Ceased in name only

Wall Street Journal headline from March 2009:
Ann Arbor News to Cease Publication.
Detroit Free Press:
Ann Arbor News folds; Web transition begins.
Chicago Trib: "Closed for Business"
AP: "The Ann Arbor News hits the streets for last time."

So I bought a copy of the final edition out of a paperbox for 50 cents.

A few days later, I see a new paperbox next to it selling copies of "". Fifty cents for Thursdays and $1.25 on Sundays.

I realize it's a big deal, it's sad, it's historic. But some of the same staff founded and works on this new publication, with a larger web presence and two print issues each week.

It could be viewed as a newspaper that "ceased", but to me it's more realistic to call it a name change and a reduced publishing frequency. It would still be worth discussing as an old paper that has stopped printing daily, transitioning to digital. I don't think it would have been discussed as much or lamented as loudly if the News staff or maybe those who reported on it hadn't put it in misleading terms of the paper "ceasing".


Blue Cross, Ramen Shield

A couple of great lines from Bill Maher's New Rule: Not Everything in America Has to Make a Profit.

'Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what's in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.'

'If conservatives get to call universal health care "socialized medicine," I get to call private health care "soulless vampires making money off human pain." The problem with President Obama's health care plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism.'


How many taboos would you break to vanquish a baby ghost?

Disclaimer: this is full of spoilers, but there's more value in discussing the plot of this movie abstractly than actually watching it.

Rise of the Dead misleadingly follows the title pattern of zombie movies (ending with "-of the Dead"). And it starts out looking like a really lame bunch of zombies in a very slow take-over of a town. The attackers also make low moaning sounds like you've seen in every zombie movie, so it's not unreasonable to come away with that impression. Before long, you figure out that the shambling attackers are actually just live people possessed by the ghost of a baby. That secret is revealed after maybe the first third of the movie, so I'm not giving much away.

Then we move on to the mystery required in recent ghost movies, not just escaping from the ghost but finding out why it's attacking and how it can be satisfied. Here's major spoiler #1: in this case, the ghost infant is possessing people in order to systematically kill his adoptive parents, foster parents, and to be with his birth mother again.

Our heroine, the birth mother who gave him up for adoption, resolves the problem in a unique and fascinating way, but it seems like maybe the filmmakers didn't notice a pretty major taboo they were breaking, to my mind more disgusting than some of the sickest gore. Ready for spoiler #2?

In the climax, the young mother is attacked by her boyfriend who is possessed by the ghost of her son. She stops him from advancing by calling her son's name (the name given to him by his adoptive parents) and talking to the ghost, not talking to him as the boyfriend. She hugs him and consoles him while the possessed boyfriend moans in a high voice, I guess to show that an infant ghost is controlling him. Then she lies him on his back and pulls his pants off. Has he messed himself? Is he haunting her because he died with his diaper needing to be changed?

Then she pulls her pants down. Then she climbs on top of him. I'm not sure if their movements and moaning were too ambiguous or if I just couldn't believe what I was seeing for a few seconds, but she's clearly having sex with her boyfriend. Who is possessed by the ghost of her son.

Boyfriend keeps up his high moaning, not a very sexual sound. Thankfully it's not a marathon session. Mother slumps over and boyfriend's moaning changes from high to low before he says, "What happened?"

"He's back with his mother now," she announces.

Next scene is a few months later and she asks boyfriend to feel her belly because the baby is kicking. Eerie music plays. The End.

So on the one hand, it's interesting to think of a ghost that wants to be born through his own mother again. Is he displacing the soul that should have gone there and taking the body that should have gone to his sibling? Slightly silly to think that conception begins at the exact moment of ejaculation, but still a fresh idea.

Except that her boyfriend is spiritually absent from the situation. The consciousness that experiences having sex with her is her infant son.

What is the moral of the story?
1. Christians can create curses even more devastating than Gypsies.
2. You shouldn't give a kid up for adoption, but you can make up for it later by having pedophilic, necrophilic and incestuous sex with the ghost of your son. Then you can live happily ever after with the child who killed its grandmother, its adoptive parents, its foster parents, lots of bystanders, and attempted to murder you. Knit some booties and roll credits.


Trend of the Living Dead

Funny convergence. I'm looking at an issue of The Guardian Weekly (UK), the July 10-16, 2009 issue, page 35. Headline: Lively time for the movie undead. "Zombies, stomping over our screens, are the official recession monsters, writes Anne Billson." (About two-three years after everybody else pointed it out.)

The next periodical I happen to glance through is the San Francisco Bay Guardian, July 8-14, 2009, on page 34 of which I find the article We walk with a zombie: Nights and days of the dead economy and culture. Both articles in both Guardians talk about "zombie banks". Both conclude that zombies seem more popular during hard times.

At least the SFBG story gives a playlist of recommended music to eat flesh by, like the Misfits and Death and the Zombies, plus a sidebar of "fine reading and viewing for the discriminating zombie lover."

This post-structuralism is troubling

I wish the Senator grilling Sotomayor would dig deeper to the premises of all this crap about subjective versus objective legal pronouncements by judges. Are they assuming structuralism is true, that language is capable of conveying clear meanings, which can be picked out by judges objectively; or post-structuralism is true, that language and meanings are always muddy, and there will always be some wiggle room and subjective gray area which no judge or human will be able to avoid?

Is there any objective meaning? I think when you look at your experience of language, you come to the conclusion that post-structuralism is right.

Of course, this is the kind of crap you hear when you study the liberal arts, so conservatives seem predisposed to believe that laws are clear and meanings are not subject to interpretation.

Except if words and language and laws were that clear, then why would we ever need judges? Everyone would be able to understand the law, and nothing would ever need to be tried in court before a judge. The fact that we have judges seems to be in response to the widely recognized experience that no matter how clearly you try to write some law, there's always room for interpretation or misinterpretation. We do the best we can to fit decent, reasonable, impartial people in positions as arbiters, but they aren't frickin robots. They still have "feelings" (another word that Grassley or some conservative critic spat out in recent days, condemned alongside "empathy). They can be Stoic (read A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
by William Irvine), but they can't be Vulcans (the stereotypical image of Stoics).

Knowing that, we appoint judges anyway. The way conservatives talk, we should be appointing humans who pretend not to be human. Sadly, Sotomayor has been doing her best robot dance to rope them in.

[This is the impression I get after hearing highlights of the confirmation hearings. The more details I hear about it, the more I regret characterizing her that way.]


Empathy is troubling

It's not quite as funny in the full context, but I love hearing Conservatives talk about empathy like it's a bad word.

"This empathy standard is troubling to me," Grassley said. "Hulk smash puny humans, and Spock help."


Fictional Corporate Logo t-shirts

I noticed an ad for Last Exit to Nowhere in the back of Sight & Sound magazine. It's not exactly t-shirts with movie logos on them, but mostly original logos based on corporations or groups or places seen in movies. For example, what would the t-shirts worn by kids at Camp Crystal Lake look like? Or the Neighborhood Watch Alliance of Sandford, Amity Island or the Outlook Hotel. What would the crew of the USCSS Nostromo wear when they had some R&R time? I wouldn't have known Weyland-Yutani Corp if I hadn't read about it in some fanfic a few months ago.

My favorites are the Dapper Dan pomade logo and The Slaughtered Lamb (pub).

A few other good ones at which I saw in the back of the New Statesman, and all those reminded me of the small but cool selection at the Wing Kong Exchange.


Robot Hobocaust

If humanity had been enslaved by robots, as depicted in the movie Robot Holocaust, why do we see a robot pickpocket stealing from humans in the first scene? They can take over the world but they can't eradicate poverty or kleptomania from their own people? Wouldn't it be nice if the hero just called bullshit on that and started the movie over with a setting that won't fall apart in the first five minutes?

Now you can!

Robot Hobocaust is a fast beer-and-pretzels game with a little role-playing. It can be scaled down to almost no prep time, or it can be used as a meta-game on top of other existing tabletop rpg systems. Players create worlds and characters, then battle for control of the setting.


Nobody remembers Michael Sheuer

If you're a news or politics junkie, you might have heard rumbles about this CIA guy Michael Sheuer who was on Glenn Beck last night and said, "The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States -- because it's gonna take a grassroots, bottom-up pressure -- because these politicians prize their offices, prize the praise of the media, and the Europeans. It's an absurd situation again, only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary."

I haven't watched the episode or dug into it much. Maybe in the full context of what he said before or after that, it doesn't sound like "only destroying the village can save it."

My point is not to add further apparently deserved raving on this point, only to point out that liberal sources like Jon Stewart and some others with short memories characterize Scheuer as a standard Fox-brand apologist for Conservatism. Nobody remembers that Scheuer made the rounds of some liberal shows when his book "Imperial Hubris" came out, published anonymously in 2004 but later revealed to be by Sheuer. He bashed Bush all up and down for foolish statements and policies, coming from an authoritative position.

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I guess it's like Pat Buchanan where you could take some of his "isolationist" statements and say "even a Conservative like Buchanan disagreed with the invasion of Iraq." But then you dig into everything else Buchanan says and see that he's completely out of touch with reality and humanity and you feel like you need a shower.