Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pearl Mackie (@pearlie_mack) Announced As New Who Companion

Here's the announcement:

She's wearing a Prince t-shirt there! Don't know when this was filmed, seems likely it would've been before the terrible news broke, but either way it's perfect. (Nice to see some new footage in the announcement, but it stings a little that we're still a long way off from new episodes.)

Always afraid to look at what the tweeps are saying, you never know when the MRA/Racist Egg Brigade is going to shit in the pool, but a quick glance shows nothing but warm welcomes and well wishing in response to her first tweet since the announcement. That's tremendously encouraging.

I haven't seen her in anything before but just the brief clip, the glowing reviews I'm reading from those who have seen her, and the fact she reads like a lovely person make this an exciting announcement.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince Is Gone, But I'm Looking For A Purple Lining To That Cloud Today

Off on a tangent, the deaths recently of Prince, Merle Haggard, David Bowie, Phife, and a few others, have me in the mind of appreciating all the more that the world still has two of my favorite performers in it, and still working into their 80s: Willie Nelson & Tom Baker.

Prince's death impacted more than Bowie's, but if I'm honest, I respected more than actively enjoyed his music the last several years. Like everyone else, I loved the 2007 Super Bowl half time show (hence the #shadowboner tag I've used occasionally since that night), and the George Harrison hall of fame tribute. I don't doubt Prince's last albums are great, but seeking them out wasn't important to me like his earlier ones were. That's partly true of Willie as well, though he put on a great concert last summer; and Tom's Big Finish audios are a shadow of his time in the role back in the 70s. But, I'm still listening to both, and hope to listen to lots more.

So the purple lining I'm finding in the cloud that hangs over 2016 is that the two guys who oriented my tastes around music (on Willie's part), and sci-fi (Tom's part) as much or more than any other performers during my formative years are still making the world better by being in it.

Willie's willingness to engage with music of all types, his outlaw/hustler/dare-I-say-proto-punk persona, his distinctive voice and guitar playing style, the poignancy of the songs he wrote, and the life he breathed into songs he covered ... these things all made it possible for me to hear music with more openness, more willingness to be challenged, and more patience for quirkiness. I firmly believe listening to his music has made me a better man. He has been a giant of American music and should be remembered not only for the songs he wrote and performed, but for how he served as an ambassador to the world for a distinctive strain of American fierce independence tightly coupled with the spirit of brotherhood.

Tom Baker's irreverence is a cousin to Willie's outlaw, but is another facet of that Coyote/Trickster-Verging-On-Fool archetype, a distinctly British one, perhaps. But of all the great Brits, he's the one that embodied a universal for me. There's a bit of John Lennon in him, a bit of John Cleese, something that -- because I saw him first -- made it certain I would be ready for Douglas Adams and Monty Python when I did encounter them. His Doctor is to me what "Imagine" is Lennon's fans, what the best Python sketches are to their fans, what HHGTG is to Adams fans. I'm fans of all those works and artists, but none give me the joy of watching Tom offer a baddie a Jelly Baby, or drop a line like, "You're a beautiful woman, probably."

Prince died far too young, and that sucks. But all the good ones don't die young. There are some who keep going, stay brilliant, and whose talent seems to be an inexhaustible well. They go up and down, wax and wane, make mistakes, can be assholes, but they are legendary talents and unmistakably brilliant performers ... when they are on, they peel back the veil and show us exactly how our imaginations can bend the cruelty of an indifferent universe towards joy in the face of suffering, and towards laughter in the face of evil.

Enjoy every day with the great ones, because nothing lasts forever.

Oh, and when the day comes, the black day that always comes, don't look for me to be coherent and to be able to compose a tribute. Those are the two that will break me down. I'll be hearing "Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground" and unable to speak. I'll be watching "The Ark in Space," and "The City of Death" through a wash of tears. They are "only celebrities," not family, not friends, but they are woven into the fabric of my life. The music that played in my grandparents' house, the escape of a kid who couldn't figure out he fit into the world, and the way back in.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sinking Its Teeth Into Every Organ Of The Public Sector

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems | Books | The Guardian
Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.
We've dug ourselves a mighty deep hole. Instead of figuring a way out, we keep taking advice from the shovel salespeople who've set up shop at the top. (They don't even make the shovels -- they've figured out how to get us to make them, so they can rent'em back to us.)

The anguish I'm feeling is from so many Democrats, self-proclaimed liberals, who look at the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and have chose Clinton, a neoliberal (or, a "centrist Republican" if we're settling on labels more accurate than "progressive" but avoiding the fancy ones) and aren't only resigned to her winning the Democratic nomination, but actively arguing for it, closing ranks around her platform of low expectations, hawkish foreign policy, and convenient acceptance of social causes she wouldn't touch just twenty years ago.

Sanders isn't going to win the nomination. Hillary will. (There's not going to be any indictment over emails, or Benghazi, or whatever the tinfoil hat brigade has out for her.) My fear is the #ImWithHer crowd are enabling Hillary's baser instincts, instead of using the Sanders campaign as a way to hold her feet to the fire.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Geno & CD Know How To Develop The Talent They Recruit

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Was Time Ever About Anything Other Than Coddling Elites Though?

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The First First Lady Was A Real Piece Of Work

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Father's Day Is Coming And He Takes Commissions ...

Baseball Paintings — Pete Sack Art

Something like a 2000 Pedro Martinez Topps #60 would make a great subject. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hawking, Zuckerberg, and Team to Launch #StarshotProject

image via

Tiny rockets are going to be sent into space to study the far universe in the most ambitious space exploration project in history.
Scientists including Stephen Hawking and backers such as internet investor Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg will send “nano craft” deep into space to explore the most remote regions that humans have ever seen, by far. The hugely ambitious project could reveal deep secrets of the universe and will allow people to photograph one of the most likely places to hold life on other worlds. 
The Starshot Project hopes to get the tiny robots out to the Alpha Centauri star system, 25 trillion years away. Getting there through normal means would take 30,000 years – but the new project hopes that using the tiny rockets will allow them to get there in just 20.
Wow. Just wow. This is stuff NASA should be doing, but OK, still, this is awesome.

Little computers lead the way. Little drones. Then more little drones, then more ... as we get better at, we can send ones that are a little bigger, and if we push a bunch of a little drones out there, maybe, just maybe, they can find the raw materials to start building things. Little things at first, then bigger things, gaining size and complexity ...

Mining, building, preparing. A space station could be waiting for us before we even get there. (And, if we can do that, maybe we can build a way station, something in between to reduce the risk in case we can't get all the way there in one shot.)

It may not be possible. But imagine what we could do if gave settlers a chance at a fresh start, a new world with a new constitution that at least avoids the mistakes of all the ones up to now ...

Things could better in a way they may never where we can't escape our own history.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

New Blog Side Project: DigiCards

Front image of the Moriah Jefferson motion digicard
Me and card collecting go way back. Back to my elementary school days collecting baseball cards. Mostly Topps, but also Fleer cards, and Donruss, even collected a few "3D" mini-cards from a maker I don't remember -- but I want to say was a collectible issued through some Hostess cupcake promotion, or something like that. 

Even today, I've put the digital card apps on my phone and have some Star Wars and MLB cards I'm hoarding, ostensibly for when my son or daughter are interested enough to take over the accounts. 

But, I always wanted to make my own cards. (A solipsist by nature, I wanted to make cards of me playing Little League, as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back; and, I wanted to make cards for my favorite authors. ["I'll trade you two Piers Anthonys for that Heinlein Grandmasters card," I imagined was how the schoolyard swapping might go ...])

So, to scratch that childhood itch, I've launched a new sideproject for the ol' blog. There's a link to the index page for the cards I've created on the right-hand side, or you can jump in and view the first motion card of Moriah Jefferson in action against Syracuse. Cards for Stewie and Tuck are up already as well.

If you're not a fan of UConn Women's hoops, the first series of cards are probably not going to be of much interest to you. Stick around though, I've got the beginnings of a film noir series in mind. Yo La Tengo cards won't be far behind those.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ta-Nehisi Coates on ‘Black Panther’ and Creating a Comic That Reflects the Black Experience | VICE | United States

Ta-Nehisi Coates on ‘Black Panther’ and Creating a Comic That Reflects the Black Experience | VICE | United States

I'm black. I'm from West Baltimore. I've lived in black communities all my life; it's the experience I know. I can't help but pull from that. It's a part of me, but I think the notion that by writing out of an African American experience, it necessarily means no one else will want to see it—that's probably a false dichotomy. So, I would say: "Yes, it is 'for us,'" but in the course of being 'for us,' it becomes for everyone.
Picked up my Black Panter #1 today. Initial reaction after a quick read is: that's quite good; I'm ready for #2. I'll go back over it and follow the link mentioned in the Letters Page ( to learn more about the background of the characters -- this is all pretty new to me and I suspect a some panels have more significance than I picked up on in the first pass. The characters and the setting are intriguing though, am eager to see where Coates takes the story ...

Stewie, Tuck, and BonnBonn Leave The Court

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Raleigh HB2 Protest Outside The Governor's Mansion

AFL-CIO representative speaking. (Photo by me.)
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Protesters to House Bill 2 showed up Saturday afternoon in downtown Raleigh outside the NC Governor’s Mansion. 
A group of hundreds had signs with them outside of Governor Pat McCrory’s official residence on North Blount Street. 
The group is opposed to House Bill 2, which was passed by the General Assembly to counter an ordinance in Charlotte that would have allowed people to use a public restroom based on the gender with which they identify. 
Governor McCrory signed the bill the same day it was passed by the General Assembly in a special session late last month. 
Several protests have been held since then, including one with hundreds of people in Chapel Hill that blocked Franklin Street for hours last week. 
There were small children at the Chapel Hill protest and there were more at the protest in Raleigh on Saturday, which started around 3 p.m. 
Parents on Saturday said it was important for the children to see the opposition to House Bill 2. 
The protesters on Saturday stayed mostly on the sidewalk across from the Governor’s Mansion. No traffic was affected.

Below is a few minutes of video I shot of one of the speakers. (No megaphones were allowed, so in order for the back of the crowd to hear, those of us in front were the people's microphone, hence the repetition you hear of the speaker's words.)

Below are a few photos culled from the event's facebook page in which a silverback gorilla protester can be spotted ...

Update (4/5/2016): WRAL's story on the protest.

Friday, April 1, 2016

What The Media Gets Wrong About Reality Reflects What It Can't Accept About Itself

Of course pols are comfortable meeting a press comprised of genial buffoons.
I read and follow @mattyglesias, generally without having to pull my hair out, but this tweet feels illustrative of how bad even insightful analysts, reporters, and commentators are at recognizing how much of their coverage of issues is garbage, or worse:

The So-Called Liberal Media is terrible at holding liars accountable for lying. The press, in my view, should be impartial, not impassive. Lies and distortions should make journalists angry, and they should be allowed, encouraged even, to bring that anger to bear in service of presenting accurate information. But they aren't.

Oh, sure, there are plenty of rageheads out there, and there's a risk of being perceived as one of them. I'm not arguing though that guys like Yglesias should emulate the O'Reillys, Limbaughs, and Becks of the world. There's a way to get angry that's level-headed, cool, and dispassionate. There's an anger that's insistent, can be abrupt, and dismissive of nonsense. That's the anger the press fails to channel. Too often, they mistake impartiality for an obligation to respect bullshit because it's only "fair" to give the other side of an argument a hearing. The problem is when the other side of the argument is demonstrably wrong -- not based on evidence, not constructed with valid reasoning -- it should not be treated as unassailable.

Where I'm going with this is, it seems to me, Yglesias thinks Sanders is wrong but, from what I can tell, has no reason to ... except that what Sanders asserts strikes at Yglesias's profession, and his profession's ethics, and so, for Yglesias and his ilk, it is inconceivable that Sanders might have a true belief despite the abundant evidence in support of the conclusion Sanders has reached.

Murphy points this out ...

But, if you follow the discussion, you'll see the wagons being circled in defense of (again, in what appears to my outsider's eyes to be) the current sorry state of the Fourth Estate.

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