Sunday, June 28, 2009

This Guy Gets Pissed About EVERYTHING

Another installment of Hitler Subtitle Theatre...

Alas, to my eternal art direction shame I once used Zapf Chancery ALL-CAPS. It was on a theater poster in college...the play was “AS YOU LIKE IT.”

The fact that Parker Posey was in that play only compounds my sin—it would make it something interesting to hang the wall, but it’s so damn ugly!

[h/t Pandagon]

At the Movies

Quick thoughts about a few things I've seen lately while I wait for the George Foreman to heat up...

Goodbye Solo -- Saw it in the theater last night. Fantastic little film. "Little" not to be condescending, but because it's apt: Filmed in Winston-Salem; stars, for the most part, only two people—neither of which are "stars"; clearly produced on a shoestring; and consists of a tidy story with few moving parts. Thoroughly engrossing, thoughtful and poignant. Terrific performances. I will be the film I will evangelize about the rest of the year. I'm not going to link to the trailer, because you should just see it cold like I did.

[puts burger on...]

Slumdog Millionaire -- Rented it last week with Mrs F. I figured it would be good, but I feared—intensely—that it would not be nearly as good as its hype. That rewarding and hyping the Little Foreign Engine That Could was more about critical charity and Hollywood feeling good about itself than anything else.

It was really excellent. Brilliant screenplay, excellent performances, and absolute confirmation that I never, EVER need to go to India. Had I seen it before the Oscars, I would have been cheerleading it as well. It won all the right awards: Best Picture; Director; Screenplay (adapted); Score; Song; and Cinematography.

[eating burger]

Jack Black Trilogy: Be Kind Rewind, Nacho Libre, and Kung-Fu Panda -- I am an unabashed Jack Black fan. I think he's hysterical in comedies and underrated in other films. School of Rock is fantastic, Margot at the Wedding was a good film and Black stole it, Good in King Kong, and he has made otherwise-unbearable stuff like Saving Silverman watchable. Mrs F and I enter any Jack Black vehicle with pretty high expectations...

We watched Kung-Fu Panda with the kids several weeks ago. It was good, and Black was perfect as the voice of the main character, but it didn't rise to the level of a post.

Be Kind Rewind got some pretty good reviews, and while it looked ridiculous, was supposed to be a surprisingly good movie. It wasn't. It sucked. Hard. We were about to give up on it when one of the only two funny moments roped us in—the camouflage scene. Which led us to believe that once they started reenacting movies hilarity would ensue. The "Ghostbusters" scene was hysterical, but it was awful the rest of the way. Not recommended.

We hoped Nacho Libre would redeem Mr Black. Not exactly. It had some VERY funny moments, but you saw most of them if you ever saw the trailer. In conclusion: it was probably inappropriate for the kids, I enjoyed it more than Mrs F, and it left me convinced that Black needs to be more selective with scripts and that Year One probably blows.

[I have to go finish mowing the lawn]

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What Krugman Said...

During the campaign, Paul Krugman's (unfair) attacks on Obama—presumably in service to Hillary—became an almost weekly STFU item around here. Since Obama's becoming President, PKrug hasn't exactly let up, but he's been much more specific, judicious and constructive in his criticism.

Yesterday's column "Not Enough Audacity" pretty much nailed what I think has been been the biggest overall failure of the Obama Administration. I'm not (and neither is Krugman) declaring Obama a failure after six months in office, but am genuinely worried about what has become a reoccuring theme that when viewed in retrospect years down the line will be what one can look at as the reasons Obama might end being, let's say, less-successful than he should've been.

It's Obama's insistance and over-reliance on post-partisanship.

Obama let his desire to attract bipartisan support derail a more effective stimulus plan. And for his effort and the plan's hollowing-out he attracted exactly three fucking Republicans. It greatly weakened the stimulus package, and at the same time did nothing to make it bipartisan. Instead it resulted in a weak, more-likely-to-fail plan that can still be accurately labeled "Democrat."

If you are going to let the Republicans sit on the sidelines and jeer, you might as well throw deep and win the goddamn game. That way, you get an MVP trophy, and all the GOP gets is further left behind.

I'm not saying this needs to mean cutthroat politics. If Obama wants to "rise above" and give reasonable Republicans a chance to participate or contribute, fine. Offer to include them in serious policy discussion, and when those few REpublicans are neutered by the party loudmouths that have nothing to contribute but number-less budgets and denials of reality, Obama should promptly sidestep them and cut them out of the process.

Instead Obama is getting cut off at the knees by his own fucking party and is preemptively negotiating against himself before the clock even starts.

The next two big examples of this are climate change / cap-and-trade legislation and, of course, health care reform. Probably the two specific areas where Obama has the biggest, most-clear mandate and the least need to compromise.

Let's see what happens.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Paying It Forward.

Ezra Klein said simply, "Because it's Friday and I want you to have a good weekend, I insist you look at this unbelievably wonderful link.

He was absolutely correct. Enjoy.

In Case You Forgot…

Al Franken won an election and should be a U.S. Senator, but is still yet to be sworn in...

I know Norm Coleman thinks if he pushes long enough some Circuit Court on Mars might rule in his favor and force a new race, but after being a fucking sore loser for nine months and keeping his state from having representation does he really think he'd actually do better the next time 'round?


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Fall of John Smoltz

So tonight was the much-anticipated Red Sox debut of John Smoltz. I've always liked Smoltz and regarded him as my favorite of the Brave's "Big Three" pitchers (Maddux and Glavine the other two), and I was happy the Sox decided to take a chance on him—he's come back and been dominant after injury/surgery before.

I was shocked this morning when I glanced at an article and saw his lifetime record of 210-147. Only 210 wins? Seriously? I know he was a closer for a brief time, but I thought for sure he'd be pushing 275-300 wins. Then this evening the Red Sox radio announcer made the statement (as Smoltz gets cuffed around by the Nats) that, "Even if Smoltz's career ended right now, in five years he'll walk into the Hall of Fame."

Yesterday, I'd've blindly agreed. But after reading the 210 mark, I wasn't so sure. That's only like 10 wins a year. I need to do some research...

Right off the bat, I see Smoltz had over 150 saves as a closer—that's pretty damn good in limited duty. What else? 3000 strikeouts? Check. Cy Young? Check. 15-4 in the postseason? BUT—he only won 20 games once, and has a good, but not great, career ERA of 3.26.

Okay, I'd put him in, but I'm not sure he's a first-ballot lock. And that's when I should have stopped reading...

On the wikipedia page on Smoltz:
Smoltz produced an automated campaign phone recording on behalf of the candidacy of Ralph E. Reed, Jr. for Lt. Governor of Georgia during the 2006 primary.

Smoltz was interviewed for an Associated Press article published on July 3, 2004 that dealt with the issue of homophobia in professional sports. “Smoltz, a devout Christian, criticized those who want to legalize gay marriage,” the AP reported. “‘What’s next? Marrying an animal?’ he asked derisively.”

Ugh. You to be one of those guys, John? You know, a dick?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day. To Me.

It's now been (more or less) a year since we moved to Asheville and much like when I lived in New York City and never went to, say, the Statue of Liberty—we live mere minutes from several access points to the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, yet never use it. When I first toured the area last year when interviewing for my job, I took the Parkway back to the airport, and saw I families piling out of the car to enjoy the many trails and figured we'd be doing the same thing if we moved here. Um, notsomuch.

Anyway, I've been working on my photography of late, and decided I need to get up early and grab some sunrise pictures in the mountains. I've tried to get up, but could never rally, and get my ass out of bed.

I knew I'd have some more opportunity in July when Mrs F and the kids are away, but when I read that the Rhododendron are in peak bloom NOW, I figured I'd use the Father's Day Trump Card to take off in the morning and hit the road—with any luck I'd be home before anyone else was up. I set the alarm for 5:45, but Baby set hers for 5:10—I was good and awake now. Once Mrs F got her back to sleep, I made my escape. The weather was less than ideal, but around here ten miles one way or the other can be whole different scene (more on that later).

It's a slow and steady climb from Asheville's 2,300 foot elevation up to the Ridge. My first stop was at about 3400 feet, I'd missed sunrise, but it was pretty overcast so it didn't really matter. I had the the dog with me, the windows down and was really enjoying the drive. A little way further up, there was some okay visability, so I snapped off a few shots (the panorama upthread), but it was beginning to feel like the photo part of the trip was a bust, and this was turning into merely a scouting trip for a return with the family.

As I got up into the 5,000s and Craggy Gardens and the visibility was anywhere between a few miles and 30 feet. I shot some Rhododendron, and decided not to go any further ( I had hoped to make it to Mt. Mitchell). When I got back in the car, I took my first real look at the dash and about crapped my pants—the gas gauge was below empty.

For those not familiar with the Parkway, it can be miles between exits (30 or more) and even then, it's not like an Interstate with an Exxon at every ramp. It was 7:00 a.m., I was in the middle of nowhere, and the last thing I wanted to do was call Mrs F to come get me.

I could swear I had a quarter-tank when I left, and that should have been plenty, but I must have misjudged the gauge and then the long climb took its toll on fuel efficiency.

I then realized, "It's all downhill!"

I pulled out and began my descent. Cruising down the mountain in nuetral at a low idle, I decided I better kill the engine until I need it. It cost me the power brakes, but the slope, curves and banks made controlling the car a breeze. It was pretty fun actually...

My silent running had a completely unexpected advantage—the rabbits, wild turkeys, etc that had run for cover on the way up were all along the side of the road. Kinda cool. And then...along the bank I saw what I never dreamed I'd see...

I have a serious thing for bears. I love em. Everything about em. If there was Bear Week on Discovery Channel, you'd know where to find me. I have never seen a bear in the wild. Ever. My parents have a roll of film of a full-grown black bear in the yard at my childhood home—taken twenty years after I left for college. I've waited my whole life, and there it was: right at the side of the road. I coasted silently up, and stopped not twenty feet away.

Clearly a juvenile, I was more worried about the dog spotting him and barking before I could grab my camera. I still had my wide angle 17-35mm lens mounted, so he looks even further than he was, and it was set for my manual exposures in the fog at the top, so the photos are disappointingly blown out, and through the window glass (it was freezing at the top), but I managed to squeeze off six clean shots before he noticed me and took off.

I was positively giddy. I didn't care about the gas anymore, no matter what happened, this trip was a success.

I successfully conserved my fuel and made to a gas station at the bottom and returned home where everyone was asleep and there was no one to share in my glee. I climbed into the only available bed—Baby's toddler bed, and crashed.

Kid and Mrs F greeted me with iced coffee and donuts an hour or two later and at last I could show off my trophy.

All and all, a fantastic morning. I was ready to take the rest of the clan up there for a picnic when it cleared up in the afternoon. Or so I thought...

[to be cont'd.]

Friday, June 19, 2009


What the fuck is wrong with Firefox these days? Anybody else having issues? It is crashing all the freaking time on me, and the Firefox on my G5 at home has completely shit the bed. It won't even launch without immediately crashing—and that sucks, because it's got my most extensive bookmarks lists, and I don't know how to salvage that.

UPDATE: Our power outage forced a restart of the computer, Firefox launched and just updated itself from 3.0.1 to 3.5, so, we'll see what happens... What I really want is a way to revert either my Firefox or Safari back a couple generations so I can use the online proofing system from my magazine's printer—the newer versions of both these browsers are incompatible (java errors). In the meantime, I'm going to save/export my bookmarks and look into alternatives...

UPDATE 2: Ahhh. I see Firefox has been updating itself to beta versions for two months...An explanation for the unstableness? Sons of....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


"On NBC's Today show this morning, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called on President Obama to make a forceful declaration about the disputed re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"He should speak out that this is a corrupt, fraud, sham of an election," said McCain, Obama's opponent in last year's presidential election. "The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights."

"I think it's possible to engage. But item number one is giving the Iranian people a free and fair election," he said.

--John "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran" McCain [link]

Thank God we have a 47-year-old grown up as President and not the 72-year old child. President McCain would probably be ordering U.S. troops to the Iranian border right now.

"When your adversary is making a fool of himself, get out of the way. That is a rule of politics Lyndon Johnson once put into the most pungent of terms. U.S. fulminations will change nothing in Tehran. But they would enable the regime to divert attention to U.S. meddling in Iran’s affairs and portray the candidate robbed in this election, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, as a poodle of the Americans...

The dilemma for America is that the theocracy defines itself and grounds its claim to leadership through its unyielding resistance to the Great Satan—the United States—and to Israel. Nevertheless, Obama, with his outstretched hand, his message to Iran on its national day, his admission that the United States had a hand in the 1953 coup in Tehran, his assurances that we recognize Iran’s right to nuclear power, succeeded. He stripped the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad of their clinching argument—that America is out to destroy Iran and they are indispensable to Iran’s defense,"

--Pat Buchanan(!) [link—read the whole thing]

Being a hardcore isolationist leads to the correct conclusions on an almost annual basis—he's 100% correct here, and has 200 times the balls of any other "Republican" for saying so.

"America today has a great opportunity to make trouble for a hostile government while at the same time potentially lending an opportunity for freedom to its oppressed people. We should use whatever resources are at our disposal to make the best of that chance."

--Dan "I should Stick to Baseball" McLaughlin [link]

Because the U.S. meddling in the elections and revolutions of other countries has such a glorious and successful track record... Getting involved in pre-revolutionary Iran and doubling down with the Shah in 1979 was arguably the greatest foreign policy blunder in history (ironically, Ahmadinejad was the revolutionary at the time) and morons like the Crank are all-too anxious to lather, rinse and repeat. Our short-term benefit (not even clear in this instance) is almost never a long-term gain for us, and even worse for the actual population involved.

Oh, and the president should wear a green tie from now on. Every day. He need say nothing more.

--Andrew Sullivan [link—and there's more "wrong" where that came from]

Daniel Larison has a terrific takedown of Sullivan's folly along with a couple other terrific posts, but now Andrew has linked to his criticism, and the resulting traffic has brought down the American Conservative website. Otherwise I'd be quoting Larison extensively. UPDATE: Larison is back up, and I will quote the piece in the comments incase it goes down again. It's too long to put up here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran So Far Away

I've been in Deadline Hell the last week or so, so I haven't been able to follow anything closely. Over the weekend I saw that plenty of people are all up at arms about what's going on in Iran. Neocons are taking the events there as a call to fire up the bombers, righties want to figure a way to pin this on Obama, and people like Andrew Sullivan breathlessly relay every last twitter-feed as evidence of some full-blown revolution sweeping the country.

Here's my unvarnished and uninformed opinion...

None of these other people know much more than I do at this point. Take Sullivan for example: Photographs or personal accounts with no wider context are only slightly better than worthless. He paints a picture of a sea of Iranian citizens storming the castle and that the Iranian government as we knew it is over, yet he has readers on his sight claiming that most of Tehran is business as usual...Which is it? Calling for others to express support for what's happening there, yet overstating the situation could send people into a fucking buzzsaw. If there aren't really 500,000 other people marching to give cover, then there could be real problems for the people on the street.

Too many bloggers seem anxious to use the cracked skulls of Iranian protestors as a step up to proclaim "the death of the traditional media!" as well, and it's pretty unseemly. I don't doubt there is value in the man-on-the-street report, but come on... People in Europe might've assumed Yonkers was burning if these people were blogging the L.A. Riots.

As for how Obama is supposed to react to all of this? I think "troubled by events" is sufficient. It's not up to us to second-guess or try to have an impact on what happens in Iran. That last thing he should do is give Ahmadinejad a claim that "America is meddling." Obama needs to keep in mind that whoever emerges will be who he needs to negotiate with—and not to try and rig the game. And Joe Biden needs to shut his hole.

Sure, it'd be swell if Ahmadinejad lost in a clean election and handed over power as readily as Al Gore, but how fucking likely was that? It's up to the people in Iran to decide if they've had enough of this shit. There's been talk of a young, progresive movement in Iran for years—let this be their moment. Interference from outside can only make things worse, illegitimate, uglier, etc.

As far as I'm concerned, the "leading democracy on the planet" just had it's own Presidential election stolen a mere nine years ago, so we should shut the fuck up.

UPDATE: Hilzoy does a much better job articulating what I cursed and rambled about above... It's a fantastic piece.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


The newest right-wing tantrum movement is calling for a boycott of General Motors and Chrysler. That's right, buying American is now un-American. Or something.

And guess who is leading the charge:
Limbaugh reassures any GM workers who might be listening that the boycotters aren't angry at them. "They don't want to patronize Obama. They don't want to do anything to make Obama's policies work!" he explains.

Yeah! 'Cause if it's not the assembly-line workers the listeners are furious with it must be the highly compensated—and likely Republican—executives who drove GM into a ditch? What?'s just that Obama got involved? Well, since Rush and the Dittoheads want him to fail at any cost, sorry U.S. autoworkers, this time it'll be your jobs.

And so goes Ohio... this fat fucking loudmouth is doing a bang-up job leading the Republicans off a cliff.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Right Man For the Job

(Photo: An image of Barack Obama is reflected above an Egyptian man's head as he watches the US President 's key Middle East speech on TV in a coffee shop in the Islamic old city June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. By David Silverman/Getty Images.)

All my problems with Obama's handling of the financial crisis, the details about Gitmo, or any other details since he took office fade away when I read Andrew Sullivan's excerpt from Obama's speech in Cairo.

There is no other candidate that ran for President that could deliver this speech. They couldn't write it, they couldn't deliver it with any sort of credibility, and in all likelihood wouldn't even want to try.

I'm with Andrew that it's the biggest thing he's done since taking office. The biggest risk, and the biggest potential reward.

Early in the speech:
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

And then later, he goes through a long and interesting part about Islam and concludes:
[...]So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

On the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

He calls out both sides equally—something no previous U.S. President had the balls to do...
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. [...] It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

[...] At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

I need to hear more on what steps Obama will take to enforce his position on settlements—halting U.S. aid to Israel should be the stick. We'll see.

There is so much more: the responsibilities of the region's other countries; Iran's nuclear ambitions; U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan...

You really should read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Sullivan collects reactions here and here. It has been welcomed and well-recieved around the world for the most part. As for his detractors? All the right people are pissed off.