Friday, January 15, 2010

Admitting You Have a Nacho Problem is the First Step to Getting Help

Nacho Problem, one of my most frequent commenters and (full disclosure) my uncle, is a pretty cool guy. If you dig the stuff I write, you'll probably also dig his blog (in the blogroll as "The Unbearable Lameness of Being.") His recent post on gay marriage will likely result in my linking to it every time the subject comes up and saying "...Yeah. What he said." He can also help you discern whether or not you have married a box turtle, which is harder to tell than you might think.

So yeah. Check him out.

In other news, still no word from Scott Adams. It'd be damn cool, though, wouldn't it?

Posted by Silent Five @ 7:20 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, January 11, 2010

Exciting Developments?

As you all may have noticed, I challenged cartoonist, author, blogger, and generally well-known individual Scott Adams to a duel a few months back. My goal was mostly to see if he'd actually notice, and secondly to be amused by the prospect of a Nerf duel. I didn't really expect anything to come of it.

Now, someone has commented upon that entry purporting to be Scott Adams. I figure this can mean either that Scott Adams has actually found my blog, or that the internet is full of liars. An equal welcome to either Scott Adams or internet impostor! Mr. Adams, if that is indeed your name, I admire your work-- I was particularly fond of Stick To Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain-- and I promise this project wasn't meant to be as creepy as it probably sounds. If you wouldn't mind, I'd be excited to get some confirmation that this is really you. You could link to me in your blog or, if that smacks of blatant self-promotion, slip a phrase like "My hovercraft is full of eels" in there somewhere. At any rate, thank you for dropping by and making your presence known.

I don't know if you have any plans to be in the Midwest anytime soon (or anytime, ever) for speaking arrangements or secret world-running business or what have you, but if you do, my challenge still stands. I will provide Nerf guns and propose Millennium Park in downtown Chicago as the field of battle (just because it's central.) I have a second lined up, and you are welcome to bring one as well. The first to be shot buys a round of beer, after which I would like to buy you a second one, for being whimsical enough to duel an unknown blogger with Nerf guns in public.

I look forward to your response, Mr. Adams.
Susan G.

Posted by Silent Five @ 9:03 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Goddamn Blue Terrists!

WTF Wednesday was postponed due to birthday festivities, but there's plenty of WTF to go around, and today conservative blogger Dr. Richard Swier is serving up a hearty helping.

Dr. Swier, it seemed, didn't enjoy the film Avatar. Not because it was "boring, predictable, and very long," as his moviegoing companions thought, but because it was "pure eco-propaganda." Here, I actually agree with him. Hell, James Cameron agrees with him; he's said in an interview that his goal was to use the emotional appeal of the film to encourage people to internalize a sense of personal responsibility towards the environment. My problem with Sweir's analysis is twofold. First, he equates all environmentalists with violent radicals and seems to suggest that wanting to limit the use of resources is un-American. Chris Tackett of has written a more detailed and better rebuttal to these points than I could hope to do, and here it is.

My other problem (well, my other problem aside from the Youtube video Swier posted making all environmentalists out to be communist/socialist, and the insinuation that socialism is one of those argument-stopping accusations. And his statement that "the enemy of the environmentalist groups is the human race." And... maybe I shouldn't have said my problems were twofold when they are, it seems, manifold.) The other problem I had in mind when I started this entry was his view about the dominion of man over the other creatures. I hear a lot of people quoting scripture to justify this view. And I can, to some extent, see their point. Whether or not humans are the only animals with a sense of the future or of morality, they seem to be the only ones who have willingly disregarded the idea of balanced consumption-- or, at least, the only ones in a position to get away with it. I would argue that this does give us some measure of dominion over the earth.

Where Swier and I differ is that I don't consider the nature of our dominion to be an inborn right to use its resources as we like. He says that "American Conservationism aims to preserve natural resources expressly for their continued sustainable use by humans. That, I believe, is the proper world view when it comes to our planet and its natural resources." I take objection to "expressly" and to "sustainable" in that sentence. First of all, I don't think our use of resources is sustainable by any stretch of the imagination, nor does it appear that sustainability has even historically been a goal until very recently. (Granted, this is my perception-- anyone who cares to dispute this would be welcome.)

He linked in his comment section an article about how buggy 2010 was going to be due to harsher restrictions on pesticides as being counter to our rights to use our environment as we see fit, which brings me to "express human use." I think that by now I can only claim to be a formerly religious person, but still I can't see how anyone could believe that God would condone the loss of biodiversity. There are many scriptural references that say some version of "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." If you're going to make a religious argument, wouldn't it be more compelling that humans' task to "have dominion over the earth" compels us even more to protect it as it was given to us? Mountaintop removal, clear-cutting the rainforest, and threatening habitats are perhaps all immediately beneficial to humans, but I can't see them as anything other than an affront to a Creator who has made such an astoundingly beautiful, diverse, and well-balanced world.

Aaaaand Scott Adams.

Posted by Silent Five @ 9:54 PM :: (4) comments

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Brief Interlude

WTF Wednesday will follow this evening, but first I'd like to say Happy Birthday Number Seven to my First Mate, Andy.

No, he is not seven years old. I am saying twenty-six happy birthdays to him, through twenty-six different media. This is the seventh.

To Andy-- go look for the other 25. To everyone else-- update tonight.

Posted by Silent Five @ 10:41 AM :: (1) comments

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Preview of Coming Attractions

One of my New Year's resolutions is to do more with this blog, specifically update at least four times a week and branch out in terms of content. Here are the things I'd like to do:

Suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments!  Scott Adams? Leave 'im in the comments!

Posted by Silent Five @ 9:31 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, January 04, 2010

Pop Politics? Political/Entertainment Crossovers

Guess what Nicolas Sarkozy, Kim Jong-Il, and Gordon Brown have in common?

  1. They are all heads of state and major players in world politics.
  2. They are all controversial figures, to varying degrees (as if any head of state isn't.)
  3. They all made the 2010 GQ Worst-Dressed list.
 If you answered "all of the above," you are correct. I discovered this from the same Yahoo News rundown that told me that Rod Blagojevich was going to be a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. If I remember correctly, this show used to feature real people who were really trying to launch a career in business. Okay, or grub for money from Donald Trump, but the point is they weren't already established. Blagojevich, who was already rejected from "I'm A Celebrity- Get Me Out Of Here!" for being insufficiently famous   fucking annoying  prohibited by the judge in his trial for conspiracy charges, seems to be trying to reinvent himself as one of those celebrities who's famous for...being famous. (cf. Paris Hilton, Tila Tequila and the entire Kardashian family). This is presumably so that people won't remember that he's actually famous for attempting to sell a Senate seat in the most obnoxiously brazen way possible.

This leads me to two points. One is that there are two accepted ways for people to become famous for nothing, and I'm really, really glad that Rod Blagojevich went the reality TV route rather than having a really slutty Myspace page with a leaked sex tape. The second is that we seem to have lost the distinction between our political figures and our popular entertainment. Now, some people might argue that there wasn't much of one in the first place, but most of the crossovers I know involve entertainers breaking into politics, not the other way around. Ronald Reagan's presidency, Ah-nold's term as the Governator, Al Franken's senate seat, and Jesse "The Body" Ventura's political career are a few examples.

Entertainers who later moved in political circles, though, were at least acknowledged to have made a career shift. Now, it seems that the drive is to bring the political circles into the realm of popular entertainment. How else do you explain Michelle Obama hosting an episode of Iron Chef in the White House garden? (Can you imagine, say, Mamie Eisenhower allowing a TV crew into the White House garden?) Or Joe Biden appearing on the Daily Show as a sitting Vice President? For the record, I love the Daily Show. I think it's TV's most reliable take on current issues and the more serious politicians we can get on there, the better. Still, having the Vice President on a talk show is a new level of media access.

This means that the political world seems more accessible in everyday life, which is both a wonderful development and a double-edged sword.  I think that in a world where breaking news is Tweeted and people expect to give their leaders real-time feedback, a truly open administration could make people realize that none of us can afford to be ignorant of politics, that regardless of who is wielding the ceremonial power, every decision is in part our decision. I was delighted to find The Obameter, a website which tracks action on President Obama's campaign promises. This is popular media in politics at its best-- holding politicians accountable to the people in a way that the people can access and understand. Even the publicity appearances can do some good-- there's something to be said for putting a human face on policy, for showing the similarities between those at the top and the rest of us. Hell, even Michelle Obama's Iron Chef episode could convince people to try kohlrabi or greens or gardening.

The other edge, though, is that politicians have an unprecedented ability to market and trade on their image-- and the media has an unprecedented ability to cash in on politicians. I'm not claiming that reality TV is ruining American politics, exactly. It does, however, take the focus off the serious business of leading a country, or of legislating, or even of bothering to research voting records before you vote for the candidate with the best campaign ads and the nicest hair. Take the Obama campaign. Metaphorically speaking, Obama stage-dived into the presidency, borne aloft by pogoing supporters shouting "YES WE CAN! OI OI OI!" The problem with image politics is that images are mutable and can easily become divorced from actual action. I know people who are quickly becoming frustrated that Obama has not fixed healthcare, solved the climate crisis, and averted the recession, all while convincing everyone from Patty Murray to John Kyl to hold hands and sing Kumbayah-- and he still hasn't been President a year. Judging by his falling approval ratings,  people who were willing to back Obama's image now don't seem willing to give him the time and trust it takes to make towering dreams real and practical-- which is certainly longer than one-quarter of his term.

I applaud the new visibility and openness of political leadership, but it does seem like we're getting closer and closer to a future where we airlift all our presidential candidates to a remote island and let the American public vote by phone to see who gets elected and who gets a hole poked in his canteen by Ron Paul. Even if our politicians don't always deserve respect, I think the process of government does. And while honest criticism and well-directed satire could actually help refine that process, all the Reality TV treatment will do is turn it into a sideshow.

P.S. Scott Adams, I haven't forgotten you, you know. Call me!

Posted by Silent Five @ 8:53 PM :: (2) comments

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Regular Schedule Resumes Tomorrow

Yours Humbly returns from my week-long Christmas vacation tomorrow with a return to the old, more structured, more content-heavy update schedule. This includes the Word of the Week, the Silent Top Five, Trip Report Tuesdays, and WTF Wednesdays.

In the meantime, I've added a new link to the blogroll. My little sister wrote to me thus: "Now, everyone knows that b...logs are hardly any fun if no one reads them, and since a bunch of family members/mutual friends read your blog, would you mind including a link to mine in your next post? Feel free to call me shameless, merely piggybacking on your successful (and most likely more interesting) blog, but whatever." So go check out my shameless sister, who is merely piggybacking on my successful (and most likely more interesting) blog.

Posted by Silent Five @ 4:07 PM :: (0) comments

Word of the Week

gymnosophy [jim-NAH-so-fee]

n. Philosophical, amusing, or nonsensical insights realized when naked, as in the shower or in bed. (recent coinage: att. S. Galasso, 2010)

Victoria and Albert enjoyed a spot of postprandial concupiscence culminating in a night of gymnosophy and coffee and crumpets at dawn.

The Silent Top Five: Bacon-Flavored Desserts

1) Bacon cheesecake.
2) Bacon gumballs.
3) Bacon ice cream.
4) Bacon-orange bars.
5) Bacon apple pie.

Standard Disclaimer

This is all in no way meant to incur copyright-infringement-related wrath. I'm harmless. I promise. Oh, and if you're offended by anything I may post herein, I guarantee I didn't mean to do so (unless, of course, you are a humorless prig. In which case, go right on and be offended, with my blessings.)