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In My Room

The Onion predicts the future… er, present

Jul 15, 2006 in Linkage


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Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’ | The Onion - America’s Finest News Source

This week is The Onion’s 10th anniversary. Among the highlights from their archives is the above article, written just around the time of Bush’s inauguration in 2001. Six years later, this satirical article has proven to be strangely (well, not that strangely) prophetic.

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

“You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,” said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. “Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?”

… “We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two,” Bush said. “Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there’s much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation’s hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it.”

Uncanny, isn’t it?


Santo Gold, Santo Gold!

Jul 06, 2006 in Humor


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Above is a short clip from an infamous late ’80s infomercial for Santo Gold, which attempted to market both a gold jewelry business opportunity and a “science fiction space wrestling movie comedy” called Blood Circus.

This bizarre anomaly was reportedly seen frequently on late night TV, although it never made it to the air in Central PA (why?). Blood Circus ran for a week in Baltimore in 1985, and the original print is presumed lost. Mr. Santo Gold himself was prosecuted for mail fraud in 1988 and spent 10 months in prison.

I can only hope a full clip of this infomercial appears online soon. The Santo Gold Museum has collected what little information there is available. As for Santo Gold himself, either he or someone pretending to be him has an unfinished website at Santogold.com.


Fish and Poop

Jul 02, 2006 in Humor


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This absolutely cracked me up:

This company needs to hire a new marketing person.


Freedom of the press coming under attack worldwide.

Jul 02, 2006 in Current Events


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There’s been a lot of controversy recently concerning the New York Times’ report on the secret government program that monitors financial transactions to fight terrorism. Some have called the NYT report “treasonous,” and Republican lawmakers are calling for investigations.

But consider: Even if the government’s program of monitoring bank records does help to fight terrorism, it is only the latest in a series of revelations that our government is doing things that possibly violate the Constitution, or the Geneva Convention. Before this, it was the NSA’s database of phone records, the secret CIA prisons, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Did the NYT make a mistake by revealing the existence of the program to monitor bank records? Possibly. Does the press occasionally make mis-steps? Certainly. Should the press (or in this case, the NYT) be prosecuted for revealing information that they feel is in the best interests of the public to know? Absolutely fucking not.

The purpose of a free press in a democracy is to keep watch on the government, lest it does something that infringes upon the rights of it’s citizens. It’s right there in the First Amendment. And in many so-called democratic countries across the world, that purpose is coming under fire.

This recent AP article details the legal troubles that reporters and newspapers are having across the world when it comes to reporting questionable actions by their governments. And these aren’t countries like Iran or North Korea, No, we’re talking about Britain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and of course the United States.

In almost all of these cases, the ‘leaks’ have to do with activities concerning the war on terrorism or the war in Iraq. Whistleblowers who revealed that there was no evidence of WMDs in Iraq have faced prosecution or retribution. Two officials in Britain are charged with leaking a memo revealing that Bush suggested bombing the headquarters of al-Jazeera — probably the only major free press outlet available in the Arab world.

It’s been said that the first casualty of war is truth. The truth is still being told, but it is under attack by those who’d prefer we trust Big Brother instead. In two days, we will be celebrating the occasion when our forefathers broke free of an oppressive empire to create a free country. Our greatest enemy now is not Islamic terrorists or insurgents. The greatest threat to our country is ourselves. No external force can take away our freedoms. Only us, or our government, can do that for us.


666: The Number of Money

Jun 06, 2006 in Current Events


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Unless you’ve been living in a cave without a calendar, today is 06/06/06 – a date that is bringing on a mildly uncomfortable case of hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia for some people.

A few have even been using it as a marketing tool. The remake of The Omen comes out today. New books by the authors of the Left Behind series and conservative she-beast Ann Coulter are hitting bookshelves. Several death metal bands – including Deicide, Gorgoroth and Behemoth – are taking advantage of the sinister associations of this date to promote their new releases. However, Slayer’s Unholy Alliance Tour, originally scheduled to begin today, has been delayed until June.

The cultural appeal of 666 comes primarily from popular Christian evangelical “end times” literature, such as the aforementioned Left Behind series, and the works of best-selling author Hal Lindsay. These authors and publishers have become millionaires peddling end times prophecies, and the genre has spawned a profitable industry.

The attention that 06/06/06 brings provides an ideal opportunity to examine the facts behind the “number of the beast.” First of all, the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation may not actually be 666. A recently examined early manuscript lists the number as 616, and the 666 vs. 616 debate has been waged by Biblical scholars for years.

The consensus among scholars is that the number of the beast actually refers to a Roman emperor, most likely Nero. The Book of Revelation – a series of letters by John of Patmos to the Christian churches of modern-day Turkey – was written during a time when Christians and Jews were being persecuted by the Roman Empire. Christian Jews were known to have used numerology and codes while communicating, likely to avoid punishment by authorities if the communications were intercepted.

Using the Hebrew numerological system of gematria, the letters in the Hebrew spelling of “Nero Caesar,” Nrwn Qsr, add up to 666. (There was no separate system of numbers – letters did double duty as numerals. There are also no vowels in Hebrew.) An alternate spelling based on the Latin form, Nrw Qsr adds up to 616, which could explain how both numbers ended up in different manuscripts.

The number of the beast is associated with the idea of the anti-christ in modern end times literature. Oddly enough, the word “anti-christ” does not appear in the Book of Revelation, nor was it ever used by Jesus – the only appearance of the word in the Bible is in letters from the apostle Paul. A wide variety of questionable numerological calculations and scriptural citations have been used to identify the anti-christ as everyone from the Pope to Hitler to George W. Bush.

Self-styled prophets have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of recorded history, and to date, all those who have attempted to have been exposed as fools. The current batch of end times literature is simply conspiracy theory masquerading as religious faith.

So, relax. Don’t freak out if your child is born today, or if your coffee and muffin add up to $6.66, or if the speedometer on your car goes three-sixes. Here’s a collection of 666 humor, and some neat mathematical facts about the number 666.


National Day of Slayer

Jun 06, 2006 in Music


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Today, 06/06/06, has been declared as the National Day of Slayer. If you don’t have it already, procure a copy of Reign in Blood and play it full blast. Practice throwing the devil horns with both hands while shouting “Slayer!” Show your dedication by carving the Slayer logo into your skin.


Another stolen election controversy?

Jun 03, 2006 in Current Events


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Grab your pitchforks and torches everyone, cause Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — writing in the latest issue of Rolling Stone — has lent greater credence to what was once considered just a left-wing conspiracy theory: the possibility that the 2004 election was stolen due to Republican voter fraud.

The evidence is damning. Final vote tallies differed from exit poll results by such a wide margin as to be statistically improbable. Widespread allegations of misconduct by Republican election officials in Ohio, as well as voting machine irregularities, raise the possibility that Kerry might have won Ohio, had voting in largely Democratic precincts not been obstructed.

Critics such as Tucker Carlson may ask: Is it possible that such a wide ranging conspiracy could have taken place, and been kept secret for so long? Frankly, nothing the Republicans could do surprises me anymore. And if you don’t believe in the idea of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” read David Brooks’ Blinded by the Right.

The Rolling Stone article is extensively footnoted, and the online version has links to additional resources. There is no “smoking gun,” so to speak, but the Bush administration has led us into war on far less convincing evidence. Considering the Republicans’ current unpopularity, could this become the next big GOP controversy?


The immovable third

Apr 24, 2006 in Current Events


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Bush’s approval rating hits new low - Yahoo! News

According to the latest polls, Bush’s approval rating stands around 32-35 percent. It’s not surprising at all that Bush’s approval ratings are so low. What is surprising is that they’re not lower.

The war in Iraq is an expensive, intractable quagmire. The federal deficit has ballooned. The economy is still shaky. Bush’s domestic policy is in shambles. His worldwide popularity is in the toilet, and his domestic popularity is circling the drain.

Yet, despite all of this, a stubborn 1/3 of our country insists that Bush is doing a good job. This 1/3 roughly corresponds to the number of registered Republicans and/or evangelical Christians in this country. (I don’t have the numbers, but look ‘em up.)

Christ, all you gotta do is throw out some God talk, be faithful to the party line, and at least 1/3 of the country will come out for you. Unless George Bush is exposed as a baby-eating liberal Satanist in disguise, I doubt we’ll see those poll numbers get much lower.


Ok, who let the hipster rock critics into the Library of Congress?

Apr 12, 2006 in Music


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The Library of Congress has released the list of 2005 entries into the National Recording Registry. Every year, 50 recordings are selected for their historical, cultural or aesthetic significance. There are 200 recordings in the registry as of this year.

Last year, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet made the list. (The aforementioned albums are also the most recent entries in the registry.) The highlights of this year’s list:

  • Crazy Blues, Mamie Smith (1920) - The first commercial blues recording. The surprising success of Crazy Blues convinced the record labels that black people were actually interested in buying music recorded by blacks. And as jazz, rock and hip hop soon proved, so were white people.
  • Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith (1952) - The legendary box set of roots music 78s that helped spark the ’60s folk revival. Just in case you were looking for someone to blame for that.
  • Poeme Electronique, Edgard Varese (1958) - The first avante garde piece to be admitted to the registry. A massive musique concrete installation that premiered at the 1958 Brussels Exhibition.
  • We’re Only in It for the Money, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (1968) - The second avante garde piece to be admitted into the registry. Not only Zappa’s best work, but probably the album that truly captured the zeitgeist of the 60s. (Anyone who had the foresight to make fun of hippies in 1967 is deserving of immortality.)
  • Switched-On Bach, Wendy Carlos (1968) - Still going by the name Walter Carlos at the time, Switched-On Bach featured Carlos performing Bach on the Moog synthesizer (an instrument previously pioneered by jazz musician Sun Ra, who used it to make appropriately spacy sounds). Music would never be the same again. Dark Side of the Moon and prog rock would soon follow.
  • Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, Firesign Theatre (1970) - Remarkable if only for its title. The Theatre were a surrealist sketch comedy troupe that got their start in the late 60s.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron (1970) - Radical black activist and poet Gil Scott-Heron released this scathing and hilarious putdown of televised mass media. [Lyrics and music], and in the process became one of the forefathers of hip hop.
  • Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth (1988) - The third avante garde piece to be admitted into the registry. Honestly, when I heard that Sonic Youth was on the list, I was expecting Dirty. This album is considered by many to be their best, although Evol is my personal favorite. Hey, at least it wasn’t Goo.

Like cheap vegetables? So do I!

Apr 11, 2006 in Current Events


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Listen up America: Yesterday, millions of Mexican and other Latino immigrants stopped building your houses, tending your gardens, picking your vegetables and washing your dishes to take to the streets in large numbers and tell you that they’re tired of being treated like criminals.

America is a nation of immigrants, and unless you’re 100% Native American, chances are your ancestors came here on a boat for the very same reasons that Latinos and other illegals come here. And even though they may have come legally, your ancestors likely faced the very same discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment that the Mexicans do today.

Like it or not, we live in a world where brown people of many different races work for comparatively low wages, so that you can maintain your standard of living. Guess who built that house you just bought in that nice suburban subdivision? That nice shiny office building with the attractive landscaping? Who picked your fruits and vegetables? Who slaughtered and processed your store-bought chicken or steak? Who keeps these and many other things cheap?

Obviously, immigration reform is a complex issue with no easy answers. But stricter penalties against illegal immigration would do little to address the 10-12 million illegal immigrants that are already here. They’re not going anywhere — the cost of deporting 10+ million immigrants would bankrupt the economy. Not to mention that many businesses, especially in the agricultural sector, would go bankrupt if not for a steady influx of immigrant labor. Better to find some way to integrate them into society, and address the issue of border crossings seperately.

There’s a lot of racism and xenophobia regarding this issue, much of it, not surprisingly, from the Republican Party and its supporters. (Latinos are yet another group they’ve managed to alienate.) Polls show that immigration has become a major concern among Americans. With all the major issues demanding attention, doesn’t this sudden emphasis on illegal immigration seem like a smokescreen to you?

This is not an issue that is going to be resolved by those with authoritarian and xenophobic motives. This issue requires forward thinking, and I don’t think the politicians in power have the ability to resolve this issue fairly. Good thing there’s an election coming up.