Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Georgia - just another summer conflict

It seems like this summer everyone's looking to fight. Iraq, Lebanon-Israel, Ethiopia-Somalia, and now Georgia.

Georgia's two main ongoing conflicts have been with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both breakaway regions of Georgia. This is nothing new - it's been there in the background for years. Neither is it news that Russia has peacekeeping forces in the regions in question. They've also been there for years. What is news is that since Georgia adopted a resolution on July 18 to replace the Russian peacekeepers with an international contingent, Russia's been keen to "help out" with the situation. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are both looking towards Russia for help, Georgia and Russia don't have good relations, Russia's all excited about the global situation (look at its close ties to Syria) - put two and two together and you can clearly see that right now, it sucks to be Georgia.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hezbollah operatives?


Friday, July 21, 2006

Bruce Dickinson helps evacuees

I have been a huge Iron Maiden fan for years. It's up there in my list of top 10 bands, particular those albums with Bruce Dickinson on them. Now, I've got another reason to like Bruce Dickinson. According to this article found on Fark, he airlifted 200 British evacuees from Cyprus to London, flying a Boeing 757 himself. How cool is that? Compared to most celebrities, who like to kiss adorable babies, sashay around in designer outfits and spout verbal diarrhea largely irrelevant to the issue at hand, Bruce Dickinson actually did something. And who knew he could fly bigass planes? Kudos to Bruce for taking real action.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bring on the toys


FIFA announced that it was banning Zidane for three games following his (in)famous headbutt at the finals of the World Cup. Nevermind that he already retired.

This strange exercise in punishment reminded me of how FIFA and the UN are similar, both issuing empty threats and pronouncements that are impossible to enforce.

My solution is simple. The UN and FIFA should both be disbanded and replaced by stuffed giraffes. They would probably do a better job than the current parties involved in those organizations. (Why stuffed giraffes? Because they're more deliciously surrealistically absurd than most other stuffed animals...and let's face it, the UN in particular is (unfortunately not deliciously) surrealistically absurd in its ineffectiveness much of the time.)

In discussing this with my friend Dave, I came to the conclusion that we should go a step further - maybe the secret to world peace is replacing all world leaders and members of international organizations with a hegemonic hodge-podge of cabbage-patch kids and care bears. I always found that Helmut Kohl looked a bit like a cabbage-patch kid...(and he was a decent world leader, ergo cabbage-patch kids would make good world leaders). Care bears would provide the enforcement wing for everyone, bringing happy things to bad people around the world to make them see the error of their ways.

Seriously - it couldn't be much more ineffective than passing UN Security Council resolutions or suspending retired players...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The impact of globalism on war in the media


The recent escalation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon (I hate to call it a "war," although that is what it is) demonstrates more clearly than any previous conflict the impact of globalism on how war is seen in the media. The picture above epitomizes this.

Lebanon and Israel are both westernized countries with many amenities of the globalized world. In the photograph you see the mix of old and new - the traditionally-garbed woman, and the father and daughter hustling by in completely neutrally global western gear. Whereas the American audience might not respond to images of people traditionally garbed (since we view such things as alien to us), the American audience will respond to images of people "just like us" getting killed. And many of the Lebanese and Israelis do in fact look "just like us."

Here, we have a war where the images maximize the impact they will have on the western world. These are 'civilized' countries at war. More importantly, here we have a war that the media has free access to, unlike our censored venture into Iraq.

Here in the US, we've forgotten that war can be brutal. The sanitized images brought to us by our embedded reporters showed more jubilance than suffering. The number of civilian casualties in Iraq is presented as an insignificant, incomprehensible number - a number without faces behind it. And at home, the boys coming home without arms and legs, with shattered minds and broken spines, blind, deaf, and crippled are left to fade away from public memory, even though they seem to be more and more visible with each day that passes.

In this war we have faces. We have faces on both sides - faces that look "just like us."

War is brutal. Maybe seeing it this way will remind some people of this fact.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Goodbye addiction

On Monday I took the big step of cancelling cable. From having a DVR with hundreds of channels and the ability to record programs at will, I went to having nothing. At the moment, I don't even have TV.

Since then, I've noticed a marked improvement in how I spend my free time. This week's downtime activities have included: reading a novel by one of my profs, reading part of a novel by Neal Stephenson, reading part of Rousseau's Social Contract, and reading the news, a lot.

See a pattern? Reading has replaced cable. And the best part is that I don't even feel self-righteous about it, because that's the way I used to be, when I lived at home with my folks. I read. All the time.

I still multitask - I often work with the TV on in the background, but now I don't even have the interruption of having to fast forward through commercials. This week featured copious amounts of Monty Python, James Bond, and some Black Adder (all, with the exception of Black Adder which is too witty to ignore, not requiring concentration to the TV and serving excellently as background noise).

I sometimes miss my old friend - I reach out to touch the remote that isn't there anymore, wonder how many times I've seen the Law & Order SVU episode that it would have taped were it still here, eagerly scroll through the TV guide to find odd and amusing programs to record...

It's a bit lonely at times.

But it's better. I feel the cogs in my head whirring ever faster as I engage in the more active activity of reading. And of course, I still have Netflix, which allows me to rent everything from Pride and UFC fights to arthouse foreign movies.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Zidane meme

My favorite GIF of the headbutt. I wish I could give credit where it is due, but I'm not sure who originated this image. I first saw it the day of the match in a Fark thread discussing the headbutt.

It was the headbutt seen around the world. And within seconds of its airing, various GIFs and JPEGs had appeared of this headbutt and were flooding discussion boards and forums across the internet.

Then came the media frenzy - the attempts at deciphering what Materazzi could have said to Zidane to provoke him, attempts at disparaging Zidane, attempts at psychoanalyzing Zidane.

Not only that, but today I was sent a few gems by my friend Dave, including a comparative analysis of Zidane and Camus by Roger Cohen, and a song in French about Zidane's headbutt.

Few sportsmen have had the capacity to capture the public imagination the way Zidane has. Moreover, few sportsmen have exited a sport in such an unpredictable fashion.

Despite the criticisms of Zidane, many seem to support him. Whether or not you agree with his actions, his headbutt was a glorious thing to see. And the insta-meme that it resulted in exemplifies the power of the internet to disseminate information with a never-before-seen rapidity.

I wanted to stay away from World Cup discussions. I rooted for France. I asked myself, much like the French announcers did, why, why, why when Zidane performed his headbutt. And in the end, I've got to admit that I have nothing but respect and fascination for Zidane. Getting carried away by his emotions like that was foolish, but as many other commentators have said, very human. And he is one of the most elegant football players I've ever seen.

Whatever real sports experts and responsible adults think of Zidane, the internet loves him. I love him. And I can't help but watch the headbutt over and over again and marvel at his perfect form.


Google opening a facility in Ann Arbor suddenly makes sense to me. I don't know why or how, but I had no idea that Larry Page, cofounder of Google, was a University of Michigan EECS alumnus.

How could I not know this?

Armed with this knowledge, other things make more sense to me now - like UofM allowing its library collection to be scanned.

I feel sort of silly for not knowing this. I figure everyone else probably knows and I'm the last.

But still - very very cool. And I couldn't be happier that Google is building a facility in Ann Arbor, even if it is for work relating to ads. This is going to be good for UofM's computer science department, as well as for the state of Michigan.

This just goes to prove - UofM alumni are everywhere.

Monday, July 03, 2006

My ear is burning - a new BBQ sauce recipe

My ear is burning. You know that fiery hot burning sensation you get on your lips after eating really hot food, or in your eyes if you've rubbed them with peppery fingers? Well, my ear feels like that. Never EVER scratch your ear with jalapeno-flavored fingers. Or your upper lip for that matter. And I don't even want to think about what habanero peppers would do to me.

In the process of creating considerable discomfort for myself, I managed to come up with a quick BBQ sauce recipe that's my favorite of my attempts so far.

Nixie's quick and easy bourbon BBQ sauce:

Start with equal parts of apple cider vinegar and Jim Beam in a saucepan (I didn't measure - something around 2/3 of a cup of each).
Add 1 small finely chopped onion.
Add half a chopped ripe tomato.
Add a chopped jalapeno.
Avoid touching your ear, upper lip, or scalp without washing your hands.
Add a heaping teaspoon or so of brown sugar.
Add a few (to taste) teaspoons of molasses.
Add salt.
Add 1 canned chopped chipotle with a bit of the adobo sauce it comes in.
Add a few teaspoons of dijon mustard.
Let this all simmer.
Taste it - add more of the ingredients to taste.
Let cool.
Blend (I know, straining is the proper thing to do - but I don't like losing the veggie goodness I put in there).

This is a pretty darn hot BBQ sauce. It's also pretty vinegary (can be changed to taste of course - more molasses and Beam for a sweeter, less vinegary sauce) - but I'm attempting to make a fake pulled pork, and pulled pork calls for vinegary BBQ sauces.

Now the purists are going to smack me upside the head for a number of reasons. But I like this sauce, even if it does cut some corners. It's quick, easy, and painless...unless you're like me and can't keep your hands off yourself.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The weirdest sci-fi movie


I may have stumbled across one of the weirdest sci-fi movies of all times: Zardoz.

It is so strange that it's magical. Highly innovative, not your run-of-the-mill film, it also highlights a middle-aged Sean Connery wearing tiny tiny shorts and little else (as seen above). It's got a bit of everything in it, and yet manages to be remain coherent, with a sophisticated storyline that appeals to my love of retro science fiction - deep yet pulpy plot lines combined with a sort of Stranger in a Strange Land-esque touchy-feeliness. It's also surprisingly cool, set far enough in the future so that 32 years after being made it doesn't feel too outdated. And Sean Connery wears tiny tiny shorts.

The movie also has a deeply Freudian fascination with penises. The giant floating stone head at the beginning of the movie utters these almost unbelievably funny lines: "The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life, and poisons the earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the gun shoots death, and purifies the earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth and kill!"

And did I mention, the movie has Sean Connery in tiny tiny shorts. Mmmmm...what isn't there to love about this movie?