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Audrey Totter, RIP

[ 9 ] December 14, 2013 |

One of the great women of film noir has passed. She’s perhaps best known for her work in Lady in the Lake, which is famous primarily for being shot entirely from the perspective of Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe. It’s a gimmick and it doesn’t totally work but it’s hardly uninteresting.

Tools of the Day

[ 32 ] December 14, 2013 |

First we have Larry Summers, for calling for university presidents to not fund faculty who want to attend the American Studies Association meeting. If the ASA had instead pushed to send toxic waste to Africa, Summers would be lauding the organization. It’s hard to see a stronger argument in favor of the ASA boycott than irritating Summers.

Second, there’s Ed Schultz, a fine hypocrite on unions. And really, Schultz is so terrible anyway. If you asked me which MSNBC host would be a total hypocrite in real life, I would have said Schultz before you could finish the question. And so he is.

Old Hoss Radbourn Reviews ESPN’s Top 100 Players

[ 140 ] December 13, 2013 |

A year ago yesterday, ESPN ranked its top 100 baseball players of all time. @oldhossradbourn provided running commentary. I had not seen it all collected into one site until now. A few highlights:

83. M. McGwire. Would be ranked higher but angered all the scribes when the fellatio they gave him in 1998 gave them oral cancer in 2005.

67. M. Rivera. Aided by guts, courage, and by being a 1/4 time player in a masturbatory media market which needed to pen a hagiography.

9. M. Mantle. American hero who never lived up to his talents or the money lavished on him, much like the generation which venerated him.

48. L. Jones. Remember when he hit .364 as a broken 36-year-old and faced no scrutiny? It’s nice to be white.

56. “Yogi” Berra. Italian catcher, the worst of two worlds. Yet it is fun to throw things at Italians. Cursed us all with his son, Dale.

There are many good ones to choose from.

Everything in the Oceans is Dying

[ 57 ] December 13, 2013 |

In comments yesterday, duck-billed placelot pointed me to a truly terrifying story. Basically all the starfish in the northern Pacific are disintegrating.

It’s normal for a tiny portion of starfish populations to suffer from so-called “wasting syndrome.” If the creatures’ skin is wounded or becomes too dry, little lesions can become infected and lead to the loss of arms. But the disease is typically isolated to one or two starfish among hundreds in a rocky tide pool. And even in bad cases, it rarely stretches beyond a single population. “The spatial extent is unprecedented,” says Pete Raimondi, chair of the ecology and evolutionary biology department at UC Santa Cruz, which monitors starfish populations on the West Coast. “If it’s as extensive as it looks like it is, then we’re talking about a loss of millions and millions.”

While starfish—which scientists call sea stars to avoid the misconception that they are actually fish—often recover from the lesions, infections on the West Coast are proving lethal. Populations of starfish monitored by Raimondi have essentially disappeared over a period of months. “They will start losing arms or bits of arms and in the end, they kind of disintegrate … into a gooey mess,” he says. An individual sea star may go from whole to remains in a period of days. Though starfish generally have the ability to grow new arms, in these cases wounds don’t heal and innards become exposed as the animal falls apart.

Nobody really knows what’s going on. Quite possibly it is related to climate change and warming water temperatures, making starfish, like bats and frogs, a whole group of animals that could be driven to extinction within a few decades. Some have speculated it is Fukushima radiation, but that reeks of knee-jerk conspiracy theory. Could be a freak bacteria or virus, and of course such things are always possible, such as the contagious cancer wiping out Tasmanian devils that seems to be wholly unconnected to human behavior.

Either way, given the centrality of starfish to the North Pacific tidal ecosystem, this could be disastrous for a number of species. Not to mention make visiting tide pools pointless.

As I said yesterday, I assume everyone paying attention to what is going on with the oceans drinks heavily. This news should make everyone start doing shots right now.

Santa and the Finns

[ 112 ] December 13, 2013 |

Since the world is now obsessing over Santa’s whiteness, or really more specifically just how racist is Megyn Kelly, it’s worth noting that even if Santa is Scandinavian we can legimiately question his whiteness. After all, if it wasn’t for a totally bogus 1908 court decision, we wouldn’t consider the Finns white and thus whiteness would still be pure.

The Holy Mother

[ 5 ] December 12, 2013 |

The only known recording of Mother Jones for your Thursday night. This is from an interview on what she claimed was her 100th birthday in 1930. She did exaggerate her age somewhat and when she died that year, it is thought she was actually 93.

Today from the Defenders of Christmas

[ 171 ] December 12, 2013 |

Remember everyone, Santa and Jesus were both as white as any Mitt Romney campaign rally.

Cartels and Fuel

[ 29 ] December 12, 2013 |

Once again, the legalization of drugs in the United States is going to have only a minimal impact on organized crime in Mexico.

Millions of gallons of illegal petrol are flowing into Guatemala from Mexico each week, part of a highly lucrative regional trade that authorities are struggling to combat.

Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said the trade is controlled by organized crime groups, which use the contraband fuel to turn profit and are thought to launder the money by building new gas stations, reported La Hora. He did not specify which groups were involved, but expressed doubt over earlier suggestions that Mexican criminal group the Zetas were responsible for much of the trade.

According to Bonilla, 65 “blind spots” have been identified along the more than 500 mile border between the two countries, through which contraband goods flow, with “eight or nine” of them thought to be used to move illegal fuel.

Of course, given that Mexico can’t even keep its radioactive material safe from theft, once questions the government’s ability and/or willingness to take something like on.

What actually would have a much greater impact is tightening gun laws in the United States, but forget about that ever happening.

Everything in the Oceans is Dying

[ 36 ] December 12, 2013 |

I assume anyone paying attention to what is happening to the ocean ecosystem also drinks heavily.

Comedy of the New Gilded Age

[ 11 ] December 11, 2013 |

Distressing that this joke actually resonates:

According to Kennedy, one of the most pressing concerns associated with rapid aristocratization is the drastic transformation of the metropolitan landscape in a way that fails to maximize livable space.

A three-block section of [Chicago neighborhood] Wicker Park that once accommodated eight families, two vintage clothing stores, a French cleaners, and a gourmet bakery has been completely razed to make way for a private livery stable and carriage house,” Kennedy said. “The space is now entirely unusable for affordable upper-income condominium housing. No one can live there except for the odd stable boy or footman who gets permission to sleep in the hayloft.”

Many of those affected by the ostentatious reshaping of their once purely upmarket neighborhoods said that they often wish for a return back to the privileged communities they helped to overdevelop just a few years ago. Among the first to feel the effects of the encroaching aristocracy have been local business owners like Fort Greene, Brooklyn resident Neil Getz.

“Around here, you used to be able to get a Fair-Trade latte and a chocolate-chip croissant for only eight bucks,” said Getz, who is planning to move back in with his parents after being forced out of the lease on his organic grocery store by a harpsichord purveyor. “Now it’s all tearooms and private salon gatherings catered with champagne and suckling pig. Who can afford that?”

The Real War on Christmas

[ 98 ] December 11, 2013 |

Forget O’Reilly’s fears of liberals saying “Happy Holidays” to each other. There was a real war on Christmas in this country and it was waged by those lovely people who settled in New England, the Puritans.

For the Puritans — in England and in the New England colonies — Christmas was a, well, un-Christian imposition on what should be a perfectly normal December 25th, thank you very much. Sure, the Sabbath was holy, Puritans believed, but there was no scriptural basis for celebrating or resting on Christmas Day. It wasn’t a real religious holiday.

Here’s why. Increase Mather, who was the Puritan Michael Jordan of hating Christmas, grumbled in 1687 :

The early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.

Pagan holidays are pretty fun, and Saturnalia was an absolute bonanza of revelry. So you can see why Western society was keen on keeping it around by aligning a celebration of the birth of Jesus with the existing winter feast. But not Increase.

Particularly upsetting to Increase Mather was the tradition of inversion associated with the holiday. Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle For Christmas goes into this in much more detail, but essentially, English Christmas at the time was all about class inversion, as was the pagan Saturnalia festival. Children served as bishops, servants as masters, that sort of thing. That inversion carried over into the exchange of goods (presents) from the rich to the poor, as a much more aggressive prototype of what we might recognize as charitable giving — think drunk, adult, trick-or-treating. And of course, there was feasting and drinking. It was fun, different from the everyday, and could get a little bit scary. In a way, Increase and his ilk were right: the rituals of Christmas had little to do in particular with Christianity.

Fun people.

The Final Evidence

[ 77 ] December 10, 2013 |

I guess conservatives were right. Obama is an islamofascistcommunistnazisocialistkenyanusurpertraitortoamerica.

The president shaking hands with the great evil dictator of a nation 90 miles to our south? What kind of horror is this? Who will protect the nation from the great threat Cuba offers to our democracy? What would Ronald Reagan do? Oh yeah, I guess he’d send an envoy to do this:

Totally different of course.

The right wing reactions to this are going to make for a popcorn-filled day on the intertubes.

Also, when I typed in “Obama Castro handshake” into Google Images for the first picture, the autocorrect came up as “Obama Castro similarities.” I don’t even want to know what kind of searches led to that insanity.

….The predicted idiocy has begun.

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