Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stranger than fiction

This reads like an Onion headline: Giant Vulva Bicycle Taxi is Freudian Wet Dream
And to warn you, the bike is anatomically correct. I'm not sure I'd be willing to crawl on in there myself, but maybe for the sake of art... In any case I respect someone who's willing to take their beliefs to such an extreme. I haven't got that kind of faith.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Foto Friday (bonus)

Normally this feature lives over on page too, but this week we're bringing it to you over here as well.

This guy is our President. No, really.

Foto Friday

This guy is our President. No, really.

Belgian Fries

So I was in Brussels a couple weeks ago, trying out my new Italian accent in French, and felt obligated to eat some French fries and drink beer made by monks. I stayed in a youth hostel to the north of the city and got a funky, youth oriented tourist map from them that had a couple locations labeled as 'the best fries in Brussels'. I picked one that was basically just a little trailer pulled up in the plaza behind a church. There was the smell of hot grease, a confounding list of toppings choices and a huge mound of once fried, thick cut fries, ready to be popped back in the oil.
I have to admit, I was expecting thinner fries; these were nice meaty steak cut style fries, and definitely tasted like potato. Actually, my first bite was sort of mediocre. I was disappointed, they seemed a little bit limp, and the deliciousness factor was low, even smeared with mayonnaise. Eating fries with mayo is a habit I picked up in Guinea, I love it. But there I was with a lap full of hot potato product, resigned to pick out the crunchiest bits and make it through at least half of what I'd paid for.
Five fries later I started thinking "wow, this tastes a LOT better than the first bite!" By the time I had made my way to the bottom of the paper dish, I was relishing every bite, and I wiped up the very last of the mayo with a hint of regret that it was over. I don't know how they could get better as I ate my way through them, but in the end, those were some of the best french fries I've ever eaten.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Food for Foto Friday

I wanted to give you a great shot of some Pho side plates, mmmmmm.

Unfortunately I struggled with Flickr and the Washingtonian so instead take a look at the June cover and follow the link for the Cheap Eats slide show.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Best Defense...

Is a good offense. Translating this football metaphor to politics, hit back and hit back hard.

For about as long as I can remember the Democrats and Democratic Party have mumbled and made excuses when they've been attacked, and it never works. They look even worse and come off as weak, because they are acting as such.

So it was fantastic to see the response from former KC Mayor Kay Barnes to the ad attacking her for having "San Francisco style values" in her campaign against Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO).

Both videos are below, also check out the War Room post.

the attack...

and the response...

Seriously we need to see more of this. It's brilliant. When the Republican hatchet men attack point out the hypocrisy, point out the lies, point out how pathetic their arguments and tactics are. The people are out there, they will listen. They will most definitely listen.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Foto Friday - Late Edition

Nature is insane. Check out this image of a storm converging with the Chaitén eruption in Chile two weeks ago.

(from National Geographic News)
(see another photo of the storm here)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly

The Democratic nominating brouhaha seems to finally be drawing to a close. I'm tempted to say mercifully so, but I think that the process has been good for Democrats and America generally as well and if I am relieved that the process is winding down it is clearly the process that I will be glad to see go, not the two candidates.

I started out fairly non-committal in my support of a candidate (jeez, a year ago or so I suppose is when we really got started) and then backed John Edwards, because of his progressive, populist style policies and in large part because he was angry and promising to fight for change.

I voted for Hillary Clinton in the Maryland primary after Edwards failed to pick up any steam (he got hosed by the media and had the unfortunate timing to be the Southern White Male running with two historic candidates) because I like her health care proposal better and because she is also offering to fight.

I would love for Barack Obama to be the real deal, for his promise to be fulfilled and for things to get better. But I have never understood how that is supposed to happen exactly, and I am less than enthused with his message of post-partisanship and transcendence.

I am happy to classify myself as the 'angry left' and plenty of people tell me that we can't always be fighting and bickering and that we need to secure a majority and that we need independents to do so. And thats all well and good, but when do the Democrats currently in office every fight for me or my rights? Why will no one take a stand? I believe that most Americans, and all of the available polling supports this theory, will stand behind a Democratic party that refuses to kowtow to President Bush and his neo-con cronies. What we get now is some lip service, some placation, and then some capitulation and I fear that this pattern will be continued with Obama as President (again I'll be stoked if it doesn't, I hope that it doesn't).

It seems to me that a change will come via being at least a little bit pissed off, and drawing a line and holding to it, standing up for your convictions, and fighting back hard. I don't see how conciliation fits in here.

(Ezra Klein had a post early this morning that fits in pretty well with my thoughts)

This all only serve to bring us up to date, there are but a handful of primary contests left and Obama seems sure to be the party's nominee. I think that he is handling things quite well, I'm very pleased with his stance on the ludicrous gas tax holiday proposals, heartened by it even. I'm not actually worried about how either of the candidates will handle the situation. I'm confident that they will come together in a call for party unity and progress. I'm worried about their surrogates and supporters who seem much more bitter than either of the principles and who continue to deride the supporters of the other candidate. Now is a time for positive words and encouragement not blithe, derogatory calls for Clinton to pack it in. There is plenty of time yet and in the end I think (hope) that the Democrats will get all there ducks in a line and storm to new and higher majorities in Novemeber.

What I really wanted to say after all of this was that I continue to be disappointed in many of the candidates supporters, in their vehemence and narrow mindedness, in their willingness to see the opponent as a bad person. It's a shame really, and I think that most people who are acting this way are largely unaware of their actions and more importantly of the consequences thereof.

Far too many people who should know better have spent way too much of this campaign cycle disparaging Hillary Clinton and it saddens me and it pisses me off. The misogyny that has hung over her and gone unnoticed or at least uncared about is terrible and that so many people fail or refuse to see it disgusts me.

(If you are reading this and thinking to yourself what is he talking about, or demanding some examples, I'm sorry but that makes you part of the problem. You know what I'm not sorry you should be ashamed of yourself.)

I'd give you some examples all the same, but in this morning's Washington Post op-ed page Marie Cocco took care of it for me. These are my thoughts exactly...

By Marie Cocco
Thursday, May 15, 2008; A15

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.

I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.

I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.

I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.

The airwaves will at last be free of comments that liken Clinton to a "she-devil" (Chris Matthews on MSNBC, who helpfully supplied an on-screen mock-up of Clinton sprouting horns). Or those who offer that she's "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (Mike Barnicle, also on MSNBC).

But perhaps it is not wives who are so very problematic. Maybe it's mothers. Because, after all, Clinton is more like "a scolding mother, talking down to a child" (Jack Cafferty on CNN).

When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).

I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."

Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.

Marie Cocco is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her e-mail address is

(This was certainly the best thing to show up in the WaPo's op-ed page in a long time by the way.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mmmmmm, Hashbrowns.

Because xkcd should be on your rss reader, and I haven't had any potato products recently...

All I need now is a little bit of ketchup.

Quien Sabes?

Univision has a kick-ass news cast that beats the pants off all of the English language LA news casts, who knew?

The last time I watched Univision was during the last World Cup, there can be no doubt that football (futbol, soccer) is much more fun to watch without American narration, and I don't watch the news much let alone any TV, but apparently I've been missing something. Luckily for them Southern California Spanish speakers haven't been, they know where to get real news and its not on the English networks.

The details are in an entertaining an informative op-ed from the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section. Joe Mathews will fill you in.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Foto Friday

Since I'm no longer trapped behind a desk day in and out toiling away lo those long hours, I've decided to throw out some weekly features. Over on the Political side of things we introduced Two Truths & A Lie on Tuesday and today we're happy to bring you the first installment of Foto Friday (yes that would be the royal we, man). Please enjoy, and keep an eye out for other exciting A/V bonuses coming soon...

Today's Foto comes from the BBC News via Mark Bittman's NYT blog, Bitten.

This image of a peppercorn and a grain of salt taken by David McCarthy is the overall winner (and close-up category winner) in this year's Visions of Science Photographic Awards. The competition is sponsored by Novartis and The Daily Telegraph. (©David McCarthy)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Corner of Nebraska & Connecticut Finally Safe Again

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Frank Winstead has cleaned up the corner and removed the scourge that was the beloved ping-pong table in front of Comet Pizza.

If this just sounds wrong to you never fear; Marc Fisher has handed out an exceptionally raw take down of Winstead over on his WaPo blog (that's a joke people, his blog is called raw fisher). Check it out for the full story and keep an eye on the links (Marc always does a great job with them) for the opportunity to thank Commissioner Winstead yourself (there are also photos and video people).

I suppose the only reassuring tid-bits are that the table still exists, its back inside, and that outdoor seating might be coming to Comet.

Now raise your hand if you remember the Thai Room.

P.S. this brouhaha has created quite a nice little comment stream at DCist.

Everyone Needs a Veep

It is a gray, rainy, Thursday afternoon. If you're like me, you're looking for a way to kill a little time, look no further my friends. Mosey on over to Salon and help pick a running mate for Clinton or Obama.

Yes, its more and more likely that Mr. Obama will be the Democratic nominee, but everyone needs a veep right? 13 questions cover a wide range of characteristics and will narrow the 15 person field to your top choice, then you can see how other participants chose.

What are you waiting for? Go pick a Veep already:

Barack Obama - I got Wesley Clark

Hillary Clinton - I got Evan Bayh

John McCain (coming soon, oh wait he'll probably have Cheney do it)

Standard Operating Procedure

so Errol Morris, the Oscar winning director of The Fog of War, has a new movie that was released April 25th and I can't go see it because I'm in the wrong country. It’s called Standard Operating Procedure, a documentary about the people who made the Abu Ghraib photographs and how they came to light. He’s also written a book on the subject with Philip Gourevitch, the author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.

I really enjoyed going to see The Fog of War with my father when it came out, and I'm hoping this will me more of the same intense confrontation with reality. Morris has a unique approach to difficult subject matter, he said on the podcast : "I don't see it as my job to get people to say they’re sorry. I don’t want to hear your confession, I don’t want to hear you apologize... I just want you to tell me your story!" I have a lot of respect for someone who attacks a problem without seeking to lay blame or exonerate.

As for the other half of this pair, I finally finished Gourevitch's book about Rwanda last summer and it was one of the most heartbreakingly bleak books I've ever read. And I'm really glad I read it. It was a gripping, well written account of an incredible tragedy. It's hard to face the darkest parts of who we are as human beings sometimes, and I'm thankful that we have people like him to help us try to understand.

Oh and did I mention that Danny Elfman composed the score? One of the things that made Fog of War so intense was the relentless score by Philip Glass, a mad genius of noise/sound composing. I don't really know how to describe his work, go check out his site. but embarrassingly enough, I've loved Danny Elfman since his Oingo Boingo days and I've been consistently impressed by his work in film, and I can't wait to see this movie.

Unfortunately, my geographical location makes it somewhat improbable that I'll be seeing it any time soon. In the meantime I'm going to be reading Morris and Gourevitch's recent New Yorker article on Abu Ghraib, that my brother recommends. But I don't have time to tonight because I have to learn il congiuntivo and I'm going to Brussels for the weekend. Ciao!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Question 21 a Catch-22 No Longer

Maybe it wasn't exactly a catch-22 but either way question 21 on standard form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, no longer exists. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates quietly removed it last week in an attempt to encourage more military combat veterans to seek mental health help.

Question 21, which Mr. Gates called infamous, asked:

In the last 7 years, have you consulted with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, etc.) or have you consulted with another health care provider about a mental health related condition?

Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been reluctant to seek help for depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because they are afraid that doing so will endanger their future employment prospects by making them ineligible for the highest levels of government security clearance.

The military and veterans affairs still have a long way to go before their treatment of soldiers' mental health meets modern standards but eliminating question 21 and the fear and stigma associated with having to answer it is a big step in the right direction.

Morning Edition had a nice piece on Friday, and the Washington Post had coverage with online extras as well, followed by an editorial this (Monday) morning.

Here is the initial video report from the military's own Pentagon Channel (more coverage):

(more coverage here and here)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Taste of Orzo

So I’ve been in Italy since February. My mother already knows all about the exciting/stressful series of events that brought me from one continent to another and, since I’m pretty sure she’s the only one reading this, I’m not going to bother catching you up. Instead I’m going to write about the holy grail of caffeine consumers: Italian coffee.

Before you say to yourself: “wait, the last time this woman wrote about coffee, she was expounding the joys of Nescafe…” let me just explain two things about Italian caffeine intake.

First: Italians aren’t obsessed with coffee. I haven’t met any that drink more than 2 – 3 a day. Most commonly Italians drink a latte or a cappuccino in the morning and that’s it until maybe an espresso after dinner every once in a while. And let me stress that the portions are much, much smaller; we’re talking about a couple of tablespoons of coffee in a big cup of hot milk here.

Americans have a different set of ideas and expectations about Italian coffee than Italians do. There are bars full of people drinking cappuccinos and lattes all afternoon in the piazzas in Florence, and they’re almost overwhelmingly tourists.

All of the foreigners I meet gush about how good the food/coffee is here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the coffee. I just think you could hand a tourist a foul, totally off cup of coffee (maybe Nescafe) and because they’re in Italy it would be transformed into a spectacular liquid joy.

Second: Orzo. What, you might ask, is orzo? Orzo is the Italian word for barley, or Hordeum vulgare. In Italy, it’s roasted, ground up and steeped to produce a dark, coffee like substance that many people drink in the morning as a substitute. I believe that it was widely used during WWII as a coffee alternative because the actual stuff was unavailable.

Why are Italians drinking burned grain product? I don’t get it. I tried some, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, and it tasted pretty much like it smelled. I felt like I was drinking a cup of whole wheat toast that had been cooked until it was just barely shy of being a lump of charcoal. Mmmm, nutty.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Beware the Powertics

I love comic strips, especially when they manage to have a deeper meaning while making me laugh. I enjoy them even more when they step up and take on current events, particularly political ones.

The first time I remember becoming aware of this phenomena was back in the good old days when Bubba was in the White House and Opus called Bloom County home. I think it was a pretty formative and mind bending experience when Bill the Cat knocked up Socks.

Berkley Breathed continues to really just not give a crap, and in a beautifully opulent way he goes where others fear to tread and gets a laugh from it to boot. You can check out Opus' latest adventures on Salon as well as in many Sunday Funnies sections.

Doonesbury deserves its own posting. Really you should just try and find all of them and read them straight through, it'd really be fascinating. I recently picked up an abridged compilation of the first four or five years that really lets you see where the major characters are coming from if you haven't been following the strip since its inception. Doonesbury is in short awesome, always timely and up to date, fearlessly political and often hilarious.

Today's Non Sequitur is a great example of how it stays poignant. The series with Danae and Lucy the Pony and her family certainly deserves mention here, but I enjoy the random Far Side-ish strips like today's even more. (When Non Sequitur first came on the scene I certainly viewed it as a Far Side knock-off and not a terribly good one either. The strip has evolved really nicely and is now one of my few daily reads)

All others aside my favorite strip these days is Get Fuzzy (in a certain way I consider it an heir to Calvin & Hobbes) and this week Rob and the boys have once again dipped their toes into the proverbial political pool. Bucky, as can be expected, is on the warpath and he wants to talk some powertics.