Seder on Sundays: Watch it!

Thirty-odd years on this planet has taught me two things:
1. The things I like almost invariably go away or end up disappointing me;
2. Men always look better with facial hair.

I've listened to Sam Seder since the first days of Air America radio (2004 BKF--Before Kerry Failed us). Back then, he was playing second fiddle to Janeane Garafolo on the Majority Report, and early on, I found their show uniquely annoying. Happily, however, Janeane kept getting side gigs and Sam kept getting better and better as a radio host. Eventually, Sam got his own show for 5 days a week, which was both funny and enlightening. Sadly, it seems that funny and enlightening is a combination that doesn't work in liberal talk radio because he was eventually kicked to Sunday afternoons to make room for some guy who's been living in LA so long that he thinks we actually care about the politics of Goldie Hawn and Deirdre Hall.

But I digress.

Sam is amazingly sharp, clever, and enthusiastic. He's always done cutting-edge shows that feature interesting authors and bloggers from all over our liberal nation. He advocates for civil liberties like nobody's business but trades the fear tactics so often employed by others for the fierce logic that infuses his style (his recent detailed explanation of the concerns surrounding telecom immunity is unparalleled--I wish it were individually interwebbed so I could link to it). One of the first on radio to see the immense value of bloggers in liberal politics, he regularly brought us Markos, Bill Scher, and Atrios. Not content with just being awesome on the ears, he now shows up on the SammyCam during his regular Sunday show and in a special, cam-only repartee with Marc Maron. And he always includes his listeners (who are also interesting and often well-informed) via IM that he checks during his shows and the breaks. In other words, he is great at what he does and is always becoming greater (plus, he now has a 'stache, which makes him even easier on the eyes)!

All this brings us to lesson number 1: I'm afraid he's going to go away. So, if you find yourself with some time on your hands, please help add to Sam's listener/viewership and stop by to hear/see how smart liberals can sound/look. And tell your friends.

PS This is Some of Nothing's first touchpad-drawn, realistic-y, person-type image (extra-hyphenated). Thoughts?

Oh yeah...and no affiliation with Seder or Air America radio. Just bringing in a rave from time to time to offset the more frequent rant.

UPDATE: Here's a Sam snippet from the YouTubes:

Nothing New byslag at 9:18 PM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Britney Spears Has Poor Judgment?

Say it ain't so!

Weird...I would have thought that this statement alone would have been enough to demonstrate that:

The thing I don't get is that just by wanting to know what's going on in the world, I am consistently confronted with this Britney Spears person. It's as if all roads lead to her; or to the other one that looks like her; or other ones that look like her--I can't tell. So the question remains: What percentage of the US population actually cares about Britney? Is it the same as those who still believe in ghosts, UFOs, and GW Bush (30%)? Maybe it's actually the same percentage of the population that looks like her...which would explain a lot.

Nothing New byslag at 10:43 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Halloween Seriousness

Great column from Krugman:

For one thing, there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.

Meanwhile, the idea that bombing will bring the Iranian regime to its knees — and bombing is the only option, since we’ve run out of troops — is pure wishful thinking. Last year Israel tried to cripple Hezbollah with an air campaign, and ended up strengthening it instead. There’s every reason to believe that an attack on Iran would produce the same result, with the added effects of endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and driving oil prices well into triple digits.

The only thing we have to fear: my pathetic drawing "ability". Will work on this one more later.

Nothing New byslag at 11:56 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Is Jeff Gannon Now Working at FEMA?

So, FEMA televises a "press conference" in which its employees--not the press--ask the questions. The press couldn't make it. And later, in response to some questioning by the actual press, La Casa Blanca says: "It is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House." Que? How quickly we forget about our dear Jeff Gannon. Don't worry, Jeff! The world will always welcome lovers.

Speaking of Karl...those at Pat Robertson's Christian school love his crusade talk and hate Clelland's questioning:

“Why did not the Bush White House put everything in the world that we had into killing and capturing him and his terrorist allies? We let him go in the Tora Bora mountains, we blew it. … Why didn’t the Bush White House go after Osama bin Laden ? Why are we wasting time in Iraq?”

Rove bristled at the question. “Senator, with all due respect, the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence agencies made every effort possible to get Osama bin Laden, and frankly, I don’t think it reflects well on our military and intelligence services to suggest that they didn’t ,” he said.

The audience broke into applause at Rove’s response, but Cleland pressed his point that special operations forces were moved from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003 to prepare for the coming war – a point McCaffrey supported.

Their overall strategy: You can't criticize us because we didn't do it. And we're protecting those that did it by blaming you for criticizing them. So really, whatever it is that we didn't do is your fault...traitor!

Are we really this stupid?

And about all that politically motivated interference in the Justice Dept...who knows?

Nothing New byslag at 2:39 PM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

When Rational Meets Progressive: John Edwards

I've been smacking democrats around quite a bit lately, but I have to say that John Edwards is really doing a great job uniting reason and intelligence with progressive values. It's quite refreshing to see someone finally responding to the deeper issues we, as a nation, are facing and not just running the "I'm better than that guy/gal" ticket. Nonetheless, I'm a typical liberal who hates the fact that, once again, I'm rooting for the rich white man to win.

Does anyone else think it's more than a coincidence that we can have a real rational and progressive candidate in the top-tier at the same time that we have a woman and a black man in that tier as well. What I mean is: does racial and gender diversity among the top democratic candidates more readily encourage ideological diversity? Or is it that Howard Dean actually paved the way and Edwards is just following his lead? Or is it that Bush is so incompetent that candidates feel they can say anything and still have a chance? The latter two options seem less likely, because if true, both Clinton and Obama would probably be running more progressive campaigns as well. Maybe the fact that he's a bit below the radar allows Edwards more freedom in his campaign. Nonetheless, with any luck, we'll get Edwards into the White House, and he will help accomplish what many of us have been pushing for: actual progress.

Nothing New byslag at 11:36 AM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Will the Real Democratic Party Please Stand Up! Redux

In the wake of Pete Stark's apology and in the face of a possible Democratic cave-in on the telecom immunity issue, I feel the need to keep banging the "no taxation without representation" drum. In August of 2007, Scientific American Mind had an interesting article discussing the psychology of leadership. There is quite a bit of good stuff in it, but what seems to be particularly relevant to this discussion is the idea that real leaders come from within the group that they're representing and are selected by said group (not the other way around). Hardly a revolutionary concept, for sure, but to me, this accentuates the poignancy of recent democratic party failures.

According to Digby's article on the repercussions to dems for failing to stand up to the Republican "Hissy Fit":

The political cost to progressives and liberals for their inability to properly deal with this tactic is greater than they realize. Just as Newt Gingrich was not truly offended by Bill Clinton's behavior (which mirrored his own) neither were conservative congressmen and Rush Limbaugh truly upset by the Move On ad --- and everyone knew it, which was the point. It is a potent demonstration of pure power to force others to insincerely condemn or apologize for something, particularly when the person who is forcing it is also insincerely outraged. For a political party that suffers from a reputation for weakness, it is extremely damaging to be so publicly cowed over and over again. It separates them from their most ardent supporters and makes them appear guilty and unprincipled to the public at large.

Ritual defamation and humiliation are designed to make the group feel contempt for the victim and over time it's extremely hard to resist feeling it when the victims fail to stand up for themselves.

I would actually take this a bit further. When our democratic representatives finally stand up and say what's been on all of our minds for the past several years, we (quite naturally) get excited. Part of this excitement comes from the thrill of witnessing a much-deserved public whipping of our overlords (there's so much power in smacking down the powerful), but another part comes from the fact that these representatives are speaking for us. They are saying out in public exactly what we're thinking in private. And as a direct consequence, we start to feel powerful too. We feel listened to and validated (as we would in any good relationship).

So, when they start to back down from the statement they made on our behalf (the one that filled us with power), not only do they seem weak, but even worse, they make us feel weak. So beyond appearing "guilty and unprincipled to the public at large" (so true!!!), they take away our ability to stand up behind them and claim them as our chosen leaders. We start to wonder why, even though they very recently said out loud exactly what we've been thinking for years, we chose them to lead us. And if we follow this to its logical conclusion, we may start to wonder about the strength of our own principles for having, as a group, selected such weak leadership.

Obviously, this idea can be taken too far and heavily depends on an ability to discern "honesty" from "stupidity" (eg, dittoheads, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Faux News, etc). This important distinction is actually the good side of democrats' ability to apologize for saying dumb things that aren't representative of the group at-large (we all do and say stupid things--it's better to just admit it). However, our representatives need to assume that we, the represented, do have the ability to make this distinction as well. We can tell when someone is speaking their mind (because most often, they're speaking ours too) or when they're inadvertently speaking out of turn. And if they can't handle this basic responsibility, we have another--deeper--problem that we need to address. We need to sit them down (like one would a belligerent child) and calmly explain to them that we are not, in fact, complete morons. Or even better, we need to act like it.

Aside: This is why Jon Stewart earns my heart every time he talks. He's been giving the "we're not morons" (or some variation thereof) lecture to just about anyone who will listen. Sadly, not enough of us will.

Nothing New byslag at 10:54 AM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Casualties of War

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

I just came across this dialogue posted by Anthony Arend (and linked by Stephen). It's from the president's news conference last week:

Q Thank you, sir. A simple question.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. It may require a simple answer.

Q What’s your definition of the word “torture”?


Q The word “torture.” What’s your definition?

THE PRESIDENT: That’s defined in U.S. law, and we don’t torture.

Q Can you give me your version of it, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever the law says.

Do you get the feeling that the president doesn't know what the law says? The precise legal definition is "severe mental or physical pain or suffering" to elicit information. How can the president know he is abiding by the law if he cannot remember the simplest phrase defining torture in the law?

Oh please...this administration has been fighting with and against the English language for over 6 years, and now we're supposed to be surprised?

For the last few years, The Daily Show has been exceptional in documenting some of the major battles in this hidden war.

Who would have thought, back when we all laughed at Bill Clinton's re-definition of "is," that this is where we'd end up? From absurd-to-tragic in one administration.

Nothing New byslag at 11:05 AM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Will the Real Democratic Party Please Stand Up!

Chris Floyd says it well:

The prospect of a Democratic victory in 2006 was for many people the last, flickering hope that the degradation of the republic could be arrested and reversed within the ordinary bounds of the political system. This was always a fantasy, given the strong bipartisan nature and decades-long cultivation of greed, arrogance and militarism that has now come to its fullest bloom in the Bush administration. But desperation can crack the shell of the most hardened cynic, and no doubt there were few who did not harbor somewhere deep inside at least a small grain of hope against hope that a slap-down at the polls would give the Bush gang pause and confound its worst depredations.

One year on, we can all see how the Democrats have made a mockery of those dreams. Their epic levels of unpopularity are richly deserved. At every step they evoke the remarks of the emperor Tiberius, who, after yet another round of groveling acquiescence from the once-powerful Roman Senate, dismissed them with muttered contempt: "Men fit to be slaves." The record of the present Congress provides copious and irrefutable evidence for this judgment.

Nothing New byslag at 4:41 PM 5 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

For the Love of the Flag Lapel Pin

NOTE: I was planning to dedicate this post to ranting about our flaccid democrats in Congress, but since so many others are doing that already, I don't have to (however, if you need to catch up, I'll wait).

Here's a question that's been plaguing me for some time now: what do all the flag lapel-pin wearers love so much about America?

The reason I'm curious is that I regularly hear it said that those of us who don't trust the government with the power to torture, spy, and circumvent the legal system are preventing it from protecting us from terrorists. I also regularly hear it said that the government can't be trusted to regulate health care, the economy, firearms, or the environment. And all these concerns seem to be coming from the same group of people: those who apparently LOVE America. So, which is it pin wearers? Do we trust our government or not?

While I have no problem with someone's ability to hold two contradictory ideas in his head at the same time, I generally don't consider the natural result of this deep internal conflict to be a flag on the lapel. One could say that the question is false and that it's not a matter of trust but of competency. Maybe lapel-pin wearers think that America is good at things like spying, torture, and circumventing the law and bad at things like regulating health care and the environment (starting to sound like conditional--or at least lowercased--LOVE to me). But the obvious question would have to be: how do we know? Even if we could gain good empirical evidence of competency in either case, who would be the arbiter of said competency? Sorry. This is all about trust.

It's interesting to me that many of us who don't trust the government to spy and torture also don't trust the government to regulate health care and the economy. This actually works out quite well, because the nature of the American system of government and our constitution is such that it does not require us to trust. In case we all forgot, America is a Republic and our system of government is designed to have this thing that we used to call "checks and balances" (lapel-pin wearers generally call it "quaint"). Some of these checks and balances include: three different branches of government, each with a unique function; different levels of representation: city, state, county, federal, etc; a robust and intricate legal system; and finally, the right to vote for each and every citizen (though many of us had to work pretty darned hard for that one). If we were simply intended to trust our government, this design would definitely appear needlessly bulky (lapel-pin flags represent actual size?), but the entire point of this "bureaucratic" design is so that we don't have to trust our government. And while our system has some obvious flaws (able to be co-opted by people who still wear lapel pins, for instance), a lot of us like it for the very reason that we don't have to trust it.

Not only is our government designed so that we need not trust, it actually works better when we don't trust it. Because the design of the American system of government includes (but is not limited to) the voters, it requires American citizens to be informed when casting their votes. As a result, we have laws such as the Freedom of Information Act and others that require a certain amount of transparency in our government (it's almost as if our representatives work for US or something). And this transparency is the very reason that we want to use the government to regulate health care, the economy, and the environment. It is also the reason that we want to prevent it from having the power to torture, spy, and circumvent laws. We not only want to know what's going on with our health care and environment (we need them to survive), but we also want to know exactly what our representatives are up to (when they're minding our business). And while we recognize that this knowledge does have some limits, we also recognize that, when we give our representatives more ability to secretly gain information from anyone through torture and spying, we give them a bit more power over us. As Americans, we want our system of government to succeed, and as this success partly depends on us and our ability to know what's going on in our government...(you see where I'm going with this)

So, the less trust we have in our government, the better it works for us. And the better our government works for us, the better our country works for us. However, there are some other countries with systems of government that work better without the checks and balances and when just a few of its citizens have the bulk of the power. In those systems, spying and torture aren't something the people fight against because they can't, and laws really aren't worth circumventing. Some examples include: the former USSR, Iraq, and Myanmar. So, if lapel-pin wearers really want a government with a lot of power unchecked by bureaucracy or its citizens, I recommend hopping on a plane or into a time machine and checking out those places. And while the lapel-pin wearers are traveling (and trying to remember what it is they LOVE about America), the rest of us will be busy forcing our representatives into doing what's in our best interest (never fear: making lapel pins illegal isn't even close to the top of the list).

PS Tell Chris Dodd that you support his filibuster to the FISA bill. And email your senators too!

Nothing New byslag at 12:10 PM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Proof that there is a god

The Daily Show now lives on the internets!

And proof that we don't need wiretapping. We need competence!

Nothing New byslag at 8:24 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Climate Change, Blog Action, Ambivalence

As you may know, today is a day for Blog Action on environmental problems. That is, bloggers everywhere are dedicating a post or two to the environment. Obviously, this is a great thing and we are pleased to have the opportunity to participate. However, we would be a little disingenuous if we did not convey some ambivalence about Some of Nothing's own impact on our environment.

Some of Nothing's mission in life is to dispense karmic justice. And right now, we're doing that by creating images that convey a certain (liberal) message and sometimes (rarely) selling these images as shirts, stickers, notecards, etc (schwag). I'm sure you see our conundrum already, but we'll spell it out for our slow (republican) readers: While our images may be contributing to our mission, our current existence depends on consumerism, which somewhat counteracts our mission. In other words, it's like we're trying to protect America from terrorists (republicans) and in the process we out a CIA agent working on counter-terrorism and then lie about it (We sell stuff. OK. We don't really lie about it, but you get the idea.).

So, the question remains: how do we accomplish our mission without working against ourselves? Well, we don't know yet. We try to tell ourselves that we are being good: we recycle; we don't use office products; we don't drive to work; we turn off lights (we find that working in the dark improves both our environment and our images). But at some point, our conscience (Al Gore) will force us to change our ways and be more innovative in our empire building. Hopefully, our conscience will also tell us how to do that.

And if you three readers out there have any brilliant ideas about how to build an empire without destroying the world on which it depends, please do share! In the meantime, however, here's a free (not funny) pro-environment (anti-Some of Nothing) image for you.

Oh yeah...and don't buy stuff today.

Nothing New byslag at 9:19 AM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

White House Flock

Today, Frank Rich wrote an Op-Ed in the NYTimes stating the obvious fact that the American public is failing to clean up our government's dirty work: "It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day."

Years ago, Seymour Hersh wondered about the stability of our system of government: “That 8 or 9 people can change so much...Where was the military, the Congress, the press? What has happened raises the question about the thinness of the fabric of democracy.

In 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave an historic speech in which he declared, "Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

And way back in the early 1800s, Thomas Jefferson warned us, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

Damn hippies all.

This one's for you, White House Flock.

PS If you've never hear School House Rock Rocks, I recommend checking it out. Pavement played No More Kings on that album.

Nothing New byslag at 5:49 PM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Down with Dumbassery

It's an amazing autumn day here in the city. Trees layered with green, red, and golden leaves line Lake Washington and the sun has burned off most of this morning's marine layer. Four Tower and I drove over the bridge across the lake this morning, listening to NPR on the radio (enjoying This American Life, in spite of the monotonous pledge drive surrounding it). Eventually, we found ourselves listening to a show called Weekend America, which bills itself as "News and analysis, interviews, features, music and commentaries in a fun and engaging style." A few minutes into a segment in which the host brings up a news story and a 3-person panel declares it to be "good news, bad news, or no news," I just lost it.

According to one of their stories, the US government is starting to turn bugs (moths, and the like) into robots that spy on us. And when the host asked his panel what they thought of this story, the general consensus was essentially: no news. Are you f'ing kidding me? Robot bugs that can fly around wherever they're pointed and record your every move, and you have no problem with this? The fact that some of these bugs found their way into an anti-war rally doesn't bother you at all? Nonetheless, it gets worse. One of the panelists, John Ridley, proceeds to proclaim: "People are so 'oh my god, the government and their black helicopters and they're spying on us and this and that'... I would be all in favor of of shutting down warrantless wiretaps and all that if I could find some spot in Los Angeles where some a-hole isn't walking around talking on their cellphone inundating me with half their conversation posting some inane point in their life on YouTube..." Seriously? This is the way this conversation is going to go? This guy's got to be kidding. I sat there patiently listening, waiting for the punchline or for one of the other panelists to step in and help him out of the stupid-hole he found himself in. And my reward for my patience: a pledge drive break. No real response (and they want me to pay them for that)!

I'm shocked. I'm stunned. Here I am listening to N-P-R (that's National PUBLIC Radio) and this guy claims that our loss of privacy, constitutional protections, and general civil liberties are no problem for him because of CELLPHONES and YOUTUBE!!!! And no one calmly and politely asked the most obvious thing in the world: "isn't there a difference between choosing to post a video of yourself on YouTube and having someone else post it for you? Or using this video as a reason to throw you in Guantanamo? Habeas corpus, anyone? Neighbors spying on neighbors? Nazi Germany?". Nothing. I couldn't believe it. I'm screaming at the radio. I feel the rage building up and hear myself sounding like Lewis Black by the time I'm shrieking out: "YOUTUBE!!!!" Part of me wants to go film this guy without his knowledge and post it on YouTube myself. But then I remember: I have ethics. Part of me wants to write NPR a letter. But then I remember: they probably don't have ethics.

I mean, it would be one thing if we lived in a world where dumbassery on this scale were marginalized. This guy says what he says, and because the rest of us are smart, we feel secure in ignoring it because we know no one would believe it. Well, we've tried ignoring this kind of dumbassery for years, and it's gotten us GW Bush and a (still!) 30% approval rating (ignoring dumbassery doesn't make it go away--look at the 700 Club). The next best thing is to show this guy's dumbassery to all the world, and then, make it clear to said world that smart people squash dumbassery like a bug (a tiny, robot spy bug) through intelligent discourse or biting/witty remarks (Daily Show-style). This strategery has obvious potential. But the good people at [Weekend America] do none of it. They just let it float out there like a life-raft to which other dumbasses can cling for survival (Fox "News"-style). (I know there's a more appropriate analogy having to do with floating things in a toilet bowl to be made, but I'm above that.) So what do I do?

Thanks to Al Gore (only half-kidding), I come here. I post my outrage for my three readers to enjoy/ignore. Hopefully, maybe one of those three readers will get a tiny bit outraged themselves. Maybe that outraged reader is a blogger who will post his/her own outrage for his/her plethora of readers. And so on. And maybe then, a lot of us will get outraged and email a representative or two, letting them know that we expect them to protect our civil liberties, and that if they fail us again, it will be for the last time (wishing I could do Darth-voiceover here). Gore calls the Internet a great force for democracy; I call it a great force against dumbassery. But to be effective as either, it needs to remain unified and as free as we can possibly make it.

Besides, maybe it's the beauty of the autumn leaves talking, but it seems to me that Mozilla could easily beat out Mothra the Robot Spy. In a fair fight, that is.

PS For the last few months, I've been racking my brain trying to come up with a pro-freedom image and all those I've come up with are either lame or have been done already (and are also lame). Thoughts? Also, I still haven't put this One-Web image on any stylish democratic apparel because I'm still a bit ambivalent. Thoughts on that?

Nothing New byslag at 11:36 AM 6 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

It Don't Mean a Thing...

if all you do is swing.

My first realistically styled image. I currently have no commercial aspirations for this image (other than I think it would be a good desk game).


Nothing New byslag at 3:51 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

You Know You're an Ideologue When

As much as we hate to admit it, ideologues aren't just a problem in the neocon ranks. Liberals also have their share. Here's a handy test to help you determine if you're an ideologue (or have ideological-? tendencies).

Q: When you hear a neocon say: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life," do either of these images of said neocon pop into your mind:

? If so, it may be time to look at the other side for a while.

PS I tend to lean toward the latter image myself, but only in my more cynical moments do I see it as reality.

Nothing New byslag at 9:15 AM 3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Love is all Around, No Need to Waste it

Ever have one of those days of feeling inexplicably ineffectual/clueless/hungry. Well, I'm having one of those days (and it's only 9am). So, in the hopes that gravity will help turn that frown upside down, I'm going to go do downward facing dog (yoga, readers, yoga). But first, I want to share some love.

1. Love out to both Gye Greene at Gye Greene's Thoughts and Ms. Place at Jane Austen Today for giving a shoutout to our 6-bullet point expose on why men should read Jane Austen.

2. Love out to Evil Spock at The Needs of the Few for being the referring source for our terror alert (and for his great post about Bush's veto of SCHIP).

3. Love out to those that inspire us here at Some of Nothing. (most recently: Jon Stewart for making me both laugh out loud and want to cry when trashing Chris Matthews for his philosophy of life and his book, Life's a Campaign. Yet again, Stewart speaks for the peeps and brings the funny along with it.)

PS I set up this Jiglu tagging function on the blog (the reason that seemingly random words get underlined). Somehow, it counts "frown upside" as a "topic". For this and other reasons, I'm thinking of ditching it. Thoughts?

Nothing New byslag at 9:00 AM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

I Know What You Did Last September

NOTE: Part (or all) of the following post may disturb/bore some readers

This year's People Talking and Singing (an 826 benefit) is fast approaching, a fact which has got me reminiscing about last year's benefit. Last September, John Hodgman MC'd, and Dave Eggers, Sarah Vowell, Daniel Handler (...) talked, while the leads from Death Cab for Cutie and the Decemberists (...) sang. (it was actually more involved than this, but you get the idea.) In the end, witty jokes were made, good music was played, and a jolly time was had by all. Little did I know then that, a year later, I would be privy to the knowledge that this event concealed a dark secret.

At one point during last year's benefit, we were all asked to dig into our wallets and toss a few dollars into the buckets being passed through the audience by Vowell, Eggers, and others. After this time, the bucket carriers disappeared back stage to count the cash while Hodgman kept the entertainment and wit flowing. Eventually, a tally was produced and Sarah Vowell and Dave Eggers came out to present it. During this presentation, Sarah Vowell proudly exclaimed that she both counted her own bucket and faced her bills. We then laughed at this charming example of Vowell's down-to-earth humility and accounting prowess. Little did many of us know then what I'm about to tell you now.

It was a LIE.

That's right. Sarah Vowell neither counted nor faced her bills.

Now, I am well aware that you're utterly shocked by this unforeseen disclosure and are thinking to yourself: "WTF, Slag? Who gives a damn whether or not Vowell faced her bills?!?! It's not like she stole money or anything. She was just being funny."

That's true, but my impression of Sarah Vowell is sullied nonetheless, and whenever I hear her on This American Life, I'm going to think: liar (or at least, disingenuous-er). This annoys me. I'd like to think that my irritation stems, in part, from the fact that bad behavior (such as lying, eating with one's mouth open, and preemptively invading sovereign nations under false pretenses) is uncommon and, therefore, noteworthy. However, so many people, organizations, and axes-of-evil have dropped off my christmas card list because of bad behavior that I've lost count. And as such, my Cone of Happiness gets smaller and smaller every time someone like Vowell tells a lie.

Sure, you're now thinking: "What about Bill (Clinton)? He lied, and you still bake him Gingrich-shaped cookies every holiday."

First, I must correct you: For the sake of Bill's health, I have switched to knitting him nativities. Second, while I do still blame Bill for lying jackassery, my Cone of Happiness remains somewhat unshrunk by his bad behavior. This is partly because the Cone of Happiness grows as well as shrinks. Bill's presidency grew it when he helped bring our attention to Al Gore, Robert Reich, and the thumb, and these great things offset his more minor shrink-inducing bad behavior. More importantly, however, this lack of happiness shrinkage also stems from the fact that I tend to allow those who more significantly impact my life to be more dimensional (almost human, even). Instead of idealizing (another word for "ignoring") them, I tend to scrutinize them. Like children, we all get accustomed to being smiled and coo-ed at all the time and, as a result, may sometimes misbehave just to get actual attention. It is in my own best interest to expect bad behavior from powerful people, and it is in theirs to expect my criticism. As a result, knitivities--as well as needles--go to Bill during the holidays.

This begs the question: "So, when Sarah Vowell becomes president or has some other significant impact, will your hyper-judgmental mind then make room for her little falsehood?"

Probably. What kind of cookies does she like?

PS As I promised in one of my comments to GyeGreene, here is a Venn diagram illustrating the projected popularity of this design. I've determined that its simplicity, combined with its message, would most likely appeal to the shopping, hipster, Some of Nothing geek crowd (designated by "I shop", The Kinks Jam cd, and Dispense Karmic Justice logo, respectively). With a magnifying glass, you can see that the size of this group is fairly small (me). Let the empiring begin!

Nothing New byslag at 4:00 PM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Sphere My Taj?

So, as my few readers (aka, "the faithful") are aware, we, at Some of Nothing, are in the process of building an empire. One component of said empire involves graphic design. Faithful readers are also aware that because we're cheap, we don't have PhotoShop, and instead, use Fireworks (from like 4 years ago) and the GIMP (free gnu goodness) to create our designs.

Today in the GIMP (which sounds vaguely inappropriate), I was looking for an easy way to shape a graphic like a sphere. I go to the filters menu, and there's a sphere filter. A ha! However, when I use the sphere filter, all I seem to get is the shape of a sphere on top of my graphic--no filter--and my spidey sense tells me I must be doing something wrong (unlike all the rest of the time when my spidey sense tells me how right I am). Off to the online GIMP tutorial, I find this handy page that talks all about applying the sphere filter. Scrolling down to find out where I've gone wrong, I come across this image:
No faithful readers, this is not a joke. For all those times you want to replace your picture of the Taj Mahal with a giant sphere, the GIMP is your program.

ps: The GIMP does actually offer a way to do what I want to do. I just thought this was hilarious.

Nothing New byslag at 6:56 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

And It's Not Even Sunday: Google v MSN Tech Support Smackdown

Many of you know that I'm not a religious person (in spite of the fact that I do attend the church of pugilism fairly regularly). However, when I found the church of Googlism and read their proofs, I was converted (besides, pugilism and Googlism kind of rhyme, so it's not entirely blasphemous). And in honor of the occasion, I shinied up my Microsoft mosquito design (improved font + some mosquito alterations) and would like to spend a few precious lines discussing my feelings about the Google v. Microsoft debate.

In geek-land (where all three of my readers live, I'm sure), it's de rigueur to bash the evil empire whenever possible. Microsofties say that this is because the empire is so powerful and that it's human nature to fight the man. Poppycock. We, at Some of Nothing, have nothing against power (when it's on our side) and empire-building (we're trying to do it ourselves). However, despite the negative impact it might have on our empire's sales, our products are not available in MSN Live, but they are in Google. Why? Well, when trying to get products into each search engine, I had the opportunity of interacting with tech support for both Google and MSN. Here's what I found:

1. For both companies, it was equally difficult to figure out how to submit an issue to tech support (geeks of geekland call this "submitting a ticket").
2. However, when I submitted a ticket to Google, I had a live person look into my issue and resolve it for me. But at MSN, I received a stock reply in no way addressing the details of my issue and directing me to the help menu (which they would have known, had they read my inquiry, was no help).
3. Subsequently, I received a survey from each company asking how their tech support performed. Google's survey was straightforward, user-friendly, and problem-free. MSN's was ridiculously long, repetitive, and filled with technical glitches (after all the time I spent filling it out, it was hard to submit the damn thing!).

Keep in mind these three items are specifically relating to my interaction with tech support. I won't go into the details of trying to navigate MSN Live, encountering three different error "messages" (there was actually not much message in these messages) when trying to do the same thing in three different browsers, and the failures I encountered when trying to use their ftp function. Plus, I can't even view my website in IE 7 because they stopped developing IE for Mac at version 5! (whew! that felt good.)

Nonetheless, faithful readers who have been privy to my previous experiences with Google may be wondering why this sudden conversion. Well, there are two possible explanations:
1. My sleep deprivation has made me much more suggestible.
2. No deity is perfect.
I present; you decide.

Nothing New byslag at 11:50 AM 3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Time for a Change in Strategery

Here's the deal. For the past few weeks I've been getting about 4 hours of sleep per night (and in some cases, per morning). And since I'm not Martha Stewart, this change in sleep schedule has taken its toll. So much so that this morning, I didn't get up until 8:30, and even then, it was most reluctantly (for you late-risers, 8:30 is practically noon--or at least, late morning--for someone like me). Hence, before I start trading insider stock secrets and lying to the feds about it, I figure that it's time for a change in strategery.

You may not realize it, but you three readers out there have been getting a lot for your money (the secret to every great empire's success: make sure customers feel they're paying a lot for what little they get). I'm pretty new at all this, and between creating graphics, content, and a website; doing empire-related administration (aka plotting to take over the world); volunteering at 826; and being continually infuriated by the state of the nation, I'm worn out. And to top it off, I have a confession to make: the blog doesn't receive the full weight of my genius (hard to tell, I know). Several of my (what I perceive to be more hack-ish) designs have bypassed the blog and gone straight to the store. And my smaller revisions, based on your comments as well as my own, rarely make it here at all-- unless they're timely or highly relevant to a message. This brings me to said strategery shift.

As you see here, I'm posting a moderately revised version of a recent image--the one that hit the press. That's strategery shift #1--there will be more of this. Number two is that my posts will probably be shorter. This is for your benefit as well as my own. I need to tighten things up a bit, and a self-imposed word limit may help. And along with being shorter, I'm going to try to simplify them and round them out a bit. Finally, there will probably be slightly fewer of them since I need to re-focus some attention to my website for a while. I'm going to shoot for 5/week instead of my original goal (7).

All this boils down to one thing: I'm going to try to improve quality by reducing quantity. And when quality improves, I'll try to bring quantity back up. Sound fair?

Nothing New byslag at 9:20 AM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Get a Brain Morans: Why Little Mistakes are Only Sometimes Funny

NOTE: This is my first post to feature an image not created by me. You'll find out why I used it at the end.

At the risk of diminishing my generally flagging credibility, I want to relate a story. A most observant reader emailed me to let me know of a spelling error in one of my posts. He prefaced his email by telling me that he was sorry to point it out, and that he makes his share of spelling errors, etc. In my (typically long-winded) response, I said something along these lines (edited for this medium):

You're right, [most observant reader]. And no need to apologize. I have fixed the mistake, but my carelessness does not affect my self-esteem. I know some people view it as paradoxical that I (a former English major) know the rules but am not really bothered by the fact that I sometimes accidentally break one. I think it's because I understand something of the process that our minds go through when writing, and a spelling or grammatical error does not necessarily indicate ignorance or stupidity. In fact, as I've observed in my own mistakes, quite often it is more the result of a combination of fatigue and the [seemingly] arbitrary nature of the rules themselves. I remember in college, I would stay up late writing papers and find myself sounding like an ESL student because of all the grammar errors (even going so far as to use the wrong prepositions in places :). [Of course, to preserve my reputation (and grades) I would go back to fix said errors in the editing process--usually in the 20 minutes before the papers were due.] And then, I would go to work tutoring ESL students struggling to understand the rules of English grammar and totally empathize.

Maybe I should blog about this...

So, here I am, blogging about this. And my observations are as follows: When teaching spelling and grammar rules in grade school, time and resource (and sometimes knowledge) constraints often force educators to resort to using the reductive technique of memorization. Consequently, instead of understanding the history and logic behind rules, we simply just memorize the rules themselves. As a consequence, if we learn incorrect information the first time or if the rules change later, we have to go back and re-memorize. Obviously I'm not a neuroscientist, but it seems logical to infer the following: the fact that we don't forget the original information indicates that the new information is actually stored elsewhere in our brains and then we re-set the pathways we use to access it accordingly. And when we're tired/upset/distracted, we simply may be more likely to use the older pathway as opposed to the newer one (instead of eating "comfort food" we make "comfort mistakes"?). To make a long story short (which I think it's too late for), accidentally switching back to the old pathway from time to time doesn't seem that hard to do, and it doesn't necessarily indicate ignorance/stupidity since--bizarrely enough--it's evidence that we're actually retaining MORE information on the subject than we would if we didn't have the original info in the first place. And generally, when other people make a simple mistake, I am not particularly concerned about or amused by it, so why should I be mortified when I do it myself?

Now, here are the two reasons I included the "Get a Brain (!) Morans" picture in this post instead of one of my own creations:
1. This picture is funny. Not because the guy in it made a mistake. It's funny because the guy was being jerk and also because the guy's mistake was ironic given the point he was trying to make. In other words, mistakes are most often funny when we don't like the people who made them and, even more so, when they're absurdly contrary to the intentions of said people. (another example that fits this paradigm: Bush's "Childrens do learn" quote when giving a speech on edumacation--although that could be construed as sad/pathetic, but that's for another topic).
2. This picture is so funny that nothing I could produce on this topic would surpass its funniness.

There. A really long post about mistakes. Happy now, [most observant reader]? (i.e., look what you made me do!)

PS-Here's a link within an amazing site dedicated to helping people understand more about the brain. Also, if you happen to be a neuroscientist, please feel free to correct any of my logical errors with actual facts.

Nothing New byslag at 11:14 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Big Heads, Small Minds: Shiny, Happy People

This one was re-inspired by Rush Limbaugh. That little rock is a little brain. I know it's hard to discern that, but I was trying to keep Limbaugh's brain size proportional to his head size, and there's only so much space on a computer screen to work with. That poor little mind just can't seem to get off the ground! Minsky would call that level of thought "level 1: innate reactions." I considered including Minsky's six thought levels in the graphic but felt like it would mix too many metaphors. What do you think?

In case you're wondering about the smiley face, I feel like we're back in the late 60's so it seems the right symbol to use for these times. I use it to illustrate the empty happy feeling that people get when they just shut down and stop paying attention to the world around them. Very appropriate for the war "crusaders" such as Limbaugh and Bush. Remember Bush and his sunbeam rug? In fact, now that I bring it up, here's something that I've been meaning to do for a while:Shiny, happy people waging war. Who knew?

I present; you decide.

Nothing New byslag at 3:36 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Rush Limbaugh + Army of Dude + Newton's Cradle = Cynicism

Well, here it is: your moment of cynicism. But first some stream-of-consciousness rambling.

A couple of days ago, I met an amazing blog called Army of Dude. As I've gotten older, I've realized that don't go in for America's militaristic culture, so, at first, I was skeptical. No offense intended to His Dudeness (or Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing), it's just that, as the dude seems to understand, this type of culture tends to lead to a "might makes right" attitude, which doesn't always jive. Nonetheless, my curiosity overcame my skepticism when I read the following passage in one of the dude's posts:

When I was a kid I watched Rush with my dad every morning when he was still on TV and always found him pretty funny and clever. Over the years I didn't have a very concrete opinion about him, I just knew him as the kooky conservative radio host who defended Bush at every turn (and hey, so did I). What did Rush and I have to lose when the war in Iraq started in 2003? I didn't have any family in the military, and all my friends were too young to even enlist. Why not go kick the shit out of a country, as long as someone else was doing it?

This was the last time Rush and I would agree on the war, so here's my opinion of you, Rush: you're as smart, selfless and courageous as I was as a 17 year old high school senior.

This captivated me for the simple fact that the dude and I had the exact same childhood experience. I was the dude; the dude was me. OK, technically, my situation involved my mother listening to Rush on the radio in the car, but the experience was the same. And while, at 17, I was "too cool for politics" and only vaguely interested, I distinctly remember getting that funny discordant feeling that one gets (and often suppresses) when hearing something that seems wrong or somehow incomplete but is unclear as to why. And instead of questioning it (everyone at age 17 knows you can't lie on the radio; plus, he seemed so SURE of himself), I just chalked it up to the notion that Rush, and my parents, knew something that I didn't. So: Why not invade Iraq (Bush Sr.)?!? I hear they have great stuff we might want!

Well, the interesting aspect of this is (yes, there is actually an interesting aspect): I ended up in college and the dude ended up in the army, but we both came to the same place in our thinking--Rush Limbaugh is an elephant's ass. Apparently, either the commi-pinko academics that brainwashed me also served some time in Iraq with the dude (Professors Without Borders?) or there's something more significant at work here. And in spite of the fact that the dude has expressed it with much more eloquence and skill than I ever could (that's $50,000 in tuition costs I'll never get back), I decided to create this basic instructional image, derivative of work from another person much more skilled and eloquent than me (our good friend, Sir Isaac Newton), to try to add something to the discussion.

[UPDATE (to help Republicans get it):]
People like Rush Limbaugh want us to be categorized and want us to think that those categories dictate our belief systems. According to this mindset, the Dude's experiences should make him a dittohead. But the Dude is a free-thinker who refuses to conform to any prescribed ideology. He does not get pushed around by a particular party or group. He is not a tool. [/UPDATE]

This image is one of those in which the subject matter--the pendulum of politics--is so well-trodden that it simply must have been done before. Nonetheless, a half-hearted google search on it proved fruitless, so here we are. The basic concept: one party swings which makes the other party swing in the opposite direction, and those in the middle get blithely jostled around. Of course, things are more complicated than this graphic conveys, but work with me, I'm going for succinct here. Clearly, this image has a first-draft quality to it, so it should probably get some stylizing (does the word "hackneyed" cover it?). Any suggestions on that front would be most helpful! Secondly, I'm not sure how I feel about its aura of cynicism. I hate giving people an excuse to opt out of important national and international discussions, and I'm concerned that representations such as this one do just that. With that said, it feels so accurate to me. Conflicted and tired, I present; you decide.

PS If you have read this post and are at all wondering (as I am) why the last few paragraphs are all scrunched up: blockquote. I don't get it, but it seems to be the problem.

Nothing New byslag at 9:40 AM 7 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Breast Cancer Fact and Fiction

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I decided to rev up my Racin' for Pinks design for the occasion. Rather than go on and on about how many people the disease affects (is there anyone who isn't affected by it?) or how to detect it, I figured I'd just link to this article from the Chicago Tribune. The article discusses a few common breast cancer fallacies. I was surprised by some of what I read. You might be too.

So, what do you think of the design? Too cheesy? It's hard to tell, but there are tiny pink ribbons driving the cars. Probably not worth the time it took, but at least they're there.

Nothing New byslag at 9:32 PM 3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

TV or Not TV (Jon Stewart and Existential Media)

I spent some time this weekend learning about Squidoo, and in the process of creating a lens about Humor in Politics, my love-hate relationship with the teevee was reignited. Embedding YouTube clips of Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire and of Stephen Colbert's GW roast at the White House Correspondence Dinner, along with presenting fond memories of political undertones throughout Arrested Development's short run, reminded me both how powerful and how frustrating this medium can be. Because although Crossfire was canceled, CNN is still a relative wasteland of OJ stories, and although Arrested Development was glorious, its tenure was brief and witnessed by so very few. And if these recollections weren't enough, I then watched an online clip of the Daily Show's Headline--Pasghetti Western--where Stewart discusses a reality show in which kids are given a choice between getting an outhouse and a television set. His remark, "It's a tough call: A box of sh-t. Or an outhouse," made me laugh out loud and then recall that the only reason I ever considered getting tv reception was for The Daily Show. Hence, these graphics.For the style of the images, I was going for a bit of an existential caricature. The reason for this is partly what I talked about above and partly the fact that Americans spend so much time with, and get so invested in, the tele that it really does help make up who they are as people on a day-to-day basis. A little reminiscent of some of the French New Wave films I watched in college, I still wanted to keep the designs from being too obtuse by using straightforward captions. Not sure if that worked or not. And even if the entire design concept for these images isn't completely obvious, I'm wondering if they succeed in their own right (as visually interesting and relatively smile-worthy). I present; you decide.

BTW--Other great tv from now and times past that is neglected here:
Stephen Colbert (obviously),
Mary Tyler Moore,
Burns and Allen,
West Wing,
Star Trek,
Firefly, BVS, and just about anything by Joss Whedon,
Season 1 of Veronica Mars,
And season 1 (and supposedly later seasons but I stopped watching after the stupid arrow episode) of the later version of Battlestar Galactica.
Hopefully, if my empire succeeds, I will get to honor all of these great shows in due time. Stay tuned...

Nothing New byslag at 10:37 AM 3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

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