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Archive for February, 2013

Happy Berk Mitzvah.


Berkeley, GitM’s resident Sheltie-American sidekick and ombudsdog, is thirteen today. [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.5.] In lieu of pictures, I took this video over the weekend with my phone. Not all that interesting, but it does capture the circling, random barking, and street watching that comprises much of the old man’s day. Happy b-day, little fella.

G is for Gibbering.

“Edward Gorey is one of my favorite artists (A is for Amy, anyone?). What if he illustrated Lovecraft stories or created artwork with Lovecraftian themes?” In honor of Edward Gorey’s 88th birthday and by way of Kestrel’s Nest, Gorey meets Lovecraft in the work of Danish artist John Kenn Mortenson.

Update: Along the same lines, here’s a Kickstarter for The Littlest Lovecraft, a child’s illustrated edition of The Call of Cthulhu.

The Other Space Program.

‘The mission is ongoing,’ Air Force Maj. Eric Badger, a spokesman for the X-37B program, told SPACE.com. ‘As with previous missions, the actual duration will depend on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance and conditions at the landing facility.'” From the the bottom of the ocean to low-earth orbit: The Air Force’s classified X-37B space drone enters its third month in space. “The X-37B looks a bit like a miniature space shuttle. The vehicle is 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 m) wide, with a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed.”

Well, at least one branch of our government is well-funded enough to take on these sorts of projects, I guess. Too bad the research is classified and likely highly iffy. Consider, similarly, the two “other” Hubbles found lying around in a Pentagon warehouse last year. “[S]top and think about this for a moment. The Department of Defense has the kind of funding needed — hundred of millions to billions of dollars, presumably — to build not one, but two, Hubble-like optical telescopes and then never use them.”

The High Cost of Deficit Hysteria.

“Greater risk of wildfires, fewer OSHA inspections and a risk of more workplace deaths, 125,000 people risking homelessness with cuts to shelters and housing vouchers, neglect for mentally ill and homeless Americans who would lose services, Native Americans getting turned away from hospitals, cuts to schools on reservations and prison lockdowns. There’s also a higher risk of terrorism with surveillance limited and the FBI potentially unable to disrupt plots, closed housing projects, and 600,000 women and children thrown off WIC. In short: Unless a budget deal is cut, the country will be in deep trouble.”

It’s not just pandas and sea lions: Chris Good of ABC News lists fifty-seven terrible consequences America can expect from the looming sequestration, the deep automatic cuts resulting from the August 2011 debt ceiling deal that — unless action is taken — are set to go into effect on March 1st. Among the probable damage: 700,000 jobs lost. “With the House in recess and with Obama playing golf [with oilmen] over the weekend, a deal does not appear imminent.”

There’s a lot of back-and-forth going on in Washington right now about whose fault these lousy sequesters are. Clearly, the GOP loved the idea back when, and they’re the ones preventing any action on averting the cuts now. So make no mistake — if these deep and indiscriminate cuts go into effect, it’ll be because the GOP wants them. It’s the same reason they hold up disaster relief constantly, and are currently holding the US Postal Service hostage — Because they seem to get an ideological kick out of seeing Big Guvmint fail at its basic responsibilities.

That being said, let’s remember: The president handed House Republicans a loaded gun. It takes a very short-term view of things to forget how, throughout 2010, 2011, and 2012, President Obama actively fomented the deficit witchhunt, and continued to promote both Simpson-Bowles and a deadly Grand Bargain even as it became patently obvious that investment, spending, and economic growth should be the order of the day. (By the way: Not in the Simpson-Bowles package of deficit-defeating awesomeness? The corporate tax loophole that just made Erskine Bowles $114,000.)

In short, this lousy sequester is the GOP’s baby, yes. But it’s also the ultimate consequence of both parties trafficking in unresponsible hysteria over a phantom problem for years one end. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and our fragile economic recovery, weakened by several years without any serious stimulus, faces a real crisis. Let’s be clear: This crisis was not caused by the illusory danger of deficits, but because Republicans and the administration both, when the chips were down in August 2011, elided over basic economic sense and instead embraced the nonsense of austerity.

Update: The Story of the Sequester in GIF form, via AFSCME, and Sequestered Development, a not particularly inspired mash-up of Arrested Development and recent events.

Run Silent, Run Deep.

“This is the driving idea behind DARPA’s Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program, which seeks to create technologies that would allow the Navy to leave unmanned systems and other distributed technologies hidden in the ocean depths for years on end and deploy them remotely at the push of a button when the need arises. Think: unmanned aircraft that travel to the surface and launch into the sky to provide reconnaissance or to disrupt or spoof enemy defenses, or perhaps submersible or surface sub-hunters that launch from the seafloor during times of heightened alert in a particular maritime theater.”

You know what the world really needs? A system of dormant underwater drones, which apparently DARPA is hard at work on. If you want to use this type of tech to explore the oceans of Europa or Titan, fine. For the Taiwan Strait? Sounds like a terrible idea. SKYNET aside, glitches happen.

Doghouse Empire.

In the interstices of the Interwebz between Buscemi Eyes and Grumpy Cat, meet Chuci, the Pekinese-Poodle hybrid that looks strangely like Steve Buscemi. All the news that’s fit to print, y’all.

Iron’s Bane.

Ben Kingsley lounges as Iron Man arch-nemesis The Mandarin in the spiffy character poster for Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, due out this April. The rushed-to-the-screens second installment obviously didn’t live up to the promise of the first (and worse, it wasted Sam Rockwell.) But this one could right the ship, and I’m glad to see Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall joining the story as well.


A Star is Grown.

“Every male movie star has a different magic number—an age at which his attractiveness and ability and maturity all come together. Before that, a star may not feel fully formed; after that, if he has talent, he seems to become more assured, complicated, and real with every passing year.”

“Tom Hanks’s ideal age was about 36 — when he made Philadelphia and Forrest Gump…Clooney’s ideal age seems to have been about 45 — the SyrianaMichael Clayton period. He needed the gray hair and extra years because his whole ‘I’ve done things with women you only dream of’ vibe required some visible baggage—creases, texture, a little sag…Tom Cruise is about Clooney’s age; unfortunately, Cruise’s ideal age was about 25 — the Top Gun-Color of Money moment of maximum cocksureness.”

In GQ, Mark Harris surveys the state of the Hollywood Leading Man in 2013. “The dust clears. We survey the landscape. Channing Tatum is now a movie star. And Taylor Kitsch is not. How did this transition, not particularly predictable a year ago, happen for one of them? Why did it fail to happen for the other?”

The Shawshank Bowl.

“‘It’s startling to see a stadium will be named after them,’ Libal said. ‘It’s like calling something Blackwater Stadium. This is a company whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents that really draw into question their ability to successfully manage a prison facility.'”

Our culture veers even closer to self-parody upon the news that Florida Atlantic University will name its stadium after a private prison conglomerate. “GEO Group reported revenues in excess of $1.6 billion in 2011, income generated mostly from state and federal prisons and detention centers for illegal immigrants.”

What the?! Honestly, how shameful is it that we ostensible lovers of freedom — mainly on account of our ridiculous incarceration rates (for anything other than white-collar crimes) — not only have a private, for-profit prison industry flourishing in our country — one that routinely maintains substandard prisons and undercuts workers’ wages by outsourcing their captive labor force — but that we’re sufficiently unembarrassed about it to start naming stadiums after them? Pathetic.

Update: FAU students make their displeasure known.

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