Monday, June 29, 2009

madoff's 'victims'

In the wake of today’s sentencing of Bernie Madoff, NPR has spent a lot of time talking about the ruling¸ interviewing his ‘victims.’ All day I’ve been trying to write as I hear angry people unload on the failed investor and soon-to-be guest of the state for the next 150 years or so.

But something doesn’t quite sit right here, and I think I figured out what’s bothering me. Amid the outrage, and the tarring and feathering of a convenient--and, granted, deserving target--a couple of things are getting lost.

One: a cardinal rule of every con game is that ‘victims’ are eager to be fleeced. They put their own heads in the noose because they are greedy. The con man offers something for nothing, and the mark says, ‘Well, oh my goodness, yes! Why, I must be terribly clever and lucky to have stumbled onto this!’

The key, and what makes all con games work, is that the con artist makes the mark believe he is the one doing the conning. They make the mark think he is smarter than everyone else. The pigeon must believe he's the hawk.

‘Victims?’ Really? I mean, is it just me, or is it kinda tough to get it up in the sympathy department when it comes to, say, Steven Speilberg losing a few million dollars out of his billions?

People used to beg to be taken on as clients to Madoff’s firm. Why? Because he offered them something for nothing, a magical way they could do better than everyone else. So, speaking of his former clients as victims seems a little disingenuous to me. Did they not get rich, albeit temporarily? (And really, when you look at his client list, what I mean to say here is that they got richER.) Did they not enjoy the fruits of his scam for a very long time before it came crashing down? And did they not consider, somewhere in their minds, for just one moment, that a 12 to 15 percent return year after year might somehow be unsustainable?

(Sidebar: this is what doomed newspapers as well: the go-go 90s model of any and every company expecting to increase its profits by 20 percent a year, and investors demanding that kind of ridiculous return meant that publishers were forced to cut, trim, slice and dice until their product no longer had the intrinsic value that made it worth investing in in the first place. But anyway.)

This is not meant in any way to belittle or diminish the very real losses and financial pain that Madoff caused individuals, charitable institutions, and universities. The scale is unfathomable. But let’s face it: Madoff is a convenient whipping boy, a scapegoat for an entire system built on a con. The latest bust has exposed it brutally, but it has only exposed it AGAIN. We’ve seen this movie before.

And that’s the second point: while people are getting all excited about Madoff dying in prison, whipping themselves into a schadenfreuderific frenzy, they are failing to notice that the same dipshit system is being allowed to continue. Madoff is a drop in the bucket. The tut-tutting over Madoff’s ponzi scheme seems a tad hollow when you stop to consider that the whole damn thing is a ponzi scheme.

And guess what: you and I are not anywhere near the top.

ADDENDUM: Look at that chart at the top of this post. Dude, if you are able to lose 7.5 billion fucking dollars, I gots no sympathy for you. Fuck right the fuck off. If you have ever POSSESSED $7.5 billion, even in the fake-ass Wall Street pretend money that was flowing upward until recently, fuck right the fuck off. Can I get an amen?

Friday, June 26, 2009

welp, it's official

Yes, Fox News has won a court ruling that holds that broadcasters have a 1st Amendment right to deliberately distort news or outright lie on the air. This is a ruling that Fox News sought, and that their lawyers fought for:

A Florida Appeals court ruled there is absolutely nothing illegal about lying, concealing or distorting information by a major press organization. The court reversed the $425,000 jury verdict in favor of journalist Jane Akre who charged she was pressured by Fox Television management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false information. The ruling basically declares it is technically not against any law, rule, or regulation to deliberately lie or distort the news on a television broadcast.

Hey, at least they're being honest about their dishonesty.

No, this cuts to the chase on the old, tired argument I get when I try to trash Faux News to true believers: 'Oh, but all the news lies, it's just a matter of their view.'

Yes, it is true, in the simplest sense of true, that all news is by definition biased. There can be no truly objective news, because it is presented by humans, who have biases. However, this court ruling shows that Fox News, and Fox News alone, as far as I know, deliberately sets out to distort the truth as a matter of course.

And the fact that so many people not only buy into these lies, but actually seek out these lies because they are simple, and straightforward, and don't challenge the consumer to think for himself--this is what spells our doom as a species. We prefer comfort, we prefer simplicity, and we shy away from challenges. We are soft, in body and in mind, and in my more pessimistic moods, I see Fox News as a stalking horse for a future in which we are ever dumber, and ever more controlled.

That may sound a bit apocalyptic, but you have to admit, we are getting dumber. And it is also demonstrable that dumb people are easier to control than smart people, those who ask questions. So does it make sense, therefore, that those who seek to control might wish to deliberately seek out ways to make and keep people dumber?

Or maybe that's just dumb...

I wonder what's on tv.


Michael and Farrah. Two people who only need go by first names. How ironic that they pass away on the same day.

One of them made a career of trying to touch young boys.

The other's career was built around making young boys want to touch themselves.

I'll miss her nipple. His, not so much.

so two middle-aged chicks died on the same day. so what?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

nice people do?

A group in Britain is trying to shift the debate on drug policy. If more Britons have smoked pot than voted for the governing Labour Party last election, then one must presume the statement is true...

Unless Brits just...aren't nice! Hmm...

Faux News at its finest

via C&L.
So among the ridiculousness of Mark Sanford's meltdown, we got this little number slipped in under the radar at Fox:

Look closely. It seems that Sanford not only went hiking along the Appalachian--I mean, for a drive along the coast of--I mean, for a 6-day incommunicado tryst with his girlfriend in south america.

Apparently he switched parties as well. See that capital D next to his name above? Well, it's not the first time Faux News has made such an 'innocent error.' From C&L:

"I think it's just automatic now. When a high-profile Republican gets into trouble, Fox News steps in to mislead their sheep viewers by labeling them as Democrats.

Here's a short list of Fox's chyron hackery:

John McCain - Democrat
Joe Lieberman - Democrat
Arlen Spector - Democrat (when he was still a Republican!)
Mark Foley - Democrat"

Go to their site for links to all the examples of Faux distancing itself from its own people when the chips are down.

Best line of the night, though, had to be Jon Stewart's:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Governor Mark Sanford's Affair
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

For those who can't wait for it: "So, you're just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

untitled short story

As I keep saying on here, when I do check in, I have been working pretty steadily on what I hope will be my first completed novel someday. However this short story idea leapt out of my head recently, so I let it do so. It's something that's been rattling around in there for some time, and it seemed like it was ready to charge forth into the world. here's the first few pages, rough draft style, so don't expect anything too great. :)

Above are my furkids, mena and sabi, short for wasabi. they aren't the dogs in this story, but they're pretty cute nonetheless. :)

this is a pic of a newfie i found online. i don't know why i picked this breed to write about. they're just so innocent and monstrously huge at the same time, i guess.

Max was walking through the rough field at the end of the cul-de-sac when he first encountered the boy. It was sunny for the moment, but a cool ozone smell drifting off the hills betrayed late spring storms brewing to the west. Max trudged through the knee-high growth, peeking occasionally at the dark clouds blooming over the mountains, wondering how long he had until the rain came. Walking with or at least near him--the only reason he was out there at all--were Massive Jack, a Newfoundland, and Stanley, an irritable Corgi with a bad case of short man’s disease.

Max would never admit it, not least of all because it was so pathetic, but at that point the walks were the closest thing to fun he had in his life. Despite his best efforts, and completely without his permission, the dogs cheered him up in the wake of Jeannie’s departure. Wading through the overgrown, oddly-shaped amoeba of land that had been left over after the housing boom fizzled, the dogs’ excitement inevitably rubbed off, even on Max’s worst days.

They would tear through the weeds and sporadic patches of hay that held on despite the landowner’s evident long-term disinterest in farming, chasing anything they could stir up. If nothing that lived there felt like participating, Stan would end up chasing Jack, or at least loop around behind him in semi-circles, barking occasionally, just to remind the bigger dog who was in charge.

There was a fenced-off, city-sanctioned dog park half a mile off to the south, a place of institutionalized merriment such as they were having here in the wilds, but it might as well have been on another planet. The one time Max and his dogs had set foot inside the fence, they had encountered a muddy caldron speckled with brightly-colored packs of yapping, over-privileged housewives, studiously ignoring their yapping, over-privileged dogs--invariably tiny, nervous creatures--as they ran through each other’s shit.

The dogs, not the housewives.

No, the rough meadow was more their speed. It dangled like an unflickable booger stuck to the finger of their cul-de-sac, perched between the trim houses and the chiseled, hoary edge of the foothills. It was quiet, with a sliver of a creek tributary running along one side--perfect for happy-dog-swimming-time--and a string of cottonwoods along the banks for shade in the summer.

And there were hardly ever any other people there, making it the perfect place for someone like Max to stroll.

He didn’t actually see the boy, at first. What Max saw was his dogs barking like mad and racing toward a spot on the edge of an overgrown irrigation ditch.

Max barely gave them a glance as he walked on, lost in thought. It was nothing new, these commotions canidae. Jack crashing through the tall weeds, chasing a real or imagined bird, chuffing out his basso profundo “howrouffs” as little Stan struggled to catch up, the periscope tip of his tail and his frustrated yippings the only evidence of his existence--this was a sight Max was used to.

It was only when the furry duo stopped cold at a spot twenty or thirty yards out that Max took notice.

“Hey! Leave it, you two,” he called out. “Whatever it is.”

They ignored him, as usual. Max could see Jack’s waggling black haunches, bedraggled with bits of chaff and burrs, the force of his tail’s enthusiasm nearly tipping him over.

Stan, as usual, just yipped and barked madly, occasionally hopping straight up like a stubby, mutant kangaroo, peeking back at Max over the top of the grass as if to say, “Ooh, wait till you see what the big, stupid one did this time! He’s gonna be in trouble!”

“I said LEAVE IT you guys!” Max picked up his pace to catch them before they rolled in something putrid. It wouldn’t be the first time they had discovered a rotting, unidentifiable carcass and proceeded to joyously squirm around in it, embedding the scent deep within their fur.

Lest any deer or wildebeest or mastodons they might end up stalking later smell them from afar.

At least he hadn’t let Her name the dogs. He would freely admit that Stanley and Jack were ridiculous names for dogs. They sounded like the first names of an accounting firm’s partners: “Offices of Liebowitz and Rothstein, just ask for Stan and Jack!”

But if She had named them, he’d be forever shouting after Sunflower and Chakra or some shit while she made pottery or painted irises or whatever it was she did with her former therapist Melanie--aka Moonshadow--in New Mexico.

Max hustled up to where the dogs were still going nuts over the discovery they had made.

“All right, that’s enough, guys,” he said, forcing his way into the weeds next to Jack. The big dog had his butt in the air, deadly tail thwapping back and forth, pulverizing Max’s internal organs as he stepped past. The beast was peering down into the main trunk of a drainage ditch, four or five feet wide, mostly dry this time of year, though with patches of mud showing through the growth in low spots. Jack was howrouffing frantically at a strip of dun-colored cloth that was woven into the strands of grass, and creeping forward down a shallow part of the slope.

“Jack, you’re an idiot,” Max sighed. He had long suspected that a bag of weed that had gone missing when Jack was a puppy was among the casualties of the gentle giant’s voracious appetite and curiosity. He had no solid evidence of Jack’s drug-related crime, but most anything imaginable had at some point turned up post-digestive tract in the back yard--from tiny bits of a brand-new pair of Nikes, to shredded strips of tennis ball, to very small rocks. The theoretical crime fit Jack’s M.O.

Plus the dog just wasn’t right in the head.

The big dog stared at the spot down below, growling and wagging. The dogs knew they weren’t supposed to go down into the ditch. Aside from mud, Max had seen rusted sheets of metal, snarls of barbed wire, palettes, old shoes, tires--not to mention numerous articles of clothing, perhaps blown there; perhaps left behind by amorous, thick-skinned kids with nowhere else to go.

He idly wondered, where do all those random bits of clothing you see everywhere come from? Do people still use clotheslines? Or maybe everyone in the world--besides me--is constantly going at it in cars, wildly tossing aside underwear, shirts and the odd shoe in the throes of--

And then something under the strands of long grass coughed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

happy friday

that dude's got massive pecs.

so, in addition to working on my novel (and a weird short story that recently came to me; i'll put some pages up here soon) i've also been trying to work out or run every day, with some success.

however i've found that motivation is often the hardest part; not motivation in terms of the overall picture--everyone wants to be in better shape. but the actual, on the street motivation is tough. let's face it: running sucks balls. it's the best exercise i've found to lose weight and stay in shape, but the truth is it is a miserable fucking endeavor.

until afterward. then it's great. :)

so in honor of those of us who are struggling to get in shape, here's a short vid from funny or die featuring the vinnie jones exercise program.

hope your friday is all that you'd hoped and more. praise odin.

Monday, June 15, 2009


By the way, I loved that Wordle app so much that I ran Mandroppings through it just to see what would come up. :)

a glut of profligacy; a surfeit of solipsism

This is a funny piece I ran across on metafilter. It seems an editor at the NY Times ran an analysis on the 50 most-looked up words on the Times' site. (In case you don't read the Times online, any word you highlight in a Times story brings up a question mark you can click to get a Times dictionary definition of the word.)

Journalist Zachary M. Seward got a copy of the memo and the list the editor referenced, and it is a truly funny and bizarre snapshot of the thinking of writers at the Times. Here's Seward's lede:

"If The New York Times ever strikes you as an abstruse glut of antediluvian perorations, if the newspaper’s profligacy of neologisms and shibboleths ever set off apoplectic paroxysms in you, if it all seems a bit recondite, here’s a reason to be sanguine: The Times has great data on the words that send readers in search of a dictionary."

All those words that you kind of recognize but don't really know are on the list, by the way. My god, maybe all those red state rednecks are right: maybe people who read and write for the Times are a bunch of pointy-headed liberal, ivory tower-dwelling fuckwits without a trace of connection to the common man!

Jump to Seward's piece to see a list of the words. Or here's a Wordle version.

And here's a piece of the editor's memo that was kind of funny in its head-scratchingly bemused way:

"Some entries seem self-referential: it’s no coincidence that a list of obscure and difficult words includes abstruse and recondite, not to mention solipsistic. And while many of these words may look like a foreign language, some actually are: sui generis, bildungsroman and my old friend schadenfreude all make appearances. And some entries just seem baffling: how did we end up using louche 27 times?"

How indeed, Maureen Dowd? (Seward points out that she seems to like that word. A lot.)

Reminds me of one of my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches:

I have to say though, that, even as someone with what I hope is a decent vocabulary (guys, break's over; hand me that thing) I find myself using the dictionary function on my Kindle a lot. There are so many words that, while you may have a pretty good idea of what they mean, especially in context, the definition could be clearer. And with the Kindle, you click the word, and a brief definition pops up at the bottom of the page you are reading. For a more in-depth definition you can click again, and go to the dictionary itself for the full entry.

I mean, why not know more? Why not be more erudite?

On the other hand, New York Times, who has ever or will ever use the word "phlogiston" ever in a sentence, ever?

What is that, a species of alien in the new Star Trek movie? Some rare disease? A device employed by an especially ascetic order of monks to self-flagellate??


Saturday, June 13, 2009

tattoo decisions...

Hi all. I've been lame about posting here for the usual reasons. I've been doing really well with my goals of running or lifting every day, and of course writing--strictly writing, not dicking around on the net--every day. what that means for me is generally (unlike today, but hell, it's saturday after all) i have to unplug the ethernet cable from my comp first thing, or at the very least, open Word and NOT open firefox at all.

i would love to see a study on how the human brain reacts to viewing/reading pages on the net as opposed to...well, anything else. For me, there's a passivity of thought that kicks in after a certain amount of time surfing, that sort of short-circuits the creative, writing part of my brain. I know of studies that say television does something similar, puts your brainwave pattern into a pseudo-fugue state, where you are no longer truly awake, nor asleep...

anyway. surfing today for a bit before diving in to dum dah dum:


and i came across this on cracked. It's a tattoo chart explaining what the location of your tattoos means. :)

really? damn it. i thought neck and face tattoos were kinda cool...
plus i thought that unicorn on my ankle made me a badass.

"Hi! are you guys hiring right now?"

read the whole article but they go on to point out a couple of key questions you should ask yourself before sitting down in that chair:

- Have I wanted this for more than five minutes?
- Am I, at this particular instant in sidereal time, drunk off my face?


Monday, June 8, 2009

old book smell

Ah! Here's what's been missing from my life, now that I am a fully functional uber-nerd who does most of his reading on a Kindle. (via metafilter)

"Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience?"


"Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right?"

Yes. Yes!

"But all of that is changing thanks to Smell of Books, a revolutionary new aerosol e-book enhancer."

YES! Finally!!!

And it's also DRM-compatible! Now your last excuse not to make the switch to nerdishness has been abated! Hopefully Amazon will soon start bundling a can of Smell of Books along with each Kindle it ships. Oh, at a reasonable mark-up of course.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

10 cmndmntz

from McSweeneys:

God Texts The Ten Commandments
by Jamie Quatro

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.

2. dnt wrshp pix/idols

3. no omg's

4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)

5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool

6. dnt kill ppl

7. :-X only w/ m8

8. dnt steal

9. dnt lie re: bf

10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?

er, oops.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

album cover ads

If you're ancient like me, you remember a time when music came in the form of these enormous, unwieldy black discs, wrapped in enormous cardboard covers.

The good folks over at fark have a new contest in which people are asked to turn album cover art into an ad, and the results are hilarious, and often disturbing. :)

To wit:

could have been an ad for Depends...

dapper as always

my personal favorite.
the Nuge of all people should know never to go full retard.

plenty more at fark.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

coming out of the closet

I’ve reached a decision. This is something that has weighed heavily on my mind for some time now, but I have found that I cannot live my life to its fullest without being honest. It is time I come clean. I have been living a lie, and I am posting here to confess to you, my friends, in a public forum, in the hopes that exposing who I really am will allow me to live honestly.

I’ve been hiding for a long time, and I think it’s finally time that I come out of the closet. I just want all of you to know that this doesn’t change who I am. No matter what you may think about what I am about to reveal to you, I am still the same person you’ve always known and loved. Or loathed, as the case may be. All I ask is that, in spite of this long-hidden truth I am about to reveal to you, please, please, just give me a chance to be myself.

Here’s the truth:

I am a nerd.

Yes, I know this must come as a surprise to those of you who thought that someone as good-looking, athletic, charming, studly, handsome, well-endowed, outgoing, funny, and, let’s face it, well-built as myself could never be a nerd. But truth is stranger than fiction.

Here’s how I came out of the nerd closet: I got a Kindle.

For a long time I would only read it in the privacy of my own home, closing the blinds and ducking under the covers so as not to be seen. I feared derision and jeering from packs of unlettered jocks if I were to venture out with it. I imagined hordes of librarians with torches chasing me down in the street and pummeling me to death with copies of Gibbon’s ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ volumes 1 through 6.

But lately I have become bolder, making small forays into public with my Kindle in tow. At first cautiously taking it out of my bag, I would attempt to hold it in such a way that the leather cover made it look like an analogue book, peering over the top nervously, checking for torches and the odor of card catalogues. My boldness has grown however, to the point where I even read it on an airplane when I went to South Carolina in April! It feels good to be who I really am.

As someone who loves books and has read voraciously since childhood, the very notion of an e-book grated my nerves for a long time. It seemed so unnecessary. Besides, I love used books and the unexpected discoveries you can make in used book stores. I love ancient, yellowing books with crackling pages, I love even the strange notes you sometimes find jotted in the margins, and the proud claims of long-ago ownership inscribed inside front covers.

But I started looking into Amazon’s newest e-book (the Kindle 2, actually) after seeing a short (and rather derisive) segment on it on The Daily Show a while back.

And I love it. if you’re like me and suffer from ADD, you might read two or three books at a time. The Kindle is great for this. It remembers the last page you read when you click on a title, and it holds around 1500 books, depending on the format you use. It also can play MP3s and has text-to-voice, so any book you have on there can be read by a robotic-sounding voice, male or female, if you are too lazy to read for yourself, or if you drive a lot. Plus it’s hard to actually read when you’re fleeing from jocks.

You can change the font to five different sizes--if I’m running on a treadmill in order to maintain that incredible shape I possess, my aforementioned massive manhood bouncing around in my shorts before me, often smacking me in the chest and eyes, I can click the Kindle to display a larger type size, making it easier to read. Plus, hitting a button to flip pages is easier than trying to keep an analogue book open.

Also, Amazon is currently offering most new books for $9.99. This means bestsellers that are normally $25 and up are ten bucks in Kindle version. You can download newspapers, magazines and blogs as well. The kicker is that the device comes with 3G technology, like the iPhone, meaning that without ever plugging it into a computer, I can go online and download one of almost 300,000 titles they have available right now, and have it ready to read on my Kindle within 20 or 30 seconds. And books with expired copyrights are often free or almost free--classics, and lots of books published pre-1950 fall into this category.

Most importantly, to my devious, file-sharing, hacker-like mind, the idea that I am not bound by Amazon to purchase every title I wish to read makes the thing worth the rather hefty price tag ($359). Although Amazon has tried to limit the way users can get titles to maximize their profit margin, the device will read a variety of file types: pdf, word documents, text documents, and more, so I can transfer books I download from other sources as well as my own writing to the Kindle.

And it comes with a dictionary, so I can highlight a word and get a definition without leaving the title I’m reading. Plus you can make notes and highlight text that goes into a dedicated file.

Anyway. Whew.

I feel so much better having unburdened myself. Nerd power! Strap on your high-water pants and wear your pocket protectors proud, my brethren and sistren! Thickly tape that pesky spot where your horn-rimmed glasses broke when you were in high school! Brandish your slide-rules with freedom and joy!

We are the future.


this is probably the most disgusting thing i have ever seen. even the vanilla vodka wouldn't make it work. :)
via neatorama
(or should that be meatorama? :)

Recipe by Alie and Georgia

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Yield: 2 servings


2 McNuggz (plus more for snacking)
1 tub McDonalds Brand Barbeque Sauce (plus more for licking off pinky finger)
1 lg. Mcdonalds Brand Chocolate Milkshake (plus more for bringing all the boys to the yard)
1 bottle Vanilla Vodka (recommended brand: Absolut)

Open the McDonalds bag. Eat one McNugg each, followed by two bites of the Filet-o-Fish (make sure you don’t tell anyone that you eat Filet-o-Fishes).

Mix three or four shots of vanilla vodka in the McDonalds Brand Chocolate Milkshake, followed by one shot each directly into your mouth.

Rim each martini glass with McDonalds Brand Barbeque Sauce, and pour milkshake/vodka mixture into the glass. Garnish with a McNugg (which is to be swiped along barbeque sauce rimmed glass after the milkshake has been finished, and consumed with pure, unadulterated glee).