Friday, April 18, 2008

Politiks Iz Hard

So they do this instead:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You don't need a Weatherman to know how much Charles Gibson blows

I've followed politics closely for only a decade, so I realize this statement doesn't necessarily carry all that much weight, but I think tonight's primary debate questions were the most insipid and ridiculous I have ever heard.

It's tempting to simply discuss the obvious anti-Obama bias on display from both moderators - but particularly former Bill Clinton staffer George Stephanopolous. (The guy used to work for Hillary's husband! Why would you hire him to moderate a debate between a Clinton and anyone else? It seems almost like an intentionally hostile move towards one candidate.)

But the unfairness towards one candidate is only a small part of the story. I think the bigger issue is that the entire first half of the debate was entirely without substance, just a series of useless queries about vapid Beltway gossip.

Question 1: Will you pick one another to be your running mates?

Who cares. We're trying to decide which one of them is going to win, not who's going to be fucking Vice-President. Get a calendar. Also, they've answered this question at previous debates.

Question 2 (Charles Gibson to Obama): Do you understand why some people in small Pennsylvania towns find your comments patronizing?

Gibson intentionally phrased this question as an attack on Obama. He didn't ask Obama to clarify the now-infamous "bitter" "cling to guns" comments (which I think most sensible people agree is just a poorly-phrased statement of truth). He didn't ask Hillary her reaction to what Obama said (which is the way a rational journalist would probably approach the subject). He asked Obama if he understood why some people find him patronizing. It assumes from the beginning that many people in small-town America were upset with Obama, which doesn't really seem to be indicated from his consistent poll numbers.

I mean, why start from this assumption, unless you simply want to carefully phrase a criticism of Obama. "You are patronizing. Tell me why."

Also, please note that this issue is about a statement he made at a private event that he has already explained and discussed for a week. It has nothing to do with anything.

Question 3: Clinton is asked about something she's rumored to have said to Bill Richardson on the phone.

Do I even need to get into this one? This does not sound like a real question at a political debate. This sounds like high school students hanging around the lockers. Who cares what Hillary said to Bill on the fucking phone!

Question 4: Charlie Gibson directly confronts Obama about an invitation he rescinded to Pastor Jeremiah Wright one year ago. Why did it take him a full year to officially distance himself from Wright's inflammatory rhetoric, Gibson demands to know!

Completely asinine. I couldn't believe what I was hearing with this. Gibson is taking up a large chunk of prime time television to bark at a candidate for president for not rebuking his pastor early enough. I mean, what? This kicked off a full 10 minute conversation about whether or not it's appropriate to stop going to your church if you and your minister disagree about politics.

As someone who does not attend church and doesn't really care what Obama's pastor thinks about stuff, this just couldn't have been a less important discussion for me. They might as well have spent 10 minutes comparing various brands of anti-dandruff shampoos.

"Well, I respect Barack's experience, obviously, but if he thinks Selsun Blue is going to be as effective in taking the fight to my scalp itch as the more reliably experienced Head and Shoulders, I would have no choice but to question his potential judgment as our Commander-in-Chief!"

Question 5: To Clinton: Should all of the members of Pastor Wright's church leave?


Question 6: THIS IS A REAL QUESTION FROM THE DEBATE: "Senator Obama, does Reverend Wright love America as much as you do?"

What could our wizened panel of expert newsmen have possibly wanted in response to this query? Suggestive arm gestures?

"Well, Mr. Papadopolis, Pastor Wright loves America THIS MUCH, but I love America THIS MUCH."

It's just ludicrous beyond words. Can we all agree that we're all quite fond of America, that she's a swell gal and we're super-excited to take her to the box social, and just get on with the actual business of life in the 21st Century, please? I figured they'd have to follow up "who wuvves Amewica more" with either a commercial break or "How much do you love unicorns," but no, Gibson had other scuzzy DC backwaters to explore.

Question 7: Hey, Hillary, you lied about that Bosnia thing! How can we ever trust you again?

More silly meaningless pap. Yeah, Clinton almost certainly meant to "misspeak" about her trip to Bosnia, making it sound more dangerous than it was and thus make her seem more "experienced" and "heroic." But that's pretty much what politicians do; embellish. I'm not saying you wouldn't write an article on this if you were the first to figure it out, but taking time out of a debate to force a candidate to admit that she added some spice to an old anecdote to make it more of a crowd-pleaser is like spending an entire interview getting Michael Bay to admit he uses a lot of CGI.

"Yes, okay, I guess you could say that I don't need to always have shots in which impossibly-cumbersome objects are thrown from the back of speeding trucks onto sun-streaked freeways at rush hour, and yet I include these in my films constantly anyway. That would be a fair assessment."

Question 8: (ARE YOU NOTICING A TREND?): Does Obama think Hillary is honest and truthful?

More high school crap. I'm really not interested in what Obama thinks of Hillary at this point. He's spoken about his high opinion of her at length on several occasions, at pretty much every Democratic debate. If he had some interesting new spin on her honesty, I'm sure he'd find his way around to it. Why ask this? It's like they're just hoping he'll say something catty and they'll spar a bit and it'll make for 5 minutes of entertaining footage. In this way, the moderators of the ABC Debate and the producers of syndicated afternoon reality dating shows are identical.

Question 9: They play a fucking video of some insane old fart grilling Obama over not wearing an American flag pin on his lapel.

Ho-ly crap. I was live-blogging this debate, and that's probably a good thing, because it gave me a goal, a reason to go on living. ("Must finish the job.") If I were watching this at home alone, I may have just plunged into a dark Scandinavian despair from which I could never emerge. Such was my lack of faith in the human race upon hearing this question put to a candidate for President.

He didn't wear the right pin? What is he, pledging Beta Chi? IT'S A GODDAMN PIN. You know who's great with pieces of flair? George W. Bush. He'll put on the right costume for the occasion, no matter which member of the Village People you're looking for that day. Too bad playing dress-up is about all the man can do well. (Okay, okay, to be fair...he's a brush-clearing dynamo.)

I'll also add here another major criticism of Charles Gibson's behavior tonight...After this irretrievably stupid video question, Gibson interjected that he felt "this could be an issue in the general election." This was his little Fox News trick for covertly trashing a librul Commie. Pretend you're not directly attacking the candidate by claiming to "report attacks" made by vague external forces.

It's the Sean Hannity "some have said" trick. (And, just so you know, "some have said" that Hannity coached moderator and ex-Clintonista George Stephanopoulos for this very debate). Gibson's blaming hypothetical Republicans who exist months into the future of making a campaign issue AGAIN out of this stupid Obama-flag-pin piffle, when the only one doing anything of the sort is Charles Gibson. I know a lot of Americans are stupid, but are they really this stupid? To fall for rhetorical sleight-of-hand so forced and awkward, it would humiliate Tony Wonder?

(By the by, Hillary also employed the "Republicans will make this attack" trick several times tonight, and it just always seems completely insipid to me, completely transparent. They just think we're all idiots and that we don't get it. Next, they're going to tell us the debate's being held at Asphinctersayswhat Unviersity.)

Question 10: They ask Obama about his relationship with (oh man...) former Weatherman Bill Ayers.

This is so tired. Obama has already discussed this at length, he doesn't really know the guy that well and he hasn't received any kind of real endorsement from the guy. TOTAL NON-ISSUE. You don't need a Weatherman to know how much Charles Gibson blows.

Then they took a commercial break. This was 45 minutes of debate and there was not a single question with any real purpose or merit.

For clarity: I'm going to vote for whichever Democrat is the nominee in the fall, I'd prefer that Democrat to be Obama, and I'm not even particularly upset that he seemed to be the target of the moderators wrath tonight. These questions were just ridiculously inane and embarrassing for ABC.

As for the candidates themselves, I thought Obama seemed fairly off his game tonight, and probably had his worst-ever debate performance. I know I was fairly incensed by the time the Ayers stuff came up, just gobsmacked at how pointless every single issue had been for the entire first half of the night, and Obama by that point seemed tense from playing constant defense. He seemed almost vulnerable tonight, even in the slightly more sane, more policy-focused second half, which is not a good thing.

I don't think Clinton came off much better, but at this point, a tie for her is not bad. She's fighting uphill, so if she ties, it's really almost like gaining ground. It almost felt like watching a general election debate, with HilRod as the Republican. She didn't turn down a single opportunity to hit Obama, no matter how stupid or baseless.

At one point, she made this case: Republicans have spent so long picking her apart, they've already found out about all the horrible things she's done. Obama's fresh meat! Why not go with the scumbag you know?

I think you have to kind of question someone who thinks that way. So because most Americans have already been well-trained to loathe the very core of you, you're a better choice than the new guy they know relatively little about? Guh?

At another point, Clinton said she felt the Jeremiah Wright thing, that has been dissected on television daily for weeks now, needs "further investigation." Then she tried to lump Obama together with Louis Farrakhan. You stay classy, HilRod.

Beghe Ideas (Don't Get Any)

Wow, Scientology makes you freaking insane...

This guy's not even a Scientologist any more, and he's still not making any goddamn sense at all.

The last thing he says during this 2 minute-or-so, largely nonsensical anti-Scientology rant really struck me. He says that he has a unique perspective - he was in Scientology and now he's out. But isn't this true of most people? I'd have to guess that the majority of Scientologists were not raised Scientologists, but came to the "faith" later in life. All of these people have the experience of not being a Scientologist and then becoming one.

What the "ruggedly handsome" Jason Beghe says indicates that Scientologists essentially forget what their lives were like before joining the church.'s fantastic...

The other part that's just...kind of incredible to the thing about migraines. He was genuinely surprised to meet an "OT VIII" who had a migraine. It just hits home with me sometimes. People really believe this shit. They think that reading a lot of bullshit and giving the Church of Scientology money will give them Cosmic Anti-Migraine Powers. I

I will say this...I hope to begin working the phrase "where's the fucking clear?" into daily conversation.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shel 'n Me

A puppet has implied I have a weight problem on camera. I can now die a happy man.

Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!

This David Levy book just sounds wrong, wrong, wrong, 1,000 times wrong:

In this wide-ranging examination of the emotional and physical relations between humans and the inanimate objects of their desire, AI guru Levy (Robots Unlimited) first addresses the question of love with robots, and moves on to consider the mechanics of actually having sex with them. In order to put the reader at ease with the possibility of human-robot love, Levy compares the phenomenon to the ways in which humans fall in love with each other, their pets, and even their motorcycles. From there, Levy argues, it is a short emotional step to the affection people can be expected to display towards robots.


Some readers may be turned off by Levy's fairly graphic descriptions of the mechanics of having sex with robots, and may wonder why Levy chose not to include recent research on the human genome that could one day lead to replacing human "parts," potentially making us more robot-like ourselves.

Honestly? Sex with robots? Does that sound attractive/non-creepy to anyone? If not, let's take a look at a review from the Washington Post.

"Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans," Levy writes...

Sure it will be! Except for the whole "you're having sex with a machine" thing.

..."while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as robots teach us more than is in all of the world's published sex manuals combined."

This horny nerd still realizes that humans will only be able to contort in so many ways, right? It's no good having an ultra-bendy porn robot if most humans can't do a Downward Facing Dog. (Also, Levy's something of an optimist if he thinks the future will be all about super-genius AI robots taking the time to consider sexual positions. Shouldn't we get them to work on all those existential threats to our existence coming down the road in the next few centuries before we get them going on Kama Sutra 2.0?)

Levy goes on to imagine a world of robot prostitutes, or "sexbots," which would offer people a chance to practice their technique before entering a human relationship. "With a robot prostitute," he writes, "the control of disease is implicit -- simply remove the active parts and put them in the disinfecting machine."

Perhaps Buffalo Bill wasn't really a serial killer at all? He was just a Man of the Future, ahead of his time in his desire to remove a lady's "active parts" after use. (Also, the notion that guys are visiting prostitutes to "practice their technique"? Hi-larious. As if most dudes even care if their technique is any good!)

Seriously, this Levy character comes off as a perverted clown here, but you've got to give him some respect for actually having the stones to write a book about how he wants to fuck robots. Most guys, they'd just keep this fantasy to themselves, maybe clear out the lint trap on their dryer and give it a try one wild night when the wife's visiting her sister in Poughkeepsie. But Levy's like, "Fuck that, I'm turning this sick, ludicrous fetish into a best-seller! Suck it!"

[Hat tip to Sadly, No!, which observes that Glenn Reynolds can't wait to get a copy of Levy's tome in the mail. I am incredibly surprised that this conservative schmendrick has a weird erotic obsession with robots!]


This forthcoming animated Batman anthology looks schweeeeeeet. That is all:

Clash of the Titans

Two giants of podcasting - the Shel Israel puppet and Jason Calacanis - together at last.