Archive for April, 2005

Presidential iPod Follow-Up

I was over at The Heretik, preparing my selections for President Bush’s iPod, when I realized I had entirely too many (some of them may be more appropriate for America’s iPod, but hey, L’etat, c’est lui). So I will post the complete list here, and attempt to whittle down to a Top Ten for there and Agitprop’s Presidential iPod Commission.

This is still not an absolutely complete list – some people already picked some of my selections, and some of them were perhaps too obscure to recognize – but it’s pretty close. Here it is, in all its tedious alphabetical glory (I so totally suck at editing…):

Beck – Loser
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – You & Me & The Bottle Makes Three Tonight
Blotto – I Wanna Be A Lifeguard
Bobby Brown – My Prerogative
Boys Don’t Cry – I Wanna Be A Cowboy
Calloway – I Wanna Be Rich
Chicago – Hard To Say I’m Sorry
David Bowie – I’m Afraid Of Americans
David Byrne – Miss America
Dead Can Dance – Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus
Devo – Freedom Of Choice
Disturbed – Down With The Sickness, Violence Fetish
Doobie Brothers – Jesus Is Just Alright With Me
Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien
Eels – Novocaine For The Soul
EMF – Unbelievable
Erasure – Let’s Take One More Rocket To The Moon (Bitches!), Love To Hate You, Ship Of Fools
Europe – The Final Countdown
Eurythmics – Doubleplusgood, Would I Lie To You
Fabulous T-Birds – Tuff Enuff
Falco – Egoist
Fat Boy Slim – Weapon Of Choice
Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies
Flying Lizards – I Want Money
Fun Boy Three – The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)
Gap Band – You Dropped The Bomb On Me
Gob – Give Up The Grudge
Heaven 17 – We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing
Hooters – All You Zombies
Howard Jones – No One is to Blame, Things Can Only Get Better
Hubert Kah – Welcome Machine Gun
Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealin’
Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
John Lennon – Instant Karma
Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth
JXL/Elvis – A Little Less Conversation
Kinks – Hatred
Lindsey Buckingham – Wrong
Living Colour – Cult of Personality
Love & Rockets – Holy Fool
MC 900 Ft Jesus – If I Only Had A Brain
Midnight Oil – The Dead Heart
Ministry – Jesus Built My Hot Rod
Neil Diamond – Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show
New Pornographers – It’s Only Divine Right, The Laws Have Changed
Nick Cave – Bring It On, Red Right Hand
Nine Inch Nails – Head like a Hole
Oingo Boingo – Nothing Bad Ever Happens To Me, War Again, (Let’s Take The) Whole Day Off
Pat Boone – Crazy Train
Paul Hardcastle – Nineteen
Paul Simon – The Myth Of Fingerprints
Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)
REM – Bang And Blame, Superman, World Leader Pretend
Sex Pistols – My Way
Simon & Garfunkel – Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
Sisters Of Mercy – This Corrosion
Squirrel Nut Zippers – Bad Businessman, Fat Cat Keeps Getting Fatter, Hell
Stan Ridgeway – The Last Honest Man
Star Wars – Imperial March
Talking Heads – Burning Down The House, Puzzlin’ Evidence, Road To Nowhere, Slippery People
They Might Be Giants – You And Your Racist Friend
Timezone – World Destruction
Tom Waits – Earth Died Screaming
Village People – Macho Man
Violent Femmes – Lies
Wall Of Voodoo – Far Side of Crazy, Shouldn’t Have Given Him A Gun
Who – However Much I Booze
XTC – Dear God, Stupidly Happy

7 comments April 12th, 2005 at 06:47pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Music

Gonad Quandary!!!

Well, the latest New York Times Sunday Magazine had one of the creepier articles I’ve read in quite some time…

It’s about using human stem cells to create genetic chimeras: animals with human cells in some of their organs. The sci-fi reading side of me goes, “Ooo, cool!” when it’s not actively cringing right next to my humanist side.

Some samples of the freaky genetic chimera-y goodness inside the article:

Several years ago, Zanjani and his colleagues began injecting fetal lambs with human stem cells, mostly ones derived from human bone marrow. He said he hoped that the cells would transform into blood cells so that he could use the sheep to study the human blood system. According to Zanjani, when he examined the sheep he discovered that the human cells had traveled with their lymphatic system throughout the sheep’s body, developing into blood, bone, liver, heart and assorted other cells, including some in the brain. While some scientists are skeptical of his findings, Zanjani told me that some have livers that are as much as 40 percent humanized, with distinct human structural units pumping out uniquely human proteins.

While the idea of partly humanized sheep might make some people a little uncomfortable, it isn’t easy to see where they trespass across some unambiguous ethical line. But according to Dr. William Hurlbut, a physician and consulting professor in human biology at Stanford, who serves with Kass on the President’s Council for Bioethics, the seeing is exactly the point. What if, instead of internal human organs, Zanjani’s sheep sported recognizably human parts on the outside — human limbs or genitals, for instance, ready for transplant should the need arise? Hurlbut maintains that this is scientifically plausible. But it would be wrong. Every living thing has a natural trajectory through its life beginning at conception, and in Hurlbut’s view, a visible chimera would veer dangerously off course.

”It has to do with the relationship between signs and their meaning,” he told me. ”Human appearance is something we should reserve for humans. Anything else that looks human debases the coinage of truth.”

Um, excuse me, Dr. Hurlbut? If I may interject for a moment? Debasing the coinage of truth is the least of our ethical worries here, okay? Jeez, are you seriously saying that a sheep could have a human brain and internal organs, but as long as it still looks like a sheep, everything’s okay?

Apparently, a large part of the reason the sheep do still look like sheep is that the human stem cells weren’t injected until late in their fetal development, when they were already pretty definitively sheep. But there’s a mad researcher who wants to try a similar experiment with highly impressionable 3-5 day old mouse embryos, which gives even genetic researchers the creeps.

Why all the shuddering? For starters, there is the gonad quandary. If the experiment really works, the human cells should differentiate into all of the embryo’s cell lineages, including the one that eventually forms the animal’s reproductive cells. If the mouse were male, some of its sperm might thus be human, and if it were female, some of its eggs might be human eggs. If two such creatures were to mate, there would be a chance that a human embryo could be conceived and begin to grow in a mouse uterus — a sort of Stuart Little scenario, but in reverse and not so cute.

”Literally nobody wants to see an experiment where two mice that have eggs and sperm of human origin have the opportunity to mate and produce human offspring,” says Dr. Norman Fost, professor of pediatrics and director of the bioethics program at the University of Wisconsin and a member of the National Academy of Sciences committee reviewing stem-cell research policies. ”That’s beyond anybody’s wildest nightmare.”

Gah!

More fun with mice:

…[Irving Weissman] came up with an ingenious idea: why not make a mouse with a brain composed entirely of human neurons? In theory, at least, this could be achieved by transplanting human neural stem cells into the fetal brain of a strain of mouse whose own neurons happen to die off just before birth. If the human stem cells took up the slack and differentiated along the same lines as in the earlier experiment, you might just end up with a living newborn mouse controlled by a functioning brain that just happened to be composed of human cells.

Or, if you want to really go for the creepiness home run…

”One could imagine that if you took a human embryonic midbrain and spliced it into a developing chimpanzee, you could get a chimp with many of our automatic vocalizations,” says Terrence Deacon, a biological anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the Johns Hopkins committee. ”It wouldn’t be able to talk. But it might laugh or sob, instead of pant-hoot.”

Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that anyone has any intention of trying this. But the man-mouse is unsettling enough, even though the article claims that, in essence, the human brain cells wouldn’t have enough space to grow into anything like their accustomed human capabilities, and that the fetal man-mice would be aborted and never brought to term. Somehow, that all fails to make me feel a whole lot better about the whole enterprise…

Finally, this puts me in mind of some works of fiction: One is David Brin’s Uplift Trilogies, in which humans have elevated chimps and dolphins to full sentience (i.e., ability to speak and fly spaceships), much to the horror of the galactic community – not really the Uplift itself, but the fact that we bootstrapped ourselves to sentience all by ourselves, without the aid of a patron race. But for what it’s worth, we Uplifted the dolphins and chimps by augmenting their existing genetic makeup, not by blending it with our own, so it’s somewhat less horrific. The chimps seem a bit rough around the edges, but the sentient dolphins are rather elegant and poetic creatures who like to speak in haiku.

The other is a truly horrific Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) movie called No Telling, about a bioresearcher and his wife, who move to the country in hopes of salvaging their marriage. He does animal experiments for a pharmaceutical company, and becomes utterly obsessed with his chillingly heartless work. When his employer balks at sending him the monkeys he craves for his experiments, he begins kidnapping and buying up local animals. The movie ends with him showing off his crowning achievement – I can’t really tell you what it is, but suffice it to say that this post reminded me of it, and it is possibly the most haunting and awful thing I have ever seen. If you’re an animal lover and are even remotely easy to upset, do not see this movie. I’m serious. It’s good, but it’s terrible, if you know what I mean.

5 comments April 12th, 2005 at 12:27am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Science

Wacky Book Questions!

Well, thanks to Thersites, I am now obliged to answer some pointless-yet-thought-provoking book questions…

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Solaris. Unless there’s a novelization of Waterworld

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I’m sure there’s hundreds of them, but I think Mrs. Stainless Steel Rat comes to mind first. Dead sexy, resourceful, lethal, smart, and tolerant.

The last book you bought is:

I will take this to mean “intentionally”, rather than “by default ’cause I didn’t decline the book club selection fast enough”…

I’m not rightly sure, actually – I think it may have actually been a cheesy Marvel graphic novel called 1602, where various Marvel characters like Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Nick Fury, and The X-Men are living and heroing (or villaining) in 1602.

As far as a real book without any pictures, I think it might be Gridlink’d, by Neal Asher, where the main character is a government agent who has been gridlinked (connected to the cyberuniverse in realtime) for so long that he’s started to forget how to be human. His eccentric and mysterious boss has him disconnect from the net to reconnect with his humanity while investigating a massive teleportation disaster, while being chased by a crazy vengeful terrorist and his goons and evil psychotic android.

It’s, um, not exactly literary, but fun stuff all the same.

The last book you read:

Lempriere’s Dictionary, by Lawrence Norfolk. My stepmother raved about it and loaned me her copy. The main character is a bookish young 18th-century classical scholar who gets sucked into a mysterious and elaborate conspiracy involving the East India Company. The arcane Greek mythology references made it difficult to get into, but after the scene with the village priest who could only achieve sexual climax by covering himself in mashed potatoes, I was pretty much hooked.

What are you currently reading?

Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. More cheesy sci-fi, it’s kind of like a mild amalgam of noir and cyberpunk. It’s set in a future where everyone (except Catholics, for religious reasons) has hard drives in their heads that store their consciousness, so if their body is killed they can just be “resleeved” in a new one. There is almost no death penalty at all; instead, punishments are in terms of “dislocation”, where the criminal’s consciousness is stored for months, years, or decades and then resleeved. Seems a bit ineffective to me compared to prison, but what do I know. Anyway, the main character is a criminal who also happens to have outstanding detective training, conditionally reprieved, hired and resleeved by a 350-year-old gazillionaire who wants answers to his own death. You see, he was found in his study with his head blown off (fortunately for him, his consciousness is remotely backed up every 48 hours), and he wants the protagonist to prove that he was “murdered”, and did not commit “suicide”, which is what the police have decided. Pretty intriguing so far – I have a broad-outline theory on what might have happened.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Ouch, that’s a toughie. Definitely Queen Of Angels by Greg Bear, which is just amazing. Possibly the Watchmen graphic novel by Alan Moore. Dune, by Frank Herbert (only the first one, though…). If I may combine a bit, I would round it out with Tom Weller’s Science Made Stupid and Culture Made Stupid, and both volumes of Monty Python: All The Words.

UPDATE: Okay, much as I love Dune, I think I would have to replace it with How To Build A Seaworthy Raft Out Of Palm Trees And Coconuts, by Hibiscus J. Moped.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

The shadowy and mysterious Codename V., whose reviewing skills are exemplary.

driftglass, because he’s a honking great bibliophile and borderline insane.

LJ/Aquaria
, because she’s a writer herself, and maybe this’ll get her to come back…

7 comments April 11th, 2005 at 09:29pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Memes

Pufftacular!

More Hard-Hitting, Take-No-Prisoners White House Reportage From The New York Times!

How can we expect voters to make informed decisions without knowing what’s on the President’s iPod?

Mad props to Elisabeth Bumiller for digging deep into this story and refusing to let go until she had all the answers, and thank God there was an MP3 Throat willing to step forward with the goods.

In all fairness, his song selections seem unobjectionable to me, other than country not being my cuppa. But I’d respect him a lot more if he had Bubba Shot The Jukebox or You’re The Hangnail In My Life.

8 comments April 11th, 2005 at 07:43pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Media,Music,Wankers

Bus Stop Skyblogging

Whilst waiting for buses at the shopping center on my recent vacation, I noticed some rather lovely skies, and figured I might as well make the most of my bus-waitin’ time…


It’s kinda… wingy. Posted by Hello


Pretty close to sunset, looks like… Posted by Hello

4 comments April 11th, 2005 at 12:46am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Elections Are The New Free Markets

I want to elaborate a little bit on a flip comment I made on the Eschaton comments page, with regard to Santorum’s take on DeLay’s ethics issues:

“Now you may not like some of the things he’s done,” Santorum said. “That’s for the people of his district to decide, whether they want to approve that kind of behavior or not.”

This is exactly the same as when libertarians and Republicans argue against the corporate regulation: They claim that if a company is behaving badly, that “the market” will fix it, that consumers will “punish” that company for its wrongdoing. This is patently ridiculous: If anything, the wrongdoing gives that company an unfair competitive advantage over its competitors (assuming they’re not all doing the same thing), and the consumer will never even know about it, much less care enough to boycott – after all, the corporate miscreant probably has excellent prices as a result of its miscreancy.

Now Republicans make the case that there is no need to regulate elected officials, because if they misbehave the voters will take care of it. So, essentially, anything that doesn’t get you voted out of office is a-ok (See: Accountability Moment Has Passed, The). Once again, in many instances, DeLay’s in particular, the ethical lapses give the corrupt officials an unfair advantage in the all-important area of fundraising, and most voters are only dimly aware of it, or else have a perception that all politicians are corrupt, so you might as well vote for the one who can bring home the most pork.

In fact, the electoral angle is in many ways considerably worse than the free market angle: In most cases, I have a choice of products, and I am fairly confident that I am getting the brand that I paid for (although this can get a little hazy in the world of computers and electronics). The election “marketplace” is so gamed-up right now that it puts the economic marketplace to shame, with smears, misinformation, feckless reporting, voter intimidation, voter purging, strategically placed machine shortages, and outright fraud all running rampant. So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m skeptical about re-election as the ultimate stamp of ethical approcal.

I find it very ironic that Congress is so very outraged about baseball players using steroids to give themselves an unfair competitive advantage, yet cares so little about corporations and elected officials who do the exact same thing. Why not just let the fans take care of the steroid problem? Surely they’ll tire of all the scoring and home runs and stop coming to the ballparks, right? I guess it’s best not to leave something so important to society to chance; they can work on the small fry in the corporate and government spheres later.

4 comments April 10th, 2005 at 07:43pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

Proof! I Have Proof!


Ha! I told you I have eyes! Ha! Posted by Hello

16 comments April 8th, 2005 at 08:28pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,People,Photoblogging

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This week’s quote:

I look like your mother and you love me! My therapist says so and it’s true!

is spoken by an extremely ugly and unconvincing transvestite who is in love with the main character, a gay, ridiculously well-endowed, hardboiled Italian cop who works in New York City. Oh, right, the name of the movie: Killer Condom – As one might expect, it involves a captive mad scientist enslaved by addiction to red jelly, and forced to genetically engineer vicious, sharp-toothed, bitey creatures that look an awful lot like condoms, right up until they, um, feed.

Released by Troma, so you know it must be quality.

And for those of you with more pedestrian tastes, here is a cat:


Once again, La Sexy Eek. Posted by Hello

5 comments April 8th, 2005 at 06:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Can You Smell What The Hammer Is Cooking?

As my liberal compatriots and I get all excited and frothed up about the various DeLay/Cornyn atrocities, confident that the Republicans’ sleaze and overreach have finally caught up with them, I cannot help but think that maybe we’re a bit like a nerdy, clueless wrestling fan wringing his/her hands and saying, “Oh goodness, that Stone Cold Steve Austin/Triple H/Iron Sheik/Iraqi Pete has really gone too far this time! He’s gonna get kicked out of the WWE for sure now!”

We have forgotten that:
A) The game is scripted, rigged, and completely fake, and
B) The more outre and thuggish the smacktalk and spectacle, the more the people like it.

Every day (or at least every election day) since ’96 I pray to be proven wrong, but it hasn’t happened yet.

3 comments April 7th, 2005 at 10:38pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Favorites,Politics,Republicans

OMG. I Am In Awe.

This is, without question, the most amazing spam I have ever seen. Again, from the Picasa/Hello/BloggerBot forums, which are otherwise entirely useless.

Hopefully I am not violating any kind of spam copyright laws…

Indeed, gonad for blood clot fall in love with hand living with shadow.When over guardian angel meditates, ball bearing behind hides.Where we can barely graduate from our fetishist.Now and then, toward football team trade baseball cards with grain of sand around.And prefer the dark side of her steam engine.Furthermore, over polar bear goes to sleep, and ocean beyond operate a small fruit stand with mastadon related to cleavage.

Best. Spam. Ever.

7 comments April 7th, 2005 at 06:28pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Spamoptikon

Best. Editorial. Headline. Ever.

Some Thoughts on Seeing the Polymerized Remains of Human Cadavers

The content is pretty intriguing too. The plastination chap is kind of a scary loon, but he certainly does interesting work (link is not for the squeamish, but that probably goes without saying)…

3 comments April 6th, 2005 at 01:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Great Headlines

Terrorists, Shmerrorists!

(Admittedly, this isn’t exactly breaking news what with all the deaths of luminaries like Terri Schiavo, the pope, and Johnnie Cochran, but cut me some slack, I’ve been on vacation)

Further proof that America is completely in thrall to insane interest groups.

Money quote:

Keeping terror suspects from buying guns seems like an issue the entire nation can rally around. But the National Rifle Association is, as usual, fighting even the most reasonable regulation of gun purchases. After the G.A.O. report came out, Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s executive vice president, took to the airwaves to reiterate his group’s commitment to ensuring that every citizen has access to guns, and to cast doubt on the reliability of terrorist watch lists.

Yes, that’s right, terrorists have no rights to due process or even minimally humane treatment, but Republicans and the N.R.A. will defend their right to bear arms to the bitter end!

Hey, how about some commercials juxtaposing this with, say, some D.C. sniper headlines and general Scary Terrorist Stuff? Why not use fear against the Republicans every once in a while?

2 comments April 4th, 2005 at 08:14pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Democrats,Republicans,Terrorism

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

The answer to last week’s Friday Quoteblogging, “All I have is some loose jello, okay?” was Muppets From Space.

Since there does not appear to be much interest in trying to guess the quotes, I am going to change the format by selecting quotes I consider awesome, and just giving away the movie they’re from right up front, plus maybe some plot synopsis.

This week’s quote:

If there’s one piece of truth in your insect soul, I want it!

They Came To Cordura

This movie stars Gary Cooper as an officer who chickens out in the middle of a battle against Pancho Villa’s forces, and is given the duty of getting a bunch of medal-winning heroes safely to Cordura so they won’t get killed before they receive their medals, which the Army considers embarrassing. He is also responsible for writing up their medal citations.

Despite or because of being a coward, Cooper’s character is obsessed with the concept of courage, and uses his interviews of the heroes to try to understand how they did what they did. The irony of the movie is that the “heroes” turn out to all be pretty much scum of the earth, and Cooper ends up being the only noble and heroic person in the entire movie.

This movie was very close to the end of Gary Cooper’s career – he died two years after it was made. Also look for an appearance by a forty-something Rita Hayworth (a little rough around the edges, but still looking good) and a pre-Bewitched Dick York. Also Van Heflin and Tab Hunter, for those of you who like that sort of thing…

And here’s another picture of Eek:


Posted by Hello

9 comments April 1st, 2005 at 07:46pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Why Don’t I Get The Good Spam?

Well, Hello/BloggerBot is totally hosed, so I can’t post any photos at the moment. Will have to investigate Imageshack or Photobucket or something like that. But it’s not a total loss. While poking through the Hello user forums to see if there’s any info (ha), I found the following spam posting:

bottle of beer living with turkey write a love letter to alchemist of necromancer.When you see for demon, it means that microscope around ball bearing trembles.Bob, the friend of Bob and hides with for fundraiser.

It’s like the synopsis of a lost Twin Peaks episode or something…

2 comments April 1st, 2005 at 12:30pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Spamoptikon

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