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Archives for January, 2009

January 30, 2009

Should Pete Stark hand over his crown?

Daniel Radosh

atheism_leads_to_civil_war.jpg Two years ago, California Congressman Pete Stark became America's highest-ranking atheist when he affirmed to the Secular Coalition of America that he is a Unitarian Universalist who does not believe in a supreme being. Recently the SCA claimed that 22 other lawmakers privately confessed their non-belief, but until they grow some balls (or ovaries, as the case may be), the title goes to Stark.

Or does it? In an article about Ted Kaufman, who as of Jan. 15 is keeping Delaware's Senate seat warm for Beau Biden, the New York Times reports: "What he calls his 'humanistic' way of thinking he attributes largely to his Irish Catholic mother, a teacher, and his father, a secular Jew, a social worker and his hero."

That's not a hundred percent clear. It is possible to be a religious humanist, or a humanistic deist. But most self-declared Humanistic Jews wouldn't fall into those categories. At the very least, the SCA ought to send Kaufman one of their surveys. It should be noted that the group originally went in search of "the highest level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States," (emphasis mine), and Kaufman was appointed. Since part of the issue is that professing nontheists can't get elected in America, that's a useful distinction. But surely it would help to show the citizens of this great nation that, yes, an atheist can serve in high office with honor and distinction. So long as by "honor and distinction" you mean keeping the seat warm for Beau Biden.

The other day, Andrew Sullivan ran an idiotic letter asserting that atheists identify themselves by what they don't believe in because "it's a really cool way to get into the conversation in such a way that everyone has to defend their positions except you -- you get to attack." It concluded, "Atheists should be forced to articulate their positive position (say, secular humanism) as price of admission to the conversation."

Now, I don't know how this guy proposes to force anyone to articulate anything. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!) But the truth is he's just wrong. Most atheists are delighted for the opportunity to let people know that they have positive positions on Life, the Universe and Everything. Many of us refuse to call ourselves atheists for precisely that reason. When evangelical Christians ask me if I'm a believer, I always say, "Yes" before going on to burst their bubble. As Harvard's Humanist chaplain Greg Epstein wrote after hearing Barack Obama's shout out to "nonbelievers" at the inauguration, Nonbelievers are believers too: "As believers in Humanism, we too affirm the need to cultivate wisdom, courage, compassion, and above all the struggle towards a universal and universally mutually interdependent human dignity."

Epstein also reminds us that Obama wrote in Dreams From My Father that his mother, who is one of his personal heroes, viewed her international aid work as a kind of "lonely witness for secular humanism." Obama himself is of course a Shiite Sunni Christian, but unlike most top elected officials -- unlike most Americans -- he understands that secular humanism can be a positive force for good in the world. That's not nothing.

If Sen. Kaufman is a nontheistic humanist, he ought to use at least some of his time in office to explain what that means to him and how it helped land him a position of such great respect. Then Beau Biden can come in and sprinkle holy water on everything to re-consecrate the office.

January 29, 2009

Let's just get this out of the way, shall we?

Daniel Radosh


January 28, 2009

Breaking: Clique Girlz are breaking

Daniel Radosh

9.jpg In response to my post today about the Clique Girlz' candy-fueled comeback, Cr4Bdbgs' Dave Moore informs me that in the last few days there's been some trouble in the Clique clique. Specifically, "best friend" Ariel Moore is leaving the group. How did the Times miss this? Damn you, Judy Miller!

The fan buzz (yes, there is fan buzz) is that the sisters have been hogging the proverbial microphones, along with the actual ones, and that little mermaid "hasn't been happy for a long time and that there has been a lot of hatred, dishonesty, pain, suffering and emotional and physical and mental abuse from the manager of the group Lenore." And by manager, she means Destineeeee and Paris' mom. (Legal note: I can not personally vouch for this anonymous web gossip, and am in fact deeply, deeply troubled by it.)

It would take a truly despicable person to point out that at the precise moment when their career most needs a jump start, the Clique Girlz have managed to shed their, um, least conventionally attractive member. When I find that person, I will berate him for saying such obnoxious things about an ordinary teenage girl who just happens to want to be a pop star for a living.

Anyway, Ariel's fans are absolutely convinced that she'll have a monster solo career, so we've got that to look forward to.

If anyone happens to go to the casting call on Saturday, please report back. Gee, I had no idea you could "cast" a new best friend. I hope they get a blonde!

January 28, 2009

Will you forgive me if I buy you a present?

Daniel Radosh

Looks like I picked the wrong week to start judging the anti-caption contest in a more timely fashion. Sorry about that, but the results are up now in case you still care.

To make it up to you, I'm offering another excellent prize to the winner of next week's contest: a copy of the new semi-authorized Hugh Hefner biography Mr. Playboy — the book that shows "how Hefner's sexual and material ethic of self-fulfillment drove him to challenge the social conventions of postwar America," and that has an honest-to-god centerfold.

This strikes me as a good fit for a prize, since Playboy and New Yorker cartoons feature roughly the same number of black people.

January 28, 2009

Hey little girlz, want some candy?

Daniel Radosh

It's been nearly two years since I declared the Clique Girlz — then simply Clique — to be the next Huckapoo. Which I suspect you took to mean that you'd never have to hear about them again except in my fevered rantappreciations. So how did "the youngest pop group in the history of music" go from being a bad joke on an obscure blog (and vice versa) to the front page of the New York Times arts section? To answer that, we must travel back, back, back to the primordial era before the birth of rock 'n' roll.

It is the most famous legend in American musical history. Bluesman Robert Johnson was at a crossroad in his career, as well as an actual crossroad on a road, and he saw his musical future slipping away from him. In this moment of weakness, Johnson sold his soul to the devil. In exchange, Satan made Johnson the greatest guitar player who ever lived.

Cut to the present day.

In their drive to become the Next Big Thing in teenage entertainment, the Clique Girlz have had more opportunities than most.

The youthful trio, backed by Interscope Records and the powerful Creative Artists Agency, have opened for the Jonas Brothers and appeared on “Today,” where Al Roker called them “Hannah Montana times three.” They sang in last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Interscope has flooded YouTube with over 30 videos.

None of those sparks have started a fire. Instead, the Clique Girlz — Destinee Monroe, 14; her sister, Paris, 12; and their best friend, Ariel Moore, 14 — are in danger of washing out of the entertainment industry before their first full CD comes to market. So far, at least, digital downloads have been anemic, and play on Radio Disney, where programming is based on listener requests, has been modest at best.

But the Clique Girlz, who hail from Egg Harbor Township, N.J., have been thrown what could turn out to be a lifeline — and from no lesser a judge of talent than Michael D. Eisner, the former chief executive of the Walt Disney Company.

What did this shadowy "Michael D. Eisner" offer Destinie, Paris and Jasmine? Great talent? Please. This isn't the 1930s. No, in exchange for their immortal souls, the Clique Girlz got something far more valuable to today's aspiring pop tarts: an endorsement deal for Baby Bottle Pop, the candy treat that saved the Jonas Brothers at a similar low point. Yes, soon it will be preteen London and barely teens Destaney and Aurora who are singing that immortal jingle, "You can lick it, shake it and dunk it." Can you ever!

Continue reading "Hey little girlz, want some candy?" »

January 27, 2009

It's the same notes Nickelodeon execs gave the first version of Dora the Explorer

Daniel Radosh

Peta was quick to capitalize on NBC's rejection of its proposed "go veg" Super Bowl ad — so quick that it's almost as if it never expected the ad to be approved and created it solely to manufacture some controversy and publicity.

That said — well, that and how loathsome Peta is in general, since somebody's gotta kick off the flame war — it is a pretty awesome ad. Way better than the kind of disgusting one Paris Hilton did for Carl's Jr., so score one for the veggies.

Still, the only thing that makes it worth blogging is the official response from NBC's VP of advertising standards, which Peta's team of professional faux-ironists couldn't have scripted better themselves.

The PETA spot submitted to Advertising Standards depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards. Listed below are the edits that need to be made. Before finalizing the spot, we would like to view a Quicktime file as well as a DVD with high resolution.

:12- :13- licking pumpkin

:13- :14- touching her breast with her hand while eating broccoli

:19- pumpkin from behind between legs

:21- rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin

:22- screwing herself with broccoli (fuzzy)

:23- asparagus on her lap appearing as if it is ready to be inserted into vagina

:26- licking eggplant

:26- rubbing asparagus on breast

Victoria Morgan
Vice President, Advertising Standards
NBC Universal

January 27, 2009

I changed the name of this town

Daniel Radosh

240px-Twatt_Orkney_Road_Sign.JPG Last week, the New York Times had an authentically amusing article about the poor folks who live in British towns and streets with obscene-sounding names. Names like Crotch Crescent, Wetwang, Slutshole Lane, and Titty Ho.

Many of the names, the article notes, are found in the books Rude Britain and Rude UK, "which list arguably offensive place names — some so arguably offensive that, unfortunately, they cannot be printed here."

Yeah, you knew self-censorship was going to come into play here. And no one familiar with media prudishness would expect the Times -- even in an article that's entirely devoted to crude humor -- to print names like Cocknmouth, Shitterton or Twatt. (Though since Slutshole made the cut, a determined writer could surely have challenged prohibitions to Sandy Balls, Fingring Hoe, Rimswell, and Funbag Drive.)

What's odd, as Eric Nelson pointed out to me, is that this apologetic moment of decorum comes shortly after the following passage:

Several months ago, Lewes District Council in East Sussex tried to address the problem of inadvertent place-name titillation by saying that “street names which could give offense” would no longer be allowed on new roads.

“Avoid aesthetically unsuitable names,” like Gaswork Road, the council decreed. Also, avoid “names capable of deliberate misinterpretation,” like Hoare Road, Typple Avenue, Quare Street and Corfe Close.

(What is wrong with Corfe Close, you might ask? The guidelines mention the hypothetical residents of No. 4, with their unfortunate hypothetical address, “4 Corfe Close.” To find the naughty meaning, you have to repeat the first two words rapidly many times, preferably in the presence of your fifth-grade classmates.)

It's really mind-boggling. The newspaper can hold your hand and guide you inexorably to the words fuck off, but it can't actually print the words themselves. Because children might be reading. Except the paper then acknowledges that 10-year-olds not only already know these words, but are more likely than adults to conjure them given the slightest excuse.

On a related note, my memory is a bit hazy, but I'm pretty sure that back in 1999 or 2000 I was one of the first cybernauts to discover and propagate this. I was so juvenile then.

January 26, 2009

If your mother says she really, really loves you, check it out

Daniel Radosh

discodolls.jpg Hot off every online news outlet's "most popular" list:

Yahoo News: "Hong Kong to produce 'world's first 3D sex movie'"

New York Magazine: "Finally! The world’s first-ever erotic 3-D movie, the appropriately titled 3D Sex and Zen, will begin production in April."

Variety: "Lensing will begin in April on what its producer claims will be the world's first erotic movie to be made in stereoscopic 3-D."

Wired: "Shooting will begin in April on what's being billed as the world's first 3-D erotic film, according to its producer."

IGN: "A Chinese filmmaker has announced plans to make what he claims to be the world's first 3D sex movie."

Sex and porn are subjects the media covers on frequently, but rarely seriously. It's not supposed to be news, just a little something to titillate readers while they're bored at work. Still, does no one want to do a little reporting first? I dug out my April, 2002 Playboy and found this letter to the adviser:

Q. Is there such a thing as three-dimensional porn? If so, where can I buy it?-- G.H., Pueblo, Colorado

A. You don't need to buy it. Just open your eyes during sex. Porn shot in 3D, like porn that's not shot in 3D, is mostly disappointing. You have a few options. The 1992 3D video Princess Orgasma and the Magic Bed is still available. It comes with a pair of Pulfrich glasses (one lens is darker than the other, and the image viewed through the darker lens reaches the brain slightly later). Vidmax 3D sells 16 collections of sex scenes shot in the mid-Nineties with alternate field stereography (the two best are Bedroom Cries and Boudoir Babes). To view the effect, slide one of the $50 videos into your VCR, then plug a pair of $125 shutter glasses into the player's output jack. Phone 909-480-0287 for details. The first 3D porn on DVD and the necessary hardware is available for about $100 from ErotekDimensions.com (three new releases are expected later this year). Two dreadful hard-core films shot in the mid-Seventies for anaglyphic (red-blue) lenses, The Lollipop Girls in Hard Candy and Disco Dolls in Hot Skin, are popular on the midnight movie circuit. Finally, if you happen to be in Riverside, California in July for the National Stereoscopic Association convention, Adult Video News editor and 3D photographer Mark Kernes plans to present his annual midnight show of eye-popping hard-core shots taken on porn sets. Some images also appear as slide shows on the DVD versions of Unreal and Chloe Cums First. No glasses necessary -- just stare hard.

At least we know what Judy Miller has been working on.

January 26, 2009

Kissing girls can't help Katy Perry escape the long arm of Jesus

Daniel Radosh

KatyPerry-PhotobyScottNathanforTooF.jpg Beliefnet's Joanne Brokaw, who broke the Katy Perry's secret evangelical past story last year, listens in on a conference call in which PK KP drops enough Christianese ("I have had my own relationship and my own beliefs and I'm continually on an upward search with all of that") to make clear that she hasn't made a total break with that world.

At one point Katy is asked about promoting homosexuality. This was something of a concern among conservative Christians and probably says more than anything about how disconnected much of that group is from mainstream culture. The idea that I Kissed A Girl is a "pro-gay" song is just laughable. In fact it's as about as pro-gay as Girls Gone Wild, appropriating and diminishing female sexual desire for the express purpose of pandering to juvenile straight-boy fantasies.

Which is, of course, why it's a hit. As John Tabin noted here last summer, there's a world of difference between Katy's shamelessly calculating novelty hit and Jill Sobule's far more interesting and honest song of the same name from a decade ago.

Update: Hey, fans of Andrew. If you're interested in this type of thing, check out my book, Rapture Ready!

January 26, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #179

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon.

Last week's results. •Rules and tips.


First place
"I'll be taking over your regular doctor's patients for a while. He was in an accident." — stcoleridge

Second place
"Have you seen that movie 'The Mummy'? Well, I fell asleep watching it with a lit cigarette." —Steve_O

Third place
"So they put me on the cross and they put nails in my hands and my right foot. And the last joker, he acts like he's going to put the nail in my other foot - but then he nails my head to the cross! Anyway, I swear I was dead for like two days!" — Jesus

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #179" »

January 22, 2009

Huh. I would've thought a Mexican newspaper would be too lazy to come up with this headline

Daniel Radosh


To work, my black person!

Via Burro Hall.

January 22, 2009

The hills are alive with the sound of waterboarding

Daniel Radosh

They've fixed it now, but Jake grabbed this headline from Huffington Post in its original form.


Your suggestions for tunes and lyrics are welcome.

January 22, 2009

Fool me once...

Daniel Radosh

Nice try, Oscar, but I'm still not gonna see Benjamin Button.

Also, how does Waltz with Bashir get a foreign Oscar nod but not an animated feature one? Are we really to believe that Bolt is the better film? Although Persepolis was nominated in the animated category last year, the Academy seems to treat it as the kiddie menu (the ridiculously over-praised Ratatouille won, as the ridiculously over-praised Wall-E will this year). I say drop the category altogether, especially since it's only getting harder to say what's animated and what's merely computer-enhanced.

Glad to see Richard Jenkins and The Visitor weren't completely overlooked, though.

January 21, 2009

I'm waiting for my appointment as undersecretary of teen pop

Daniel Radosh

For the last few weeks, many of us have had moments where something makes us think, "Wow, things really are going to change." (Interspersed with a few "or maybe not" moments.) But I just had a genuine "Holy shit" moment upon reading that Obama has named a fucking left-wing blogger deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel. OK, Marty Lederman isn't just a blogger. He served in a lower position in the OLC under Clinton. But as someone who frequently turned to Lederman for analysis of the Bush catastrophe that was far more insightful than anything out of official Washington or the MSM, I can not be more stunned, and thrilled, that he's actually going to have a fairly significant hand in shaping national legal policy.

Sweet land of liberty, indeed.

January 19, 2009


Daniel Radosh


January 19, 2009

Well he would

Daniel Radosh

Armstrong pushes cancer campaign Down Under

January 19, 2009

The tampons for technical achievement were given out previously at a separate ceremony

Daniel Radosh

So marriage ban donors feel exposed by list, do they? It would be nice to think that the people who voted for Prop 8 don't want anyone to know it because they're ashamed of themselves. But in fact, they're just whiny cowards who didn't expect anyone to actually avail themselves of a law that's been on the books for 35 years requiring public accountability for all large campaign contributions.

In his suit, which is also being argued by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal group, Mr. Bopp alleges a wide range of acts against supporters, including “death threats, acts of domestic terrorism, physical violence, threats of physical violence, vandalism of personal property, harassing phone calls, harassing e-mails, blacklisting and boycotts.”

Sounds serious -- but the actual complaint [pdf] is a joke. Here's a typical e-mail one Prop 8 supporter received: “I will tell all my friends not to use your business. I will not give you my hard earned money knowing that you think I don’t deserver [sic] the same rights as you do. This is a consequence of your hatred.”

Withdrawing financial support for people who hate you is not a form of terrorism, it's pretty understandable. It's actually rational as well as emotional. Some of the most exciting scenes in Milk depict Harvey Milk's use of economic leverage against the people who would run gays out of the neighborhood. As the film shows, it's a tactic that feels good, that's just, and that works. Don't want to lose gay business? The solution isn't filing a lawsuit to hide your support for bigotry, it's to stop being a bigot.

But what about those threats of violence? Yes, the complaint does allege (without proof) that one person got an unhinged e-mail from somebody evoking guns and 9/11. And it cites "news reports" of vandalism. But most of the messages relayed to Prop 8 supporters are along the lines of "burn in hell" (as if they'd never told any gay people that this what's in store for them) and "When you have one of your basic rights taken away from you, you’lll [sic] know how it feels to be discriminated against," which seems true to the point of tautology, if somewhat unlikely as a prediction.

Tellingly, many of the incidents cited in the complaint are not tied to the Prop 8 Google map or any other use of campaign contribution info. For instance, there are cases of "sign theft" and of one person having his window broken with his own "Yes on 8" sign -- which can clearly be traced to the fact that these people put up signs on their front lawns. Obviously that doesn't justify vandalism or threats (which, as many people have noted, are already illegal), but it's a weird thing to mention in a suit about exposing people against their wishes. Similarly, another e-mail mentions a picture of the recipient in the newspaper.

Look, threatening e-mails and phone calls suck and can be plenty scary. But you're kind of reaching when one of the best examples you can dig up is a message that says, "congratulations. for your support of prop 8, you have won our tampon of the year award."

Especially since it turns out that's actually the new name of the Grammy Awards. They changed it in an attempt to regain credibility.

January 19, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #178

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon.

Last week's results. •Rules and tips.


First place
"Way I see it, drowning yer sorrows is like drowning yer kids -- gotta make sure there ain't no more bubbles before you start on the next one." — Jared S.

Second place
"Someone pushed my stool in." — K Siers Jr.

Third place
"I'll have a Sexual Assault on the Beach." —Francis

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #178" »

January 15, 2009

Why not Bil Keane?

Daniel Radosh

WNBK?: Now with dance mixes!

January 14, 2009

Why not Bil Keane?

Daniel Radosh

January 13, 2009

Huckapoo are numbers 56-61

Daniel Radosh

Gloria+Steinem+Bunny.jpg So I did some Gigwork for The Daily Beast: an analysis of Playboy magazine's list of the 55 Most Important People in Sex from the past 55 years (here's the essay, here's the complete list).

I wanted to use my TDB space to talk not just about the list itself, but about Playboy's place (or unfortunate lack thereof) in the current culture. Which means that I have a bunch of unused material about the list that editor Chip Rowe shared with me. I don't have time to put it up right now, but watch this space for more about why certain people made the list while others didn't, and why I won every one of my arguments with Chip, even if he won't acknowledge it.

You can post your own thoughts on the list over at TDB, where people will read them, or here, where I'll respond to them. Hopefully Chip will also weigh in on one or both threads, as he did over at Boing-Boing.

January 12, 2009

Only one candidate has a stimulus package we can believe in

Daniel Radosh


January 12, 2009

Gigga what? Gigga who?

Daniel Radosh

20070612tina.jpg Recently, Dan Savage wrote that anti-gay bigots who claim they can't be anti-gay because they have gay friends should put up or shut up: "Reporters should stop taking this 'but I've got gay friends!' on faith. Anti-gay politicians, entertainers, and preachers shouldn't be allowed to take rhetorical cover behind gay friends if they're unable to produce any."

It's not precisely analogous, but I thought of this today while reading Tina Brown's Daily Beast article on The Gig Economy. According to Tina, "No one I know has a job anymore. They've got gigs... a bunch of free-floating projects, consultancies, and part-time bits and pieces they try and stitch together to make what they refer to wryly as 'the Nut.'" (Which is also how they refer to her, I suspect). In this "Gigocracy" (don't ask why it's capitalized) everyone does what "used to be called piecework" but is now allegedly called "Gigwork." Though you could have fooled Google.

What does this mean? Well, says Tina, "To people I know in the bottom income brackets, living paycheck to paycheck, the Gig Economy has been old news for years."

Put up or shut up. How many people does someone who's spending $28 million on a souped up blog really know in "the bottom income brackets"? And why doesn't she give some of that money to them instead?

Ah, but Tina backs her anecdotes with facts, in the form of a TDB poll that finds, "A full one-third of our respondents are now working either freelance or in two jobs."

OK, those are usually two very different things that entail very different lifestyles. So I checked the raw data, and found that only 22% of respondents answered yes to the question that essentially constitutes Tina's thesis: "Do you consider yourself to be a freelance worker, meaning you work from project to project?" 78% said no. Does Tina really not know a single person represented by that 78%?

And where does the one-third figure come from? Beats me. In addition to the 22% of freelancers, 23% of respondents say they have "more than one paying job," but there's no indication anywhere how much crossover there is between the two groups, so the numbers are essentially useless.

I did think about trying to crunch the data a bit to try to determine how new a phenomenon this is, and how accurate in general Tina's perception of it is, but that got tedious and, frankly, no one's paying me for this gig.

January 12, 2009

Breaking: Rachel Sklar has lovely balloons

Daniel Radosh

n503303855_1240224_293.jpg In The Daily Beast, Radosh.net's new It Girl Rachel Sklar writes about Miss Golden Globe. Or, as she renders the honorific, "Miss Double G."

At this rate we'll need an excuse not to post pictures of her.

January 12, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #177

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon.

Last week's results. •Rules and tips.

This week's prize: A signed copy of the new Jonathan Rundman CD Insomniaccomplishments. (Winner must supply valid e-mail address)


First place
*pew-pew-pew* "Better start talking before I shrink more of you with my finger-ray." —Brian L

"Frankly, we find your efforts to freeze your own feet off disturbing. We will force you to keep your feet in these buckets of warm water until the danger of frostbite has passed. Comply, or we'll kill you." —Jessica

"Look, Shmuel -- not only are his hooves non-cloven, but he clearly has some genetic defect resulting in one hoof being withered and misshapen. Sorry, boys, he's treif." —The Confidence Man

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #177" »

January 9, 2009

So those Loch Lomond bottles were really filled with appletinis?

Daniel Radosh

Tintin_cover_-_The_Castafiore_Emerald.JPG Matthew Parris of the London Times examines the evidence on Tintin

"A callow, androgynous blonde-quiffed youth in funny trousers and a scarf moving into the country mansion of his best friend, a middle-aged sailor? A sweet-faced lad devoted to a fluffy white toy terrier, whose other closest pals are an inseparable couple of detectives in bowler hats, and whose only serious female friend is an opera diva..."

If not for all the manly punching and shooting, it's the perfect theory.

January 8, 2009

When life gives you insomnia

Daniel Radosh

...make Insomniaccomplishments. That's the title of the new CD from Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jonathan Rundman, which I'm pleased to announce will be the prize in this week's Anti-Caption Contest.

I discovered Rundman while researching Rapture Ready!, my book on Christian pop culture, and back in April I included his beautiful 2001 song My Apology on my list of Christian rock songs that don't suck.

It's not entirely fair to include Rundman on a Christian rock list, however. As a mainline liberal he's nearly as much an outsider to American evangelicalism as I am. His scathing-but-jaunty jingle Xian Bookstore, quoted in RR!, does in 55 seconds what took me an entire chapter. Still, his faith is always a presence in his music in interesting ways. On Insomniaccomplishments he sings about the need to ask questions about God (see his charming homemade video below) and about getting into frustrating, pointless arguments with creationists. One of my favorite songs on the album, Little Bible, is almost certainly the best alt.country song ever written about the theological flaws of biblical literalism. (Samples of every track on the album can be found at CD Baby.)

But there's plenty to Rundman's raw, catchy tunesmithing that should appeal to people with no interest in such subjects at all. His recent Best-of compilation contains no overtly faith-based songs (and therefore, to my mind, is not a best-of at all, but that's another story). On the new album, check out Dialysis Carpool, I'm A Liar, Here at 2141 and Her Lip Balm for old-school indie pop that vaguely evokes the dBs, Nick Lowe, and Fountains of Wayne. For a slightly heavier groove, there's the excellent closing track, I'm Alive and Sleep Deprived. For pure folk-song prettiness, there's even a guitar instrumental from 19th century Finland.

On top of that, Jonathan is one of the friendliest, most down-to-earth people I got to know (at least a little) during my research. And judging from this video, he has a fine collection of classic Star Wars action figures.

January 8, 2009

Pop quiz

Daniel Radosh

31705 dragon and merlin.jpgWhat do all the following words have in common?

dragon, knight, merlin, wizard, gandalf

muffin, coffee, apple, peaches

boobs, nipples, tits, bigtits

fuck, fucking, fuckyou, fuckme, fucker

startrek, voyager, ncc1701, starwars, thx1138, bond007, trustno1

batman, superman, iceman

rush2112, ou812, 8675309

flower, rainbow, iloveyou

master, mistress



Answer after the jump.

Continue reading "Pop quiz" »

January 7, 2009

Meanwhile, America is stuck with David Broder

Daniel Radosh

International Bureau Chief Slutwench sends this New Year's column from our official new favorite pundit, Binyavanga Wainaina of the Johannesburg, South Africa Mail & Guardian.

If you have canine instincts, now is the time to piss on the four corners of your life so you can lift your nose and smell this month for the rest of your life.

Now that's a tough lede to live up to, but Wainaina (isn't she one of the Judds?) only picks up steam from there, with nary a let me explain to be seen (though, for once, it may well be called for).

I babysat my nephew when he was a toddler. It was quite a mission. He loved window ledges and highways during traffic jams. He would start off in the morning, moving slowly. By evening, his body was on fire.

If you did not keep him on a strict diet and timetable, he would wind himself up and by nightfall he would be spinning and gurgling helplessly, his mind shut down, his body unable to stop itself...

But you can swoop down online, to a suburb of Bangalore, and measure in carats the love of a man for his wife; you can measure in international kilograms and sense the exact sum of desire that doctor in Sao Paolo has for that Hummer. You can watch him on Google Earth on a Sunday, screaming out of his driveway and tearing up a hillside, spinning his alloy wheels round and round, as he sips his four shots of black, syrupy Starstrucks™.

Somebody somewhere is blowing a whistle. We can’t hear it.

Our pecs, our abs, our surging buttock muscles are busy pumping and every three minutes is equal to 99 US cents of thumping throbbing surround-sound inside our tiny pretty earphones....

Soon we are hovering above the voting booth. You lean forward, hands on knees, breathing hard, on November 4. When you lie on the grass, your $3 000 carbon-fibre bicycle thrown carelessly to the side, watching the crowds in every city in America crying or cheering on your iPod, the sun in your eyes. You lean to the side for some shadow.

It will take 10 minutes to feel truly tired and free. You nap under the naked and dangerous sun, the election forgotten, the results not yet out. Your dog runs free in the park.

You walk home slowly, your bicycle a crutch, your iPod shut off, your ears confused by the muffled sounds of suffering life around you.

You are sick to your stomach at what you see. There is rubble and garbage everywhere. And a thug is lurking in the bushes. Bikes are hot property all of a sudden. Hip-hop jars the ears.

All the people in your street are sitting on their stoeps reading books, plaiting hair, sniffing and kissing each one another.

But it's alright, Ma, I'm only getting paid by the word.

January 6, 2009

The perils of opinionating by Google anecdote

Daniel Radosh

Mona Charon works up some where's-the-outrage outrage:

"Just for a lark, I decided to google 'international condemnations of Hamas' this morning. You can guess what came up, right?"

Well, I could guess, but I decided to check instead. And what do you know, Charon's actually right. Other than her own column (and a couple of other people making the exact same point) a search for that exact phrase turns up zero results. Point proven.

Except that, just for a lark, I decided to Google "international condemnations of Israel." This time other than Charon's column (which uses both phrases), here are the complete results:

Soon the international condemnations of Israel will start, or maybe thay already have started, but I doubt if the Israeli government will take them too much into account. And I cannot blame the government for that. Where are those condemnations whenever Israeli citizens are deliberately targeted by Palestinian rockets?

As part of a general report on the international condemnations of Israel, following the IDF anti-terrorism offensive, the Syrian news agency described a recent terrorist attack in Haifa.

So if Iranian-supplied and Hezbollah-launched rockets were designed to kill and maim civilians in the most grotesque ways possible - and they were in fact aimed at civilians... and if Israel's bombs were designed to take out military installations in the most bloodless ways possible - and they were in fact aimed at military installations... What could be driving the obsessive, entirely one-sided international condemnations of Israel?

Meanwhile, international condemnations of Israel’s military actions in Lebanon continue.

It's a key call for action, amplifying other recent UN and international condemnations of Israel's “apartheid” policies.

International condemnations of Israel and Security Council resolutions cannot trump a basic fact: No nation can survive by appeasing or cooperating with enemies dedicated to their destruction.

If a TRUE Jewish leader does not emerge in the near future, Israel will have to face the Iranian version of the Final Solution; a well coordinated 7-pronged plan of attack:
-Hamas missiles and land attack
-Hizbollah missile attack
-West bank uprising
-Syrian missile attack
-Israeli Arab uprising
-Iran missile attack (nuclear preferred)
-Broad International condemnations of Israel
The ONLY solution requires balls that are completely missing from the Israeli equation.; An offensive the likes of which the enemy has never seen or would possibly expect including extremely high death toll numbers on both sides.

I, like many supporters of Israel, find the international condemnations of Israel in this and similar cases hollow and hypocritical because the same condemnations do not generally follow Palestinian attacks.

I think it would be beneficial if the Security Council were to abolish permanent status, so that member states such as the U.S. weren't able to simply veto global initiatives that weren't in their personal interest. (Such as international condemnations of Israel.)

So there you have it.... whatever it is. Perhaps tallying Google results for randomly chosen phrases isn't actually the best way to calibrate moral outrage. Are there any other numbers we could compare instead?

January 6, 2009

Actually, we can handle the truth

Daniel Radosh

How sad for folks like the editors of the Wall Street Journal who see every question facing the country, even those that touch its deepest moral core, in purely partisan terms.

Here's today's rallying cry against a truth commission on torture and related crimes. Set aside that I'm not nearly as optimistic as the WSJ is pessimistic that such a commission is realistically in the offing, and just consider what they think is a winning argument for nipping it in the bud:

In particular, at their nomination hearings they're likely to be asked to support a "truth commission" on the Bush Administration's terrorist interrogation policies. We hope they have the good sense to resist. And if they need any reason to push back, they could start by noting the Members of Congress who would be on the witness list to raise their right hands.

Beginning in 2002, Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats (as well as Republicans) on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were thoroughly, and repeatedly, briefed on the CIA's covert antiterror interrogation programs. They did nothing to stop such activities, when they weren't fully sanctioning them. If they now decide the tactics they heard about then amount to abuse, then by their own logic they themselves are complicit.

You see, says the Journal smugly, "The real -- the only -- point of this 'truth' exercise is to smear Bush Administration officials and coax foreign prosecutors into indicting them if Mr. Obama's Justice Department refuses."

Since this "exercise" exists for now pretty much solely in the left-leaning media, I feel qualified to reply on our behalf that, no, the point is to get at the truth, heal the country, restore the Constitution, and ensure that such crimes are never committed again. It is, of course, preposterous to suggest that Democratic officials share equal responsibility with the Bushistas, but to the extent that they did enable the executive branch's culture of lawlessness, your damn right Congresspeople from both sides of the aisle should be hauled in front of the commission to raise their right hands. The Journal and its so-called conservative allies are so entrenched in the us-versus-them mindset, where "us" is the Bush administration regardless of what it does, that it thinks progressives will be equally defensive of all Democrats and agree to quiet down so that everyone gets off the hook. But one reason we elected an "outsider" to the presidency was to break that mindset. As I said, I don't actually believe Obama will spend much political capital on this issue (though he's at least showing signs of seeking a shift moving forward) but if he were to do so, I can guarantee that the left would not turn against him at the prospect of seeing Democrats held responsible for their own actions, or inactions. Quite the contrary, we want a truth commission because we need the truth — more than we need a cozy Democratic leadership.

January 5, 2009

And now we know what inspired the MacBook Air

Daniel Radosh

Damn, Steve Jobs must be awesome in the sack.

Noted: "The conclusions are based on the patients' own reporting of sexual function before and again several months after gastric bypass surgery that allowed them to shed significant poundage."

And engage in significant poundage.

January 5, 2009

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #176

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon.

Last week's results. •Rules and tips.


First place
"Mr. foreman, you being an upside-down chair makes me concerned about your potential bias in a case involving other unruly furniture." —Damon

Second place
"Looks like this 'superior court' has turned out to be pretty 'inferior' when it comes to quality of construction!" — Rubrick

Third place
"Damn, good closing argument. He inherited the shit out of that wind." —t.a.m.s.y.

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #176" »

January 4, 2009

Coincidentally, most of Safire's Op-Eds could have been replaced with "[expletive deleted]"

Daniel Radosh

In addition to the previously established (and established and established) problems with media self-censorship, William Safire's language column today points out that the words newspapers use interchangeably to substitute for the words they don't want to print are not actually interchangeable at all.

Personally I'd like to do away with the deceptively passive "unprintable." Just because a publication chooses not to print a word doesn't mean the press is going to break down if it tries.

January 3, 2009

A post post-apocalyptic post

Daniel Radosh

A couple of thoughts after watching a few more post-apocalyptic movies.

A Boy and His Dog is a film just begging for a remake. Pretty entertaining as it is, it could benefit enormously from, first of all, a higher budget. Or any budget. I'd love to have seen more of the anarchic above-ground society, and anything of the screamers. And Down Under needs to be completely re-imagined so that it doesn't look like a bad rip off of The Prisoner. More importantly, the movie had some very intriguing ideas that remained buried. A thorough exploration of the contrasts (and similarities) between the lawless topside society and the orderly, but more brutal, Down Under could actually end up saying something about the meaning of "civilization." A smart screenwriter could take it in any number of directions, but one thing the story ought to do is manipulate the audience into siding with Quilla June as she comes to believe that the free-spirited world that Vic lives in can transform and redeem the stultifying, banally evil Down Under... which would only add to the punch of the ending as she pays the grimly hilarious price for her romantic naivety.

I Am Legend was inevitably a disappointment after 28 Days Later (yes, I was warned). But if you've seen it, I strongly recommend checking out the alternate ending. Not only is it better than the theatrical version, it retroactively makes the entire movie significantly more interesting. SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "A post post-apocalyptic post" »

January 3, 2009

Careful, New York Times. I'm not above a "That's what she said" joke

Daniel Radosh

Out of context quote of the day: “I love that meat. All that pulling and stretching makes it very tender.”

From an article on the great Central Asian sport of buzkashi or kokpar, which provided the punchline for my Talk of the Town piece on Borat.


January 1, 2009

New Year's blog resolutions

Daniel Radosh

sklar2k9.jpg1. Update the non-blog pages of Radosh.net. Don't even click that link. It's embarrassing. Or, if you prefer, a nostalgic reminder of what this site used to look like. Of course, this resolution is something of a cheat for me, since what's involved is upgrading to the latest version of Movable Type and transferring all those pages to MT -- and for that, I'm pretty much dependent on the charity of Radosh.net CTO Kevin Shay. So really I can only hope that one of his resolutions is to be more charitable in 2009.

2. Update the blogroll. Or, perhaps, lose the blogroll entirely. The whole idea of that static list of links seems pretty outdated by now. It's not like I actually use them anymore for reading blogs (which is good, since who knows how many of them are dead). What I should probably do is switch to something similar in spirit but more dynamic, more easily kept current, and a whole lot shorter. Open to suggestions.

3. Post more frequently. Used to be I'd put up a one line joke every now and then. These days, I tend to send such slim entertainment to Facebook instead. For instance, yesterday I posted this story to my profile with the comment, "Someone stealing from Dane Cook? That's a switch." It hardly seems worth sharing with a general audience. But since the alternative seems to be silence, perhaps I'm wrong. Similarly, I've never really posted links to stories and other blog posts I've found interesting unless I have something of my own to add to them. I know lots of bloggers do that, but it seemed pointless to me. But now I think it might help keep the site lively. What do you think?

4. Judge the anti-caption contest in a more timely fashion. My sluggishness in this area is a sore spot for some of you, I know. The problem is that Sunday night and Monday are particularly bad times for me to start scrolling through 200 entries. I suspect the solution will be to start posting the results on Friday afternoon. Weekend off for everyone.

5. Tags. At first they just seemed like clutter to me, but I can see the usefulness now. The only reason I haven't taken this step is that the prospect of going back and adding Huckapoo tags to five years worth of posts is daunting.

6. More posts about Huckapoo.

7. Ditch the Amazon affiliate links. I like promoting my friends books -- and I can see from the logs that I do actually sell a few copies every now and then -- but once again, it's such a pain to go into the template and switch them up. Perhaps as a compromise I'll make it exclusively a list of my friends' books, rather than a mix of that and other things I like. That way I'll only have to change the links once, when the paperbacks come out.

8. Try Google ads again. I experimented with them briefly when the service launched, but I found them ugly and didn't make any money off them. I think its worth trying again. Now that people are used to seeing them everywhere, they're less off-putting (right?). Also, it's not like BlogAds is making me rich.

So that's what I'm going to do for you this year. If there's anything I'm overlooking, be sure to let me know and I'll get right on it. For your part, I have to say I'm extremely fortunate among bloggers to have such civil, thoughtful, entertaining commenters. The conversation almost never veers toward Hitler and I don't believe anyone has ever attempted a "first." Every now and then someone will get trollish, posting something outlandish or obnoxious or ridiculous that seems to invite everyone else to pile on. Fortunately, everyone else seems to understand that the best way to put a stop to that is to ignore it. Keep up the good work. Keep feeding me tips as well, I always appreciate that. 2009 will mark my 7th year of blogging. Somehow, I'm still looking forward to it.

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