Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stocks on Sale, or Going Out of Business Sale?

Some of my recent blog entries encouraged working- and middle-class people to invest in companies and become part of the ownership class (technically speaking). With yesterday's $1.2 trillion market fall in mind, I still recommend that hard-working Americans take some more ownership of our country's industries. In fact, if you already set up an account with a broker and loaded it with money that might have become a plasma HDTV, but luckily haven't pulled the trigger and traded (like the E-trade baby) - now's a good time. Maybe. Don't take my word for it, but:

1. Some shares will spike temporarily when the market opens.
2. Some traders will who played their cards right will profit from these spikes.
3. These traders will use their newly-created fortune to buy (a) gold, (b) a cabin in the woods with good foraging land, and (c) a high-powered firearm of some sort.

In any case, try not to worry about the economy. Make sure you have food in your belly, first of all. Regular bank accounts are FDIC insured up to $100,000 for individuals (with variations that up the limit), so keep the bank runs at a minimum. Again, stocks are on sale. Some are going out of business sales, so do your homework.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Plagiarism

When I was in grade school, we had art class. The teacher would do some arbitrary lesson about drawing circles or whatever, and we'd draw or crayon according to the lesson. We'd submit the artwork, and the teacher would grade us without knowing the criteria for achieving a high grade versus a low grade. I'd get a "check plus" for a phone-it-in drawing, and the dreaded "check minus" for something I poured my young heart and soul into - go figure.

Anyhow, a classmate liked something I drew, and when we received our papers back, I decided to give that drawing to him. I felt like Picasso or whoever, with a fan. Anyway, the dude turned around, covered my signature and showed other classmates the work, taking credit for it.

What a douche. If I ever Quantum Leap back into my younger self at that particular moment in time, I'll be sure to kick that kid's ass.

Anyway, some music blog called "indieducky.com" essentially plagiarized my review of Jeff Ament's Tone album.

This is a screenshot of the original review, written by yours truly, posted on September 15, 2008:


The accused plagiarist took material starting with the second sentence in the second paragraph all the way down to my quip on Jeff Ament's true day job. This is a screenshot the plagiarized article, posted two days ago, on September 27, 2008:


Sure, the accused plagiarist and I differed in our opinion of the Pearl Jam song "Jeremy," and The Strokes were mentioned there but not here - but the rest is obvious. The plagiarized review doesn't seem like a program mishmashed words to create an automated plagiarism full of broken English; it genuinely seems like a person plagiarized my work - why else could there have been a difference of opinion when it came to "Jeremy"?

If you go to the indieducky.com website (which I ain't linkin' to), they're being monetized by Amazon.com Associates ads. If that site makes some money from Amazon.com, well, they definitely owe me.

To the alleged plagiarist (and I use "alleged" as sarcastically as possible): You're welcome. And yes, I do feel a bit flattered that my material is "good" enough to steal.

P.S. Here's a screenshot of another one of 'em plagiarists, with a post from yesterday, September 28, 2008:


Apparently "S. Box" will take credit for their remix of Radiohead's "Nude," but they won't properly quote my work, nor provide a link to the original. I know these "blogs" are file sharers and blatant copyright infringers, but they should at least use their own words when hyping their wares (or is it warez?).

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where's the Parody? Fake Sarah Palin is Real Sarah Palin

Here's last night's SNL with Tina Fey reprising her fan request role of Sarah Palin:



Compare with the real Sarah Palin interview by Katie Couric:





Or just watch these clips:


I dunno, y'know, reporters...


The part of the Russian Federation seen from Alaska is the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, which according to its description in Wikipedia, is essentially Alaska. Yes, of course, Alaska was once part of Russia.


More plot drift than a typical episode of The Simpsons.



I would like to use a life line.



Okay, the above one was dubbed over with the South Carolina pageant contestant.


Maybe Governor Palin will surprise everyone on Thursday and do really, really well against Senator Biden (or Biden might do really, really poorly). Of course I'm just being nice and/or sarcastic, but anything is possible in this universe, right? Biden might want to watch his language for broadcast TV purposes, even though cussing is badass...but malarkey?

In any case, kudos to Katie Couric for keeping a straight face (or to the CBS video editor for the straight-faced insert shots), although her eyes say, "WTF are you talking about?" Maybe an enterprising YouTube user can get the Palin shots and intercut it with the American Idol reject auditions, with Simon Cowell openly laughing and Randy Jackson covering his face with a sheet of printer paper.

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The Google Cardinals

Here are the top two Google search terms for the numbers from 0 to 22, as of September 26, 2008:

0 is for 02, followed by 007;
1 is for 192, followed by 160by2;
2 is for 2008 Olympics, followed by 2008 calendar;
3 is for 3G, followed by 3M;
4 is for 411, follwed by 4chan;
5 is for 50 Cent, followed by 5 day forecast;
6 is for 6th pay commission, followed by 649;
7 is for "7 Things" lyrics, followed by 7 Zip;
8 is for 888, followed by 84 Lumber;
9 is for 90210, followed by "9 11";
10 is for 10 day weather forecast, followed by 103.5;
11 is for 118, followed by 11 weeks pregnant;
12 is for 123 Greetings, followed by 123Musiq;
13 is for 1337, followed by 13 Days in Hell;
14 is for 144, followed by 1408;
15 is for 15 weeks pregnant, followed by 15th August;
16 is for 160by2, followed by 163;
17 is for 17 Tahun, followed by 17 weeks pregnant;
18 is for 1800Flowers, followed by 1800 Contacts;
19 is for 192, followed by 1984;
20 is for 2008 Olympics, followed by 2008 calendar;
21 is for 21 movie, followed by 21 soundtrack;
22 is for 22 weeks pregnant, followed by 220;
etc.

I'm pretty sure most of the seemingly random numbers (in the hundreds) point to specific websites. A lot of searches probably relates to the purchasing of mere trinkets. I don't know whether Googling for pregnancy information is a good or bad thing. And the popular search for "17 Tahun" apparently leads to photos of sexy Indonesian girls - a popular fetish, evidently. In any case, this is an at-a-glance snapshot of popular culture's relationship to numbers.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate #1, or "Campaign Ads (Live)"?

Last night's debate between John McCain and Barack Obama simply felt like each respective nominee's campaign ads greatest hits, albeit performed live. They didn't really answer Jim Lehrer's questions straightforwardly, nor did they really listen to each other or understand the other's nuanced views. In summation:

1. It was a bash Bush fest. It's a big "duh" for Democrat Obama to do it, and a slightly tougher act for Republican McCain to throw the Republican President under the "Straight Talk" Express.

2. McCain didn't listen to Obama's sentiments congratulating General Petraeus' surge strategy and the troops' bravery in execution. McCain continually insisted that Obama still didn't like the outcome of the surge, even after Obama's statements.

3. Obama didn't listen to McCain's statements to distance himself from the Bush Administration, in which McCain highlighted his votes against Bush's agenda and even comparing Obama's "stubbornness" to Bush's. Obama continually insisted that McCain is the same as Bush, voting with him 90% during the past seven-plus years.

4. To his credit, McCain didn't lose his cool, as anticipated by his detractors.

5. To his credit, Obama frequently employed a classy debate/persuasive tactic: The concession and refutation: "McCain was right about X, but ultimately, it is Y. On the other hand, I can do Z better." Yes, it's straight out of English 101 essay writing for us college-educated folk - and you fancy prep school folk probably learned it in high school.

6. The partisan hacks most likely saw one of two debates (depending on what side they're on), and adamantly believe their candidate schooled the other, to the "despair" of the opposing viewpoints. The English language - likely spoken language as a whole - is definitely flawed when it comes to transmitting direct, singular meaning. There are too many multiple meanings in words, which leads to all sorts of political spin. For all its flaws (0.999... = 1 for some reason), maybe everyone should talk in maths, or at least in mathematical proofs.

Anyway, while this first debate was quite flat - the hype of McCain's campaign suspension actually had more substance (ironically) - I can't wait for the Palin vs. Biden debate this Thursday, as well as the last two Presidential ones.

Until then, be sure to fact check all the candidates' statements, misstatements, and outright propaganda at FactCheck.org.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

The Google Alphabet

According to Google search popularity (as of September 26, 2008):

A is for Amazon, followed by Argos;
B is for Bebo, followed by BBC;
C is for Craigslist, followed by CNN;
D is for Dictionary, followed by Dell;
E is for eBay, followed by Expedia;
F is for Facebook, followed by Firefox;
G is for Gmail, followed by Google Maps;
H is for Hotmail, followed by Home Depot;
I is for Ikea, followed by IMDb;
J is for John Lewis, followed by jobs;
K is for Kelly [sic] Blue Book, followed by Kohl's;
L is for Limewire, followed by Lowe's;
M is for MySpace, followed by Mapquest;
N is for NBC Olympics, followed by NBC;
O is for Olympics, followed by Orkut;
P is for Photobucket, followed by Paypal;
Q is for quotes, followed by QVC;
R is for Runescape, followed by Ryanair;
S is for Sears, followed by Skype;
T is for Target, followed by Tesco;
U is for Utube [sic], followed by UPS;
V is for Verizon Wireless, followed by Verizon;
W is for Wikipedia, followed by weather;
X is for Xbox, followed by XM Radio;
Y is for YouTube, followed, by Yahoo!;
Z is for zip codes, followed by Zappos.

For better or for worse, that's what we and our fellow Web surfers care about. There's apparently a lot of interest in retail stores (evidently, "John Lewis" is an online store in the UK), but not a lot of interest in saving, investing, or making money (other than the vague search for "jobs").

I'll probably blog tomorrow about the Presidential debate (knock on wood!).

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Campaign Over. I Win. Freeway Series, Here We Come!

Please read along and use the appropriate sarcastic finger quotes:

Senator John McCain "suspended his campaign" to "focus on the economy," just as his "convention boost" was all but "erased." He refuses to "debate" Senator Barack Obama on the "issues" on "Friday." In other words, McCain is out.

With Senator McCain, Senators Obama and Joe Biden are probably doing what the Senate (and Congress as a whole) is supposed to do: Keep the President "in check," and to make sure their constituents don't pay for a $700 billion check "in vain." In other words, Obama and Biden are out.

Governor Sarah Palin refuses to take new interviews, and she never really played hard ball with either Charlie Gibson or "Sean Hannity." In other words, Palin was never really "in."

Therefore, I win! Woo-hoo!

In better news, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West after the Arizona Diamondbacks lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. Tony LaRussa (Cardinals' manager), you are too kind to the Dodgers - first with the Oakland Athletics in 1988 and now with the Cardinals! LA thanks you.

Angels vs. Dodgers World Series - here we come! Sorry, Cubs fans.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Crony Communism Strikes Again!

Economics 101 from George W. Bush, MBA:



The worst part is that Treasury Secretary Paulson is essentially asking for no oversight and no consequences in whatever $700 billion scheme his cabal is cookin'. (Scheme, cabal - talk about weasel words!) Obviously, both major candidates are currently taking a "man of the people - vote for me" stand by holding off judgment unless the proposed bailout benefits the average voter, I mean, taxpayer. Since this Friday's debate is supposed to be about foreign policy, we'll see what Senators McCain and Obama really think of the Bush/Paulson plan if and when it comes to a vote.

It really does reek of some sort of American-style communism: An ironic, Toby Keith sing-along, Dane Cook fan, gas-guzzlin' SUV of Marxist theory. Here's my take on things that reek of communism: I support universal/socialized health care of minors, as I believe all kids deserve a decent minimum standard of life, whether born to riches or not. It would be nice to have the Declaration of Independence's truth of all men being created equal to ring true once in a while. For obvious reasons, the American government should be limited to helping kids in America, but hopefully the sentiment goes global, while keeping national borders intact. That said, I (who's not a minor) would not be against getting some better health care myself, but this is not to say that I would adamantly support a universal health plan - if it's there, it would be against my interest to reject it.

However, this massive bailout for the ownership class does not bode well for me. It also didn't bode well for the dude who made more than a million investing in the recent roller coaster of Goldman Sachs - he made a nice chunk of change, but at what cost? Many who previously rallied for the absolute power of the Bush Administration are now opposed to this permutation of UNLIMITED POWER! in the executive branch. That's funny. Suddenly the pro-totalitarian, "patriot" right is back to being about limited Federal government conservatism.

Anyway, large scale communism (especially to the tune of $700 billion and in the key of totalitarianism) doesn't work. Okay, it works in theory, in Plato's Realm of Forms (the Form of Communism enacted by the Form of Government and obeyed by the Form of Citizens), and whether you fundies like it or not - communism works in Christian heaven (last as first, first as last, and crowns for everyone!).

However, it didn't work for the Soviet empire. Red China is looking more and more like a totalitarian capitalist society under a single-party government buying American debt (somewhat like the dude playing another dude, who's playing another dude). I didn't scheme and plot and conspire my way to the fringes of the ownership class to be part of communist nation. So here's the deal, Wall Street: If you want the bailout, it's a loan. At a ridiculous college credit card interest rate. With a minimum payment due every month. I can print out a promissory note right now. It shouldn't be a stock sale to the government. If it is, then it's only a matter of time before the government gets into manufacturing widgets and peddling trinkets. And poisoning our children to malevolently and secretly curb overpopulation.

In any case, live well, my friends.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Élan Vital: Pretty Much What I Wrote Yesterday

Click on the images to download, or right-click > save as to download. These songs are really short (less than two minutes each). I'll release more soundtrack music next week. The songs are in alphabetical order, as to not give away the plot of the film Élan Vital (to be released soon!).




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Monday, September 22, 2008

Élan Vital Soundtrack Podcast at mutuni.com

I'm going to release my hour-plus of recordings for the Mutiny Universe production Élan Vital at mutuni.com. Now, if I put the soundtrack/score "in order," it would totally spoil the emotional logic of the plot, to say the least. So, I'm going to release the soundtrack in alphabetical order, one or more tracks each time, every Monday, starting today. I hope you'll enjoy my attempts at classical music, jazz, and old school rock 'n roll. I hope it's interesting enough for you to want to see the film for which the soundtrack was produced and compiled. We've submitted the film to several film festivals, and it's only a matter of time before the film gets shown throughout the country, the continent, and if we're really lucky - the entire Earth and beyond!

mutuni.com

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Federal Bailouts and other Absurdities

When did our long-standing American tradition of crony capitalism suddenly become second-world crony communism?

In an alternate universe, there is a slightly boring Presidential campaign between the Democratic ticket of Clinton/Obama and the bipartisan, Constitution-lovin', real maverick ticket of Paul/Kucinich. All this talk about Constitutional issues, and the interpretations thereof, bore everyone who wallow in partisan hackery and constant mudslinging. Needless to say, many of those who voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004 are threatening to move to Alberta.

Back to this universe: What's with all the hate on Microsoft's non-sequitur Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates advertising vignettes? Check 'em out:


The Shoe One...slightly surreal.



The Family One...really strange.


I don't care if they are irrelevant to selling whatever operating system Microsoft has to offer; those mini-episodes were delightfully bizarre. They're much better than the Apple "I'm a Mac" ads, which if you think too hard about it - the Windows PC dude is actually lovable loser while the Mac OS dude is a smug jackass. However, popular opinion seems to believe otherwise. What kind of a world is it when people would rather root for the smug, humorless jackass than the down-and-out, funny loser?

It's a world where I'm not an advertising consultant, that's what kind. (And for the record, all Presidential ticket candidates are being "I'm a Mac" smug right now. If we can't have the issues, I'd gladly take surreal non-sequitur over partisan hackery.)

By the way, I just watched the new Microsoft "I'm a PC" commercial montage. It is pretty flat/boring/lame/obvious - of course there's a diversity of Windows users. The operating system comes with all sorts of computers: cheap computers, medium-priced ones, and freakishly expensive ones. This diversity (tested as a monopoly in the 90s) works with the budgets of more people. Apple's OS only comes with Apple hardware, as Apple's business strategy prevents the OS from being licensed to other computer hardware manufacturers, so Apple gets to set prices without competition from other (potentially OS-compatible) manufacturers. People who know what they're doing can download and use various Linux builds, thus eliminating most computer newbies from this operating system. And that's why there's a whole spectrum of Windows users. (Disclosure: I own tiny bits and pieces of both Microsoft and Apple. Hey! It's better than owning banking stocks, in this time in history. Also, I am a big fan of open-source technology.)

Usually, the answer to Windows woes involves adding more RAM, since lots of mainstream programs and hardware firmware have since updated to accommodate Vista. So bring back the Seinfeld/Gates sketches! Then again, I'm not an advertising person - but I want to be entertained.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Eddie Vedder vs. Billy Corgan: Who Loves the Cubs More?

If it were a vocal contest between the two alternative rock frontmen-icons, what would be the criteria to "win"? If it came down to pitch and tone in live performances, then Ed obviously edges Billy. If it came down to rarity, then Corgan's polarizing, ethereal whine beats Vedder's tried-and-true, oft-mimicked, rock baritone. The debate rages on, but I'm sure Vedder would get more votes from the general public than Corgan. However, you never want to cross Vedder's baritone with Corgan's heavily-distorted, metallish hard rock (Smashing Pumpkins); otherwise you'd get that dude from Creed. And Corgan's voice against the backdrop of Vedder's overdriven, punkish hard rock/classic rock-style (Pearl Jam) doesn't quite work.

However, when it comes to who's the bigger Chicago Cubs fan:

Ed just released a novelty tune built on fanatic nostalgia called "All the Way":



It's actually a bit better than bandmate Stone Gossard's pro-Obama novelty song "Rock Around Barack" released earlier this year. Ed's song is less cringe-worthy.

Anyway, on the other hand, we have Billy's more frequent participation in the Cubs fan community, as evidenced by this video:



For the uninitiated, Billy is the strange-looking bald guy amongst the Cubs fans in the montage. Check both singers singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the Cubs' home game seventh-inning stretch. Who do you think is the bigger Cubs fan?

A sober Corgan got the words right:

Billy Corgan - Take Me Out To The Ball Game (Marlins @ Cubs Game)


A drunk Vedder slurred something about "penis and crack":



But then Ed got another chance in 2007, and he did much better:



As for me, I'm sure both are desperate for the Curse of the Billy Goat to end. However, if I had my way, they would have to wait until next year. I want a Freeway World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It's been twenty long years since the Dodgers made it all the way, and six regular years since the Angels won the Series. Yes, my 90s alt-rock heroes will have to wait.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Get Google, Alaska

You might have heard about the hacking of Gov. Palin's Yahoo! account, which she reportedly used for official government business: gov.palin@yahoo.com. Seriously? While using Gmail as gov.palin@gmail.com would be a step up, I think it's possible for the State of Alaska to use Google Apps for their domain name alaska.gov. How about governor@alaska.gov or palin@alaska.gov or pitbullhockeymomlipstick@alaska.gov for some professionalism? Sure, pitbullhockeymomlipstick@alaska.gov might forward to her Yahoo! account, but how about some outgoing mail from the alaska.gov domain?

I think that's a feasible solution in case there aren't IT professionals or geeky high school hobbyists in the great State of Alaska. Then again, there goes the separation of tech and state. Pause for laughter. In any case, Alaska should be a great state for IT workers year round: They stay inside in cubicles all year, right? Bright all day? Who cares! Dark all day? Who cares!

Okay, seriously, welcome to the anti-McCain/Palin ticket backlash as predicted by those who carefully follow the patterns of history. It's not rumor, mud, and fluff like the previous two weeks' worth partisan desperation. No, it's good, old fashion spin - easy spin, not far-fetched spin, due to the actual behavior of those being spun.

We have the Palin marrieds refusing the subpoena of Alaska (re: Troopergate), allegedly on the grounds that Alaskan law protects those running for state office from this sort of scrutiny. However, Palin is running for Federal office, but her side of the story wants to play loose with the specifics of that law. Whatever happened to the libertarian/old school conservative notion of states' rights? I thought Palin had that Alaskan libertarian persona - shootin' moose and whatnot - but now she's lumping things that are in the Federal realm with issues reserved to the State? What?

And the actual guy at the top of the GOP ticket: John McCain is being beaten by none other than John McCain (metaphorically, of course, because there's that literal history for which the country is grateful to him). This time, I'm not talking about the John McCain of an era past (pre-2006), I'm talking about recent John McCain. Springtime and early Summer John McCain. Early campaign John McCain. Current John McCain openly contradicts those John McCains. Will the real McCain please stand up?

Sure, there's an element of spin to the stories, but it's enabled spin. It's like walking into the joke. McCain and Palin walked into it. If it's any consolation, in about two weeks, there will probably be a backlash against the backlash. Campaign equilibrium is possible after election day, but even that might be a pipe dream.

Remember, folks: Do your own research, make your own conclusions, and don't be partisan hacks. Vote well (especially those in swing states).

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blurbs

1. Metallica is definitely back on track as Metallica (not a hard rock/blues band, not a post-grunge 90s "alternative" band, and definitely not as Van Halen without the left speaker working) with the release of Death Magnetic.

2. Sarah Palin's two-week, lipstick-induced honeymoon/mudslinging-fest with the public and the press is over. I could comment on various candidates' gaffes, blunders, and whatnot, but I'm just waiting for the debates.

3. The stock market: Low stock prices means that they're on sale (buy if there's a future for them), and let 'em ride if you're stuck with some current losers (unless your research tells you to cut your losses and move on). Otherwise, invest in gold doubloons, a shovel, and a treasure chest.

I'm off to Comedy Central's website to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Goodnight!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You're Either a Cretin or a Cretan, and I Know You're Not from Crete

For the longest time, I thought the pejorative pronounced cree-tuhn simply meant a bad dude. After dabbling in the classics in college, I thought the word was derived from Cretan, people from Crete. You know, the liar paradox (that even made it to the New Testament):

Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: "All Cretans are liars."

Additionally:

The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!

However, that is only half the story. While cretan has become a insult for liars and bad dudes in general (no offense to the people of Crete, who undoubtedly run the spectrum of truth-telling and personality), the word cretin has become an insult for stupidity. As with many modern terms of insult, cretin has roots in now-archaic scientific terminology:

Cretin is the oldest[citation needed] and comes from a dialectal French word for Christian.[11] The implication was that people with significant intellectual or developmental disabilities were "still human" (or "still Christian") and deserved to be treated with basic human dignity. This term has not been used in any serious or scientific endeavor since the middle of the 20th century and is now always considered a term of abuse: notably, in the 1964 movie Becket, King Henry II calls his son and heir a "cretin." "Cretinism" is also used as an obsolescent term to refer to the condition of congenital hypothyroidism, in which there is some degree of mental retardation.

Furthermore:

The etymology of the word cretin is not known with certainty. Several hypotheses have been proposed. The most common derivation provided in English dictionaries is from the Alpine French dialect pronunciation of the word Chrétien - (a) Christian, which functioned as a form of greeting in those parts. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the translation of the Latin term into "human creature" implies that the label "Christian" is a reminder of the humanity of the afflicted, in contrast to brute beasts.[1] Other sources have suggested "Christian" refers to the "Christ-like" inability of such a person to commit sin, because of an incapacity to distinguish right from wrong.[2]

Yes, of course I'll have to build a political straw man and defeat it with snarkiness: Why do liar cretans, stupid cretins, and quasi-Christians sound familiar? Now, I'm sure a decent argument can be made by Republicans against Democrats using the same above logic (spin is spin, after all) - but the past 7 1/2 years of a Republican administration has kinda-sorta tipped the scales against the GOP.

In any case, the McCain-Palin ticket has not yet made a strong enough case that their GOP policies would be drastically different than Bush-Cheney's GOP policies:



What's the difference between a cretan and a cretin? One vowel, duh. But if you said "Lipstick," then you are sexist, my friend.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stock Market Investments: Let 'Em Ride*

*No, it's not that simple. I empathize with investors who have were hardest hit by this week's crash. I can only reiterate common sense ways of investing:

1. Do your homework;
2. Diversify your portfolio;
3. If possible, also invest outside of the NYSE and NASDAQ.

For those who haven't jumped into the realm of stock ownership, now might be a good time for a crash course (pardon the slightly pessimistic pun). Start small and learn the pitfalls and heights of chaotic and cyclical economics - not only by booklearnin' but also by getting your hands dirty. Who knows? Maybe beginner's luck will be on your side. Beginner's luck is always awesome, but again, learn to do your homework and invest wisely.

Remember, this post is intended as entertainment and shouldn't remotely be misconstrued as financial advice.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Review: Jeff Ament "Tone"

Pearl Jam is a band near and dear to my music-lovin' heart. They're an example of one of the few long-lasting bands to function smoothly as a direct democracy. Not only is each member an expert at his assigned main instrument, they're each great songwriters in their own right - and have the charted singles and sing-along fans to prove it. I've enjoyed their albums, their shows, and even the solo albums of the band members: guitarist Stone Gossard's Bayleaf (2001) was better than his two Pearl Jam lead vocal tries thus far ("Mankind" and "Don't Gimme No Lip"), and lead singer Eddie Vedder's solo soundtrack to the film Into the Wild (2007) proved that he's awesome alone with a guitar/ukulele, with a minimalist rock band, with folksy non-rock instrumentation, and with Pearl Jam.

Now it's bass player Jeff Ament's turn to release an album without the safety of a band name (real or fictitious), with the album Tone. He's the band member responsible for writing many of Pearl Jam's sad songs ("Nothingman," "Low Light," "Nothing as It Seems," etc.), as well as my least favorite single from the band: "Jeremy." (It's been my theory that many who cite "Jeremy" as their favorite Pearl Jam song aren't big fans of the Yield album, if they are even aware of it at all, but I digress.) Ament's sad songs are awesomely good. He also does his fair share of the background vocals live (and possibly recorded). That said, his solo record songs are well-written, and his sometimes-low-in-the-mix vocals are decent - much better than his singular Pearl Jam lead vocal/quasi-rap on the novelty song "Sweet Lew."

Sonically, Tone is a game of tug-of-war between punkish, garage rock (think pre- and post-Nevermind Nirvana) and psychedelic space rock (think pre-Mellon Collie Smashing Pumpkins - the B-sides, that is), with the energy of Dave Grohl's solo debut (the first Foo Fighters album). It's not so much Ament's peers mentioned in the previous sentence's parentheticals; it's more like their shared influences. For instance, "Bulldozer" has a T.Rex-ian hook that would make Marc Bolan proud (or file a lawsuit from the great beyond).

Compared to his fellow bandmates who released solo albums, Ament actually pushes the envelope into slightly more experimental territory: The strange vocal harmony passages in "Relapse," for instance. On the other hand, the folksy acoustic guitar and single-drum percussion arrangement of "Say Goodbye" would feel right at home in Vedder's Into the Wild, with Ed handling the vocals. The '70s-throwback gospel-rock of "Doubting Thomasina" (guest vocals by Doug Pinnick, arguably a stronger vocalist than Ament) would feel right at home on Gossard's Bayleaf (guest vocals included).

Anyway, clocking a bit less than 33 minutes, Ament's solo debut is full of good songwriting and doesn't fall into the trap of being self-indulgent. It succeeds in the same manner as Gossard's good effort and Vedder's triumph, but it's still a good thing that Ament has a day job...as a skateboarder. No, as a graphic designer. No...that other job of his...?

Tracklist:

1. Just Like That
2. Give Me a Reason
3. Bulldozer
4. Relapse
5. Say Goodbye
6. The Forest
7. Life of a Salesman
8. Doubting Thomasina
9. Hi-line
10. The Only Cloud in the Sky

I personally recommend "Bulldozer" as the best song with Ament's vocals, and "Doubting Thomasina" as the best song in the album (it's like "Nothingman II").

Now it's lead guitarist Mike McCready's and tenured drummer Matt Cameron's turns to release their respective solo albums (Cameron's Harrybu McCage doesn't count). Then Pearl Jam can claim KISS solo album status, without the embarrassment of a Gene Simmons rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star." Come to think of it, Stone Gossard is due for a second solo album.

Anyway, Tone was limited to an initial pressing of 3000. The Ten Club packed a special Jeff Ament aTONEment bass pick (a custom Dunlop Ultex guitar pick) in several fan club orders. Unfortunately, it's currently sold out on the Pearl Jam website, but you might be able to track it down at an independent record store or an online price gouger.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Real Tina Fey Unravels Fake Tina Fey



Then the entire SNL season premiere went downhill from there. It seems that Michael FRED PHELPS can only play one persona - an Olympic-sized, 23-year old, perpetually-awkward teenager - and it's not that funny, really. At least he tried. At least he won eight gold medals this year. However, learning to achieve charisma by using either self-deprecating humor or self-aware, pseudo-arrogance would do Champion Phelps some good...in extending his time in the spotlight.

Okay, the Quiz Bowl sketch between undereducated public school students and miseducated home school students was a bit funny.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stephen Colbert, Modern-day Nostradamus

Antichrist smears for everyone!

John McCain: McCain was the center of the John Mihai/Romanian Antichrist rumor that never really caught on. The problem, of course, is that John Mihai wasn't McCain's great-grandfather, but that John McCain is his own great-grandfather. Not only is McCain old enough to be an ancient Romanian vampire, he is in fact Count Dracula.

Barack Obama: Obama has been described as a secret Muslim extremist, an atheist Marxist, and the new Messiah in opposition to the earlier Messiah, none of which explicitly say Antichrist. Nice try, folks.

Sarah Palin: Stephen Colbert predicted a McCain/Lucifer ticket in 2006. Read into that any way you like. In any case, if last night's dream of mine is correct, then Palin is also the Wolfman. Dracula/Wolfman '08!

Joe Biden: Attempting to heal the sick and make the lame to walk, the Roman Catholic Biden told a paralyzed Chuck Graham to stand up. (If only Graham had enough faith to do so.)

Ryan DeRamos: In a reverse miracle, an anti-miracle, he turned wine into water (and various waste chemicals).

I'm Ryan DeRamos, and I approve this message.

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Glossing Over History: Obama as Carter, McCain as Bush 41, or Obama as Nixon?

I actually thought of this post during a dream. Apparently my exciting dreams of being an expert flier (like Superman) have been replaced with dreams of reminiscing about history lessons. For context, this is the 20-year chunk of history that my dream was trying to figure out. Not coincidentally, this is the same piece of history that the US is going to figure out come November:

1993-1997 Bill Clinton (D)
1997-2001 Bill Clinton (D)
2001-2005 George W. Bush (R)
2005-2009 George W. Bush (R)
2009-2013 John McCain (R), Barack Obama (D), or...?

Anyway, in this dream I was cycling over history to see if the 2008 election will follow one of these two options from the late 20th Century:

Barack Obama as Jimmy Carter:

1961-1965 JFK/LBJ Presidency (D)
1965-1969 Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
1969-1973 Richard Nixon (R)
1973-1977 Nixon/Ford Presidency (R)
1977-1981 Jimmy Carter (D)
1981-1985 Ronald Reagan (R)

Obviously, if history repeats itself in this manner, Obama wins in November. However, this analogy is problematic. The Democrats were in the White House at the start of the Vietnam War, and the Republicans at the time ended the war. In contrast, the Clinton years were relatively a time of Pax Americana (except for some military action in Eastern Europe and other places). Bush 43's administration brought this country to full-on (albeit still undeclared) war...wars, to be exact. The next administration will obviously address both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential diplomatic breakdown with North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, etc.

Of course, if Obama wins the election, his detractors will have several field days constantly comparing him with Jimmy Carter (a good man who builds good houses but with a dubious four years in the White House). If we follow the comparison, then the Obama Administration will only last four years.

John McCain as George H.W. Bush:

1981-1985 Ronald Reagan (R)
1985-1989 Ronald Reagan (R)
1989-1993 George H.W. Bush (R)
1993-1997 Bill Clinton (D)

This is a shorter sequence of years than the previous example, but this situation gives McCain the win and the Republicans a third term of executive power. This is also not a perfect example because Bush 41 was the incumbent (Reagan's VP) and McCain is not. In any case, this example pattern predicts that the McCain Administration will only last one term. Just like Jimmy Carter's infamy to Republicans, Bush 41 was notorious for not keeping his campaign promise of "no new taxes."

After waking up from my political science dream, I thought of a third pattern, which favors Obama:

Obama as Nixon/Ford:

1961-1965 JFK/LBJ Presidency (D)
1965-1969 Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
1969-1973 Richard Nixon (R)
1973-1977 Nixon/Ford Presidency (R)
1977-1981 Jimmy Carter (D)

Earlier, I noted that the Democrats were in power during the Vietnam War, and the Republicans were in charge at that war's end. Today, the Republicans were in power for both Afghanistan and Iraq, and we would hope that the next administration would bring both wars to a close. If the above pattern is an accurate predictor (for the sake of argument), Barack Obama's Democratic administration will last two terms.

In conclusion, wait until November for the real results. Polls can be good indicators, but national polls often fail to account for the Electoral College (the real Presidential election). What people do with the non-binding polls amounts to hype.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

John McCain's Ads Do Not Lie, Just Dangerously Deceptive

On The View, John McCain defended his campaign ads - especially the one that spun the truth on the great American pig lipstick idiom, as well as the the one that distorted the logic of age-appropriate sex education for kindergarten children:



Check out FactCheck.org's analysis of the ad and Obama's real record. Among other nuances and complexities ('cause, you know, not everything can be cut-and-try, black-and-white), Obama's "bill also called for all sex education course materials to include information that would help students recognize, among other activities, inappropriate touching, sexual assault and rape."

If we humor the "logic" of McCain's ad, then we could assume that McCain doesn't care about protecting the future of America from predators. Okay, okay, fine...maybe McCain would rather have parents teach their kids about bad people and inappropriate touching - not the school system. Yes, that is the ideal, and I'm sure the majority of us supports parental responsibility over institutional curriculum.

However, if we follow this trail of logic, then our schools would only provide some helpful redundancy, right? If parents are already teaching their kids to be watchful, then our schools will only drive the point home (ideally without going overboard). Then again, it's not all cut-and-dry and conveniently packaged into a 30-second bit o' hype. Study and vote, please.

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Sarah Palin: Bush Doctrine, Truthiness, and the Colbert Doctrine

John McCain knows what the Bush Doctine is. He's supported it from the beginning. Barack Obama knows what it is; he debated and squabbled with Hillary Clinton over it earlier this year. Since no one asked, Joe Biden was there too (and probably knows what it is). In spite all our (satirical mis-)characterization of George W. Bush's sentience, even he knows what his own doctrine is about. Hopefully.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, kinda-sorta stumbled over it during Charlie Gibson's interview. When it comes to the mantra of change that's been hyped up by both sides this election: You can't change what you support, and you can't purposely change what you don't know. The Bush Doctrine among other issues, it seems that the Maverick ticket hasn't quite made the case how a third Republican term would be any different than the previous two Republican terms in the Oval Office.

To be fair, Palin did all right during the first part of the Gibson interview on World News Tonight (I did not yet see the Nightline segment as of this writing). Palin speaking in talking points has shown that she's neither the iron woman lionized by her supporters nor the straw woman created by her detractors. No, she's just an ambitious politician - hockey, pitbulls, and lipstick notwithstanding. Let us further study Palin on the issues and subject her to the same scrutiny that we give to all politicians.

When we bring up the smears, let us do so in a tongue-in-cheek manner: Did she really inquire to censor books from the Wasilla lie-berry? Does she favor the endangerment of Alaska's flora and fauna, its wildlife and foil-age? You know, if John McCain can't finish his possible term as President, Palin will indeed have access to the nuc-u-lar codes. No, I'm not making fun of Palin's Idahoan/Alaskan/Frontier West accent - accents are cool - but people with varying accents can pronounce nuclear better than the Clinton/Bush/Homer Simpson way of saying it. Acceptable pronunciations come in several regional flavors (not an exhaustive list): Nu-clee-uhr, nu-clee-ar, nu-clee-ah, nu-clear, nuke-leer, even nu-creer shows effort - do you see what I'm getting at?

Tangential rant aside - in the interview, Palin asserted that she doesn't blink when it comes to making big decisions, relying on her gut reaction to catapult her to the world's stage. Therefore, Sarah Palin has declared herself to be embodiment of the Colbert Doctrine: Truthiness. Unfortunately, Wikiality (or a computer or smart phone with an Internet connection) wasn't on her side when answering Gibson's Bush Doctrine question.

I must admit, though, that nucular is quickly becoming (if not already) a Wikiality. (I am fully aware that all the links in this entry ironically go to Wikipedia. If you'll remember from an earlier post, I am trying to use excessive irony to open a portal to Plato's Realm of Forms, that is, if the CERN doesn't beat me to it.)

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