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Let the mockery begin!

Or “How the Democratic Party Lost its Cool.”

On Tuesday, this enchanting whiff of bullshit was released into the ‘sphere:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine plans to make what’s being billed as a major announcement Wednesday about the future of the party, according to a Democratic source with knowledge of the speech.

The source tells CNN that Kaine will announce something that will excite Democrats across the country. Kaine’s event comes as Democrats face the difficult task of holding onto their majorities in the House and Senate this November.

And finally it was Wednesday, and lo the big, exciting surprise was…a D with a circle around it!

Some may think: it’s just a logo—it’s just a brand. Well I don’t believe the Democratic Party is a logo or a brand—we are much more than that. We are Democrats. We create change that matters. Ours is a party of ideas and ideals, of policies and people, history and purpose.

Really. A new logo. That would be chock full of all kinds of FAIL right there, if it had turned out to be a GOOD new logo. But it’s not. It’s awful.

Let’s make fun of it.

September 16, 2010 — 7:40 pm
Comments: 64

Course correction

Some of y’all may remember how I was traumatized in 2006 when I was bullied into voting for Lincoln Fucking Chafee for Senate — after the party utterly shat upon and just squeaked a win over his conservative rival in the primaries. I HAD to vote for him because it was the most important election ever and the Northeast simply won’t support a conservative and what are you, some kinda whiny baby?

Oh, and puuuuuuurity tessssssst!

You know what happened: Chafee lost to a genuine Democrat, quit the party in a cloud of sulfur, and all the fingers on my voting hand turned black, shriveled up and fell off.

I swore my remaining hand would never pull the lever for a politician I hate and no amount of, “be reasonable, Wingnut” would change my mind. (John McCain doesn’t count — I voted for Sarah Palin and he happened to be on the ticket).

Others may come to other conclusions, and I understand their reasoning. I sure as shit don’t want any part of the red-on-red smashmouth slap-fest rolling around the right-o-sphere today.

But for me, I’ve decided that every election can’t be the most important win ever and moving the party to the right is more important than winning. More important even than a majority, with all the controls and committee chairmanships and other legislative goodies that go with.

But I still felt pretty uneasy about that conclusion until I read this excellent piece by Ben Domenech:

Conservatives should not tolerate the likes of Mike Castle because of the simple fact that a 51 member Senate with Mike Castle is a Senate where Mike Castle is the most important vote in the room. As Specter and others before him, that Senator will set the terms of policy debates, determining in advance what can succeed and fail. Those who advance the argument that a majority with Castle is better than being in the minority tend to place priorities on Senate committee chairmanships and staff ratios and lobbyist cash… a list which pales in comparison to the power they would wield as the broker for both sides.

Do read the whole thing.

September 15, 2010 — 6:05 pm
Comments: 35

Cock fighting, Ken Burns edition

Just a little silliness on an unproductive Tuesday.

September 14, 2010 — 9:55 pm
Comments: 16

Never trust an artard

I’ve designed publications for a living, too — magazines and brochures and stuff. I can tell you, when pictures are chosen, they are always the ones that best support the narrative.

I mean, duh, right? You run a story about Obama’s falling poll numbers, you’re going to run it under a picture of Obama looking all cross and grumpy. If you ran it with with a picture of him all sunny and happy, it would look stupid. Even if he was actually in a terrific mood when today’s pictures were taken, you have to comb through and find one where he’s blinking or looking down or something.

I know this isn’t a profound revelation. But it’s worth bearing in mind, because we react to images way down at the lizard level. Even when they aren’t actually meaningful.

Drudge ran the headline, “Thousands Riot in Afghanistan” or something with the picture above left. I count three guys, two of them are grinning like raccoons. The dude with the knife and the stupid red beard (no really — it was an awful henna job with gray roots) grabs our eyeballs and won’t let go, so we don’t see the smilies on either side.

When you look for it, it’s amazing how many people in these angry mobs look happy to be there. Most wire services ran the picture at right. Uncropped, I count ten men, about half of whom are smiling (a bit hard to see at this size, sorry). Yeah, you know why — that big white hand against that big black cloud. Pure sex to a photo editor.

I’m not suggesting angry third-world mobs are happy funtime carnivals. Or that thousands didn’t pour out in protest this weekend. Apparently they did, with some fatal results. But nobody seems to have gotten any good pictures of it, so they had to run with small bands of yoohoos (mugging directly into the camera!) and crop it to look like legions.

News photos like this aren’t wrong, but they’re often the most contrived, least informative part of the information we get.

September 13, 2010 — 9:44 pm
Comments: 20

There. Done. Everybody shut up and go home now.

So fifty knuckleheads in Florida vow to do something small, dumb and pointless, and the next thing you got the pope and the president and the prime minister and the general in charge of the war and everybody all up in there screaming and flapping and turning a small moment of private stupid into a HUGE INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT.

If a Koran burns in the forest and AP doesn’t report it, do thousands rally in Afghanistan?

Oh, retaliation? Really? You mean they haven’t really hated the West all that much, but NOW they’re serious? Instead of being mad at us, now they’re extra super mad?

What comes after that? Double extra super times-infinity-plus-one mad?

Seriously. Everybody shut up. Go home. Stop embarrassing me.

September 10, 2010 — 1:30 pm
Comments: 32

My mother smelled of what, now?

Eh. Sorry, about the lameness, peeps…I got all jammed up today and if I don’t go take a bath RIGHT NOW, Uncle B is going to leave me for the slop bucket.

I harvested the elderberries today and started a gallon of wine. Fiddly little bastards, aren’t they? And it won’t be drinkable for a year.

Oh, also, I made mushroom, leek and cucumber soup (because that’s what I had to get rid of). I’m thinking of calling it “cream of beige.”

September 9, 2010 — 11:14 pm
Comments: 22

The amoeba was always my favorite

I haven’t had my scopes out since I moved, but I was once a keen amateur microscopist. A pond dipper, mostly. Microscopy and astronomy are two areas of scientific study where a non-professional can make important discoveries (that’s the motto of Microscopy UK, which publishes the excellent free online mag Micscape).

I didn’t make any discoveries, important or otherwise. I made bowls of stinky hay infusions. And microphotography rigs that relied on duct tape, balance and the power of prayer.

I didn’t even really learn anything about protozoa. I spent hours and hours staring down the tube going, “ZOMG! That hairy thing just ate that blobby thing!”

I loved every minute of it.

If you want to see some spectacularly good pictures of hairy things and blobby things, check out the Flickr page of Proyecto Agua — the Water Project. It’s a pond-dipping and photography project of the Laboratory of Natural Sciences of the Institute of La Rioja in Spain.

I particularly recommend the videos (why, yes, there’s an amoeba proteus).

It took me an improbable number of years to find an amoeba, by the way. My dad was all, “amoeba? Pff! That’s the easiest one!”

We have really dumb arguments in my family.

September 8, 2010 — 10:45 pm
Comments: 30

21st Century rag pickers

Huh. I should’ve known. You can go onto eBay and buy a flipping IBM AT if you have a mind to, so I can surely find a motherboard and CPU to match the six-year-old machine that died on me. Or match as near as dammit.

Yeah. I decided now is probably not the time to splash out on a specialist Photoshop rig.

It’s amazing how much old tech is out there for sale — some of it new in the original boxes! Mostly scavenged, though.

It’s a market that eBay has made huge, but there was always a grubby dumpster-diving ethos to personal computing. At least down at my end of the market.

When we were in London, there was a regular computer fair at Crystal Palace, with some very dodgy characters selling very dodgy gear. I loved that.

But I’ll never forget my very first computer fair. Must have been 1985 or so. The smell of several hundreds of geeks in a conference room was indescribable.

And there was a cluster of nuns waiting in line to go in.

I thought, “Nuns! Computing! That is so awesome!”

Anyhow. Excuse me. Somewhere out there, there’s an MSI MS-6788 with my name on it.

September 7, 2010 — 11:26 pm
Comments: 8

Bad, BAD dog!

“Some powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time and they’re not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog. That’s not in my prepared remarks, but it’s true,” he told a crowd largely consisting of union members.

Any idea what President Sissybaby is on about here?

September 6, 2010 — 9:42 pm
Comments: 30

A train and his blankee

Uncle B snuck into the engineering shed and took this picture. The blanket, he says, really is to keep the little sucker warm.

Today we rode part of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch line. Which really ought to be called the Hythe, Dymcurch and Romney, because Dymchurch is in the middle. Or, actually, the Hythe, Romney and Dungeness, as that’s the two ends and the middle, but the Dungeness part was added later.


The RHDR is a giant train set built in the Twenties by two eye-wateringly rich men: Captain J. E. P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski (who built and raced the “Chitty Bang Bang” Mercedes). Zborowski wrapped himself around a tree in the Italian Grand Prix of 1924, before the first two engines were delivered, but Captain Howey soldiered on.

The trains are one-third full size locomotives, built to run at 25mph on rails 15 inches apart, from Dungeness to Hythe — which is maybe twenty miles. They’re butt-punishing miles — the coaches are tiny things with wooden seats — but it’s a great run. In addition to the usual sheep and cows and fields of ripe wheat, a large part of the route runs right past row after row of back gardens.

An Englishman’s back garden is an intensely personal space, so it’s fun to see a bunch of them (the ones that weren’t fenced off, anyhow), from the scruffiest to the manicured. There was one huge train set (natch). In some, people sat out on the lawn and waved as the train went by (a think I can totally see myself doing with a cup of coffee or bottle of beer).

The line was requisitioned during WWII and ran up and down — I shit you not — a tiny armored train with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on it — they have a reproduction in the yard. It was there to protect workers on Operation PLUTO, which was itself a pretty remarkable thing…for some other post, perhaps.

Our engine today was the Hurricane. But the one in the picture is The Bug, which started life on the RHDR but found its way to a scrap heap for many years. And then back again. Hurrah!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

September 3, 2010 — 10:40 pm
Comments: 18