My friend Todd just bought the second smallest house in all of Pasadena: 450 square feet on a 600 square foot lot. Here we are on the porch/storage area:
Cute, right? Now look a little closer at my face:
Maybe that house has some bad juju. Peep the Omen: the camera shows the spiritual truth, I said to Todd. Or perhaps it's not the house. Todd says it looks like the snapshot caught me in a moment of werewolf transformation. (Note the teeth.) I do have a weird bite that I thought came from my cat. Hope I don't wake up naked in the zoo surrounded by a disemboweled goat tomorrow.
Ever wonder where all those billions of aid wind up in a place like Afghanistan? Here's the answer:
The U.S. easily outstrips other nations at most of these scams, making
it second only to France as the world's biggest purveyor of phantom
aid. Fully 47% of American development aid is lavished on overpriced
technical assistance. By comparison, only 4% of Sweden's aid budget and
only 2% of Luxembourg's and Ireland's goes to such assistance. As for
tying aid to the purchase of donor-made products, Sweden and Norway
don't do it all; neither do Ireland and the United Kingdom. But 70% of
American aid is contingent upon the recipient spending it on American
stuff, especially American-made armaments. Considering all these
practices, Action Aid calculates that 86 cents of every dollar of
American aid is phantom aid.
I saw these photos in Shanghai. The prints are huge, which enhances the effect of screwing with scale, since this is not a model of the coliseum, but the coliseum itself. Here's another one:
The show I saw overreached, however. A few too many photos in the exhibit allowed a few to betray the illusion, undermining the effectiveness of the others. Plus, the gallery felt the need to print a giant, unintelligible artists' statement on the wall, which, as with most artists' statements, made the work seem like an accident that befell some jargon-struck critical studies student. Still, the illusion of the Rome pictures is wonderful, and poignant in its reminder that our scale, even in monuments, isn't always what we think it is.
Finally got around to reading, in its entirety, the 10,000 word exchange in the American Prospect between Bernard Henri-Levy and Anaton Lieven. Two well-informed intellectuals exchanging emails sound like it could come up a snoozer, but this is worth it, as they do well synthesizing vast amounts of information into a summary of our current predicament. Here are a few highlights, including the important and often overlooked point that the neo-cons are Johnny-come-latelies to idealism:
You set up a radical opposition between
neoconservative idealism and Kissingerian realpolitik. This is quite
false. What you seem to have forgotten is that the neoconservatives
initially broke with the liberal Democrats, and began their march
toward the Republicans, in large part precisely because of their belief
that the United States should continue to wage war in Vietnam by all
necessary means, however ruthless.
What is more, when the Carter
administration tried to make human rights and democracy the centerpiece
of its international strategy, the neoconservatives were the first to
denounce this as hopelessly naive and to insist that America continue
to support the Shah of Iran against his population and a variety of
bloodstained Central American military regimes against their
“Communist” opponents. Idealism, anyone? How exactly was this different
from Kissinger’s belief that American vital interests, and the defense
of Western democracy, often required support for anti-Communist
Historical hypocrisy, outdone only by today's right-wing interventionists, who intone about democracy but seem to have no real interest in it:
The problem with emphasizing democratization in
this way is that it is radically incompatible with the actual policies
of the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, as fully encouraged
and supported by the neoconservatives. This contradiction between
ideals and realpolitik was always there in U.S. policy. The
neoconservatives and the Bush administration, however, have raised this
contradiction to surreal, virtually Orwellian heights. They believe in
spreading human rights and the rule of law? So they kidnap suspected
terrorists and have them tortured in illegal U.S. prisons and in those
of Muslim dictatorships whose human-rights records they publicly
profess to despise.
And how that failure is counter-productive to the neo-con's and Bush's "visionary" goals:
And this, in the end, is my most bitter
accusation against the neoconservatives and the Bush administration,
one in which I believe you may well wish to join: that by a whole set
of actions at home and abroad, they have badly damaged the image of
American democracy in the world. By doing so, they have also damaged
the attractiveness of democracy in general, and strengthened the
arguments of democracy's enemies. This has been their fundamental
betrayal of the ideals of which they profess to be the arch-defenders.
For this, I believe, they will be cursed by posterity.
With a nice rhetorical barb at the end -- well put! If only posterity's curse didn't also portend potentially grave consequences for the future of the world.
This snapshot really says it all about Colin's relationship with Casey, the dude on the right. But Casey's not important right now. Perhaps you recognize Colin from the New York Times Thursday Styles inevitable foray into the beard phenomenon: Paul Bunyan, Modern-Day Sex Symbol. As evidence were (as usual) two examples: a picture of Clooney, in hirsuit Syriana mode, and Colin, on the runway in New York sporting Ralph Lauren's blue label. When he started modeling, I told Colin that we need to name his looks. You know, brand the beard. Above, you see it all in situ. That natch style is the core, the essence of Colin, so we decided to start there. And how's this: Desert Breakfast. It's rugged, yet evocative; woodsy, yet refined. Then his print campaign started showing up. I flipped open Vanity Fair one month to find this:
Ooh, fancy! Clearly this is not the natch style. Desert Breakfast cleaned up all nice and accessorized himself with a tux, a gal in pearls, and a regal hound to boot. I call this new look Lord Greystoke. Maybe a little obvious, but on point. OK, Done. But as we all know, you gotta have three looks. What would day and night be without late afternoon? Or as Diana Vreeland used to say, "a stool don't stand on two legs!" Colin needs one more style. What should it be? Colonial? Mercenary? Massage therapist? Help us expand the man's range and send in suggestions.
Whatever happened to this reincarnation of Total Information Awareness? I guess they decided to go under the radar rather than advertise themselves as a sub rosa conspiratorialist's nightmare come true. I but it's probably a good idea and working just fine. Maybe I'll look into it. If only to find out who originally designed that seal
Customizable streaming music thingy. I typed in "baby huey" and got a bottomless selection of his and similar jams. Joan Baez was less successful, though. Lots of later stuff, and the tags threw in all kinds of indigo girl-type shlock.
Hexner is an artist whose work was censored yesterday in Berlin, Germany.Hexner arrived in Berlin this past Saturday for an opening of his work only to
discover that the sponsor of the exhibition, Axel Springer, refuses to display
his art on the grounds that the work is "Anti-American."
Hexner was commissioned to participate in a show
entitled "EAST/WEST" by SLEEK Magazine.He worked around the clock for weekscreating a two-and-a-half minute video that is specifically
designed to be displayed on the monitor atop the Axel Springer building. Hexner's video was scheduled to be broadcast once an hour, 24 hours a day from October
His video is simple: he documents himself making a
drawing of the phrase “I Like America and America Likes Me." This sentence is
the title of a very famous art "action" performed by Joseph Beuys in New
York in 1974. (Beuys is one of the most important German artist in the last
50 years).The curators love Hexner's video, yetexecutives at Axel Springer have determined that his work is "Anti-American" and
therefore unfit for display.
The ironies of this situation are hard to ignore: an
American artist being dubbed "Anti-American"; an enormous publisher
suppressing one person's right to free speech; an homage to one of Germany's
greatest artists being
deemed unfit for public consumption. If there is
anything "Anti-American," about this situation it is Axel Springer's censorship
of Hexner's work.
The Zombie Zeitgeist A full scale movement is on the lurch. But why the best zombie movie ever made a video game?
Believer interview with Mark Allen Digital artist and awesome gallerist Mark Allen talks about Tekken Torture Tournament and other projects where people were wired to machines and did strange things in public.
Believer interview with Marjane Satrapi Enlightening Q & A with the Persian cartoonist, memoirist, quick conversationalist in which she declares: “THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN AND ROBIN FIGHTING THE JOKER; THINGS ARE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.”
Yeti Researcher Yet another 100-page issue of the world's top academic journal devoted scholarship about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasqatch, and other mystery primates worldwide. For researchers and lay audiences alike, the latest YR features a history of Sasquatch sightings in southern California, an update on the wily orang pendek of Sumatra, and a new look into Teddy Roosevelt's obsession with bagging a Bigfoot. As Editor-in-Chief, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Panda PowerPoint! I guess I don't mind being "the entertainment" when it's at Mark Allen's second annual Holiday Fry-B-Que. Presented: preliminary findings from my ongoing research into the most charismatic megafauna of all: Giant Pandas.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Dec 9, 2006 For those who missed it, there will be more. World, Explained is going strong! Money was raised, laughs were had, and for those paying attention, small amounts of useful information about things like the aurora borealis were transmitted. Plus: Michael Cera = lovably funny. And Nick Diamonds' renditions of Dumb Dog and Hanging Tough are still in my head. As is that horribly catchy Fresh Step jam.
Jest Fest at Skylight Books Somehow I wound up hosting the 10th anniversary jubilee for Infinite Jest at Skylight Books. Because who doesn't love a jubilee, right? Despite being delirious with Hepatitis A (that's the mild, non-lethal kind; I'm not at risk for Hep B since I always go the needle share and choose clean-looking prostitutes), I managed to not mis-pronounce anyone's name and make an erudite joke and poke gentle fun at Michael Silverblatt.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | June 10, 2006 Number Three! Last one was sold out so we moved to a slightly larger theater. Andy Richter hosted, and his opening exegesis of CSI: Miami warmed the people up right. Evany Thomas presented her very scientific findings on the Secret Language of Sleep; Starlee Kine bared her neuroses to the world (or at least the 300 people in the audience); Josh Davis showed video of his 135-lb self sumo wrestling a 550-lb opera singer from San Bernardino; and Davy Rothbart closed it out with some Found Magazine magic. Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Shelton and Zooey Deschanel provided the music punctuation! I can still hear their rendition of We Are the Champions.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Feb 11, 2006 The second in our series of precision comedy and fact-based entertainment extravaganzas benefiting 826LA. Patton Oswalt was kind enough to host, and Jon Brion joined in on the piano and guitar as thematic accompaniment. Presenters included: David Rees, Michael Colton, John Hodgman (along with his hirsuit troubadour, Jonathan Coulton), and me. Plus: a fashion show of exciting multi-user garmentry.
Little Gray Book Lecture at Galapagos How to Observe President's Day. Jonathan Coulton's technical wizardry has made this entire show available online. The summary from PRX: Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman and Joshuah Bearman on Presidents' Day, along with a fifteen-piece marching band and a new song about all forty-three presidents. My contribution? Yes, from Yeti Researcher. Again. Actually that was the first one. So I have only five stories!
July 25: TJ to LA -- A Night McSweeney's Readings I was honored to be part of a strange triptych along with Salvador Plascencia and Josh Kun. Sponsored, somehow, by La Ciudad magazine, we all packed into Beyond Baroque with no air conditions. 150 people showed at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, which we took as a good sign of something. Sal held up and anxiously discussed drawings from his novel, Josh delivered an essay on the Dr. Moreau of Tijuana, and my shtick (again) was Pac Man and metaphysics, this time with fun slides.
October 8th: Skylight Books w/Stephen Elliott Fun times were had by all. Someone in the audience actually mistook me for an expert on the psychology human character. We ate shrimp cocktail and drank cheap wine and laughed at Bush and celebrated the certainty of right besting wrong in American democracy. A lot of good that did.