Friday, August 10, 2007

Follow Up

We've just added a fairly awesome new feature to Mahalo - Mahalo Follow. It even has a cool logo featuring dolphins or, if they are unavailable, porpoises.

What you do is, see, you install the Mahalo Follow add-on into your browser (if you're all using Firefox like good little nerds, this should be relatively simple). Then, Mahalo stalks you around the Internet like a creepy overweight mouthbreather with a new Facebook account. But, you know, in a good way. It checks out whatever you're searching for online and, if Mahalo has a search result for that topic, brings up our results in a sidebar.

So, let's say I'm looking up "Snorg Girl" in Google. (She's that cute girl who appears frequently in blog banner ads.)

Snorg Girl

So, let's say I'm looking up "Snorg Girl." Cause, in this hypothetical situation as in life, I'm kind of a sad little man. I would go to Google and do a search, and because Mahalo has a page about Alice the Snorg Girl, it pops up on the screen as well, allowing you to compare the Google and Mahalo results without ever leaving the page or clicking the mouse.

If Mahalo doesn't have any direct hits, like with Snorg Girl, but it does have some closely related links, they will appear in the sidebar. Much of the time, this feature works really well, as you can see in this search for popular liberal blog Firedoglake. We haven't gotten around to an FDL page yet, but check out the results that do come up...

No FDL, but you get results for Crooks and Liars, Daily Kos and Eschaton, three other popular left-leaning blogs. Still pretty cool and very on-target.

As we continue to add pages to the site (and we're clocking almost 150 a day presently), these results will become even more refined. As of now, we have around 9,000 total pages on Mahalo, so there are still some gaps. When Mahalo has no relevant results to share, the Follow plugin stays closed. Type in "Taxi Driver" (man, how did we miss that one?), "Crushed by Inertia" or "hardcore pornography," and you'll just get your normal full-page Google results.

Mistakes are possible but rare. Sometimes the program will get the wrong impression from a given page and show you some irrelevant results. This was a huge problem when we were first testing everything, but honestly, now that it's live, the developers seem to have figured out a solution. I tried just now for a full five minutes to stump the machine, to get some goofy, silly, totally wrong results to show all of you, and I couldn't make it happen. And I was typing in really weird, obscure shit - in other words, I was trying to make it fail, and couldn't.

If you just leave that sidebar open, it's like leaving Mahalo running, so it will run all your search terms through the system, and then you'll get some irrelevant results. But close the sidebar, and you can go right about your routine forgetting you even installed the thing.

I didn't even mention the best part yet. It has a browseable directory, so you can surf around Mahalo right in your Firefox browser. Sweet!

Anyway, I can't recommend this thing enough. If you have any doubts about whether or not to use Mahalo, give Follow a try for a week.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

First Earthquake in a While...

but it was mild. There's always that split second after it's over when you think it's just going to keep going and turn into the Big One they used to talk about all the time and, like, shear away half the building...but that never happens. Was that all a myth or what?

Anyway, I turned on the TV right after the quake, to see if it was a really big one that was just far away, and instead I was delighted to see Internet sensation Tay Zonday performing live on Jimmy Kimmel! Awesome:

He says he hasn't listened to the John Mayer cover of his song. Face.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The War on Supernatural Apocalyptic Terror

I love this clip. Mad props to CK for the link.

Great Moments in Conservative Humor, or Why I Should Write for The American Prospect

Me, 2/11/07
Staunchly ideological, partisan kind of thinkers are rarely as funny as those who can see both sides of an issue. I don't always agree with moderates, but they're more funny. Great satire can be designed to convince an audience, but the best jokes are usually focused solely on being jokes as opposed to expressing a political viewpoint.


You'll never come up with something funny if you go in with that attitude. "I've got to find something some liberal has done to make fun of!" It's lame and predictable. First, find something FUNNY. If you need to do political comedy, then find something political that's FUNNY. Then talk about that, and your ideology should come through naturally. If you have any talent as a comic.

The American Prospect, 8/8/07

What the Konservetkult has failed to grasp through all this is that art is most successful when it is not put slavishly in the service of political ideology. To be sure, art and politics have commingled in the past, from Beethoven's symphonic tribute to Napoleon to Goya's graphic depictions of war, to South Park's barbed libertarian social satire. But lasting political art uses politics as its inspiration; in the Konservetkult's calculus, politics must always use art. Normal people look at a piece of art and ponder how it changes their view of the world, or how it deepens their appreciation for life. The right's culture critics look at art and ask, "How can this help us win?"

I really liked the article, but come I can barely eke out 200 readers a day if I'm this far ahead of the curve? Also, I was hating on Zach Braff for, like, 2 years before it was cool, and I first saw TV on the Radio right after the "Young Liars" EP first came out. Face.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

You know, if Paul Greengrass could stop showing off for ten minutes to shoot an action scene, this third Bourne film might have been really great. As it stands, I feel kind of torn. I really admire this series, which is far more clever and inventive than most American spy fare and which provides a perfect vehicle for the steely distance of Matt Damon. But I can't get past the chase sequences, which are jittery and blurry and indistinct and awful. I'm not sure if D.P. Oliver Wood actually suffers from epilepsy, but if not, someone needs to put a stop to Greengrass before he ruins another savvy, globe-trotting Hollywood thriller.

After three films, screenwriter Tony Gilroy (who here teams up with Scott Burns) just absolutely nails the Bourne formula. Really, Bourne's a reverse spy, and his entire story is one long, relentless chase. Bond pursues the villains by using assumed identities and gadgets. Bourne spends two hours running from the villains at top speed. Rather than using state-of-the-art technology to track criminals and evil-doers around the world, he is constantly being tracked and spied upon, and must escape using his superior wits and super-strength. That formula essentially describes every moment of Bourne Ultimatum. Will Jason manage to usurp the greatest tactical and surveillance forces on the planet by repeatedly punching people really hard in the solar plexus? Let's watch...

And it works; for the better part of 2 hours, it works. David Strathairn makes an excellent addition to the series as Jason's latest foe within the CIA, Deputy Director Noah Vosen, and the great Albert Finney takes an important, if small, role as Dr. Albert Hirsch, the man who holds the secret to Bourne's memory loss and backstory. Bourne tracks Hirsch, Vosen tracks Bourne and Bourne's old allies Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles, who has appeared in all three films but only gets an actual role to play this time around) help out whenever they can.

That's about all there is, folks. Lots of chases, lots of close-calls, lots of one-ups, and an ending that doesn't really add any new information about Jason that we didn't get in the first two films, but at least provides the series with a sense of closure. (The door is, of course, left open for what Damon and Greengrass have termed The Bourne Redundancy.) I can't say I was totally satisfied by the ending. It seems like the film is building to some kind of crazy twist, a previously unimaginable wrinkle in Jason's story, what with the extensive use of flashbacks and the ominous atmosphere surrounding the Finney character. Instead, Jason's backstory is pretty much what I've assumed it would be all along - Wolverine's backstory minus the adamantium.

Greengrass manages to settle down a little from spazzed-out Bourne Supremacy mode, in which the camera never stopped rattling around for long enough to focus on a subject, like an excitable old lady who's off her meds. Here, a brutal back-and-forth between textbook-wielding Bourne and another assassin actually uses the shaky handheld technique well, highlighting the claustrophobia of the setting and the visceral force of the punches.

Alas, as he did in Supremacy, Greengrass hopelessly botches the film's car chase. I suppose it's impressive, in a way, that he's actually able to physically capture an entire car chase using handheldc ameras, but it's a pyrrhic victory because you still can't tell what's going on. The exciting part about watching a car get bashed into a center divider is, you know, watching it, not getting a sense for its impact by seeing blurry shards of glass flying near your head.

Look, I'm not a fan of this guy from Part 2 in this series and particularly the woeful United 93, which just felt like a tremendously self-involved wank session, Greengrass attempting to substitute his personal vision of events for their reality. So I guess I'm a little biased at this point when he hauls out his old tricks on every single movie and asked to be acclaimed anew. Yes, Paul, you're the Parkinson of Cinema, the Sultan of Shaky-Cam. Now will you cut it the fuck out and direct a movie I can actually watch without developing Ménière's disease?

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Fat Tax

Earlier, I made a Mahalo page about a viral video in which Snoop Dogg dances in Kirby's Dreamland, and yet this MSNBC article was still the craziest thing I've seen all day:

For employees at Clarian Health, feeling the burn of trying to lose weight will take on new meaning.

In late June, the Indianapolis-based hospital system announced that starting in 2009, it will fine employees $10 per paycheck if their body mass index [BMI, a ratio of height to weight that measures body fat] is over 30. If their cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels are too high, they'll be charged $5 for each standard they don't meet. Ditto if they smoke: Starting next year, they'll be charged another $5 in each check.

Is this some kind of sick joke? Brad at Sadly, No! makes the obvious point that this cancels out any concerns about government-run health care intruding on personal choices. Even the government won't stoop to taxing you based on your relative fatness.

But beyond that important point, this is just the grossest possible violation of an individual's privacy imaginable. (Also, didn't I read somewhere that the BMI isn't really all that accurate in many cases?)

But some employment lawyers and wellness program administrators believe Clarian's approach may not be so unusual in coming years. They see employers, already overwhelmed by rising health-care costs, getting more aggressive in mandating changes in employee behavior. Garry Mathiason, a senior partner at employment law firm Littler Mendelson, says more than 300 companies have requested its assistance on mandatory wellness initiatives since it released a study on the topic in April. "In reality, you only get a certain amount of participation with incentive and encouragement," he says. "The demand for [curtailing health-care costs] is so great that [employers] are willing to take the next step. It's tough love."

Tough love...Cut me a goddamn break. It's not often that someone mistakes "greed" for "love," but that's just what things have come to in George Bush's America. Cold-hearted corporatism = compassionate conservatism, after all.

The fines are waived for employees who can provide a doctor's note stating it's not advisable for them to try to meet the benchmark -- employees will be able to submit new notes from their doctors quarterly -- and that they are complying with the proper diet, exercise, and treatment plan.

So...if you're willing to be humiliated and debased, getting a doctor's note excusing your weight problem and, like, totally promising to work out can keep your $10 a month. Then, you have to walk to Queens and get the CEO of Clarian a slice of cheesecake.

Or, you know, you could quit, which is probably what I would do. And my subsequent months of unemployment, spent on the streets without food and shelter, would probably decrease my body mass index such that I could go back to work at Clarian and keep my entire paycheck! See how things work out if you're only willing to compromise?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Not-At-All-Ironic Ironic T-Shirt

Major props to D Listed (which, I have to say, has been on fire all week) for this hilarious photo:

Nice! Busted for a DUI wearing a shirt proclaiming yourself to be a drunk has got to be kind of embarrassing. Unless you're this guy, in which case you might as well just go with it...