12/16/2008

Setting Things Straight: Barack Obama should tear George Tenet's spuriously-awarded Medal of Freedom off his neck and award it to Muntadhar al-Zeidi

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No, I don't particularly enjoy that a US president was attacked and that the Secret Service pretty much sat back and watched it happen.

All right, I think it was kind of funny that the Secret Service watched it happen, but only because it wasn't a deadly or even dangerous attack.

But the only reason George W. Bush was there in the first place was because of the war he pushed based on seriously flawed intelligence. And then, after he knew how flawed the intelligence was, he awarded the man responsible for that intelligence, George Tenet, the Medal of Freedom, pretty much diminishing its value forever for whoever is awarded one.

A Presidential Medal of Freedom is now roughly as valuable as one of those sticky gold stars your kindergarten teacher put at the top of your coloring project.

To further the insult to anyone who's ever received this once-prestigious award, George Tenet refused to return the medal once it was clear to everyone else precisely how flawed the intelligence was -- keep in mind, that intel was the reason he was awarded the medal.

Now comes Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi. He delivers incontrovertible intelligence to George W. Bush in the form of a statement expressing the outrage of the great majority of the Iraqi people. And he seals his statement of contempt with a fairly universal Arab sign of contempt: thrown shoes. In America it's roughly the same as giving the middle finger and mooning someone simultaneously, more or less.

Al-Zeidi knew that all his actions would get him is a beating. Yet he made sure the message was delivered.

In this moment, al-Zeidi displayed ideals we identify here as American: courage -- truthfulness -- plain-spokenness -- healthy and energized skepticism -- confronting an apparently stronger aggressor -- standing up to those who condone torture and who work against the basic human rights outlined in the US constitution.

George Tenet was awarded the Medal of Freedom for lying. He lied when he said that Saddam was mere months away from producing an atomic weapon. He lied when he said Saddam had centrifuges. The list goes on and on. Tenet lied when he labeled the testimony of a highly prejudiced and invested Iraqi "slam-dunk" evidence that Saddam was close to producing an atomic weapon. And he was lazy in not questioning this information.

Lying is not an ideal we identify as being American. Neither is laziness and the unquestioning acceptance of information from dubious sources. Tenet's misinformation was used to justify aggression both toward another nation and toward American citizens, the denial of basic human rights to citizens here and abroad, and the gutting of the US constitution.

This is not American.


As his shoes sailed, al-Zeidi was more of an American than George Tenet was when he tendered the flawed-intelligence basis for America's Iraq invasion.





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12/15/2008

"This is a goodbye kiss, you dog," Zaidi shouted.

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All hail America's Fratboy King!

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12/13/2008

Dharma Punx: Josh Korda and Noah Levine mohawk the Buddha

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Up in Vermont, Buddhism has a kind of lockjawed white-guy thing going. You can sign up for a meditation course and then sit with white guys who pretty much came off as Buddha Scouts. I got the sense that they're into Buddhism because they weren't good at making birdhouses or candles and there's not a country club nearby.

I found them hard to take too seriously because they always took themselves very seriously.

For example, I remember our meditation leader becoming a bit pissy with us, his students, because we'd left some of his handouts, which included fragments of Buddhist scripture, on the floor. "The floor is the lowest place," he said. "It's not appropriate to leave buddhist scripture on the floor."

Dude, it's print on paper. It's not magical. Your handouts are going to turn into ash, just like you and me.

But I did learn meditation, so it wasn't a net loss.

Anyway, it sounds like Korda and Levine have an interesting thing going, mixing Buddhism with punk. Read about it in Cara Buckley's NYTimes.com article and get back to me with your thoughts. In point of fact the article is a sketch, doesn't reveal much of substance about what Korda and Levine bring to the table, but maybe you know something. I'd particularly like to hear from you if you attend their sessions.

I'd like to see this kind of thing take off at grassroots levels, in small towns, at the hands of poor and middle-class, non-college-educated people. You find lots of educated people going for various stripes of Eastern thought, but it always seems like the less-educated just go along with whatever traditions they've inherited, or worse still, slip into fundamentalist folk religion that, in my view, provides a sense of empowerment, assurance and personal progress, while in most cases obscuring reality and encouraging denial. They tend to stunt inquisitiveness and awareness.

In my experience, a sincere approach to Buddhism, or at least to Buddhist-styled meditation, tends to open inquisitiveness and awareness.




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12/12/2008

Hey, New Yorkers -- When you see Bill Murray at your party, JUST CHILL.

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Bill Murray is easily one of the funniest and most respected guys to transition from improv comedy to TV to movies while keeping us all on his side.

But look, it hasn't been a great year for him. OK? Read around if it's that important to you, you'll find out why. So he's hanging around the City a lot -- Manhattan and Brooklyn, it sounds like, going to bars, concerts and parties -- and he's obviously trying to relax and have a good time, and maybe meet up with some nice company.

So if you see him at a party, don't go up to him like some dick in Brooklyn did recently and say, "I think you're making some bad life choices." (third paragraph)

Bill Murray's life choices are none of your god damned business.

Just be chill. Treat him like you would a friend of a friend.

And if you see somebody treating Bill Murray like a dick at your party, take the offender aside and talk some sense into him. If the kid's too drunk to take advice, send him packing.

Bill's given us a lot of laughs for decades now, not to mention a few tears. Unlike some other SNL alums, he still deserves your respect. If he shows up at your party, let him hang out as long as he wants. Make him feel at home, like the ladies in the photo above from the New York Post article.

Cut the man some slack, Jack.

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"That's my niece Diane, and she's going to Hell."

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Click on the pic to see it full-size. Image from Fukung.net

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12/11/2008

Improv Everywhere: Frozen Grand Central Station

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Horse the slider down past the part where the Improv Everywhere people talk to the extras. Focus on the part inside Grand Central Station. It's kinda brilliant.

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Shin Dong-hyuk is the only known surviving escapee from a North Korean prison camp, according to Blaine Harden, Washington Post

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Thousands upon thousands are born, raised and die in Kim Jong-Il's prison camps. These nexes of sheer sadistic brutality keep alive the tradition started by Hitler, Pol Pot and other shining lights of humanity, with very little public outcry.

Blaine Harden writes in the Washington Post about a kid who managed to escape Camp #14 after seeing his mother hanged and his brother shot. Shin Dong-hyuk's story apparently checks out, according to various human rights groups monitoring the situation. He wrote a book, but it was published in a single short Korean-language edition. We need to get it out on the shelves over here.

But what would be the result? Will we ever storm into North Korea, as we did Iraq? Here is a nation with verified nuclear arms capability, verified systems of prisons that keep entire populations of tens of thousands enslaved and starving, living in torment.

Their liberation seems further away now than ever in the past few decades.

How much more pathetic does Shin's story render the final presidential ambition of America's Frat-Boy King? George W. Bush wants to be remembered as "the liberator of millions."

It boggles the mind.

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12/09/2008

GM, Chrysler and Ford unveil a new model: The Bailout. Coming this January.

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Find it at this apparently anonymous Imageshack account.


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The New Years Resolution Generator for iPhone -- New from Left Brain Games

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Fresh from the twisted mind of Left Brain Games' founder and president Andrew Keplinger, here's an iPhone app that's sure to keep you chuckling well into the new year. Download that bad boy, load it up, then give your iPhone a shake to find a new, randomly selected, brain-scrambling, bust-a-gut funny resolution that you can make your own. Just in time for the New Year!

It's free over at the iTunes store, so what are you waiting for? Let the laughs begin!

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12/06/2008

Jason Nelson is exploring Internet media like no other artist I know.

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It's playful, goofy, crudely executed. Damned if I can find a point to any of it.

This is art, kids, forget Nintendo. Jason is spoofing on corporate and even academic uses of the Internet, even as he relies completely on the corporations that produce the technology products he uses, the academic institutions from which the Internet emerged and within which continued improvements and extensions of Internet infrastructure continue to be developed, and the wholly-owned subsidiary governments that encircle everything about what he does in an insipid highly permiable boundary.

It's a very smart game he's playing. Better keep an eye on this guy.

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"Your mythology does not trump my reality." -- Jake at NoFo on Proposition 8

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Jake provides a different angle on the Proposition 8 argument. Many evangelicals did not support amending California's state constitution against gay marriage. Jake's line against those who did is this: "Your mythology does not trump my reality."

That's a rather powerful line that could apply in many places and situations, in my opinion. I could almost imagine an entire political movement based on that single statement. Picture it on a flag, like "Don't Tread On Me." Picture it on a handbill, like "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?"

Picture it on a poster by Shepard Fairey.

I don't completely understand the intricacies of how 'Thomas' came to live with Jake and his domestic partner, or the bureaucratic machinations that prevent him from getting the state-sponsored care that he desperately needs. Considering the care he should have been provided over the past fifteen years -- which he didn't get because his mother's abusiveness exceeds the standards of Turkish prison guards -- the state would remain way ahead of the game even if it provided him with full-time, comprehensive care for the next ten years.

A
ccording to Jake, gay marriage rights figure in to potential issues for the future, and without them he could easily be cast in a highly compromised position -- all because he wanted to help Thomas, whose story makes Dickens sound like the Teletubbies.

Read him and weep.

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12/05/2008

T Magazine talks to Takashi Murakami

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Let me know what you think of this interview by the New York Times Style Magazine, now known as "T Magazine." There's no embed code, so you'll have to click here to see it.

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12/03/2008

Prop 8 -- The Musical

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Thanks, Funny Or Die -- this says a lot. Peace out - B

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

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12/01/2008

A Carole Feuerman sculpture, Survival of Serena , was demolished in shipping.

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Read this snippet from the Palm Beach Post and weep:

While the now shattered piece was valued at $350,000, Feuerman says insurance will only pay $9,100 of that.

"It was really hard for me to even breathe," she said.

Though Feuerman feels as if she's drowning in bad news, there is a faint light at the end of this tunnel.

Art Miami officials still want to display Feuerman's work. They told her they want to show the crate as is, she said, with the broken skull, the chipped fingers, and all. Officials believe there will be interest.

Though damaged and torn, strong Serena will survive. And so will its owner.

"I haven't been completely 100 percent since this broke ... but life goes on," Feuerman said. "I think I can make another."

Who's the slob who put someone else's blob of pressed muck into her robust, well-constructed crate, and placed Survival of Serena into some sort of glorified ramshackle Kleenex box?

Ms. Feuerman's probably got better things to do, but I hope some kind-hearted lawyer or gallery administrator tracks down the worthless derelict who did this and -- legally, of course -- shakes out every last cent of the remaining $341,000 for her, plus interest.

We've got enough to deal with making art in the teeth of the worst economic downturn since the 1930's. We don't need exhibitors paying us back for our loan generosity by turning good art into kindling.



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