Monday, March 31, 2008

Proving I believe in education...

by edumacating the young peoples.

I've been getting a lot of hits today from The Google with people using this exact phrase, what bands famous "pig" is featured in several cartoons such as "the simpsons" and "invader zim".

Young peoples! Get edumacated!

I have been told by your trivia masters not to give you the answer, but that was sixteen months ago when they asked this question the first time.

The answer is Pink Floyd.

What are they teaching 'em in schools today?

I believe in education.

Given the facts on the ground, maybe I should believe in the Easter Bunny instead.

I teach for a living. There are several reasons. One is that I think I’m doing some of my students some good and therefore the society some good, and of all the things I can do for money, teaching is the one for which I show the most aptitude and enthusiasm. I might be able to make more money in software, but the highlights of my resumé are now decades old and in many ways I went into teaching as penance for the ill my old profession, namely video games, have brought to the world.

But education is not a panacea. Some people will believe any ridiculous horseshit they hear because they want to believe it, not because it’s true. I could fill my blog with examples, but this is one this week that has put me in a funk. 20% of Hillary Clinton supporters believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Let’s get that in perspective. 1 in 5 people who support one moderate Democrat believe something that is 100% false about another moderate Democrat. (Don’t believe that National Journal bullshit about Obama being the most liberal senator. Their methodology is very bad, but that’s another lie for another time.) As Clinton supporters, I don’t expect these people are Fox News watchers or Rush Limbaugh listeners. Still, they heard this shit somewhere, and something inside them makes them want to believe it.

A supermarket checkout tabloid called the Weekly World News started publishing back in the 1970’s. It was published in black and white by the same company that published the National Enquirer, and started the new paper when the flagship went to color. I loved the Weekly World News. So did Padre Mickey and Wonders of Science bassist Travis Hunt. It was hilarious. Everything was complete crap. The most famous character they created was Bat Boy, so they kept bringing him back. They also had an alien who met with presidential candidates, but even he wasn’t as popular as Bat Boy.

The Weekly World News no longer prints, but it is available online. I don’t know if they just gave up the joke or they are ahead of the curve on the death of print. The thing I wonder about is this. How many people believed it? More than 1%? My gut feeling is yes, more than 1 in 100 people who saw it in print every week believed it.

Education is supposed to give people some idea of the world they live in, but there are so many toxic waste dumps of bullshit and bigotry and the education budget is so small in comparison, it feels like a losing battle. This sack of shit in a suit is Sean Hannity, a radio talk show jackass and Fox News host. Hannity will say to anyone who will listen that we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Not that Saddam had them or that they have been hidden in Syria or whatever.

We. Found. Them.

Bush said this once in 2003 on a trip to Poland but quickly recanted. Even that liar Cheney, who swears by the discredited Saddam-al Qaeda connection, won’t say we found weapons of mass destruction. The real American expert on the subject, Dr. David Kay, is now only interviewed by people making liberal documentaries because he says outright that the evidence shows Saddam destroyed his stockpiles sometime after the first Gulf War, but didn’t tell anyone to avoid being attacked by any one of the many neighbors he pissed off in his long and dismal reign.

But Shithead Sean still says it. And he’s on the radio and TV five fucking times a week. And he’s just one toxic waste dump on the list of the Truth Protection Agency’s Superfund, if we even had such a thing.

I won’t give up on education. I might give up on this country. If it’s McCain vs. Clinton, I have to think more seriously about leaving. The two main factors keeping me here are 60% laziness and 40% my parents are still alive. I want to be a part of their lives as long as I can be, but watching the lies and liars win in this country again and again and again is making me sick in my heart. As for the laziness, I’ve overcome that before and I can do it again, if necessary. I certainly hope it isn’t.

Much in the same way I hope education will work. Eventually. But I’m not blind to the situation we have right now.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

TV quiz congratulations and clean-up

Let me once again post the quotes from Thursday's quiz, along with the show they were from and the folks who got the answers right.

My sister Karla got the most right answers. She has known me the longest and knows best how my disturbed mind works, such as it is.

[a] “Pace yourself, buddy. You're drinking with longshoremen tonight!”
The Wire [Karla]

[e] “Not exactly the speech on St. Crispin’s Day.”
“We happy few. We band of buggered.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Karla]

[g] “You can thank my dental hygenist for our untimely aliveness.”
The Tick [Karla]

[j] “No one listens to Zathras.”
Babylon 5 [Karla]

[k] “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show [Karla]

[p] “White people love Wayne Brady because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.”
Chappelle's Show [Karla]

With the next most right answers is the person who has known me for the next longest period of time, Padre Mickey.

[b] “I’ve threatened you, I’ve beaten you, God forgive me, I even tried to reason with you.”
The Simpsons [Padre Mickey]

[m] “You know what I’d do if I caught you gambling again, Basil.”
“You’d have to sew them back on first.”

“What was that you said?”
“Nothing, dear, nothing.”
Fawlty Towers [Padre Mickey]

[n] “The comedy stylings of Vic Hitler, Jr.!”
Hill Street Blues [Padre Mickey]

With one right answer each, there's Tara Mobley, Splotchy, FranIAm and Jolie. Nice work, all of you.

[c] “My days of not taking you seriously are definitely coming to a middle.”
Firefly [Tara Mobley]

[h] “With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
WKRP in Cincinnati [Splotchy]

[o] “I love fruit salad!”
“If you love it so much, then why don’t you marry it?”
“All right then. I will!”
Pee Wee's Playhouse [FranIAm]

[l] “You know, that Kim Novak had some big breasts.”
Hint: Running gag dealing with guest star Teri Hatcher.
Seinfeld [Jolie]

These quotes went unidentified. All of them are from long running and/or critically acclaimed shows, but I think I made them a little too tough.

[f] “You don’t mind me callin’ you Montana, do you?”
Hint: Only one person called the character in question Montana. And he died.

The speaker is Keith Carradine as Bill Hickok, speaking to Timothy Olyphant as Seth Bullock. The loss of Hickok as a character in the first season is of course historically accurate, but I missed seeing him. Carradine was great. The show still stayed at a very high level and was not lacking for terrific characters, but there was no one quite like Bill Hickok.

[i] “I used to hear them argue about his idiot brother. I thought she was talking about you.”
Hint: Man is talking to his uncle.

The Sopranos.
Junior tells Tony that he had a developmentally handicapped uncle named Ercole (Italian for Hercules), who had been sent to a live in a home and Tony had never seen. Tony is thinking back to arguments between his dad Johnny and his poisonous mother Livia.

[d] “There is no fire like passion. There is no shark like hatred. There is no snare like folly. There is no torrent like greed.”
Hint: First season of a long running show.

Law & Order. The line is from a two-part episode entitled "The Torrents of Greed", where Stone goes after a dapper don clearly patterned on John Gotti. It's spoken by a guy who is a witness to a beating. The witness is supposed to be a crazy homeless guy, but he's more poetic than crazy. Being Law & Order, the guest cast is terrific. The best known names are Bruce Altman, a terrific New York stage actor who makes TV appearances on many shows, and Christine Baranski.

I have the first season of L&O on DVD, and I highly recommend it. The shows were longer back then, 46 minutes instead of 44, and this means that TNT will either have to cut or speed up the older shows to air them as re-runs. The thing is, good TV shows are already cut to the bone, and losing scenes means important plot lines have holes.

The talent pool in New York is and was incredible, and the list of actors who make guest roles in the first season includes a lot of people who would either go on to star in TV shows or become movie stars. There's one episode alone where three small roles are played by Gil Bellows, who later goes on to Ally McBeal, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson.

Besides the acting talent, the director of photography duties are split between Constantine Makris, who became the D.P. for most of the run of the show, and Ernest Dickerson, who was D.P. on a lot of Spike Lee's early work, then became a director in his own right. It's easy to spot a Dickerson episode. If some flat surface shines like it's made of neon, Dickerson is behind the lens.

Matty Boy says check it out. And kudos again to Karla, Padre Mickey, Tara Mobley, Splotchy, FranIAm and Jolie.

Whoo, that's lotsa 'splainin'! Glad it's a Sunday.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Faith, Hope and Charity

How much would YOU pay for 15 hours in a hospital?

Did you guess $17,445.35?

Well, sure, that's what we'd charge your insurance, but since you are paying on your own, we will slash that down to a low, low $13,956.28!

But, wait! You don't make much money? Just to show you what good sports we are, we will give you our charity rate of just $2,714.22. Such a deal!

With the bills for doctors, x-rays, a hospitalist(?) and other incidentals, my personal 15 hour stay cost me about $4,000, or about four months rent! Yay, me!

If I were trying to spend $4,000 in 15 hours, and on my budget there is no way in hell that I would, I could probably fly to Vegas, get a nice room, and hire some young women who, because of their reasonable pricing policies, have NOT met Eliot Spitzer on a personal and/or professional basis.

By the way, the young woman pictured here is not named Faith, Hope or Charity. Who names their daughters Charity anymore?

If I may leave the topic of reasonably priced hookers, I know of a woman who was working as a yoga instructor in Italy when she fell ill and was hospitalized. The cause of the emergency that took her to the hospital was a stroke, but when she was there, tests found that she had cervical cancer. This meant a six week stay in hospital with tests and operations and the whole kit and caboodle to take care of her TWO life-threatening medical conditions.

Of course, she had to pay for this. Nothing in this world is free. The bill for six weeks of life saving care was $360.

But remember, kids, Italy has socialized medicine, and that's bad because it has the word socialized in it.

Enough griping, more flags! Yay, Guatemala! I have finished my second continent in my Flags of Many Lands™ coloring chart and it's North America! (Australia is a continent and a country, so that one was a gimme.) Yes, I now have every country from Canada to Panama on the North American mainland, though I am missing Cuba and several of the tiny Caribbean island nations.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Metablogging madhouse!

A few weeks ago, I was wandering around the Sitemeter data for this blog, and for the first time the number of visitors in the last 100 was split 50% U.S. and 50% someplace else. That oddity had not re-occurred and I doubted that it would. But today it got even odder! Only 44 of my visitors in the last 100 were from the U.S., and an unprecedented 32% were from the U.K.! What Anglo-centric act had I committed to gain this large Brit contingency?

The answer is: It wasn't me exactly. A popular British website called Normblog decided that my explanation of the road coloring problem was pretty darned good, so when they published a story about the discovery of the proof from the Israeli paper Haaretz, they also decided to provide some 'splainin', and honestly, to whom does one turn on the World Wide Web for that?

I blush to answer.

Yay, Flags of Many Lands™! Yay, Botswana! That's flag 125 in my collection. Someone in Botswana wanted to know about Tsetse Flies, and I guess they wanted to find out on the internet instead of getting first hand experience by going outside and getting bit.

Good thinking, Botswana!

Yay, Bermuda, #126!

What are Bermudans looking for when they scan the internets? Lolzcats. Go figure!

What does that have to do with the price of rice?

I remember this odd sentence from my childhood. I understood it was a cliché of some sort from the first time I heard it, and I also understood it to mean that the person who said it either wasn't listening to what you were saying or wished they weren't.

Today, the price of rice is serious business. Like so many commodities, the prices have risen steadily over the past few years, and right now rice is seeing a big jump, a 50% increase in the past few months alone with the price doubling since 2004. The rice supply in the U.S. is at its lowest level in several decades and many news sources report that exporting countries in several different regions are going to curtail exports to save the valuable food staple for their own populations.

Why do I tell you this? Haven't you got your own troubles? Yes, you probably do, but food riots around the world could soon enough become our troubles. When the price of gas or groceries rises for us, it's annoying. Price increases in other parts of the world can become a matter of life and death.

Just sayin'.

And now, something that has nothing to do with the price of rice, this week's Random 10.

Vuelvo Al Sur Astor Piazzolla
Out of Time The Ramones
State Trooper Bruce Springsteen
Smut Tom Lehrer
The Nearness of You Norah Jones
What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding? Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Open Letter (To A Landlord) Living Colour
Selfless, Cold and Composed Ben Folds Five
Pretty Lady Teddy Leung, Rick Edinger, Darren Lee
Suite For Orchestra #1 In C, BWV 1066 Passé pied (JS Bach) Nueues Bachishes Collegium Musicum

As Padre Mickey likes to say, ya pushes "shuffle" and ya takes yer chances. We start out in Argentina with the late, great star of tango nuevo, we end up in Germany with J.S. Bach. In between, there is the gathering of the usual suspects from pop and rock of the past 30 years or so, but Tom Lehrer and Stephen Sondheim both get in their say as well, Pretty Lady being from Pacific Overtures. Professor Lehrer, who teaches classes in American musical history as well as math, has been quoted as saying, "That Stephen Sondheim is the greatest lyricist in the English language is not a matter of opinion. It is a demonstrable fact." I'm always happy when one of my heroes lists another of my heroes as a personal favorite, like when Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet covered a Tom Waits tune, or when Waits absolutely tore up Papa's Got a Brand New Bag live on stage. I'm literally getting gooseflesh remembering that one. Padre Mickey and The Lovely Mona were there for the Elvis performance. I think I may have seen Tom Waits do the James Brown tune with Mina in San Francisco back in the '80s.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

TV fun time!

Several of my blog buddies have had movie quote quizzes over the past few weeks, and I always enjoy this type of trivia. I've decided to join the fun by having a TV quote quiz. Below are 16 quotes from TV shows. If you know any of these put in a comment and I will give credit to the first person who gets a show right until all the quotes have been identified. I will identify any quotes that have not been claimed by Sunday.

Best of luck.

Added hints on Friday!

[a] “Pace yourself, buddy. You're drinking with longshoremen tonight!”
The Wire [Karla]

[b] “I’ve threatened you, I’ve beaten you, God forgive me, I even tried to reason with you.”
The Simpsons [Padre Mickey]

[c] “My days of not taking you seriously are definitely coming to a middle.”
Firefly [Tara Mobley]

[d] “There is no fire like passion. There is no shark like hatred. There is no snare like folly. There is no torrent like greed.”
Hint: First season of a long running show.

[e] “Not exactly the speech on St. Crispin’s Day.”
“We happy few. We band of buggered.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Karla]

[f] “You don’t mind me callin’ you Montana, do you?”
Hint: Only one person called the character in question Montana. And he died.

[g] “You can thank my dental hygenist for our untimely aliveness.”
The Tick [Karla]

[h] “With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
WKRP in Cincinnati [Splotchy]

[i] “I used to hear them argue about his idiot brother. I thought she was talking about you.”
Hint: Man is talking to his uncle.

[j] “No one listens to Zathras.”
Babylon 5 [Karla]

[k] “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show [Karla]

[l] “You know, that Kim Novak had some big breasts.”
Hint: Running gag dealing with guest star Teri Hatcher.
Seinfeld [Jolie]

[m] “You know what I’d do if I caught you gambling again, Basil.”
“You’d have to sew them back on first.”

“What was that you said?”
“Nothing, dear, nothing.”
Fawlty Towers [Padre Mickey]

[n] “The comedy stylings of Vic Hitler, Jr.!”
Hill Street Blues [Padre Mickey]

[o] “I love fruit salad!”
“If you love it so much, then why don’t you marry it?”
“All right then. I will!”
Pee Wee's Playhouse [FranIAm]

[p] “White people love Wayne Brady because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.”
Chappelle's Show [Karla]

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Flags of Many Lands™ standalone post.

You know the old saying "dig clear through to China?" Technically, since most of us live in the Northern Hemisphere, the actual other side of the world is in the Southern Hemisphere. If a hole were dug straight through the world from where I live, it would come out in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. Or another way to put it, it would come out near the French overseas department of Réunion! Don't they have a pretty flag? The three vertical stripes represent France, but the rest of the flag is a very cool geometrical pattern.

Why would someone travel all the way electronically to the other side of the world to read my blog? Did you guess "giantess"? If so, give yourself a cookie. (This is being done on the honor system. No cookie for "gigantic child brides".)

Wednesday Math, Vol. 18: The Road Coloring Problem

So here's the deal. You have a closed system of locations and one way-streets leading from location to location. If you pick any two locations, there exists a series of roads leading from one place to the other and vice versa. For every location, there are the same number of roads leading out, and that number is at least two. There's also a rule about the length of round trips, that they can't all be divided by some number bigger than one. This would make the synchronization we seek impossible.

Since every location in the picture above has two roads leading out, and since I am a good leftist and all, I paint the choices red and black. It's the painting choice that matters, because not all of the possible painting choices will allow me to do the thing I can do with this choice. Pretend there is an army of robots (or in math, automata) wandering around this system of locations, known in math as a graph. I can broadcast messages to all of them simultaneously, telling them what color road to take next. If they are spread all over the place, I can send the message black, black, black, red, and no matter where they started, all of them will be at location B when they finish those four moves. Since one of the rules is that there is a path from any location to any other, that means I can send a broadcast that will get all the robots to any location simultaneously, once I have them all in lockstep at location B.

The unsolved problem was if there was a coloring that would have this synchronization process for any graph that met all the stipulations, no matter how big, no matter how many roads leading out all the locations had. The answer is yes, according to a paper published in 2007 by Avraham Trahtman, a Russian mathematician now living in Israel. The problem was first proposed in 1970, by mathematicians other than the solver, and some are making a fuss over the fact that Trahtman is 63 years old, when math is supposed to be a young person's game. In point of fact, though a lot of important math is done by people under the age of 30, there are plenty of instances of people still doing good work all their lives, or having the big breakthrough well past the age of 30.

Kudos, Dr. Trahtman!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yes, I'm back!

How can you be sure it's the real Matty Boy returning with Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do after his three and a half day hiatus? Couldn't this be some fake Chinese knock-off?

Well, when I do Wednesday Math tomorrow, the true Matty Boy, the one and only, will become readily apparent.

As for now, I give you a lolz hedgehog as my credentials, my bona fides, if you will.

And if this does not convince you, I will do The You Tubes right, by bringing you this clip from the first episode of the second season of The Venture Brothers.

Getting the rights to this tune set them back about 1/8 of the entire budget for season two, but Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick both think it was worth it. See if you don't agree.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Casting call for Jesus

Here are three actors who have played Jesus in major motion pictures. Notice a certain similarity of hair and eye color? It's not that they are bad actors. Jim Caveziel is good, Max Von Sydow was terrific and Jeffrey Hunter... well, okay. Jeffrey Hunter was no William Shatner.

Anne Rice has stopped writing books about pretty vampires and has started writing books about Jesus. She has said if these books are turned into major motion pictures, she'd like Jonny Depp to play Jesus. Well... at least he's brown eyed, but still a little on the blond and pale side.

Here would be my top choice for a well-known actor to play Jesus, Naveen Andrews. Jesus was from the Middle East, so he would look like the actors now hired to play terrorists. He was an observant Jew, so at the age of thirty, his beard would likely be down to the middle of his chest. His hair could have been very long as well.

I would like to see this, especially in a time when so many Christians here in the United States have a limited view of who counts a neighbor they are commanded to love.

Have a good Good Friday. My computer is acting up, so I can't even put together a Random 10, iTunes is being so fussy. I'm going to take it into the shop, and with luck, it will be back among the living by Monday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Thursday lolz interlude

This picture of inter-species tranquility is dedicated to my friend Steve C., who like the dog in the picture, haz a weezel, or to be more precise, a ferret.

As you might recall, ferrets are creatures for which Rudy Guiliani has a deep and abiding hatred, much like he hates terrorists and voters who actually look at his record and his known associates.

But, if you give them a chance, ferrets can be playful and affectionate companions, and like any pet, can make the owner as content as the dog in the picture.

For clearly, this dog is content. As the hazzing of a weezel is wont to do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blogswarm against the War: Four down the memory hole.

It would be natural for me, since it’s a Wednesday, to do my bit for the blogswarm against the war with a post on the numbers of the Iraq War. The official numbers say we’ve spent a half trillion dollars, that’s a 5 with eleven zeros behind it, but a Nobel prize winning economist says it is really three trillion dollars, a 3 followed by twelve zeros. A figure nearly everyone agrees on is that nearly 4,000 American soldiers dead from the war in Iraq, but that doesn’t include the over 1,000 contractors, mostly security contractors. “Security contractors” is a euphemism for mercenary. Our soldiers now fight in the same theatre of war on the same side as mercenaries. How does that fit in the American narrative?

Instead, I want to remember four people whose names aren’t at the top of the news anymore, or who have said or done things that we no longer are expected to remember. The news media aren’t just gatherers, they are selectors and editors, deciding which stories we need to know and which we don’t. Let me be my own editor and decide what I think is worth remembering.

Admiral William Fallon. It's hard to put a guy who was in the headlines just a week ago in the memory hole, but this guy's story is fading fast. He made headlines last week with his "resignation", only to be overshadowed by expensive hookers.

The admiral was against attacking Iran. The admiral wanted what Bush said he wanted a while back, that when Iraqi troops stood up, Americans would stand down. The difference between the president and the admiral on this point was that Bush made it sound like some wished for future event, while the admiral said it more like Hey, you fucking lazy and cowardly swine. Stand the fuck up already.

Let me be clear, that is not a direct quote from the admiral. He would never used salty language like that in a quote, would he? Well, he called Gen. Petraeus, his subordinate, "an ass-kissing little chicken shit" and added "I hate guys like that." Note that Petraeus still has a job, while Fallon is out.

Bush says he listens to his generals. That's half the truth. He listens, and when they say something he doesn't like, he fires their asses.

Remember Chaplain David Yee? He was the Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo. That our army even has Muslim chaplains is a sign to me of our basic decency as a people, and to have this guy stationed at Gitmo shows that even more.

But one day when he was on leave, the Pentagon decided to arrest Yee and charge him with treason. A chaplain charged with treason! A guy serving his country and serving his God put in jail with the possibility of the death sentence hanging over his head. Oh, how the right wing screamed for blood. God damned Muslim traitors in uniform! He was locked away without the right to see anybody for months, treated like the prisoners he used to minister.

And then... nothing.

He wasn't a traitor. He hadn't smuggled documents out of Gitmo. The most they found was porn on his computer. From treason to dirty pictures. Did Fox News or any news organization who printed the army's bullshit about this guy apologize for their libel?

Fuck, no. We're at war, remember? Better safe than sorry.

This is General Jay Garner.

He was the viceroy of Iraq. For about a month. Then Bush fired him.

How much did he fuck up in a month?

Well, he wanted early elections so we could hand the country back to the Iraqis. At the time, the war looked to be winding down, and he wanted U.S. troops to be pulled out of the cities and stationed in bases away from civilian populations.

He wanted no part of the draconian laws favoring foreign investors that his replacement Paul Bremer signed into law.

Bush listens to his generals. Then he fires them.

And that brings us to Dr. David Kay. Think back to when most Americans and almost all of the media thought the Mission Accomplished speech on the aircraft carrier was a high point of Bush's tenure. We won! Shut the fuck up, liberals! Ha, ha, ha, liberals! It sure sucks to be you!

The only thing we had to say that people listened to was "Where are the weapons of mass destruction?" That was about the only thing the Bush administration had to hem and haw about, shuffle their feet when the question was asked. The question gained traction and even in 2003, some people started to wonder and Bush's popularity started to slip.

Then came weapons inspector David Kay. Shut the fuck up, liberals! You don't know shit about weapons! This guy is the expert. When his report comes back, you will look like fucking idiots once again, liberals! Ha, ha, ha! You guys never get anything right, do you?

Then his report came back. He found nothing.

Then that miserable fuck Rumsfeld chuckled and said you couldn't prove a negative. Of course, he isn't a mathematician, and if math is the only place where you can truly prove things, you can prove a negative.

Here's the evidence that convinced Kay. We were offering a king's ransom for anyone who had a real lead, real evidence that would shows us where the weapons were, or even used to be. Not only was it cash, it was a ticket out of the country for the person who had the true info and that person's entire family. It was Willie Wonka's Golden Ticket, and nobody came forward to claim it.

That convinced Kay. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, which he had during the Iraq-Iran war, which we sold to him back when St. Ronald Reagan was president, were long since gone and rusting.

Back in the seventies, when Mao was dying, the Communists had complete control of China, but they began to fight amongst themselves. This is the era of the infamous Gang of Four. In this decade, when Republicans controlled every branch of government, there were still cliques and cadres, and a new Gang of Four took power that wasn't theirs and lead this country on a dangerous and foolish path.

The next president has his or her work cut out for him or her. Obama promises a new beginning. McCain promises more of the same. God only knows what Clinton and her decades of "experience" promise. What I want is these people, this new Gang of Four and their toadies, tried for their crimes. I think they should be in jail, but I'm a mathematician, not a judge or lawyer. What I do know is this. If what we have seen for the past five years in Iraq and for the last seven plus years in Washington is "perfectly legal", then God save us from the next president who thinks he has a "good idea" and has to bend a few laws to make it happen.

Postscript: Here's a list of my blog buddies who have joined the blogswarm.

The Otherwhirled

Padre Mickey

Monkey Muck

I, Splotchy

Impeachment and Other Dreams

I was Just Wondering


DistributorCap NY

Cat in the Bag

Aunt Dahlia

Thanks to all who read this and the those who wrote the others.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When one tires of Two Buck Chuck.

One of the great things that Trader Joe's has done is in bringing down the price of wines. Of course, there's Two Buck Chuck. Charles Shaw wines are nice, perhaps not great, but for $2 a bottle, how can you go wrong? We used to tease my dad about being cheap, but in reality he is not cheap as much as he loves a bargain. He won't just always buy the cheapest junk around, but when something is of good enough quality and really low price, he is very loyal to those brands. For him, the math of it is simple. Is a $20 bottle of wine really ten times more enjoyable than a bottle of Two Buck Chuck? For him, the answer is always no.

My sister Jen knows more about wine than I do. When we got together for The Oscars over at her daughter Holly's house, I brought a bottle of her favorite cheap wine, Spain's Abrazo Del Toro (which translates to "the hug of the bull") and since it was Oscar night, I also had a bottle of Francis Ford Coppola's Shiraz, which I have praised before on this blog. Jenny, in her nice way, asked about the Coppola, "Don't you think it's a little dusty?" She was right. The Abrazo at $4 is a better buy than the Coppola at $8.

While I haven't been completely faithful to my goal of buying more local foods, I definitely think about it when looking at wines. Besides Two Buck Chuck, a lot of bargain wines I like are from Australia, and of course Abrazo is from Spain. Closer to home is the Purple Moon label, bottled in Manteca, California. (Second Spanish lesson today. Manteca means lard.) I've been trying several of their varietals, and I've enjoyed both the shiraz and the merlot. They sell here in California for $4 a bottle, and on the Matty Boy scale, they are worth every penny.

Take a bottle out for a taste test, why don'tcha?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Available on DVD: Across the Universe

Imagine the pitch for the movie Across the Universe.

"We're going to take the story from Hair, add some more subplots that make sense from the era, give it a hopeful ending, and make the music about a jillion times better."

Hair was a pretty good musical from an era in American theater when only the best musicals had really good scores. Director Julie Taymor and the writers of Across the Universe got to cherry pick the music of Lennon and McCartney with some George Harrison thrown in. So it's like a major league all-star team taking the field against a Triple A club when it comes to the score. Not really a contest.

What is Across the Universe about? In a phrase I borrow from sfmike of Civic Center, it's about beautiful young people. Evan Rachel Wood (foreground) plays the beautiful honor student who becomes the beautiful hippie chick, Jim Sturgess (foreground) is her beautiful suitor from England, Joe Anderson (not pictured) her beautiful slacker brother who is drafted into the Army and T.V. Carpio (upper right) is the beautiful Asian American cheerleader from the Midwest who moves to New York and joins in on the adventures of our merry band. Even "the older woman" who is modeled on Janis Joplin is played by the beautiful Dana Fuchs, who in real life is not 30.

There are cameos from people no longer young and beautiful, like Joe Cocker and Bono and Eddie Izzard, shown here speak-singing For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. I watched his song multiple times. It's bloody brilliant, as Mr. Kite might say about his own performance.

In the scene choreographed to Happiness is a Warm Gun, Salma Hayek has a brief role as the nurse. While Ms. Hayek is now over 40, so not exactly young, she still qualifies easily for the beautiful part.

Matty Boy says give it a shot.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Confinin' the whinin'

Next week is Holy Week, and I wanted to keep the whinin' to a minimum. I will try to have positive and funny posts next week, except on Wednesday which is the Iraq War Blogswarm, about which I have nothing positive or funny to say.

Earlier this month, I noted that both the Australian dollar and Swiss franc were rising, and that one of them would likely be worth more than a greenback soon. The winner is the Swiss franc. A Hamilton is worth less than an Euler now. (Two notes: The Swiss now have somebody else on their 10 franc note, but I love Lenny, so I use the old currency picture. Also, Hamilton and Euler were alive at the same time, and in terms of intellect, though I am an American I am also a mathematician, and Hamilton times ten wasn't as smart as Euler.)

Another world currency that has overtaken an American currency is the Japanese yen, which is now worth more than a penny. The yen is one of the few world currencies that doesn't have a smaller denomination, no half yen or quarter yen, so it's better compared to the penny than to the dollar. It was last over a penny in 1994, but a Japanese recession took a lot of value away from their money, and it has been under a penny for nearly fourteen years.

Of course, just because our money is sinking like a stone against multiple world currencies is NOT a sign that we are in recession. Bush said we aren't and we won't be, so there! Who are you going to believe, Our President or your lying eyes?

I've also blogged about this over at The Smirking Chimp. Without the pretty pictures.

Starting tomorrow, I blog about things I like!

As Elvis Costello once wrote, "I don't expect that to last."

A new movie for My People and Our Agenda!

Always on the lookout for new stuff of interest to My People and Our Agenda, and with many contacts in the community, it has come to my attention that DreamWorks will be releasing a movie in Summer 2009 called Monsters Vs. Aliens, in which a group of mutants protect the earth from invaders from space. One of the mutants is Susan Murphy, described in the pre-release info as a "forty nine foot eleven and a half inch woman." In this picture, they do what they can to make her look gigantic, but that's a little difficult when the picture is dominated by the 1,000 foot tall alien cyborg chipmunk invader.

Susan Murphy will be voiced by the tiny but talented Reese Witherspoon.

Hypothetical question asker puts this poser to me.

"Matty Boy! This will be a kid's movie, G or PG, PG-13 at the very outside! Will Your People be able to have smutty thoughts about a kid's movie?"

I can only say that when it comes to smutty thoughts, My People has MAD skeee-illz!

Just sayin'.

Yay, Haiti! Yay, Flags of Many Lands™! Besides some of the tiny Caribbean islands, the only North American locales I am missing are Guatemala and Cuba. C'mon, you Commie and capitalist stooges! Join your Haitian pals and come on by. We have gigantic child brides! Everyone loves gigantic child brides! (Even in Haiti.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

So I'm walking down the street, minding my own bidness.

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I am out for a stroll, taking a walk down to the BART station. I cross the street onto the big block where the Laney campus is, and a guy sidles up next to me.

"You work for the city?" he asks.


"You teach at Laney?"

I don't know how he got it right on the second guess, but I answer yes. He then proceeds to tell me his little tale of woe.

This guy owns a business in Oakland, several miles away from where we are walking. His neighbors are a motorcycle club that throws parties. The motorcycle club leaves a mess behind when the parties are through, and it's this guy who has to clean up after them. If he doesn't, it's bad for business. Sometimes, they even burn tires in the street. It's a bad situation.

I get the feeling this guy wants me to solve this problem. Has he called the cops? The cops won't do anything. Has he considered suing the motorcycle club? The brother of one of the members is on the city council, so no remedy is apparent.

The guy is Chinese, unlike the old white guy in the picture above. "If they were black, I could understand it because they have no education." He says. "If they were Chinese, I would be ashamed of them. But they are white!" Using my razor sharp logical mind, I quickly deduce that I should be ashamed of them, though I have never met them and was unaware of their existence until a few minutes before.

When we get to the end of the Laney campus block, I turn right towards the BART station, and my new acquaintance goes straight ahead, perhaps looking for someone else to tell his troubles to. I thought a little about this encounter and came to this conclusion.

Boy, this guy should get a blog.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Good news, purty pitchers and one definitive version

I am back online at home. Once again, blogging is a pants optional activity for me.

Knowing how the readers luvs them some Hubbard fambly photos, I turned my sister Karla into a lolz baby. Except for the difference in haircuts, it is very hard to tell baby pictures of me and Karla and Karla's son Eli apart. We were all adorable, but Karla may be in first place amongst the three, being a girl and all.

Not only was Karla a freaking adorable baby, she is also a great finder of the good things on the Internets, including this kick-ass version of Children Go Where I Send Thee by the incomparable Joe and Eddie. The You Tubes wouldn't let this one be embedded so you have to follow the link.

Are you going to follow the link? Children, go where I send thee!

The Week O' Whinin' continues

Yay, Afghanistan! Yay, Flags of Many Lands™! Why would someone from Afghanistan wander onto this humble blog? Melissa Theuriau. As good a reason as any to travel half way around the world, at least electronically.

Dedicated blogger that I am, here I am at a wi-fi hotspot to bring you, my loyal readers, the latest random thoughts that cross my mind. Is dedicated a synonym for addicted? Possibly. There is one thing in which you can be confident, though. Since I went out in public to post this, at least I was wearing pants when I wrote this up!

In January, I visited the emergency room because of chest pains. I blogged earlier about the guys with whom I shared my room. The news for me was good. I just had a case of indigestion worse than I ever had before, and it hasn’t returned. It was likely brought on by a very fatty meal, and since that time I have lost about fifteen pounds, though I could certainly stand to lose more.

So far, so good. So where’s the whinin’?

The whinin’ is about the bill. There are several bills from various doctors, x-ray companies, hospitalists(?) and the like, and those total to about $2,000. Not good, but I can pay them, given enough time. The bill from the hospital itself is another matter.

They want $14,000.

Actually, they wanted $17,000, the sticker price for a new Mini-Cooper, but since I don’t have insurance and I’m paying for this myself, they cut me some slack and took 20% off the bill.

They’re not just fucking thieves! They’re fucking thieves with a heart!

So all told, I’m asked to pay about $16,000 for about 16 hours stay. OMG! At a $1,000 an hour, I could have called up the service Eliot Spitzer used! What was I thinking?

Of course, in reality, I couldn’t have spent the $16,000 on call girls, because I DON’T HAVE THE $16,000! I don’t know much about high class hookers, but I do know that they tell you the prices up front and expect you to pay before services are rendered. This is a major difference between hookers and hospitals, and I think it is a point in the hookers’ favor.

This is health care in the U.S. right now. I work several jobs, but until I got enough hours at the community college this semester and they were willing to pay half of my health insurance, I couldn’t afford it. Given the budget cuts that are being discussed, I don’t know if I’ll work enough hours at Laney and BCC to qualify six months from now. Such is the lot of folks in my position.

An American can always get health care. Even without medical insurance, the emergency room took me in and treated me. And now, they want to saddle me with a bill that will likely put me into bankruptcy.

We are in negotiations. By negotiations, I mean I have to give them all my financial records and they will decide if I can pay or not. If I’m above a certain income level, they want the whole thing. If not, I don’t know how much they will cut the bill by. I went to this same emergency room a few years ago when I fell off my bike, and they forgave almost the entire bill, but I wasn’t working at the time. Given the stories of the other guys being treated in the same room as I was, one definitely won't pay and the other probably won’t get charged. Instead, they are charging me for all three of us. And maybe my first free visit thrown in.

I want to be clear. I am not asking for money.


Just making that clear.

I told the kind hearted FranIAm about this nonsense in an e-mail a while back, and she said if she won the lottery, she would pay the bill. Well, not surprisingly, she didn’t win. Even if she did, I don’t want her money. I pay the bills I legally incur, but no matter what the law may finally say about this, I don’t feel like I legally incurred it. I needed help, they helped me, they used their expertise to discover nothing was life threatening, thank God, and then they made up some fucking ridiculous number and said it was what I owed them.

Usually, I pride myself on being a big picture guy, but it was my father who first pointed out that this transaction is part of the gross domestic product. God only knows how much of our GDP is accounted for by the ridiculous overcharging that goes into the ludicrously expensive health care system we have. I'm sure it's at least millions of dollars; I think billions is a better guess. And only the hospitals and insurance companies, both of whom think they are God, know how much they would finally agree to pay for this visit had I been covered.

Things have to change. I am not an isolated incident. This country can afford to change and the people need it. At least we could afford it if we weren't saddled with these two ridiculous wars without end. (Sorry, the blogswarm against the war is next week. Just got an early start.)

Here endeth the whinin’. For now at least.

And since it’s a Friday, we close with a Random 10.

Withered and Died Elvis Costello
The Elements Tom Lehrer
Coney Island Girl Tom Waits
New Parchman Mose Allison
You Can Leave Your Hat On Randy Newman
Walkin’ Blind Patti Smith
Blue Jean David Bowie
Reach Out I’ll Be There The Four Tops
I’ll Fly Away Allison Krauss & Gillian Welch
Angel Band The Stanley Brothers

We start with The One True Living Elvis singing a Richard Thompson song, just about as bitter a tune as he ever recorded. And it’s not the bitterest tune in the ten! Mose and Randy are even more bitter. We have two Toms, Lehrer being silly and Waits being sentimental. We end with two more uplifting numbers from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, which is a nice break from all the whinin’ around here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Taking a break from whinin'... to whine.

Blogging from work. Keep this short. No accompanying picture.

Switched phone companies. Need equipment from new company. Hasn't arrived yet. They changed the line, so right now, my phone doesn't work.

UPS will send equipment. I won't be home to pick it up. I could call UPS, but I don't have a phone!

This could take a while to resolve. Will stay in touch somehow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Here's something I don't understand. (Like THAT'S something new.)

Maybe you heard that CentCom chief Admiral Fallon has resigned (read: been fired.) It was in all the papers. The S.F. Chron had it on page 4. It had NOTHING to do with him being against war with Iran. Who would even think such a thing?

No one involved in the non-firing firing of Adm. Fallon looks as good in lingerie as the woman in the picture. That might be one of the reasons you've heard about the Gov. Spitzer mishegoss and the Adm. Fallon removal... not so much.

Everybody and their monkey has been raking Spitzer over the coals. My take on his position is:

Reservoirs of disposable income + reservoirs of unused sperm = recipe for disaster.

The thing I don't understand is where high priced hookers come from. If I was guessing from looking at Savannah, both her name and her figure make me think she was a well-paid stripper. Maybe the step from stripper to hooker is not that difficult. I honestly don't know.

But a lot of the other women (I took this picture from The Huffington Post, which published more than a dozen women's pictures from the now dead website that the high class pimps ran) have builds that look more like fashion models, very long and lean instead of busty. The story even mentions that in tape recordings, the owners had a problem with the girls who were models because a fashion shoot could go overtime and they would be late for a vagina rental appointment.

I understand why there are low cost hookers. For some it's drugs. For the women from overseas, it's forced labor, modern day slavery. Here in California, many are Korean and are given the disgustingly innocuous nickname "K-bunnies". But why does an attractive woman with good career options decide, "Yes, I'm willing to rent my body out by the hour to disgusting old grease weasels like Eliot Spitzer for $x per hour. Sure, my life will be ruined if it becomes public knowledge, but like, how likely is that? Yeah, I guess I will live with the shame forever, but like... whatever!"

Any of my clever readers think they can 'splain this one to me?

A presumptuous little whine that may amuse you.

Time constraints this morning. The lolz cat gets to whine for me.

A richer and fuller bodied whine will follow later today.

(The more I think about it, the less palatable this metaphor becomes.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lotsa Whinin' 2 Do, Part 2: a semi-sympathetic whine for the homeschoolers

If upheld, a recent California state court decision would stipulate that anyone teaching in a home schooling situation would have to have a credential. Homeschooling advocates argue that such a restriction would kill the movement, and they have a point. Personally, I’m against making the requirement equal to that of teachers of elementary school and high school. The cost for the families is too high. People who take the classes to get a credential do so in the expectation of getting a job that, while not paying a lot, offers job security and a benefit package hard to find in today’s labor market.

I would like to see standards set for homeschoolers, but I think it would be fairer to make it a year-by-year test to pass rather than making them go back to grad school. (Thus proving my liberal street cred, since I ask for a new bureaucracy to be created.) When it comes to the grades when the principles of evolutionary biology are part of the curriculum, if they can’t pass that part of the test, fail them out of the program. Quite simply, there is no modern biology without the principles of evolution, much as there would be no modern physics without the principles of calculus.

Personally, I have no sympathy for people who are glad to live in the 21st Century when it suits them, but want to revert to the 19th Century when their beliefs are challenged. As Doonesbury has said, if they truly want to live their faith, they should reject any drugs that are effective against drug resistant strains of disease. After all, if evolution is a hoax, these nasty bugs shouldn't exist.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We pause in this week's whine festival to accept an award...

Because as Phil Hartman said when he played Sinatra, "When somebody gives you an award, baby, you show up!"

This little badge of honor is being passed around the left blogosphere, and I got it from my pal Padre Mickey. I am very honored by what he said about me. And I share it with someone else I've known about half my life, professional blogger Dave Johnson over at Seeing The Forest. I'm proud to know him and glad to see we both had our fun in the video game biz and got the hell out to do some good in the world.

Lotsa Whinin' 2 Do, Part 1: Our girly man governor

It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to.

For a Republican, it must be said that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a complete BushBot bastard. For instance, he admits that climate change is a problem and has shown initiative in making the state a leader in pro-business solutions for the greenhouse gas problems and other environmental issues. He actually has a sense of humor and can tell a joke at his own expense. He doesn't demonize gay people and he owns up to his own drug use in the past, though he admits more about pot than he does about steroids.

The problem is, he's a pussy.

It may be steroid use in the past that causes the current situation, but he doesn't show any testicular tendencies when it comes to governing. As a leader, he might as well be President Merkin Muffley, and we all know how that turned out.

California is in a budget crisis again, and our governor has decided to cut funding across the board. While this looks like the wisdom of Solomon to some, it's more like Soppy Milquetoast. Part of the problem is his innate Republicanism, which in the post George H.W. Bush world means that a revenue shortfall can NOT be eased with a tax increase. More pussyfooting from the Big Girly Man.

But by cutting everything, we get more crap in the education biz, my biz, as many of you know. He says he's pro-education. Hell, so does Bush, and we know what a load of crap that is. Fees will rise, fees that were just reinstated to earlier levels, and students will take less classes, and less classes will be offered. When he came into office, he did the same thing and classes I was supposed to teach were canceled, taking money out of my pocket. It made more sense financially for me to take NO classes for a semester and get paid by the state through unemployment instead of take the quarter-time schedule that was offered. I hope to get a little better deal this time around, since I work for two schools in the district now, but there are no promises. I also have the work at the art school, which is not state funded, so I won't have to consider unemployment as an option, knock wood.

Then there's the recession, and who knows what that will do to enrollment at a pricey digital art school. I don't blame Governor ShrunkenNads for that. More of the blame there goes to the federal level.

Tomorrow: more whinin' 'bout education!
(Yes, the fun never stops.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

If only we had listened!

This is Douglas Feith, who was part of the Office of Special Plans under Donald Rumsfeld. What was the Special Plan? Why, invading Iraq, of course! Silly hypothetical question asker, that you should have forgotten so soon.

Mr. Feith has written a memoir about the run up to the Iraq War, where the people in his Office were the only ones listening seriously to the bullshit artists like Curveball who told us Saddam had every bad weapon conceived by the mind of man and was planning to make new, even worse ones. Guess what his memoir says?

It's somebody else's fault that Iraq is such a colossal goat fuck!

Wow, that's a surprise! The problem was that he, genius Douglas Feith, was cut out of the picture, much as I have cropped him out of his official picture. Who was given power that would have better been entrusted to him?

Spooks and colored people.

No, that's not redundant. No ancient racial epithets are being used. Spooks as in the CIA, who dogged his brilliant work at every turn, and colored people like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, who didn't do their jobs very well, spoiling the Special Plans Feith and Paul Wolfowitz had dreamed up.

If only every public official was as brilliant and dedicated as Douglas Feith!

And if only we had enough jails to house them all now!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A rebuttal from the(so-called) Canada geese.

Last month, this blog made comments about the local fauna in my new neighborhood of Lake Merritt in Oakland, including noticing many Canada geese that appeared to be resting for a while during migration. This note appeared recently, and in the interest of fairness, we have decided to print it in its entirety.

Yo, homeslice! Maybe you noticed, but it's mid March and we're still here, eh? Maybe you got it through your thick human skull that we kind of like it here and we aren't going anywhere.

You humans are so stuck up, you think we call each other Canada geese, eh? My name's Rudy, and my girlfriend is Jeanette. You're so smart, eh, you know what the state bird of Utah is? The California Gull. So you guys get to name us and we get to go where we please. How's that for a deal, eh?

We even started picking up the lingo, eh? It's hella fresh in Oakland.

To reiterate, I like it here and my girlfriend likes it here, so there's not much point in migrating any farther, is there now?

Oh, I forgot. You wouldn't know, eh? You don't have a girlfriend.


Visitor #30,000

More than 30,000 times in the past 11 months or so, people have come to my blog for one reason or another. While I have a few dozen regular readers who come to the front page to see what nonsense I have written most recently, many find my page looking for information on a variety of topics.

Gigantic child brides? Of course.

Giant women? Yes, many do that as well.

Celebrities like Indira Varma, Eli Manning, Alyssa Milano, Natascha McElhone? Yes to all of those.

Visitor #30,000 came from Knoxville, Tennessee, searching for information on The Venture Brothers, Hank and Dean, seen here riding their hover scooters, which are about as cool in their plane of existence as Segways are in ours.

Because Knoxville is a long way from Johnson City and the visit was not to the front page, I do not think this visit was from my Tennessee regular reader, Dr. Monkerstein.

Still, #30,000! Yay, blogging!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Local color from a locale I've never visited.

This mighty statue of a proud warrior can be found on the Philippine island of Cebu, honoring a local hero from many centuries ago. What was the famous thing the warrior Lapulapu did? He killed Magellan.

Yes, the Filipinos would like to remind you not to bring that weak circumnavigating the globe shit into THEIR house. Woot!

I was brought up in a time when the Age of Exploration was taught in grade school as Entirely A Good Thing, though I have since learned many other facts to put that interpretation in question. My first reaction to the explorers from that era is that they were brave guys, though many were greedy, and unless they had lots of soldiers and killed lots of locals, like Pizarro did with the Incas or Cortes did with the Aztecs, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I certainly feel that way about Magellan.

But of course, I wasn't brought up on the island of Cebu. Maybe I'd feel differently if I read the third grade textbooks they are given as schoolkids.

And it's Friday, so we get a Random 10.

Love For Tender Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Don’t Go Yaz
Hey Ya! Outkast
Red Rain Peter Gabriel
The Weight The Band
One Love/People Get Ready Bob Marley & The Wailers
Come Away With Me Nora Jones
Never Like This Before William Bell
Baby It’s You The Beatles
It’s My Fault, Darling Professor Longhair

This is the first appearance of Nora Jones on a Random 10, and I bid her welcome. Everybody else has shown up before. I like a blues tune where the lyrics admit that the singer might be somewhat responsible for the troubles they are facing, so Professor Longhair gets the word on this one. It's a song where a guy apologizes for breaking in on his woman and another man. It contains this deathless verse.

If I'd known you had company, baby, I would have waited for my lunch,
If I'd known you had company, baby, I would have waited for my lunch,
The man was twice my size, and I do believe he was packing a Joe Louis punch.