who do not believe the Bible is literally true. Either that, or not everyone is voting in every poll.

Of course, PZ sent his minions (Hey! When do I get minions?) to crash the poll, so the results aren't representative. However, I'm sure the PZ Minions would have all voted for Evolution, so why is Creationism still holding out?

Are Creationists coming to this poll just to vote on this one question? Are they distancing themselves from an unpopular president? What's going on here?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pitted Fruit Instrumental

The album version of Zappa's Peaches En Regalia.

There are a few pieces of Zappa's work that spring instantly and readily to my mind. The quintessential riff of his is the eight-note vamp from Cosmik Debris, while the longer piece is this one, which is entirely instrumental. Sometimes I think Frank wrote lyrics as a framework (and, dare I say, an excuse) to hang his guitar work on. Apparently he never considered himself a singer, which is probably why a lot of his work is spoken.



It is this video's fault now that I am reminded of one of the lost episodes of Star Trek. Space hippies who are a thin stereotype of the real ones with awful slang? A planet with acid vegetation? LOST I SAY!!

But the video is funny.

Monday, December 8, 2008

So Close, And Yet So Far

I just found out from that Gail Zappa spoke in Lexington this past March.

See what I miss because the Intarwebs are so huge? I didn't even know there was a until last week!

Anyway, here's the next Zappadan treat:

This is the second track from the Mothers' first album, Freak Out! (1966). It had a number of oddly conventional love songs, setting the tone for a long and eclectic career. This is not one of them, in my opinion.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Zappadan, Day Three

"What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body," from We're Only In It for the Money (1968), an album conceived when Frank was irritated by all the attention Sergeant Pepper's was receiving as the first "concept album," when he'd already done a couple. It was expanded to include in its list of targets the larger culture of 68, including flower power and the conservative Establishment.

Apparently, according to Wikipedia, some lines got cut in some releases of the album, all of which I recall from the vinyl my folks have. Huh.

Of course, this being Wikipedia, perhaps all of this info should be taken with the Great Salt Flats.

Try It In Real Life

... I dare ya.

You'll get an elbow in your toned abs, there, buster.

The man on the left, living dangerously, is Jon Favreau, whom rumor says is going to head up President Obama's speechwriting unit.

In a just world, he won't.

No word who Obama Staff is, but I'm sure Hillary is plenty capable of fetching and drinking her own beer, thank you.

This is why alcohol and cameras don't mix. Treat every mike like it's live, and never photograph yourself when you've gotten messed up.

Hat tip to ScottRS at Shakesville, where this is Hillary Sexism Watch Number One Hundred and ---ing Thirteen.

Friday, December 5, 2008


The holiday of Zappadan was founded to celebrate the life and times of that prophet of rock'n'roll, Frank Zappa.

This prophet has not been dead twenty years, but he already upholds the truism that a movement's followers will schism after the founder is dead. There are two camps of Zappadan, the twenty-firsters, who say Zappa was born on December 21st, and the twenty-seconders, who contend he was born on December 22nd. Sadly, the twenty-firsters seem to hold sway both at Wikipedia and at Both camps do agree that the holiday begins on December 4th, the date of his death, in an all-night rock party beginning at sundown on December 5th and continuing until the sun comes up or the cops are called.

Observers refrain from cutting their hair for the duration; instead, the men cultivate their mustaches and goatees. Some go so far as to post videos on their websites, one every day of the observation.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hear you ask, "Falconer, what does the crew of the Starship Enterprise have to be thankful for?"

If they're wearing gold or blue, a whole lot.

If they've got red shirts on, not so much, unless they've got an amusing accent or they're pretty.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Upper Class Scion Makes Good

This is a story of one man's struggle to overcome a system that was keeping him down. He only had a four-year college education and a bachelor's degree in science from a small private college in the centre of Kentucky. They said he couldn't work in NOAA. He proved them wrong.

In one recent example, Todd Harding -- a 30-year-old political appointee at the Energy Department -- applied for and won a post this month at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There, he told colleagues in a Nov. 12 e-mail, he will work on "space-based science using satellites for geostationary and meteorological data." Harding earned a bachelor's degree in government from Kentucky's Centre College, where he also chaired the Kentucky Federation of College Republicans.

That's from a Washington Post article on "burrowing," which I learned about at Pharyngula.

I believe that I was acquainted with Todd Harding while I was at Centre. I think I can recall what he looks like. We didn't interact much, of course; our courses were completely different. But it looks like he was able to schmooze his position in College Republicans into a post that may prove troublesome for Obama.

I'm afraid I am very distressed over this. It can be good to recognize someone in government -- "Hey! It's that guy! I remember a vaguely embarrassing incident in which he was peripherally involved! ... Get me the newspaper's number!" -- but I didn't think anyone I knew at Centre would have gotten into a position that could potentially harm the country in even the slightest way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Son of Them What Brung Ya

Okay, Obama, Wes Clark is a retired general. He worked tirelessly on your behalf during the general campaign. He was skeptical of the war in Iraq for a very long time, although I'm not sure if he initially supported it or not.

Jim Jones, on the other hand, no, not that Jim Jones, General James Jones, supported John McCain. I'm not sure of his position on Iraq.

And who is it rumor has it is your pick for cabinet? Jim Jones!

Was Wes Clark busy or something? Did he not return your calls? What?

Seriously, Wes Clark is like the Rodney Dangerfield of Democratic retired service people: No respect at all.

Happier Times

I wonder if that desk is still there.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heads Exploding

Via the incomparable Bob Somerby, here's David Broder, and it is David this time, as quoted by Chris Matthews on MSNBC, regarding Hillary as Secretary of State:

What Obama needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy. He does not need someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in international relations. One of the principal reasons he was elected was that, relying on his instincts, he came to the correct conclusion that war in Iraq was not in American interest. He was more right about that than most of us in Washington, including Hillary Clinton.

Emphasis mine.

Just a short point about that second bold passage, and then on to the meat of the first.

So Obama decided, on his own, that war in Iraq is not in our best interests. That makes me qualified to be a better president than most. Hell, I'd be a better president than Obama because I don't think it's in our best interests to rattle our sabers at Iran until they do something preemptive, or to transfer our soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan, both of which Obama is either implying he'll do or outright stating we ought to do. In short, being right on Iraq is not, IMO, sole qualification and justification for being President; we have to consider everything else. But the AUMF vote has been made the Golden Rule of who's fit to be President, or even a decent person, and who isn't.

All right. Deep breath.

I kind of see David Broder's point. Obama doesn't need Hillary Clinton to advise him on foreign policy. After all, that's one of the reasons he picked Joe Biden as VP: to cover what could be perceived as a weakness on foreign policy. So he doesn't need Hillary telling him about the world as well as Joe.

And what ego! Presuming to tell the President about foreign policy! Why, you'd almost think that's what the Secretary of State is for! But we were mistaken, of course. Obama doesn't need advice or consent, because he is all-knowing! He's Black Jesus! It must take ego to presume to tell Him what to do. After all, he hasn't even completed his first term as Illinois Senator! And then he won the Presidency! We are dealing with an intellect, quite clearly, vast and cool. What can Hillary, who after all was merely First Lady for eight years, and the junior Senator from New York for eight after that, possibly have to tell Black Jesus? He will wrestle with the problems of the world and break them like twigs!

ABOVE: Black Jesus, only, you know, kind of Caucasian, wrestling with the problems of the world.

Give Someone An Excuse

And they'll take it.

They say Obama is considering Dennis Ross for Special Envoy to Iran. According to that link, Ross has spent the past I don't know how many years lobbying Washington for Israel. He's currently backing a paper on "Iranian Nuclear Development" that's being billed as bipartisan but was in fact written by a couple of people who were instrumental in ginning up war with Iraq: Michael Makovsky (in the Pentagon) and Michael Rubin (with Don Rumsfeld). Ross has also been implicated in sabotaging our previous talks with Iran at Camp David II and the 2000 talks in Geneva.

If we want to soothe relations with Iran, appointing an Israel-flogging lobbyist who obviously doesn't want peace in the Middle East is not the way to go about it.

I can understand Obama having to walk big and wave the stick around during the elections; Iran has been a perennial bugbear and they still attacked him with lies about "no preconditions."

But is it wise to appoint someone who's looking for a fight as a special envoy to a country with whom our relations are strained? Isn't that like sending pugnacious emails to someone you've had lots of arguments with recently?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Be Kind; Unwind!

Because the video store doesn't like it when you return your videos all wound up. They'll charge you $5 to destress that copy of Mary Poppins you just handed them.

So sit 'em all down before you take 'em back and let 'em watch this:

Clinton's Big Fault Is He Didn't Fail Upwards

Paul Krugman, via Mom:

Everywhere you look, there’s stuff about Bill Clinton’s donors and all that, often with the implication that there must inherently be something dirty going on, because, well, just because.

But I guess that’s just the way things are. After all, do you remember all the grief President Bush got over his family’s questionable business ties?

Neither do I.

Of course there wasn't any grief. Don't you know Monica changed everything?

(There's also the Whitewater non-issue; a crummy land deal in which the Clintons lost money was part of the national discourse for a couple years, and has ever since irrevocably stained Bill's record. I guess the story here is mostly that Clinton somehow didn't profit from losing all that money, while W made profiting from losing money his career, and thrived at it.)

Holder For Attorney General

Go read Glenn Greenwald if you've got 20 minutes or so.

For those who don't care to click through: Eric Holder has publicly condemned Gitmo, rendition, torture, and indefinite detention; he has said "we let fear take precedence over the rule of law," which is a very good thing to say, I think.

Back in 2002, Holder argued that "given the way in which they ["War on Terror" detainees] have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention." Then, after the 2006 Supreme Court ruling that stated the detainees had to be considered eligible under the Geneva Convention and treated accordingly, he said "it was disgraceful that the Supreme Court 'had to order the president to treat detainees in accord with the Geneva Convention.'" So which is it, Eric? Eligible or not?

Eric Holder's hard on marijuana and a staunch supporter of mandatory sentencing. Glenn says it's harder to be harsher on drug offenses than Joe Biden, and Joe's going to be Vice President. He may also have been involved in extraditing Elian Gonzalez.

So, maybe he's going to close Gitmo and stop torturing. If we can sort out whether he thinks our detainees are covered by the Geneva Convention first, maybe we ought to focus on his other problems after we've paid some attention to restoring our good name.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Return of Them What Brung Ya

Via Lambert at Corrente, who had it from Emptywheel at Firedoglake, I see that Greg Craig has been named White House Counsel. Mr. Craig is "a Washington lawyer who advises the Obama campaign."

Mr. Craig supported Obama's vote for warrantless wiretapping by saying this:

But he concluded that with FISA expiring, that it was better to get a compromise than letting the law expire.

But FISA was not expiring. The Protect America Act was expiring. That was what we had to rush through before Congress recessed, so W could go on presidentin' without check or balance.

So, either Mr. Craig a) confused PAA with FISA; or b) lied.

Which do you prefer for White House Counsel, a crappy $450/hr. lawyer or a mendacious $450/hr. lawyer?

As Liss at Shakesville has said [length and blub warning], we can't make a whole lot of progress if we're stuck in the primary. I'm going to make an effort to look forward. Part of that includes criticizing and applauding Obama's appointments. I don't trust anybody not to abuse their power, and I want to strip the Imperial Presidency of the powers it has assumed against the Constitution. The appointment of Mr. Craig doesn't seem to be a step in that direction.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


George W. Bush poses with the Men's and Women's Track Teams of Arizona U.

And they're all flashing an obscene hand gesture. I'd link to its entry on Urban Dictionary, but all the euphemisms for it almost made me reacquainted with breakfast.

For those who are blissfully ignorant, prepare to eat of the apple. It is called the Shocker and it is a sexual gesture aimed at one of the genders. It is a favorite of frat boys who want to "get crap past the radar," like all those boys on my high school's soccer teams who posed for the yearbook with one particular finger on the ball.

And these guys got W. to do it. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

Bad national disgrace, or worst national disgrace? as Stephen Colbert might ask.

Photo stolen from Pandagon.

In Which I Go On A Bit

I just found this column from David John Broder from the end of January, 2007.

Because behind the curve is what we do here at the Falcon's Gyre.

So anyway, we all know David John Broder has an agenda, but he's talking up Obama like he's Black Jesus, gonna end all our troubles, and you know who's the source of all of our troubles? Hippies. Protesters. Equal Rights marchers. You know, the cast of Hair.

In short, the parents of Generation X, of which I think myself part of the trailing edge. My parents.

They just won't let go of the issues of their youth, Broder says, all concerned for the mental well being of people his age. Don't we know by now that the Vietnam War is over? That Bob Dylan is a has-been? These things don't matter to America anymore!

Of particular gall is this part of the first page:

Modern presidential campaigns are essentially character tests, and for 20 years or longer the cultural and political divides of the 60s served as presumed signposts to a candidate’s character. Did he protest the war, trip to Hendrix, march in solidarity with women? Or enroll in R.O.T.C., rush a fraternity, join a church? As a young man, Mr. Obama did not have to make many of those choices, and he now has an opportunity to define himself on his own terms and not be instantly caricatured based on personal decisions he made four decades ago.

No, I guess Obama didn't have to make many of those choices. Of course, all of the choices he didn't have to make are those that Broder positions on the Hippie side of the equation: protest the (Vietnam) war, take drugs at Woodstock, march for equal rights. Those things, Broder would have us believe, are over and done with. Gone.

Except they aren't. We're still protesting wars, only these are in the hills of Iraq instead of the jungles of Nam. Drugs are still a problem, and you can still buy Hendrix albums (so you could potentially trip out to Hendrix, a weak point, I will grant you). Do you honestly think women were the only people marching in the 60s? There were a couple other marches, I seem to recall, about skin color or something.

And those on the Square side of the equation are still with us. I knew members of ROTC in college. I knew frat boys. Hell, I went to a couple frat parties but I soon learned that they liked their music turned up to 20 and their houses were too small for that, so I stopped going. Not to mention it was all just an excuse to get drunk. Oh, and churches are still there.

Obama is a member of a church. That's a choice he made. He did not join ROTC. That's a choice he made. As far as I know, he did not rush a fraternity. That's a choice he made. Were there no war protests in the 80s? Were there no drug-addled rock concerts? Were there no marches for equality? What, not even for gays and lesbians, transgendered individuals and fellow travelers? In the midst of AIDS? None?

So all of these choices that Broder says Obama did not have to make seem to position Obama in the Square column, and not in the Hippie column. Just the sort of person who's going to solve the problems of the 60s by ignoring them, right?

Broder does, of course, ignore that the 70s and the 80s -- Obama's adolescence and young adulthood -- had their own problems. Vietnam was not confined to the 60s. Nixon and Watergate. Oil troubles. Jimmy Carter's rabbit run-in, which Pat Oliphant seems to have decided defined the Carter administration. Oh, and the hostage crisis.

David John Broder seems to be suggesting that Obama has no pet issues to bring to Washington, which is swamped with the fights of the 60s. Of course, this column is almost 2 whole years old, and Obama is on his way to the White House. But I don't believe that the fights of the 60s are done with yet, even though we've elected a mixed-race president. And I don't believe Obama has no pet issues. This was obviously a great step in the right direction, but it doesn't mean that my parents have to shut up now.

Of course, it would make David John Broder's job a lot easier if we all did.

EDIT: I am informed by a reliable source in comments that this column is by John Broder, not David Broder. That's what I get for going off half-cocked, I suppose. Sorry for the error.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Africa? What Continent Is That On?

So I'm sure by now you've all heard that Sarah Palin didn't know Africa was a continent blah blah blah.

Well, now Martin Eisenstadt has come forward and admitted that he was Fox News' anonymous source on that.

But Wait! yells the entire Intarwebs. Martin Eisenstadt, you luscious chunk of manliness, you're all lies! And we know this because, as yummy as you are, there is one man against whom you have no chance, and that man is William K. Wolfrum! He has your number!

And he also has the clarity of insight to remind us that even though Martin Eisenstadt is a hoax, that does not invalidate the whole Africagate flap.

So, to sum up, just because someone claims responsibility for something, and later turns out to be a fraud, does not mean the thing he's claiming responsibility for is a fraud.

I reserve judgment on Africagate. It's too pat, too much of a blonde joke for me to accept at face value. Important, if true; aggravating, if false. Important, because it would show how ill-prepared Palin was. Aggravating, because it is yet another example of "Pin the Blame on the Jackass!" that the McCain camp has been playing for the last week, in some sort of effort to come out of this election smelling like roses.

It is a poor workman blames his tools. Likewise, it is a poor adult who shoves his or her colleagues out in front of an oncoming blame storm.

In Which I Am All, Like, Queen Victoria

That is to say, not amused.

New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

Except that it isn't over and Bush hasn't been convicted and education still isn't free and hand me a tissue I think I may cry.

So who printed that? It's obviously false and full of practical jokes.

Oh, yes, playing with people's emotions like that: ha. ha. Stop it. You're killing me.

And this, the day after Veteran's Day. (Okay, yes, well, obviously not today, when I'm posting this, I mean the prank.)


(I will say, kudos to whomever it was who yelled out "Judith Miller!" to that blowhard from the actual Times. Good on yer!)

Via Echidne of the Snakes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Them What Brung Ya

Ya gotta dance with 'em.

One of the people what brung Obama to the White House is named Robert Gibbs. He worked as a press secretary for several people in Congress, and served (briefly) as the same for John Kerry, before he ended up at a 527 group that was smearing Howard Dean in an effort to get Kerry nominated.

Well, this year he went to work for Obama. After bringing the smear magic that helped to destroy Hillary's image in the primary, Gibbs has now been named as Obama's first White House press secretary.

This is a man who has shown little compunction about smearing fellow Democrats. As soon as they became inconvenient, he's the one to slip in the knife. Is he going to keep this up after the inauguration? Will he serve as Obama's attack dog? Are Nan and Hal* safe from his slavering fangs?

I can't wait to find out!

*That's Pelosi and Reid to us mere mortals.

One Grandfather, and One Great-Uncle, May They Rest In Peace

Everyone's posting In Flander's Field today. I can't ever read it the same way since the Iraq War and the administration's arguments for it.

The first part is the same as it always has been:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

It's the last part that I now have trouble with:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It's not John McCrae's fault (although it always has been full of jingo), it's the fault of all the Bush toadies who argued that we couldn't abandon the Iraq War because too many people had been killed. Do you recall that? I can't help but remember it whenever I happen to read this poem. That was a self-serving argument that exploited all the pain and suffering that we exacerbated with a short-sighted, selfish invasion, and it has ruined for me what was otherwise a serviceable poem.

I suppose all the foregoing rant is moot, because I wasn't going to post Flander's Field today; I think that's well covered by the rest of the Internets.

I was going to post this all along:

Watch at YouTube. Except nothing visual happens, so I guess you can just press Play and go on with your other work.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Do You Agree With Gay Marriage Bans? has a web poll up -- Do You Agree With Gay Marriage Bans? -- and No is currently leading, 56-42 percent.

It's also showing the top comment by state. Presumably people from outside the USA who vote -- and I don't know if it bans you by region, because I'm inside the USA and it would let me through automatically -- can go jump in a lake (why don't you play a little solitaire to pass the time?).

So, currently, my state of TN is showing Yes, (we few, we asshole few!) but my home state of KY is showing No, and FL, where I've got close family, is also showing No.

Even California is showing No, and they just passed Prop. 8 banning gay marriage! What happened on Election Day, then? I guess all those "Yes" voters haven't wandered by recently.

Sometimes I despair of my country. Sometimes I'm very proud of it. Sometimes I think it's crazy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Klan, Incorporated

Ku Klux Klan LLC?!!


They're incorporated?!

Man, do they have some big brass ones!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Smith/Jones '08

Are you unhappy with the current lineup of presidential candidates?

Do you think it comes down to a choice between an old aggressive thing and an aggressive old thing?

Are the official third-party choices not doing anything for you?

There is a solution:

Write in a candidate of your choice!

You can vote for anybody!

Just make sure to follow all the directions carefully!

This post won't make much sense unless you click through the link.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Mr. Obey, who made that iconic Obama poster that's been parodied to hell and back (a trend previously featured in this space), not always very successfully, is thrilled that he's made the cover of MAD Magazine.

Also via Boing Boing.

New Olympic Sport

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Shallow? Yes. Petty? Yes. Funny? Hell yes!

Via Boing Boing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not Dead, But Maybe I Wish I Were

Moving, to paraphrase Babs Bush, rhymes with "witch."

Saw that on Bartcop, thought maybe it might give people a chuckle.

So I got all the heavy lifting done, now I need to find space to store all my junk.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Without Further Comment

Via. Also via.

Separate, But Equal

It's been about 15 years (good lord!) since the inception of the trading card game or the collectible card game, and in that time we've had fantasy games like Magic: The Gathering, sci-fi games licensed from Star Wars and Star Trek, a pirate game where the cards are actually precut foam and you punch out the pirate ships, and (god forgive me) pogs. All of these are built around the same idea: take the roots of the trading card hobby and let the hobbyists play games with the cards they've collected.

Well, apparently someone looked at the industry and noted that no girls were playing, because none of the various strains, like Magic or Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh! (yes, it's misspelled if you leave off the exclamation point) had horses. So they made one.

Let me introduce you to Bella Sara. Let that sink in for a moment. Someone believed that there was a significant niche in CCGs that hadn't been filled, i.e., girls, and decided to fill it with "something that girls will like," i.e., horses. Now, I'll be the first to tell you that horses are awesome, but I have recently come to the conclusion that liking horses is gendered, and furthermore, is considered absolutely necessary in order to appeal to girls. I will bet you that any toys marketed to girls that don't have to do with dressing up will have horse accessories. Barbie has horses. My Little Squamous Horror Pony is nothing but horses. There's nary an equinous being in Masters of the Universe, but its spinoff She-Ra had all kinds of horses. And now apparently the fact that Magic has all kinds of unicorns and winged horses and various horsey cards, and I'm sure there are similar things in Yu-Gi-Oh! has escaped notice and they're marketing a CCG to girls and of course it's all about horses.

And this is wrong on all kinds of levels. Not every girl likes horses; girls aren't going to buy anything you try to sell them just because you slapped OMGPonies!! on it; and just because it has horses doesn't mean boys are going to shun it.

But toy manufacturers believe all that, especially the last sentence. That's probably why the only horsey toys ever sold for He-Man were robot horses, and in fact why He-Man rode a frakking green tiger into battle because horses aren't sci-fantasy barbarian hero enough. Toys marketed to boys in the 80s show a marked lack of horsiness (and animals in general), whereas the 80s are the heyday of My Little Pony (and Pound Puppies, come to think of it).

I don't know when or why horses became "girl stuff." It was probably the 80's, if not earlier. Considering that cowboys were hot in the '50s and '60s, and cowboys are deeply entwined with horses, you could say horses were boy's stuff then; but they were also girl's stuff, since (among her menagerie of animals) Supergirl had a steed, Comet the Superhorse (possible squick warning!). Perhaps the fact that cowboys revolved around both horses and handguns made the genre acceptable to boys.

I've ranted long enough. Precisely why horses are girls' stuff should probably be left until later, and likely enough to someone with a different education than myself. But this is the Internet; if you had to know what you were talking about, it'd be a lot less crowded!

Just FYI: I first heard of Bella Sara on FSTDT, where someone was going on about how messages like "Believe in yourself!" were the work of Satan, probably because such things take Jesus out of the big chair.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Reason For The Season

Today is Columbus Day, a day when we citizens of the United States celebrate the discovery of our continent -- and maybe a couple others, too, but who cares? -- with a solemn day of having to wait another day for our next Netflix delivery.

And why, you ask, O my darling and O the delight of my eyes?

Well, I'd tell you a story, but why should I, when someone else has done an amazingly accurate yet concise summation of the political and socioeconomical forces at work behind this amazing discovery, without which we would not have this great nation of ours -- and a couple others, beside -- and doubtless without which we would all still live in the lands of our forefathers and yes this whole sentence is a question simply because I asked why?

Via Pharyngula.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jebus Cripes on a Cracker, People

I have been reading Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert's investigative piece in Salon, Sarah Palin's Radical Right-Wing Pals.

Back in the early '90s, when Sarah Palin was elected to the Wasilla City Council, she was mistrusted by local secessionists, led by Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll, who thought she'd been hand-picked by Democrats to rubber stamp the city's tax hike proposals.

Apparently, she learned to trust their judgment, because

he accurately predicted what life on the City Council would be like. “We were telling her, ‘This is probably what’s going to happen,’” he said. “‘The city is going to give this many people raises, they’re going to pave everybody’s roads, and they’re going to pave the City Council members’ roads.’ We couldn’t have scripted it better because everything we predicted came true.”

Oh, boy, real prognosticators, here.

All right. I hereby predict that in the coming four years, in this next president's term, whoever that may be, the following things will happen:
  • The federal government will try to collect taxes through the IRS;
  • Someone, somewhere will be shot in suspicious circumstances; and
  • A (male) Republican congressional leader will get caught trying to have sex with something he really shouldn't
If these three things come true, you can thereafter trust my political judgment implicitly.

These predictions that Mr. Chryson made are so broad and so general that they hardly seem noteworthy. Some people got raises? Good for them! Was it certain people who got raises, while others didn't? That might indicate cronyism. Did certain peoples' roads get paved, while others didn't? That might indicate corruption. But if you mean to say these things, you ought to be well-enough versed in your talking points to get those across in an interview.

In this case, Mark Chryson seems merely to be suggesting that because he told Sarah Palin that the city government would attempt to fulfill the functions of government, she initially doubted him but soon came to see the wisdom of his words. In other words, Mark Chryson makes it look like Sarah Palin is dumb or gullible, and while I'm certain that's not the case, it still makes for bad publicity.

An Oversight On My Part

I must admit I haven't made much mention of Making Light here on the Gyre. I have come to think it was a severe oversight on my part, and hence I am blogrolling it.

I have just got done reading Teresa Nielsen-Hayden's post about Melanoma and Narcissicism. It is, of course, about John McCain and Sarah Palin. I think Teresa has many good points, but there's one I want to point out. Quotha:

I’m going to bring up a touchy subject: the early reports suggesting that Trigg Palin is the son of Bristol rather than Sarah Palin. That was a nasty episode. Whose fault is that? Sarah Palin’s, first to last. She didn’t give birth to Trigg all alone in a cave. There have to have been multiple witnesses to the labor and birth. None of them could step forward without violating patient privacy. All Sarah Palin had to do was give a couple of them permission to say they’d been there, and that she was the mother.
Now, I have further problems with this whole mess, and I think leftblogistan has a responsibility for the utter depravity with which they slavered over these rumors that cannot be excused by saying Palin should have released her maternity records. That feels too much like victim-blaming to me; but this is problematical because Palin is not a victim:

But she didn’t do that. Why not? IMO, because it made her look like an injured party (she obviously enjoyed that, and got loads of mileage out of it), and drew attention away from the rest of her problems. The other consequence of leaving the story in play was that seventeen-year-old Bristol Palin got dragged through a cubic mile of mud, then paraded in front of the RNC on primetime television as a Moral Example. It’s fatuous to claim it was Bristol’s choice. Even grown men who have the law on their side would think twice before crossing Glorificus Palin; and Bristol is her resourceless minor child.

I agree that Palin is such a narcissist with absolutely no empathy for other people that she would gladly subject her daughter to all this publicity and pawing-over just so she'd look like a martyr.

I suppose that if I had grown up being taught to glorify a martyr, I would jump at my chance to appear as one myself.

Let me borrow an image from the McCain campaign: Did you know John McCain was a fighter pilot in Vietnam? No? Not surprising, seeing as the only word linking "McCain" and "Vietnam" is "POW," but the image stands. If we cast President McCain as a fighter pilot, are we reassured that his copilot, the one who helps him fly the plane of state from the back seat, is a spotlight-hogging ham with a martyr complex and a fistful of grudges?

Go, as they say, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In Case You Were Curious

I used to watch this. I used to love it. My parents are nice enough not to have thrown out all my boy-dolls action figures yet. I was devastated when my local TV network stopped showing it.

I saw some more action figures in a store a while back. These weren't mint-condition original-run toys, these were new-made using the original dies. Someone retooled an entire factory to run these things off. I guess we children of the '80s are indulging our nostalgia now that we have actual consumer power. NBC just premiered a remake of Knight Rider in which Kitt can turn into all sorts of Ford vehicles, I shit you not he turned into a pickup truck just to ride the rails into a subway station for the climax of the pilot. That's about all I cared to watch, thank you.

And yes, in case you're still curious (in order of appearance): Adam, Cringer, He-Man, BattleCat, the Sorceress, Man-At-Arms, Orko, Trapjaw, Mer-Man, Beastman, and Skeletor, over an indeterminate background and then Castle Greyskull. I only had to look one of those up. I'll let you guess which one.

You better believe this is going under White and Nerdy!

Two Things Orlando Has

The bad news first:

Orlando has the Holy Land Experience, which is a theme park run by The Bible Network that sounds like it was ripped off of a classic rock'n'roll album (are you ... experienced?). It features such things as wandering Roman centurion tour guides, reenactments of stories from the Bible, awful musical groups (including the Holy Land Experience Singers and Last Adam), and cheezy things like the Crystal Waters (a lit-up fountain performance; presumably a holy and blessed lit-up fountain performance), an amazingly plastic-looking Ark of the Covenant which isn't killing anybody or anything (boooo-ring!) in a Wilderness Tabernacle that also includes a menorah (which I thought came later), and an animatronic John Wycliffe. When you have hundreds of employees reenacting the Biblical patriarchs and White Jesus, why spend money on a robot philosopher that needs maintenance, says the same thing over and over, and can't answer questions?

The good news next:

Baby ant-eater!

Holy Land Experience via Morgan.
Baby ant-eater via Cute Overload.
(Which is not to say Morgan's never sent me anything good, just that this was egregious enough to post and barf over.)