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Archive for March, 2008

Maureen Dowd Doesn’t Get It

Posted by samgr on March 31, 2008

From Maureen Dowd’s column yesterday:

Obama, like the preternaturally gifted young heroes in mythical tales, is still learning to channel his force. He can ensorcell when he has to, and he has viral appeal. Who else could alchemize a nuanced 40-minute speech on race into must-see YouTube viewing for 20-year-olds?

Gah, say I. You don’t need the Force, you just need not to be full of shit. Obama’s race speech was not widely viewed on YouTube because of mysterious magic youthy sex appeal, it was widely viewed because Obama wasn’t bullshitting. He acknowledged complexities and refused to reduce everything to black and white, in a way that OTHER POLITICIANS AREN’T DOING. To reduce this to “alchemy” or “the Force” is idiotic, and diminishes both Obama and the 20-year-olds that Dowd is claiming to understand. The “YouTube generation” (or whatever) isn’t stupid, or, more accurately, is no more stupid than everyone else in the world.

I used to like Maureen Dowd, but perpetual cattiness is hard to take, paired with her weird propensity to constantly toss out as many cultural references as possible in every single column.



Posted in Maureen Dowd, Obama, politics | 4 Comments »

Literary Haikus: The Diary of Anne Frank (In Poor Taste)

Posted by samgr on March 25, 2008

The Diary of Anne Frank

Dear Kitty, I have
a crush on every boy.
Ack… (dead of typhus).

Posted in Anne Frank, books, haikus | 2 Comments »

Literary Haikus: The Last Battle

Posted by samgr on March 24, 2008

The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis

“We love Narnia!”
“Good, ’cause you’re dead and can’t leave.
P.S. I’m Jesus.”

Posted in books, C.S. Lewis, haikus | Leave a Comment »

Literary Haikus: No Country for Old Men

Posted by samgr on March 24, 2008

No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

Hey, I found some cash.
Sure, I’ll bring you some water.
Aaah! Shit shit shit shit!

Posted in books, Cormac McCarthy, haikus | Leave a Comment »

Titan Ocean! OMG!

Posted by samgr on March 20, 2008

I try to avoid writing posts that are just a link and commentary, but this is really cool. Analysis of Cassini data suggests that there might be a liquid water ocean under Titan’s mushy surface. If this is true, I think Titan just scooted in front of Europa as the best possible place to look for extraterrestrial life in our solar system. Titan is full of organic molecules, and the combination of organics and warm(ish) liquid water is pretty hopeful.

The downside is: how are we gonna build stuff there now? I’d always liked the idea of Titan as a place to colonize- Earthlike atmospheric pressure so we can build huge domes, availability of chemicals needed for agriculture, etc. But that’s no good if when we try to build a house on what we thought was the surface, it’ll sink through the crust with a loud SHLOOP and disappear into several miles of ocean. D’oh.

UPDATE: According to the NYTimes, the icy layer on top of the ocean is actually 50 or 60 miles thick, so maybe it’s not so much of an issue that things will shloop through it. Also, this says that Europa is still a better bet for life because the water has contact with volcanic rock, which would provide an energy source. What I don’t get is that if the water on Titan ISN’T heated by the core, where does the heat come from and why is it liquid…

Posted in science, space, Titan | 1 Comment »


Posted by samgr on March 20, 2008

I’m worried that people are trying to turn me into a commodity. I think it’s possible that nothing has actually happened since 1928, and everything since then has been someone’s dystopian warning. I think men should wear skirts and makeup like Eddie Izzard. I met someone with no soul on a ferry. He was an Italian doctor and a dog in a carrier wouldn’t stop barking because he knew there was something wrong. I felt sick for a day after seeing him.

Posted in Eddie Izzard, evil | Leave a Comment »

Here’s an Important Question…

Posted by samgr on March 19, 2008

So here’s an important (but possibly dumb) question. How much radiation does melanin shield you from? What I’m getting at is this: let’s say a gamma ray burst hit the earth and wiped out a lot of our ozone layer. Would people with darker skin be better protected? Would humans all evolve to be black? Someone please answer this; I was wondering about it in the shower.

Also, let’s say we colonize (and maybe terraform) Mars. Since it has lower gravity and much more radiation, would Martians end up looking like Masai: really tall and really dark? Or is that a totally different kind of radiation than the kind melanin blocks?

Posted in Mars, science, space | Leave a Comment »

How About UNDERrated Books?

Posted by samgr on March 11, 2008

I was going to write about more things I thought were overrated, but I couldn’t go through with it. I’ve decided that talking about things that are UNDERrated is less misanthropic. You can make the point that a lot of people don’t know about something, rather than helpfully pointing out that you are right and everyone else is wrong.

Anyway, my underrated book nomination is Loving, by Henry Green. It’s probably one of my favorite… I dunno… four or five books I’ve ever read, and not many people have even heard of it. It’s about a manor house in Ireland during World War II, and it’s written in this pretty much indescribable style — strange and sparse, mostly dialogue, but also occasionally wildly lyrical and descriptive to the point of being bizarre. The tone actually reminds me of Shirley Jackson, although I’m not sure why; it’s obviously not a horror book in any way.

Come to think of it, I may not be using “underrated” correctly. I think there are probably not many people who have read Loving and think it’s bad… Whatever, the real title of this post should be “Loving: A Book that I Like.”

Seriously though, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is stupid.

“Come along then.” said Jonathan. “Climb with me away from the ground, and we’ll begin.”
“You don’t understand. My wing. I can’t move my wing.”
“Maynard Gull, you have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way. It is the Law of the Great Gull, the Law that Is.”
“Are you saying I can fly?”
“I say you are free.”


Posted in books, Henry Green, reviews, Shirley Jackson | 2 Comments »

Overrated Books

Posted by samgr on March 10, 2008

I just read this NYTimes blog post about overrated books. I think the whole exercise is a little nasty; by definition, calling things overrated is kind of saying that you’re right and everyone else is wrong, but it’s irresistible anyway. My sole nomination, for now, is Jonathan Livingston Seagull... if that even counts as a book.

Posted in books | Leave a Comment »