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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Seventy-six percent of Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday said Obama is a strong and decisive leader.

"That's the best number an incoming president has gotten on that dimension since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "The public's rating of his leadership skills is already as high as George W. Bush's was after 9/11 and easily beats the numbers that both Bush and Bill Clinton got at the start of their first terms in office."

A lot of people are linking to these numbers, but best-in-show goes to TPM's Eric Kleefield, who writes: "A new poll suggests that Barack Obama's high ratings aren't just your average political honeymoon, but could effectively be the same as when the people rally around their leader after a disaster." Only I wouldn't say it's "effectively the same"—that's exactly what it is.

Confidential to the Obama White House: popularity is political capital. Use it, or you lose it. Let's go change the world.

This post is for your eyes.

* Andy Kehoe's "Psycho World," a slightly more surreal Where the Wild Things Are (and I can only imagine he's completely sick of hearing that).

* Future worlds and alternascapes from James Paick.

* And WebUrbanist builds off my infamous Statue of Liberty post with 25 Post-Apocalyptic Visions.

All is quiet on New Year's Day.

* As the Bush administration blessedly draws to a close, it's important to remember the casualties of the War of Terror, people like Alberto Gonzales. (via)

* More people get their news from the Internet than from newspapers. More importantly:

The percentage of people younger than 30 citing television as a main news source has declined from 68% in September 2007 to 59% currently.
That's good, good news.

* Howard Dean, Vermonter of the Year. Maybe next year, Ben and Jerry.

* Batman casting rumors you can believe in: Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin.

* It's the future, and Microsoft still sucks.

* Top 10 space stories of 2008. A different 10.

* Top 10 cryptozoology stories of 2008.

* James Howard Kunstler's predictions for 2009. Prediction: Pain. Via MetaFilter.

* Thank god for philosophy grad students, the only graduate demographic upon Lit students can look down.

Terminator is now officially a cultural treasure.

Confidential to Mac users: Here's how to assign half-stars in iTunes. I have wanted to be able to do this for literally my entire life.

Neil has been talking about this day since Jan. 1, 2000, and at last it has arrived: today is the last day for the famous 200x novelty glasses.

01/01/09 Never Forget.

For everything else apocalyptic, there's always kino fist. (Via Vu.)

...genre fiction doesn’t exist in contradistinction to literature merely because of stale language, secondhand insights, or hackneyed plots. The larger difference is a failure or—less judgmentally—a simple setting-aside of the moral imagination. The literary novel illuminates moral problems (including sometimes those that are also political problems) at the expense of sentimental consolation, while genre fiction typically offers consolation at the expense of illumination. It doesn’t alter this proposition that science fiction and especially crime novels sometimes traffic in the idea that all people are at bottom equally evil and all history in the end equally nightmarish, since this sort of nihilism moots moral judgment altogether and is therefore its own kind of consolation.
Other people quicker on the trigger have already covered much of the necessary ground on Benjamin Kunkel's provocative but incredibly frustrating Dissent piece on "Dystopia and the End of Politics." What's good about this article is largely masked by Kunkel's strange decision to rehearse for the millionth time the high/low culture divide in the context of works (Children of Men, Oryx & Crake) that plainly obliterate it. (Just for starters: In what sense is the father of The Road best described as a primarily instrumental character? The Road is not a perfect book, but that is not among its flaws. And so it goes through the entire essay; in nearly all cases Kunkel's classification of a work as science fiction inevitably determines the discovery of its asserted essential generic flaws.) Kunkel briefly pretends to take SF seriously so that his later refusal to take it seriously will carry more rhetorical weight—but he never means it, and his contempt for SF is palpable, and annoying, throughout.

I'm also not fond of arguments of the form "All X are essentially Y. Here are my three examples." Kunkel, in contrast, appears very fond of such arguments.

All that said, when Kunkel does get down to business and takes dystopian and apocalyptic fiction seriously, he does rather good work, worth quoting at length:
In short, the contemporary apocalypse pits family values against the cannibal universe—the good guys versus the bad guys, in McCarthy’s unironic terms. And so, with the end of civilization, the age-old conflict between sexual love (eros) and love of one’s neighbor (caritas) also disappears; and the grown-up Jesus’ exhortation to his followers that they leave their families if they wish to pursue righteousness is as little remembered as among Christian fundamentalists today. No one pauses to reflect that in our civilization, pre-collapse, it was invariably the defense of the individual household that justified a nation’s warlike international posture or its profligate use of energy. Nuclear war might be averted, went the insipid Sting hit of the late cold war, if the Russians love their children too. But if global warming is not arrested, it will be because we (and the Russians) want for our children everything we have and more.

To be as schematic as possible: in the neoliberal dystopia a totally commodified world transforms would-be lovers into commodities themselves and in this way destroys the possibility of love. In the neoliberal apocalypse, on the other hand, the wreck of civilization reveals the inherent depravity of mankind (excepting one’s loved ones) and ratifies the truth that the family is a haven in a heartless world. Both the neoliberal dystopia and the neoliberal apocalypse defend love and individuality against the forces threatening to crush them; the difference is that the clone novel sticks up for humanity from the standpoint of an implied or explicit critique of neoliberalism, while the apocalypse narrative (whether in prose or on film) tends to reflect the default creed of neoliberalism, according to which kindness may flourish in private life but the outside world remains now and forever a scene of vicious but inevitable competition.
That's a good and interesting binary absolutely worth thinking about. It's just too bad he felt like he had to take a shower afterwards. And worse that he had to let us know he was going to take the shower after, that he was about to take the shower, really, just as soon as he stopped writing, because obviously he felt as dirty writing about SF as we must have felt reading about it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

HuffPoGreen has extensive coverage of the Tennessee coal ash disaster, including first-hand reports and before-and-after photos, while Crooks and Liars links to long-term health effects of the sludge.

Grid: complete the circuit. Via Jay Is Games.

In nearly all areas, the developments are occurring more quickly than it has been assumed up until now... We are on our way to a destabilization of the world climate that has advanced much further than most people or their governments realize. Via CP.

Why would the MLA invite David Horowitz to speak? What a waste of time.

Taking care of a little link business.

* How to Organize an Insurrection: tips from the protestors in Greece. (Via Vu.)

* It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. Via Kevin Drum.

* Fimoculous's 30 Most Notable Blogs of 2008. #31 for the second year running!

* Burris bags benighted Blago embrace. Democrats demur.

* Jim Webb will introduce legislation to beat back the prison-industrial complex.

* The case for Caroline Kennedy. I find this interesting because it's a completely ends-based analysis, the only field in which I think Kennedy's potential appointment has merit. She will be probably a good senator from my perspective and probably (yes) advantageous for New York—but she just doesn't deserve the nod. The Senate's not the House of Lords.

* The 1,000 Greatest Films of All Time. Subset: The 250 Greatest Films of the Last Eight Years. Via MeFi.

* Also from MeFi: an improbable defense of the suburbs from a most-probable place.

* Franken... wins?

* "Golden Years": A pre-Office one-off from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

* "Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House." 22 days remain.

Legions of Joss Whedon fanboys and -girls received their Dr. Horrible DVDs for Christmas last week. In addition to a surprisingly good musical commentary track that among other things sings the praises of classic Internet game Ninja Rope, the DVDs are loaded with hidden easter eggs to unlock. Instructions are here and here...

io9 has your year in Batman.

''The idea of change and hope has permeated the country, regardless of politics, and that includes Hollywood,'' says Kevin Feige, president of production at Marvel Studios, home to Iron Man and the soon-to-be-launched Captain America. ''Discussions in all our development meetings include the zeitgeist and how it's changed in the last two weeks. Things are being adjusted.''
Marvel Comics is happy about the election. I think, perhaps, a little too happy. Via io9.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rahm Emanuel resigns his House seat, and the first person he tells about it is his favorite penpal, crooked governor Rod Blagojevich? Really, Rahm? The first person?

What else has Rahm been talking to Blagojevich about? Where is the outrage?

A hell of a drug: bees on cocaine 'behave like humans.'

Igor Panarin's prediction that the United States will dissolve into six smaller nations (previously) is getting some attention today due to a piece on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Leave it to Steve Benen to pooh-pooh.

Slate's Ryan Grim noted a recent report outlining Panarin's vision for the future of the U.S.: "He predicted that the U.S. will break up into six parts -- the Pacific coast, with its growing Chinese population; the South, with its Hispanics; Texas, where independence movements are on the rise; the Atlantic coast, with its distinct and separate mentality; five of the poorer central states with their large Native American populations; and the northern states, where the influence from Canada is strong."

If this reflects Panarin's knowledge of the country, I have a hunch we'll be fine.
I'm just glad to see my concerns about a nighttime flight to Jersey were misplaced: North Carolina will apparently be joining the European Union too.

Paging Strange Maps...

Inside Higher Ed has details on the new G.I. Bill and on the first seven Minerva Grants from the Department of Defense.

Shapiro, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, and a former Naval officer, said he viewed the military-academic ties as positive and overdue. “I think there is a destructive divide in our country between the military and the academy,” he said. Secretary Gates “had the right idea in trying to set something up to remedy that."
Seems like an appropriate time to remember that Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" was "military-industrial-academic complex" in the first draft...

Confidential to the Detroit Lions: Bravo.

Required viewing: Deadwood's David Milch talks with a "Religion, Media and Hollywood" class at USC.

Recipezaar: more recipes than you require.

I think it's safe to say the "Dean the Baptist" meme has taken root. Here's Ari Berman in The Nation:

Indiana is a good example. When Dan Parker became chair of the state party in November 2004, his first order was to slash his staff in half after Democrats lost the governor's mansion. Indiana, like so many states, had been written off by the national party--the last Democratic presidential contender to carry it was Lyndon Johnson. But Dean gave Parker the money to hire three field organizers and a full-time communications director, the first the state had ever had. (When Dean came in, thirty states had no such important position.) In 2006 that staff worked on three competitive Congressional races long before the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) arrived. The party picked up all three seats that year and elected a record number of Democratic mayors in 2007. By the time the Democratic primary rolled around this past May, Hoosier Dems had been revitalized, and Obama--to the surprise of many--invested heavily in the state, visiting forty-nine times. On November 4 Obama won Indiana--a state John Kerry lost by twenty points--by 26,000 votes. "We're a poster child for the fifty-state strategy," Parker says.

If Indiana was ignored by the national party, then a place like Alaska--5,000 miles from Washington--didn't exist. Dean was roundly mocked, including in a New York Times Magazine profile, for visiting and investing in the Last Frontier. "The idea that you're going to put money in a place like Alaska seemed insane," Dean says, "because you could take the same amount of money and maybe win a House seat in California with it. That was the thinking here. The problem is, that's a totally short-term strategy." The DNC's investment increased the size of the Alaska party staff from one to four. More important, "it made Alaskans proud to be Democrats again," says state chair Patti Higgins. When opportunity struck, as Dean predicted, Democrats were ready. "It doesn't look so dumb now that Ted Stevens got indicted [in July] and today we have a Democratic senator from Alaska," Dean says. "But without a voter list and a party that knows what it's doing and is well trained and staffers that are up there for four years, we don't win that seat, plain and simple." Not only did former Anchorage mayor Mark Begich knock off Stevens; Democrats ran their strongest challenge yet to Alaska's lone Congressman, Don Young, who's held the seat for thirty-five years, and polls showed Obama leading in the state before John McCain tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate. Now the party is focused on ousting Palin from the governor's mansion in 2010. When I spoke to Higgins, she was heading to a press conference to denounce Palin, who was campaigning in Georgia that day, as "AWOL from Alaska."
More from Matt Yglesias. That fifty dollars I gave Dean for America? I don't regret it.

No one watches &c: Fox has won a surprise ruling in their Watchmen suit, throwing the release date and other details surrounding the long-awaited film into doubt.

A helpless fan of warning signs, I'm very glad to see new Doktor Sleepless covers on Flickr.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy birthday, Jaimee! Everyone else, I'll be back with posts tomorrow.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Here comes fusion: While it has seemed an impossible goal for nearly 100 years, scientists now believe that they are on brink of cracking one of the biggest problems in physics by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the reaction that burns at the heart of the sun. We're saved!

Desktop defense meets zombie killer: Eternal Red.

The clash of civilizations is finally over: Samuel Huntington has died.

Analysts estimate that from about 10% to 26% of all retailers are in financial distress and in danger of filing for Chapter 11. AlixPartners LLP, a Michigan-based turnaround consulting firm, estimates that 25.8% of 182 large retailers it tracks are at significant risk of filing for bankruptcy or facing financial distress in 2009 or 2010. In the previous two years, the firm had estimated 4% to 7% of retailers then tracked were at a high risk for filing. Retailers are particularly vulnerable to a recession because of their high fixed costs.
Here comes recession. Via Kevin Drum.

Last week's Tennessee coal disaster is already said to be three times worse than originally thought.

I fell in love with the majesty of colors.

Female dolphins have begun to use tools. Can invasion be far behind?

As best the researchers can tell, a single dolphin may have invented the technique relatively recently and taught it to her kin. The simple innovation dramatically changed their behavior, hunting habits and social life, the researchers found. Those that adopted it became loners who spend much more time on the hunt than others and dive more deeply in search of prey. The sponging dolphins teach the technique to all their young, but only the females seem to grasp the idea.

"It is indisputably tool use," says primate anthropologist Craig Stanford at the University of Southern California, an authority on animal cognition and behavior who wasn't part of the dolphin research group. "Despite the fact they lack hands and legs, dolphins make do."

For those seeking a glimpse of our own beginnings, the dolphins of Shark Bay offer a hint of the inventive impulse when our earliest ancestors first shaped destiny by fashioning implements with their own hands.
Via MeFi.

Friday, December 26, 2008

God bless America (22 January, 2003)

Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God.
The gutters are clogged with the dead
The ones who couldn't join in
The others refusing to sing
The ones who are losing their voice
The ones who've forgotten the tune.
The riders have whips which cut.
Your head rolls onto the sand
Your head is a pool in the dirt
Your head is a stain in the dust
Your eyes have gone out and your nose
Sniffs only the pong of the dead
And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America's God.
The Guardian has poetry from that late Harold Pinter. Here's another political one from Lenin's Tomb.
American Football

It works.
We blew the shit out of them.

We blew the shit right back up their own ass
And out their fucking ears.

It works.
We blew the shit out of them.
They suffocated in their own shit!

Praise the Lord for all good things.

We blew them into fucking shit.
They are eating it.

Praise the Lord for all good things.

We blew their balls into shards of dust,
Into shards of fucking dust.

We did it.

Now I want you to come over here and kiss me on the mouth.

Links for your post-Christmas blues.

* In the future, all movies will have lightsabers.

* Rest in peace, Harold Pinter and Eartha Kitt.

* Barack Obama is stupendously ridiculously popular.

* Al Franken is not quite so popular, but he's looking like Minnesota's next senator.

* Confidential for Mac users: the weird inability to change location in Finder dialogues is easily rectified.

* In the zeitgeist: people living life backwards.

* 95 Old School Games You Can Play Online. Via MeFi.

* So you're saying we need Batman? (Thanks, Kate!)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Is Michael Cera holding up the Arrested Development movie? Say it ain't so!

Jaimee and I both have capsule reviews in the Indy's end-of-the-year booklist. I wrote about Bolaño and Jaimee about Aravind Adiga's Booker-Prize winning The White Tiger, but here's Jaimee on the book everyone's talking about.

Goodnight Bush
By Erich Origen and Gan Golan
Little, Brown & Company

Many a child may be fooled by the cover of this "unauthorized parody" of the classic children's story Goodnight Moon; upon closer inspection, however, the cover of Goodnight Bush, by Erich Origen and Gan Golan, portrays a nightmare world of factory smokestacks, oil drilling and Florida 2000 ballots roasting on an open fire.

Accompanied by a simple text in a rhyming series of good nights ("Goodnight Constitution, goodnight evolution"), it is with a careful eye one must read the pictures full of visual puns. We are led into a child's room, Little Georgie about to go to bed in his flight-cadet jammies. Lines of cocaine are on one nightstand, My Pet Goat on the other, surrounded by the dollhouse White House, little soldier men, the fox, the rocking chair, the blocks, the ballots and "a quiet Dick Cheney whispering hush." Is that yellow cake that sits on the bedside table or is that a slice of the American dream in the form of apple pie? As the story progresses, the toys move and change to document another facet of the Bush years: another grievance, another mistake, another disaster.

If this book has a moment in time, it is now. George Bush's legacy is bandied about on political talk shows and is soon to be stamped into history books, and here is a tiny sardonic snapshot that captures all that went wrong; it is only here, in a child's world, where we can laugh at the worst that has happened in a kind of catharsis. The book ends with both good and bad goodbyes: "Goodnight Earth? Goodnight heir? Goodnight failures everywhere." As a large percentage of the country looks forward to a New Year and a new administration, this clever little book is worth a look. —Jaimee Hills

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Millions of yards of ashy sludge broke through a dike at TVA's Kingston coal-fired plant Monday, covering hundreds of acres, knocking one home off its foundation and putting environmentalists on edge about toxic chemicals that may be seeping into the ground and flowing downriver. Comment at Gristmill and Open Left, which calls this "an environmental 9/11." (via Vu)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The 12 Days of Zombie Christmas.

The Big Picture has your daily dose of space shuttle porn. In 2009 I'm going to switch things up and link to The Big Picture only when it isn't completely great.

Battlestar's Ron Moor has an interview with AMC displaying some nice self-awareness about the extent to which the Final Cylon plot has taken over (and sort of ruined) his show.

Q: The build-up to the final Cylon has been unprecedented. How is the revelation not going to be a letdown?

A: It will never be as powerful as the build-up. I resigned myself to that a long time ago. The "Who Shot JR" of it all is an instructive lesson: No matter who it is, it's still going to be a bit of a letdown. But I decided that precisely because of that, it wasn't going to be in the final episode. I didn't want that to become the entire series. I'm sure there will be a variety of reactions. Some people will love it, some people will hate it. But I think when you see how the revelation fits into the overall mythology of the show, when all the questions are answered by the end, then it'll make sense and you'll think, "Oh, well it kind of had to be that person."

It's that time, so let's get in the spirit. First up: The Ramones, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stated simply, the Novikov consistency principle asserts that if an event exists that would give rise to a paradox, or to any "change" to the past whatsoever, then the probability of that event is zero.


* Uncool: A U.N. resolution on the right to food passed 180-1. Via Lenin's Tomb.

* Lots of links floating around to this revisionist interpretation of It's a Wonderful Life:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

... Take the extended sequence in which George Bailey (James Stewart), having repeatedly tried and failed to escape Bedford Falls, N.Y., sees what it would be like had he never been born. The bucolic small town is replaced by a smoky, nightclub-filled, boogie-woogie-driven haven for showgirls and gamblers, who spill raucously out into the crowded sidewalks on Christmas Eve. It’s been renamed Pottersville, after the villainous Mr. Potter, Lionel Barrymore’s scheming financier.

Here’s the thing about Pottersville that struck me when I was 15: It looks like much more fun than stultifying Bedford Falls — the women are hot, the music swings, and the fun times go on all night. If anything, Pottersville captures just the type of excitement George had long been seeking.
* Will Obama gut NASA? Nice followup to last week's discussion on Poli-Sci-Fi Radio.

* On the plus side, Obama pledges allegiance to science.

* Ultimately, these disputes can't really be resolved until Obama is in office. Only then will we know whether Obama's embrace of every establishment and even right-wing figure he can find is a reflection of what the substance of his governing will be, or whether -- as many of his supporters claim -- it's a master strategy designed to diffuse tension and hostility in order to enable easier enactment of his progressive agenda. If Obama devotes genuine efforts to repealing DOMA and don't-ask-don't-tell, I doubt anyone will care how many times he hugs Rick Warren -- just as if Obama really closes Guantanamo, withdraws from Iraq and forges a diplomatic peace with Iran, few people will care how much he embraces Joe Lieberman -- though obviously those are very, very large "ifs." Only time will tell. Via Open Left.

* Arctic melt 20 years ahead of climate models. Response to global warming 20 years behind rational policy-making.

* Hadley Center study warns of “catastrophic” 5°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path. Did I mention we're screwed?

An airplane crashed during takeoff in Denver yesterday. Twitter was there. Via Cynical-C.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hard times in North Carolina.

Burger King Corp. may have just the thing. The home of the Whopper has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame." The company describes the spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."
I would have thought a more common dating problem was smelling too much like Burger King hamburgers. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

A few.

* Franken officially takes the lead.

* The music industry is abandoning their strategy of dickish law suits.

* There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history.

* Gao Xiqing, who oversees 10% of China's $200 trillion, tells it to us straight.

The current conditions can’t go on. It is time for the new government, under Obama or even McCain, to really tell people: “Look, this is wartime, this is about the survival of our nation. It’s not about our supremacy in the world. Let’s not even talk about that any more. Let’s get down to the very basics of our livelihood.”

I have great admiration of American people. Creative, hard-working, trusting, and freedom-loving. But you have to have someone to tell you the truth. And then, start realizing it. And if you do it, just like what you did in the Second World War, then you’ll be great again!

If that happens, then of course—American power would still be there for at least as long as I am living. But many people are betting on the other side.

The Big Picture has your year in review in three parts.

January: Cthulhu awakes, is angry.

February: Toy Story fandom hits an all-time high.

March: America learns the hard way you can't kill fire with a gun.

April: Finland's Harri Olli does it wrong.

May-July: Superpowers develop, are immediately misused.

August: NASA fakes another moon landing.

September: Even weirder stuff starts to happen.

October: Obama challenges Agent Smith to a final duel in the rain.

November: The world ends.

December: George Bush hobbles out of office a defeated, broken man. And there was much rejoicing.

Science fiction authors that lit geeks think it's cool to read. Surprisingly complete list from io9—off the top of my head it's hard to think of any omissions besides J.G. Ballard and perhaps Kim Stanley Robinson.

You could play the same game in the opposite direction, too: traditionally literary authors that sci-fi geeks think it's cool to read. Orwell, Huxley, Atwood, Kafka, DeLillo, Pynchon, DFW...

More details are coming out about the MLA's Job Information list, and none of it is good.

The number of job postings in the MLA’s Job Information List will be down 21 percent in 2008-9, the steepest annual decline in its 34-year history. For English language and literature, the drop will be 22.2 percent and for foreign languages, 19.6 percent. Not all jobs are listed with the MLA, so the figures don’t cover every position, but the MLA’s postings have tracked consistently with national trends, especially for the assistant professor positions that are so desirable to new Ph.D.’s who want to land on the tenure track.
I also accidentally took a look at the subdiscipline statistics, which always depress me. 7.3%? It's our own country's literature! Where's your pride, America?

Four plainclothes Galveston police officers beat a 12-year-old girl in the head in her own yard, beat her with a flashlight, accused her of being a prostitute and threatened to shoot her puppy, while responding to a call about white prostitutes, the girl's parents claim in Federal Court. The girl, an honor student, who was dressed in gym shorts and a T-shirt when the cops beat her, is black.
This has got to be the most absolutely FUBAR thing I've heard in weeks.
As Dymond headed toward the breaker, a blue van drove up and three men jumped out rushing toward her. One of them grabbed her saying, “You’re a prostitute. You’re coming with me.”

Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” One of the men covered her mouth. Two of the men beat her about the face and throat.

As it turned out, the three men were plain-clothed Galveston police officers who had been called to the area regarding three white prostitutes soliciting a white man and a black drug dealer.

After the incident, Dymond was hospitalized and suffered black eyes as well as throat and ear drum injuries.


Three weeks later, according to the lawsuit, police went to Dymond’s school, where she was an honor student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant. Griffin says the allegations stem from when Dymond fought back against the three men who were trying to take her from her home. The case went to trial, but the judge declared it a mistrial on the first day, says Griffin. The new trial is set for February.

io9 has a link to preproduction art from a never-produced film version of Ernest Callenbach's unparalleled Ecotopia.

Space News!

* 'Moon could hold water for lunar base.'

* 'New Mexico's Spaceport America is two steps closer to becoming a reality and not just a dream.'

* 'Report urges timetable for human mission to Mars.'

(via Mac)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

[This empty post was apparently posted in error, but I can't delete it in good conscience after getting ribbed in the comments.]


* The Cleveland Plain Dealer doesn't like it when big-shot New Yorkers take shits on our beloved city.

* I thought I was raised in a country where we were all free to vote for the Lizard Person of our choice. I was wrong.

* By the way, it looks like Franken may actually win.

* Labor leaders like Obama's labor pick.

* "Area Woman Becomes Republican Vice Presidential Candidate." The Onion continues its Year-in-Review.

* James Howard Kunstler's "10 Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society."

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,
overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way
to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love,
and I'm sorry the dog died.
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?
The Guardian breaks this month's most talked-about poetry-related news item: Yale's Elizabeth Alexander will read at Barack Obama's inauguration.

kos has your MN-Sen update.

Duke and the downturn.

As of early December, the market value of the endowment was approximately 19% lower than it was on July 1. This is a serious concern, but the news could be worse. First, Duke’s investments have been skillfully managed. Over the past ten years, only one university endowment has outperformed Duke’s, and the decline we have experienced this fall has not been as sharp as many of our peers have reported. Second, it is important to remember that spending from the endowment has historically made up about 15% of the University’s annual operating budget - again, a lower proportion than many of our peer institutions. And finally, the impact of this decline on our activities will be tempered by our spending policy, which calls for paying out 5.5% of the average value of the endowment over a three-year period. This policy has kept us from overspending in years when the endowment earned large returns, and lessens our exposure to a sharp downturn now.

Good thinking.

(via HuffPoGreen)

I've said for years there's only one man who can follow Heath Ledger's Joker, and that's Eddie Murphy as the Riddler. Shia Labeouf as Robin is a nice touch.

Students at the New School have occupied the Graduate Faculty building in protest of administrative mismanagement, especially a lack of transparency and adequate funding. An excerpt from their statement:

The university is being treated as a profit-making venture at whose altar the requirements of scholarship are routinely sacrificed. We have been systematically stripped of the most basic resources necessary for academic excellence, including adequate funding, spaces in which to study and engage with each other, and a working library. We demand more opportunities for student funding, and we are willing to work for them. We need public spaces in which to foster a public sphere and an academic community. The absence of a serious library and its related resources for reserach is absolutely unacceptable and should not even be an issue of contention in an academic institution.

Academic planning and budgeting should be directed by individuals with a deep understanding and commitment to academic excellence and free inquiry.

We do not have adequate resources and we are not told why.

We have no hand and no say in our fates or the collective fate of our institution.

We desire meaningful and inclusive education that sees us as more than cash cows and treats us with respect as serious scholars, artists, musicians, designers, philosophers, writers, and most importantly, future educators. We are tired of being told by an out of touch administration what our needs are, and we are no longer willing to idly sit by while our education and our futures are gambled away. We want a university that is known for the quality of its students and faculty, not for its logo or the crimes of its leadership. It is time for change. We desire a better world, and we are willing to fight to achieve it.
(Thanks Fiona)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bad Astronomy has your top ten astronomy pictures 2008.

Quick ones.

* Naturally, Barack Obama is Time's Person of the Year. For a brief while I thought they might pick someone else for shock value, but come on, this was a gimme.

* Jaimee pointed this out to me today, and now I'm seeing it at Politico: if she's selected to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate—which seems, sadly, inevitable—Caroline Kennedy will have been in the Senate eight years in 2016, just like Clinton '08...

* Science fiction and glamor.

* TV Tropes has a whole subsection on comic book tropes.

* The best superhero graphic novels of 2008.

* And my vote for best news story of this or any year: Tiny Swiss watch found in undisturbed 400-year-old tomb.

A red-letter day for the entire human race: the second season premiere of Flight of the Conchords is online at Funny or Die.

And there was much rejoicing.

Really surprised to see them acknowledging the events of last season's finale...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Philip K. Dick's 80th (!) birthday, and io9 has some suggestions on how to celebrate. To this list I can only add my PKD linkdump from a few months back.

The blog icon for this week is of course shamelessly stolen from the Warning Signs of the Future Flickr group, one of my absolute favorite things on the Internet. That's why I'm so glad I ran across the Doktor Sleepless wiki this afternoon, which has a similar aesthetic from the minds of Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez. (Information on the series here. Originally via

In the end I found it necessary to troll the site for every Warning Sign image I could find, which I now happily share with you. So cool.

Most of these originate in a series of variant "warning sign" covers done for issues of the series, which I will now absolutely have to check out, if only because of stuff like this.