Saturday, May 3, 2008

This Is Just Weird

From Time magazine's The Page:
Hillary Clinton enthusiastically picked a filly named Eight Belles to win the Kentucky Derby and compared herself to the horse. Eight Belles finished second. The winner was the favorite, Big Brown. Eight Belles collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line, and was euthanized shortly thereafter. 8:10 PM

Mrs. Conyers Gets Schooled

Here's a funny story from Detroit, via the folks at Reason:
A few weeks ago, Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, wife of Congressman and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), erupted at Council President Kenneth Cockrel Jr. over some inconsequential, uninteresting slight, calling him "Shrek" and incoherently mumbling about his lack of "respect." David Freddoso links to this Detroit News video in which an unrepentant Mrs. Conyers attempts to justify her disgraceful behavior to a room full of pre-teen girls. Watch as Conyers gets worked—and I mean worked—by a delightful, clever, poised eighth grade girl named Kierra Bell:
And here's follow up to the story from The Detroit News. Bell quickly became a mini-sensation—watch as she handles the media attention, sheepish at first, then learning quickly, becoming an unlikely advocate for her school.

Go Keirra!

Horses And Their Pet Frenchman

Unbearably pretentious, astonishingly beautiful, irritatingly impressive, strangely endearing. And so very…French. I love it. This one's for you, Annie.

h/t: Daily Dish

The Divorce Is Final

Andy Borowitz has the scoop.

Choice cut:
Obama De-friends Wright on Facebook
In an act that campaign insiders said indicated an irrevocable break with his former pastor, Sen. Barack Obama today de-friended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Facebook.

Sen. Obama's comments about Rev. Wright on Tuesday seemed to indicate that a total rift with his former minister was underway, but his decision to de-friend Rev. Wright on Facebook underscores the seriousness of his decision.

At a press conference in Gary, Indiana, chief Obama strategist David Axelrod said that Sen. Obama had to de-friend the Rev. Wright on Facebook "because he was getting really annoying."

"Every day, Rev. Wright was sending Sen. Obama new Facebook applications like 'What Superhero Are You?' and 'What 1980's Toy Are You?'" Mr. Axelrod said. "After awhile, enough is enough."
Get the rest of this breaking story here.

He's Back!

After his worst week of the campaign, Obama regains his footing. 

It's All About Race, Isn't It?

Bill Moyers discusses Jeremiah Wright, and the hypocrisy of most of his critics.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Special K

I've never had a chance to try this, though I've been curious since reading about it in the early 90s. Well, it turns out it may be an especially effective anti-depressant. Time to find a connection. (That's a joke, Uncle Sam.)

Choice cut:
Night club drug could ease depression
LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have unraveled how a horse tranquilizer and hallucinogenic night club drug known as "Special K" can ease depression, researchers said on Friday.

Ketamine, which can also cause feelings of detachment, could pave the way for new treatments for people suffering from depression, the researchers added.

The results were surprising because the researchers had expected that the ketamine would instead affect the part of the brain that controls psychosis, he added. "There was some activity there but more striking was the switching off of the depression centre," Deakin said.

Previous research had shown that ketamine improved symptoms in depressed people after just 24 hours -- far faster than the month it can take for Prozac to kick in -- but until now they did not know exactly how.

The Sad Trajectory…

…of this year's Dem primary is analyzed in this excellent article by The Nation editor Betsy Reed, in which she explores how gender, race, sexism and racism have played out so far. 

Choice cut: 
Race to the Bottom
The sexist attacks on Clinton are outrageous and deplorable, but there's reason to be concerned about her becoming the vehicle for a feminist reawakening. For one thing, feminist sympathy for her has begotten an "oppression sweepstakes" in which a number of her prominent supporters, dismayed at her upstaging by Obama, have declared a contest between racial and gender bias and named sexism the greater scourge. This maneuver is not only unhelpful for coalition-building but obstructs understanding of how sexism and racism have played out in this election in different (and interrelated) ways.

Yet what is most troubling--and what has the most serious implications for the feminist movement--is that the Clinton campaign has used her rival's race against him. In the name of demonstrating her superior "electability," she and her surrogates have invoked the racist and sexist playbook of the right--in which swaggering macho cowboys are entrusted to defend the country--seeking to define Obama as too black, too foreign, too different to be President at a moment of high anxiety about national security. This subtly but distinctly racialized political strategy did not create the media feeding frenzy around the Rev. Jeremiah Wright that is now weighing Obama down, but it has positioned Clinton to take advantage of the opportunities the controversy has presented. And the Clinton campaign's use of this strategy has many nonwhite and nonmainstream feminists crying foul.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Everything You Need To Know In Seven Minutes

About the Democratic primary, that is. A humorous—and quick—history of the race so far.

Thank You, Albert

Yesterday was a sad day, indeed. The world lost a great man, a revolutionary chemist, experiencer of the best bike ride in history, Albert Hoffman, the father of LSD. 

Here's Huffington Post's obit. The Daily Telegraph's is here

Obit excerpt:
Albert Hofmann, who died on Tuesday aged 102, synthesised lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 1938 and became the first person in the world to experience a full-blown "acid trip" – that was on April 19 1943, which became known among aficionados as "Bicycle Day" as it was while cycling home from his laboratory that he experienced the most intense symptoms.

Hofmann's studies led to many new discoveries, such as Hydergine, a medicament for improving circulation and cerebral function, and Dihydergot, a circulation and blood pressure stabilising medicine. His interest in synthesising LSD initially derived from the hope that it might also be useful as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant.

In retirement Hofmann served as a member of the Nobel Prize Committee. He was a Fellow of the World Academy of Sciences, and a member of the International Society of Plant Research and of the American Society of Pharmacognosy.

In 1988 the Albert Hofmann Foundation was established "to assemble and maintain an international library and archive devoted to the study of human consciousness and related fields".
Just for fun, there's this silliness:

Wanna Be A Member?

Welcome to the first installment of the Daily Betty. It won't be daily, but it will be all Betty Boop episodes. I absolutely love these cartoons and think the Fleischer brothers were fucking geniuses. It's irritating (though hardly surprising) that Disney became the American icon, when these guys were such brilliant pioneers in the field. 

"Bimbo's Initiation" is one of my favorite episodes. Watch this video, and tell me the Fleischers weren't total trippers.

I Am?

A very interesting interview with Integral philosopher, Ken Wilbur. To learn more about Integral Spirituality and Spiral Dynamics click on some of the links to the right under Science & Spirituality links section.

Choice cut:
You are the river: An interview with Ken Wilber The integral philosopher explains the difference between religion, New Age fads and the ultimate reality that traditional science can't touch.

Ken Wilber may be the most important living philosopher you've never heard of. He's written dozens of books but you'd be hard-pressed to find his name in a mainstream magazine. Still, Wilber has a passionate -- almost cultlike -- following in certain circles, as well as some famous fans. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have praised Wilber's books. 

A remarkable autodidact, Wilber's books range across entire fields of knowledge, from quantum physics to developmental psychology to the history of religion. He's steeped in the world's esoteric traditions, such as Mahayana Buddhism, Vedantic Hinduism, Sufism and Christian mysticism. Wilber also practices what he preaches, sometimes meditating for hours at a stretch. His "integral philosophy," along with the Integral Institute he's founded, hold out the promise that we can understand mystical experience without lapsing into New Age mush.

Q: Why has the scientific worldview dismissed this trans-personal dimension? For most intellectuals around the world, the secular scientific paradigm has triumphed.

Wilbur: It's understandable. Historically, if you look at these broad stages, the magical era tended to be 50,000 years ago, the mythic era emerged around 5,000 B.C., and the rational era -- secular humanism -- emerged in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an attempt to liberate myth and base truth claims on evidence, not just dogma. But when science threw out the church, they threw out the baby with the bath water.

You can't prove a higher stage to someone who's not at it. If you go to somebody at the mythic stage and try to prove to them something from the rational, scientific stage, it won't work. You go to a fundamentalist who doesn't believe in evolution, who believes the earth was created in six days, and you say, "What about the fossil record"? "Oh yes, the fossil record; God created that on the fifth day." You can't use any of the evidence from a higher stage and prove it to a lower stage. So someone who's at the rational stage has a very hard time seeing these trans-rational, trans-personal stages. The rational scientist looks at all the pre-rational stuff as nonsense -- fairies and ghosts and goblins -- and lumps it together with the trans-rational stuff and says, "That's nonrational. I don't want anything to do with it."

So where does God fit into this picture? Do you believe in God?

God is a perfect example of how these two types of religion treat ultimate reality. You asked, "Do you believe in God?" In exoteric religion, it's a matter of belief. Do you believe in the kind of God who rewards and punishes and will sit with you in some eternal heaven? But in the esoteric form of religion, God is a direct experience. Most contemplatives would call it "godhead." It's so different from the mythic conceptions of God -- the old man in the sky with a gray beard. The word "God" is much more misleading than it is accurate. So there's a whole series of terms that are used instead by the esoteric traditions -- super-consciousness, Big Mind, Big Self. This ultimate reality is a direct union that is felt or recognized in a state of enlightenment or liberation. It's what the Sufis call the "supreme identity," the identity of the interior soul with the ultimate ground of being in a direct experiential state.

If Life Were Facebook

This is fucking hilarious. Caveat: If you're not on Facebook, don't bother, you won't get it.

What A Gas

This one's for you, Pete.

Trouble In Progodise

An interesting chronology of the recent schism in the liberal blogosphere (progosphere?) by the acerbic James Wolcott. As someone who's spent way too much time in these sites lately, I can attest that it's as bad as he describes, if not worse.

Choice cut:
It was supposed to be a run for the roses, only to turn into the chariot race from Ben-Hur, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama grimacing like Chuck Heston down the brutal homestretch, lashing toward a multi-horse pileup. No, this wasn’t anybody’s dream finish.…The vicious Clinton-versus-Obama rupture at Daily Kos, the most activist site in the liberal blogosphere, reflects a party-wide split.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is fond of repeating the political maxim “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line,” and a halfhearted queue formed behind McCain’s candidacy despite the cranky impetuosities of a highly crafted nonconformity that grated on the Rush Limbaugh dittoheads, the Club for Growth tax-cut fanatics, and the nativists who wanted to Berlin Wall the border with Mexico to keep out the intruders causing Lou Dobbs such gastritis. Democrats had fallen in love with Obama, in heavy like with Hillary and Edwards.

A born-again populist, Edwards functioned as a lubricant, a slick lining separating—and dampening the friction between—two competing iconographic surge forces (the first black presidential nominee versus the first female nominee) and drawing enough support on Daily Kos and other liberal-Dem Web sites to diffuse the animosity, competitive zeal, and gender-generational differences between the two camps.

Once Edwards dropped out of the race, however, the buffer zone was removed, direct contact replaced triangulation, and the Obama and Hillary supporters faced off like the Jets and the Sharks. The rancor was disproportionate in intensity and extravagant in invective, a fervor worthy of ancestral foes. Months-old grievances seethed and erupted as if they had been bubbling for centuries in a lake of bad blood.

On the most egoistic plane, it seemed like a clash of entitlements, the messianics versus the menopausals. The Obama-ites exuded the confidence of those who feel that they embody the future and are the seed bearers of energies and new modalities too long smothered under the thick haunches of the tired, old, entrenched way of doing things. The Hillarions felt a different imperative knocking at the gate of history, the long-overdue prospect of the first woman taking the presidential oath of office. For them, Hillary’s time had come, she had paid her dues, she had been thoroughly vetted, she had survived hairdos that would have sunk lesser mortals, and she didn’t let a little thing like being loathed by nearly half of the country bum her out and clog her transmission. 
Not since Nixon had there been such a show of grinding perseverance in the teeth of adversity, and Nixon in a pantsuit was never going to be an easy sell contrasted with the powerful embroidery of Obama’s eloquence—his very emergence on the political scene seemed like a feat of levitation. Hillary’s candidacy promised to make things better; Obama’s to make us better: outward improvement versus inward transformation. With Hillary, you would earn your merit badges; with Obama, your wings. Hillary’s candidacy was warmed-over meat loaf—comfort food for those too old or fearful to Dream.

Testicular Fortitude

This is just weird. A day after a Clinton endorser says she makes Rocky look like a pansy (what, not a fag?), another supporter has this to say:

These people are hilarious. Now I know why the superdelegates are allowing this to drag on. It's not cowardice or vacillation—it's for the comic relief.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A First For Ashland

Amidst the field of Obama signs that have popped up like spring daffodils after a heavy rain, I've finally spotted a Hillary yard sign in town tonight. It's the first of the year (as far as I've seen anyway, and I've had my eye out). It's April 29. 

Nintendo Presents…

The theme to Super Mario Bros.…on two guitars.

Call me a geezer but I miss games like Super Mario Bros. 

Generational Warfare, Part 5,239,235

A new twist on the generational argument. Could this explain Wright's asshattery?

Choice cut:
Why Jeremiah Wright Is Willing To Destroy Barack Obama; This Campaign Really Is Generational
Jeremiah Wright is like the return of the repressed, a last desperate lunge of the undead 60s toward center stage. Wright represents a longing for enduring relevance so deep that it is willing to sabotage the very possibility of setting out on the long road that runs past race in order to preserve the claims of a certain righteousness, a certain rhetoric, a certain stance—a familiar and heroic sense of self-in-the-world.

It's so hard to get old. It's so hard to watch history pass you by. It's so hard to look out across a public landscape in which your style of being once loomed so large and to realize that somehow—you are suddenly yesterday.

People who say Obama needs to confront Wright are correct. But he needs to do it simply, he needs to tell the truth. He needs to say, kindly but firmly: old man, I love you and I thank you for your service—but your day is done.

The Cynical View

Of course, one can only rarely be too cynical in re: politics. It's possible that, realizing that the Wright issue wasn't going to disappear even after his March speech, Obama and team set up a situation in which he would appear forced to disown Wright while still seeming the good guy. It's a stretch, but the stakes are high, and the Obama campaign are no idiots. 

Obama Responds

Well, it's too early to know if this is enough, but it's surely a good start and has alleviated my concerns a bit. 

Choice cut:
The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Rev. Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well I might not know him as well as I thought, either.

Obama's No Good, Very Bad Week

What a god awful week for Obama. First his former pastor goes onto Bill Moyers show for a softball interview and undercuts Obama by saying this:
"He's a politician and I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician and I say what I have to say as a pastor, those are two different worlds. I do what I do, he does what politicians do so what happened in Philadelphia, where he had to respond to the sound bites, he responded as a politician."
Then Obama goes onto Fox News for an interview with Chris Wallace. Now, this move is not indisputably bad. I've heard some pundits suggest that it shows a willingness to go into the belly of the beast, thereby showing strength and introducing himself to viewers who's only knowledge of him comes from conservative propaganda (a major proponent of which, ironically, is Fox News). 

Maybe, maybe not. I think it was a bad move. A thumb in the eye to his staunchest (and most progressive) supporters. It certainly pissed off most of the progressive blogosphere, including many diarists at Daily Kos and Open Left, people who've taken a lot of heat from Clintonites for their support. I'm not sure what he was hoping to gain. From my point of view, it's the first really big misstep from an otherwise brilliantly run campaign so far. On the other other hand, they seem to know what they're doing, so maybe it was a strategically good move and I should just view it as such and swallow the anger.

Then, to make matters worse, Pastor Wright makes a couple of encore performances in front of the National Press Club and the NAACP, making incredibly offensive and just plain stupid jokes, reiterating previous controversial remarks, reinjecting the racially-divisive ideas, and generally making life miserable for Obama. Whether out of narcissism, anger, or hurt, Wright as in effect, thrown Obama under the bus on Moyers' show, then, in the succeeding speeches, put the bus in reverse and backed up over him—twice. 

Obama has little choice but to respond. And respond hard. His speech in Philadelphia last month was remarkable for its elegance and nuance. Obama won well-deserved kudos for distancing himself from the controversial remarks of his spiritual mentor without actually turning his back on the man. Well, that man has now turned his back on Obama, and in a way that Obama can't ignore. He has to address this and distance himself from the man now. Vigorously. Unequivocably.

For the first time this campaign, I'm actually concerned that Obama won't make it. 

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gobs Of Love

I've been noticing something lately that really hit me last night and again tonight: I truly adore my friends. 

Last night, I went to Eric's house warming party. After the neighbors left, it was down to Rhys, Jennifer, Eric and I hanging out, enjoying each other's company. What was so great was that I felt so totally in synch and relaxed and content and happy. We've been through so much, both together and individually—including times that were strained where we weren't so connected—that to feel so in tune with them now, feels…just amazing. I couldn't have been happier.

Until tonight. Eric and I went to see AnnieMac at 4 Daughters in Medford (a very cool new Irish pub, which I recommend checking out). There, we met Jennifer, Terry, Pete, Cindy, Mike, Goa, and Shanti, and again, I felt completely in synch, etc., with everyone. We all had a blast dancing and shooting pool and people watching and just hanging out. 

I've been grateful for my friendships for some time now, so that's not exactly new. But what is new is how comfortable and compatible I feel with everyone now. Maybe something's changed within me or maybe it's all of us or something else entirely, I don't know. 

What I do know is that I think I'm actually in love with my friends. That sounds absurd, but hey, it's how I feel. I'm truly lucky/blessed/rich/whatever to have such amazing people in my life.

Thank you all.