Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain's Air Quotes

Can you spot the weirdest Bowie video ever?

MTV Music (the new website from the long-irrelevant television network) is actually pretty rad.

For instance, check out some of the gloriously weird Bowie videos I found (they're sure to bring you back to the heyday of MTV, when they actually played music videos!):

5 Days...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Plantastic! Jack-O-Lantern Edition

Of course you already know that the pumpkin is a fruit from a dark green vine and that it's a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. You also know that they're an incredibly cool fruit. In fact, the next time somebody asks me what my favorite fruit is, I think I'm going to say pumpkin (sorry cherries). And, of course, you realize just how great they are to carve. In this special Halloween edition of Plantastic!, we're looking at creative Cucurbitaceae carvings:

We'll begin with the classics...

Just Your Run-O-The Mill Jack-O-Lanterns

...and move on to the frightening...

Jack is Scary, Too Terrifying for Words, Scary Ork Face

...and on to the political...

Palin (also scary), Che, and Obama

...before taking a peek at the geeky,...

Pixel Jack-O-Lantern, Nintendo Jack-O-Lantern, Death Star Jack-O-Lantern

...the dirty,...

Sexist Red State Jack-O-Lantern, Kama Sutra Jack-O-Lantern, Colon Jack-O Lantern

...the cannibalistic,

Cannibal Jack-O-Lanterns!

...and, of course, the musical.

Jack-O Jack-O-Lantern, Pumpkins in their Heyday (an admittedly easy joke), Ziggy

AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka on Racism and the Election

People in the Middle for Obama

Great collection of video clips by Errol Morris, featuring Republican and Independent voters explaining why they'll be voting for Obama next week.

More clips here.

If you flatter them, will the come?

In recent weeks, GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been extolling the virtues of smaller, rural and more typically conservative American towns, calling them "the real America." This divisive rhetoric isn't particularly surprising, but it's troubling because of just who is really being hurt by the faltering economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and a tax system that favors the richest Americans.

Here's Palin on "The Real America":

Would those be the factories that are being closed and whose workers are being sent home? Are those the teachers who are constantly belittled and degraded by the right-wing? Are those the service men and women whose absentee ballots arrive too late (or not at all) and that won't be counted this Nov. 4th?

As you may know, our good friend, Matt Streib, is biking around the country visiting sites of religious significance as part of his American Pilgrimage project. He's been through a lot of small towns over the course of the past few months, and his observations about "the real America" are saddening, moving and necessary reading for anybody who hasn't had the opportunity to bike through some of the most isolated parts of the country. Here's an excerpt:
We don’t make anything anymore. We just buy it. There are probably as many manicurists as machinists these days, as many customer service representatives as construction workers.

My grandfather always says a country that doesn’t make anything can’t survive. And he’s probably right.

What options do small towns have? Cities can adapt, becoming medical, technological, or cultural hubs. Can a town of 2,000 in the brown, barren hills of western Washington do that?

We’re seeing everything crumble and politicians appeal to small towns, talking about how great the people are. If they flatter their values, politicians hope small-towners will forget their pocketbooks. After all, when faced with a faceless fear, it’s an easy comfort to think that you’ve got it right, and the rest of the world is what’s crazy.
Matt's full post can be found here.

Cover Art: Animal Collective's New Album

Though I don't particularly like it as an album cover, you've got to admit that the art for Animal Collective's upcoming Merriweather Post Pavilion makes for a pretty gnarly optical illusion...

Magnetic Fields – "Yeah!, Oh Yeah!"

Nik and I saw The Magnetic Fields in Philly this past weekend! It was a lovely, if somewhat awkward, show—the tension was even more palpable than usual at times. It was great to run into these newlyweds, though:

...and we all got some stellar veggie cheesesteaks:

This song was a highlight, because it puts on full display the sibling-esque dynamic between Claudia and Stephin...

live in Cambridge, 2004:

(All photos from Mike & Emma's blog.)

6 Days...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just In Time For Halloween: Scary Socialist Nightmares!

Over at Harpers, Scott Horton dishes out the irony:

"In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin told the crowd that an Obama presidency would present the specter of a socialist state in which fundamental American freedoms are undermined. Let’s go to the video:

Does Sarah mean a state:

  • That snatches its victims off the street, denies them all form of legal process and whisks them away to secret “blacksites” where they can be tortured using all the techniques described in Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon?
  • That arrests and prosecutes its political adversaries for imaginary crimes so as to eliminate them from the running in election cycles in which they could do some damage?
  • That believes it can detain and hold its enemies forever without any charges or any evidence against them, denying them access to courts to prove their innocence?
  • That systematically spies on millions of its citizens in direct violation of a criminal statute which forbids such surveillance?
  • That lies to its people about threats from abroad in an effort to build popular support for a series of wars and then cites the existence of those wars as a reason to suppress dissent?

Sarah, you have no need to fear the future."

[Palin's Nightmare Harpers Magazine Online]


"If U Know"

Our good friend Aimee and I saw this band randomly during my recent trip to LA, and I sort of fell in love with them. I hadn't seen a real rock band rocking some old-fashioned rock & roll in a long while, and it was pretty refreshing. Also refreshing was the trio's dynamic onstage—how unabashedly they were enjoying themselves, trading little glances and grins while they made their racket. The chemistry was especially striking between the singer/guitarist and bassist (the singer and melodica-player in the video below). Whenever he'd make some lame joke, she'd roll her eyes at him in the most endearing way (I think one of the reasons I loved them so much was that they reminded me of [my best friends and co-bloggers] Nate and Thea).

And the music? It's pretty straight for my usual taste, but the songs and the energy are just so undeniably entrancing. Sometimes they sound like a stripped down, tanned and sandy version of Arcade Fire. You know, if Arcade Fire came from Fresno instead of Montreal... It's all sunsquashed, Americana desert music for sure. Wranglers and whiskey... The guy's singing style is definitely the focal point, at times like a tamed version of Isaac Brock's yelp mixed with Stephen Malkmus's speak/sing delivery.

Anyhow, I dig it. What do you think?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spread It!: "Because the world needs to know."

Visit to learn more.

Vote NO on Prop 8!

Vote NO on Prop 8

California may be safely "in the bag" for Obama (it was kind of cool to see how ubiquitous Shepard Fairey's now-iconic images of Barry are in LA), but there is another pivotal vote happening in the Golden State on November 4.

Proposition 8 is a ballot measure that would effectively eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples. The ballot is titled "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." The California State Constitution currently guarantees the same freedoms and rights to everyone; Prop 8 seeks to change that. A new line would be added, stating that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The measure would invalidate all the same-sex marriages (including Ellen's!) that have been legally recognized since the Supreme Court of California ruled on May 15, 2008 that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional.

The Mormon Church and various organizations within the religious right have been pumping shocking amounts of money into California to fund an intense campaign in support of the proposition. The primary tactic of these "agents of intolerance"? Misinformation, of course. Here is a helpful site to distinguish the truth from some of the lies.

One of the many mistruths being spewed by the religious right and supporters of Prop 8 is that the measure will prevent the corruption of children in schools; that if it isn't passed, schools will need to begin teaching students about—gasp!—same-sex marriage. Well, let's hear from someone who might know something about this...

You often hear fundamentalists/conservatives/bigots bemoaning what they refer to as "legislating from the bench." Let's for once call them out for this hypocrisy. The federal and state constitutions guarantee and protect equal rights. To regressively amend the constitution to exclude a group from certain civil liberties seems to me to contradict the whole "less is more" style of government you always hear conservatives advocating. You can't decry the excessive intrusions of government one second, then try to manipulate and amend constitutions to espouse your intolerant and fear-mongering ideologies the next.

Interestingly, a vote against Prop 8 can be interpreted as both a progressive and a conservative vote. Defeating the measure would preserve the state constitution, limit government's interference with citizens' private and personal lives, and protect the rights of all Americans.

So, you might ask, who is for Prop 8?! According to its supporters, they are simply regular folks who want to "protect the sanctity of marriage." What that means for us pagans: it's the churches. So much for the separation of church and state, huh?

An organization called originally sponsored the initiative that put the referendum on the ballot, and along with various other religious organizations, they continue to fund the campaign. Donors from the Mormon Church have contributed roughly 40% of the funding in support of Prop 8. Several million dollars have been raised to discriminate against same-sex couples, money that could (were these faithful individuals and organizations truly as compassionate as they claim) go toward helping quite a few truly noble causes.

But not all religious leaders are jerks for Prop 8...

An Interview with Director Charlie Kaufman

(I cannot wait to see Synecdoche, New York! Just got tickets for tonight!)

Who is the REAL Sarah Palin?

The Wasilla Project has sought to document the voices of "real people" from Sarah Palin's home state of Alaska, those who have had firsthand experience with her governance.
"What do the people of Wasilla really believe about Sarah Palin? Who is she? How was she as an executive in Wasilla? Is she a religious fanatic? A competent administrator? A compassionate conservative or a dangerous kook?

By taking a credible, authentic look at the real Wasilla, and the real Sarah Palin, in the first person voices of the people who really know her, we hope to counter the mythical “narrative” with something a lot more nuanced and valuable.

The purpose of the project is to produce a series of short (2-3 minute), video portraits of Sarah Palin and her hometown of Wasilla that can be a valuable addition to the prevailing impressions of her. As time and resources allow, we may do a longer edit as well, one which goes into depth on broader topics raised by Palin and her political career."

Fiscal Conservative?

The Rape Kit Controversy

Religion In Politics

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jens Performing "Black Cab" in a Black Cab

(thanks Krista)

Some Photos of Barack Obama by Callie Shell

Photojournalist Callie Shell has been following the Obama campaign since its inception, capturing some undeniably profound and evocative moments.

From Dirck Halstead's article on Shell:
"Four years ago Time photographer Callie Shell met Barack Obama backstage when she was covering presidential candidate John Kerry. She sent her editor more photographs of Obama than Kerry. When asked why, she said, "I do not know. I just have a feeling about him. I think he will be important down the road." Her first photo essay on Obama was two and half years ago. She has stuck with him ever since."
Below are some samples, with Shell's own commentary. Go HERE for more.

"Waiting: Obama listens from a back stairwell as he is introduced in Muscatine, Iowa. It was his second or third speech of the day. Unlike many of the politicians I have photographed in the past, I find it is easy to get a photograph of Obama alone. He lets his staff do their jobs and not fuss over him. Nov. 7, 2007."

"A Mother's Grief: This woman had lost her son in Iraq. She wanted people to know that it was not unpatriotic to be against the war and for Obama. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 2/11/2007."

"I loved that he cleaned up after himself before leaving an ice cream shop in Wapello, Iowa. He didn't have to. The event was over and the press had left. He is used to taking care of things himself and I think this is one of the qualities that makes Obama different from so many other political candidates I've encountered. Nov. 7, 2007."

"Senator Obama was doing press interviews by telephone in a holding room between events. Sometime later as he was getting ready to begin his event, he asked me if I was photographing his shoes. When I said yes, he told me that he had already had them resoled once since he entered the race a year earlier. Providence, R.I., 3/1/2008."

"It was primary morning in New Hampshire. Barack and Michelle Obama had been campaigning separately all week. In the first few months of 2008 their private time seemed to consist of a few crossover moments in back hallways before rallies. This moment was rare and you could tell they just loved being able to sit together. Jan. 8, 2008."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Even Sarah Palin's scarf is voting for Obama

(via Stumper)

Jeff Mangum in Columbus, OH!

Jeff Mangum has been reemerging from his public retirement sporadically for the past several years. I saw him pop up to sing with The Instruments at The Fix a couple years ago, and I heard he made an appearance with Olivia Tremor Control at the Bowery in '05. But no manifestation of Neutral Milk Hotel has appeared since '98 (Jeff's last performance was in 2001 in New Zealand). Until now!!!

Here's Jeff with his old NMH mate Julian Koster (The Music Tapes) on singing saw, playing the superb "Engine" (originally a B-side on the limited "Holland, 1945" single):

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Design for Obama

HT here. The folks over at the awesomely intelligent and aesthetically swoonsome blog Design Observer started a website,, to encourage graphic designers to come up with their own Obama poster designs:
Designers for Obama was created when Design Observer essentially asked the question, “how can graphic designers best support Barack Obama?” Our answer ended up extending the question to cover visual communicators at all levels. In addition to supporting Obama for America we jumped at the opportunity to bring the spirit of grassroots style organizing and collaboration to poster design which, to us, meant not only forming communal bonds but sharing the fruits of our efforts equally and in such a way that anyone can enjoy and benefit from (because most of us do not own our own printing presses).
I encourage you all to wander over there and check out the myriad offerings. You can even download and print your favorite designs, free of charge. I'm really fond of the following design, though to be sure, it's not really in keeping with the Obama/Biden campaign's attempts to minimize name-calling:

Then again, I suppose I'm not a real American anyway, so what does it matter if I indulge in the pinko-commie-liberal pleasures of inspired design?

"The most dedicated, patriotic men and women that are in this nation..."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thank goodness we're not a racist country any longer.

We here at YSC are thrilled that this country has gotten past its blatant bigotry, as evidenced here by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated's hilarious parody of Barack Obama:

Write or email Diane Fedel at the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated and let her know what you think of truly inspired sense of humor.

Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated
P.O. Box 974
Upland, CA 91785
Diane Fedele (President)
Meets the 4th Wednesday of every month at 7pm
Magic Lamp Inn, Rancho Cucamonga

Friday, October 10, 2008

Comparing the Ads

Watching these two recent campaign ads, it's easy to see which campaign is growing desperate, and which is staying above boards and on-message. Can you tell which is which?

Barack Obama ad: The candidate highlights his economic package, and encourages viewers to read his full plan online. He's measured, confident and positive. Rather than focusing on the weaknesses of his opponent, he focuses on what he believes are his strengths.

John McCain Shadow ad: McCain's ad uses computer generated graphics to illustrate his criticism of what he says will be bigger government and bigger taxes under a Barack Obama presidency. It even ends with the shadow of the national capitol falling over a sleeping baby! WTF??? It's like the plague of the Angel of Death falling over Egypt.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink: Repentant Drinker Edition

Denis Johnson's first novel, Angels, has all of the grit and muscle of the author's later work, but like a lot of first novels, it's kind of all over the place. Down-and-outers, drug dealers and rapists, bank robbers and the disturbed-but-well-intentioned are featured here, and their plights are shocking. The first section of the book includes maybe the most graphic and disturbing scenes I've read in a long time: a rape that occurs after a man has drugged a woman (first with uppers and then with downers) and separated her from her children. As in a lot of Johnson's other work (notably in Jesus' Son), drugs and alcohol play a major role in the lives of these characters. A morality play this isn't, though perhaps an unintended result of reading the book was to seriously question the sense in drinking one's self silly. It was a sort of literary Scared Straight! for recreational drinkers, if you will. That's why the perfect pairing for this (or any other Johnson novel for that matter) is a nice, tall glass of refreshing H2O.

Denis Johnson's first novel: wonderful, frightening, difficult to put down.

Water: clean, delicious, free of alcohol, necessary to sustain life

Maverick Myths

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


A River Ain't Too Much to Love...

The Housatonic River

______ amongus...

Laetiporus sulfureous, aka "Chicken of the Woods"

Clavulinopsis fusiformis

(most likely) Ramaria formosa, aka "Yellow-Tipped Coral"

Hot birds...

Barred Owl (in rehabilitation)

Wild Turkey

Grey Eastern Screech Owl (in rehabilitation)

New Yorker


American Toad

Red-Spotted Newt

Green Frog

And a flower...


(Can anyone help identify the three types of fungi above? I thought one was Chicken of the Woods, but I was wrong.)

I emailed the three photos of fungi above to an old professor of mine, George Hudler—a respected mycologist at Cornell (I took his "Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds" class!). He was kind enough to identify them for me, and it turns out I was right! The first one is indeed Chicken of the Woods! He even had some interesting comments on the three:

Laetiporus sulfureous (Chicken of the Woods): "...the specimen would have been a treat to eat if it was but free. Maybe this one was a bit too late..."
Clavulinopsis fusiformis: "This cluster is pretty tired. Was probably more erect several days earlier as seen HERE."
Ramaria formosa: "Listed in one book as poisonous, but probably not deadly. Great photo though!"

Thanks Prof. Hudler!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hauschka — "Eltern"

Here's a lovely animated video for a track from Hauschka's upcoming FatCat album, Fernforf:

Fernforf comes out October 7. From what I've heard, it's more fleshed out than 2007's superb Room to Expand, with gorgeous string arrangements and an overall less improvisatory feel. At the heart of the music are still Volker Bertelmann’s virtuosic manipulations of his prepared piano.

Cat Wings?!

Some Chinese felines have apparently begun growing genetic mutations that resemble wings! Read about it HERE.