Friday, May 27, 2005

Checks Out in PositiveMode

Some of you, my loyal readers, may have thought that PositiveMode was dead (meaning most likely that its author had given up on his quest, less likely his actual death). Well, I have not given up. I have merely been somewhat blogo-incommunicado, due primarily to the evacuation of my house of two years by myself and my four roommates, one of whom had to pack up (or possibly discard) the house's internet connection hardware. Shortly before my departure, I discovered a nonsecure wireless connection from a neighbor, but it was too late to do PositiveMode any good. But now I'm settled in my new (albeit semi-temporary) place of lodging, and will be resuming a perhaps un-before-seen furious blog pace immediately. Thank you for your patience, any of you who have stayed with me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Is She Right?...

The following is a tremendous performance by Sam Kinnison as Professor Turgeson from Rodney Dangerfield's Back To School. Notice that his tirade is not precisely related to the question he asks nor to the girl's response:

PROFESSOR TURGESON: Welcome ... to Contemporary American History. I'm Professor Turgeson. You know, a lot of people think history is just facts, it's just information about the past... but not me. I mean, I hold history very sacred. Sacred. The way a farmer looks at the earth and he holds it sacred. The way a Christian takes the Bible and he holds it sacred. The way a lot of people hold their marriage sacred. That's how I feel about it. So why don't we dive right in by interpreting one of the easiest events in the last twenty years of American history. Now, can someone tell me why, in 1975, we pulled our troops out of Vietnam?

(a girl in front of class raises her hand. Turgeson points to her)

GIRL:The failure of Vietnamization to win popular support caused an ongoing erosion of confidence in the various American, but illegal, Saigon regimes. (she smiles, quite pleased with her answer)

TURGESON:(he seems a bit irritated) Is she right? 'Cause I know that's the popular version of what went on there. I know a lot of people like to believe that. I wish I could, but I was there. (his irritation increases) I wasn 't here in a classroom, hoping I was right, thinking about it. (begins yelling) I was up to my knees in rice paddies, with guns that didn' t work, going up against Charlie, slugging it out with him, (he turns toward the girl) while pussies like you were back here partying, putting headbands on, doing drugs, listening to the God damn Beatle albums! (screams in her face) Uhhh! UHHHHHH! (the girl is on the verge of tears)

Read the rest of the dialogue HERE.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Coffee's For Closers

I apologize to those of you who continued checking back in to PositiveMode this weekend, only to find the lyrics to Tears For Fears' "Head over Heels" perpetually headlining this publication. I was in New York for the weekend, and was rarely in a condition to make intelligent or interesting posts.

I did see an excellent production of Glengarry Glen Ross, starring Alan Alda and Liev Schreiber. It's a little short, but I would recommend it. One caveat: for those of you who are only familiar with this play from the 1992 movie inspired by it, the play does not contain Alec Baldwin's somewhat famous "Always Be Closing" speech. That monologue struck me as somewhat Mamet-esque (I write that sentence with as little pretentiousness as is possible) and I thought it would be in the play, but it is not.

Speaking of Alec Baldwin, did anyone ever see the SNL skit where he played "The Mimic"? He is supposed to be a sort of private-detective helper guy who is able to perfectly mimic any person's voice after hearing it just once. Of course, he is not as good at imitating voices as he thinks. If anyone has this episode on tape or otherwise recorded, I would like to know, as SNLtranscripts has the episode, but not the transcript for that particular bit.

"HelloOOOOO? This is Mrs. Devereaux? I can't hear you, I'm at the CIRCUS! Doot doot dooda doot da doot doo doodah!" (Thanks, Jill F.).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

This is My...

I like song lyrics. Here are some.

I wanted to be with you alone
And talk about the weather
But traditions I can trace against the child in your face
Won't escape my attention

You keep your distance with a system of touch
And gentle persuasion
I'm lost in admiration could I need you this much
Oh, you're wasting my time
You're just wasting time

Something happens and I'm head over heels
I never find out till I'm head over heels
Something happens and I'm head over heels
Ah don't take my heart
Don't break my heart
Don't throw it away
I made a fire and watching burn
Thought of your future
With one foot in the past now just how long will it last
No no no have you no ambition

My mother and my brothers used to breathe in clean in air
And dreaming I'm a doctor
It's hard to be a man when there's a gun in your hand
Oh I feel so...
Something happens and I'm head over heels
And this my four leaf clover
I'm on the line, one open mind
This is my four leaf clover

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

To Life

Andrew Sullivan on this week's Real Time with Bill Maher:

"`The culture of life,' I might say, is a phrase invented by the last pope. And what it meant was, you're opposed to death in the death penalty, in euthanasia and abortion. The Republicans decide, 'Oh, we're a cafeteria [style]. We'll take the abortion and euthanasia but we will launch wars' and we will...I mean, George Bush has signed more death warrants than any other human being in this country."

The Republicans aren't the only ones being inconsistent in their stances toward "life" but President Bush does seem way into that phrase ("culture of life") but doesn't really go all the way with it, what with the bombs and wars and stuff. Man, quit executing people!

How To Take A Shower

You can find anything on the internet. Well, almost anything. You can find out how sunless tanning cream works. You can find out if you have cancer. You can find out what bizarre holiday is being celebrated today (today is Eat What You Want Day, National Receptionist Day, and Twilight Zone Day) (Thanks, NegativeMode). The list goes on and on.

But something that seems to be conspicuously missing from the webosphere is a discussion of shower technique. All I could find were a very stupid and unfunny joke page about the differences between men and women showering (I highly recommend NOT clicking that link, and that is not reverse psychology. I only provide the link because I see doing so is something of a Blog Duty), conserving water in the shower, showering birds, showering babies, showering elderly hospital patients, and techniques for observing meteor showers. Nothing on how to take a good shower yourself.

Kramer had to go to the gym and watch people in the shower to improve on his technique, and that got him a black eye (he eventually gave up and just installed a garbage disposal in his shower so he could prepare dinner while he bathed). These days, we expect to be able to supplement our cultural shortcomings by going on the internet. Well, there doesn't seem to be anything out there.

I imagine all of us think that we have a pretty decent technique going on in the shower, and perhaps that's why we don't discuss it. But perhaps we need more discourse on this issue; perhaps we could all be taking more effective showers. Have you ever known someone who spends way longer (or shorter) in the shower than you do? Don't you wonder what they're doing in there that's different than you? Maybe not.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Original Nordberg

Officer Nordberg is probably my second-favorite character from Police Squad!, played by Peter Lupus of the original Mission: Impossible.

He is very bad at charades, though not in the simplistic way of Frank Drebin (who at an index finger representing "one word" guesses "finger"). Also, while working undercover at a locksmith shop, Nordberg gets far more excited about thinking of ways to create business, such as offering one free key for every five keys duplicated, than he does at police business.

This post is probably more of a personal indulgence than it is of interest to you, my loyal audience, but part of me thinks that it is these frequent personal Blog Indulgences that are the backbone, or perhaps the keystone, that hold PositiveMode together (It is difficult drawing a metaphor when the most appropriate comparisons, such as backbone and keystone, are by definition singular, whereas the item to be compared, unusual but blog-vital pop-culture postings, are necessarily plural. Nevertheless, the metaphor remains).

Who Are You, And How Did You Get In Here?

"I'm a locksmith. And, I'm a locksmith."

-Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective Lieutenant, Police Squad

I recommend checking out this outstanding compilation of all that is Police Squad!, the hilarious show that was the precursor to, and direct source of most of the material for The Naked Gun movie series.

Sadly, the show only lasted six episodes, though perhaps it's best that it never had the chance to jump the shark.

Spinning-Downard-Viewer Zone

I have my doubts about just how meaningful these numbers are, but it appears that Bill O'Reilly, Spinner Extraordinaire, is experience a rapid downturn in his viewership. DailyKos reports declining average daily viewership:

October: 3,166,000
November: 3,080,000
December: 2,610,000
January: 2,478,000
February: 2,391,000
March: 2,320,000
April: 2,178,000
May-to-date: 2,096,000

It remains to be seen how much of this can be attributed to a pre-election spike and subsequent normalization, but it's always in style to poke fun at The Factor.

Five or six years ago, I used to watch O'Reilly pretty regularly, but over the last few years I think he has really lost it. I think the worst thing about him is his shameless pitching of No-Spin Zone products. That or the indiscriminate and unironic use of the word "pinhead".

And for those of you who can't get enough of Mr. O'Reilly, spend your hard-earned post-tax dollars and travel in style with an O'Reilly Factor Men's Garment Bag. It's made of ballistic nylon and leather.

I Second That Motion...With a Vengeance

Today's New York Times features an op-ed from former Senator George Mitchell on the judges and the filibuster. He quotes Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith's "Declaration of Conscience" speech, 55 years ago attacking Senator Joseph McCarthy's tactics:

"'I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest,' the senator said. 'Surely we Republicans aren't that desperate for victory. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one-party system.'"

Sen. Mitchell calls her "the real-life Mrs. Smith", referencing Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (released a decade before this speech).

A bit of trivia: For six consecutive years, George Mitchell was voted ‘the most respected member” of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides. And he loves whimsical romantic comedies (Question: do journalistic ethics recognize any legitimate use of satire or sarcasm?).

Sen. Mitchell's reference to "the real-life Mrs. Smith" brought to mind Homer Simpson's remake of Mel Gibson's remake of the great filibuster scene. Classic. (I use "classic" in the slightly annoying-when-overused popular-modern sense, meaning "funny").

Monday, May 09, 2005

What is Art?

NegativeMode has (perhaps unintentionally) set off a hotly contested artistic debate, based on the work of Kamiel Proost, who makes some fancy doodles on U.S. Currency.Here is one of my favorites:

PositiveMode asks its truth-seeking readers: what is art? Can something with no meaning be art? Does anything have no meaning? Are we art? Is art art? If I think not, am I not? I think not. Don't you think?

I Certainly Don't Want The Last Donut!

I don't know why I chose a showdown over a final donut as an example to enter into a discussion on "reverse psychology" (and is this, in fact, an example of reverse psychology?) but this seemed like an absurd example of a situation encompassed by a term of which I am very critical.

According to Wikipedia, "In pop-culture the term Reverse Psychology refers to the attempt to persuade someone to do something by advocating doing the opposite" (note that this sentence is an exceedingly simplistic and uncreative way of introducing a topic, akin to something a seventh-grader might write ("Webster's dictionary defines 'democracy' as...") but it's fun to cite to Wikipedia. I think the technological nature of this reference, combined with its presence on the blog format makes the simplism slightly more acceptable).

We "Americans" use this phrase "reverse psychology" frequently, and proudly employ the techniques contemplated by the term, without even giving it much thought; we often think we're being sort of clever by using such tactics. But what's "reverse" about it? Aren't we really just using "psychology"?

The effectiveness of this persuasive technique is based on understanding psychology, and pushing psychological buttons based on that understanding, not contrary to it, as suggested by the name. I think "reverse psychology" would be more properly defined as clubbing someone over the head after they've refused to comply with your wishes despite your effective use of "psychology".

Don't even bother commenting to this post.

Larry David Voices Enthusiasm For John Bolton

In today's Huffington Post, Larry David (of Seinfeld HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm fame) supports the nomination of John Bolton, voicing a pronounced empathy for those with experience in dealing with incompetent underlings. Mr. David reports the following dialogue with an assistant who prepared his coffee with too much milk:

"You stupid ignoramus," I screamed, doing all I could to restrain myself from tossing the luke-warm liquid in her face. “There's too much freaking (I didn’t say freaking) milk in here! What the freak is wrong with you?!”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she stammered. Like sorry’s going to fix everything. I’m not interested in sorry. Sorry doesn’t cut it with me.

“Look, you idiot,” I continued, “I wouldn’t mind so much if you gave me too little milk. Little can be fixed. We can add to little.”

“Shall I get you another cup?”

“No, I’ll suck on my thumb. Yes, get me another cup, you douche bag! And chew on this -- it’s going to cost you a dollar!”

Reader Note: While I was not incorrect, it was slightly deceptive, or misleading, for me to refer to the source as simply "today's Huffington Post", as today is the Huffington Post's first day of publication, a moderately notable Blog Event. It may have been more appropriate to begin this post with "In its opening day of publication, The Huffington Post reports..." followed by some discussion of that blog's launch. Consider, though, that this phrasing might have carried the implication that Larry David's article was substantively related to the launch of The Huffington Post, which it was not (it simply happened to appear today).

This phraseological pondering is not itself significant in relation to the post in question (this one), but I think it is important for you, the loyal if not dwindling company of PositiveMode devotees, to be reminded that I put great care into conveying information as accurately as possible. I take that as one of my blogo-ethical duties, which I hold despite a prominent view that bloggers do not owe the same duties of journalistic ethics as, well, journalists (link to yesterday's Sunday New York Times editorial).

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Is There Anyone on Board Who Knows How to Fly a Plane?

This story is the sort of news that PositiveMode was designed to bring you. This is an important moment in blogs and blogging. After weeks of searching, we have located a real-life Ted Striker.

KVBC in Las Vegas reports: Passenger Crash Lands Plane After Pilot Suffers Heart Attack.

Gerry Garapich, whose flying experience was limited to a few lessons in a glider, found his friend (the pilot) slumped over the controls, switched off the autopilot, and crash-landed the plane at the North Las Vegas airport. The pilot died of an unconfirmed ailment, but it seems that everyone else on board survived. Quite impressive.

Mr. Garapich is rightfully being labeled a hero, but I'm not sure if he'll ever get over Macho Grande. (I suggest clicking this link, you may be intrigued).

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

This Bike is Crazy!

Need I say more? CNN did.

Reader Note: In truth, it's sort of a cool invention that eliminates the need for frustrating or lame bike-riding-learning techniques, such as the parent push-off or training wheels, respectively. I will withhold value judgment as to whether this is a sad end to a bike era, economic judgment as to whether anyone will buy this thing, and woefully uninformed scientific judgment as to whether this somehow alters the so-called space-time continuum or may cause any other such troubling time-rippling effects.

In any case, Wow! What a weird-looking bike.

Pudgy is Good

The New York Times reports today that following the recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, many people are loading up at buffets to make themselves healthier, i.e. (from their perspective), fatter.

Am I the only one who thinks that this is absolutely crazy? One study. One report says that it's okay to be fat (this link is to the International Herald Tribune, which had my favorite title for an article on this issue: Pudgy Is Good). Well, that's enough for Ed Bradish of Fulton, New York:

"'We love that kind of news....The old people used to always tell us that it was better to have a little fat than to be thin,' said Mr. Bradish, a retired school cafeteria worker. 'Now we know it's true.'"

Now we know it's true? (that was bolded AND italicized).

Maybe I'm losing my Core Blog Motivation, as I feel that a rant is in order here, but I simply don't have the energy for it. For those of you disappointed by the lack of a lengthy criticism, keep in mind that blogging is often just about simply referring people to a news story. That's basically what I'm doing here (I don't usually care much for use of the term "basically" but it happened. Apologies).

Note: Bill O'Reilly just lauded the Minutemen for following the "great American tradition of protesting authority" (that's not an actual quote, but rather a paraphrase; I think it's appropriate because it adds effect to the quoting aspect of the paraphrasing). Doesn't he regularly call so-called protesters "pinheads" and such? What an idiot.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Why That's Just Propaganda!

The word "propaganda" is thrown around a lot these days (much like the word "unblowupable"). I don't think people really have a common understanding of the word; or perhaps, more properly, they use it and its negative connotations in a very selective way.

You will frequently hear Michael Moore referred to by those on the so-called "right" as a propagandist; someone once told me that he follows the "Goebbels school of filmmaking," (Nazis!) (you will hear people on the "left" sometimes say the same about the likes of Ann Coulter, although I think she is more frequently referred to as crazy, or creepy, or a "bitch"). I don't think that any of these people are entirely correct.

While these editorialists/commentators/filmmakers/bloggers/astronauts/whoevers often use misleading persuasive techniques, even techniques associated with propaganda, I think we need to have some perspective on this term, or at least be honest enough with ourselves to recognize where it exists independent of our political point of view (I guess it doesn't need to be political; no matter how many critics said The English Patient was good, I wasn't going to like it (is this propaganda? why not? (I lied; I did not watch The English Patient, but I assume I wouldn't have liked it; Sack Lunch is more up my alley (much respect to those who get the reference without clicking the link; slightly less respect for those who need to actually click, but do so; even slightly less respect for those who neither get the reference nor click, but are still reading reading now)))).

The point being, when propaganda is, at its height, associated with authoritarian governments propagating dangerous or oppressive policies, we should hesitate to label acts of freely given and freely received speech as propaganda.

Wikipedia, a site which I am becoming increasingly impressed with, has logged an interesting discussion on the scope of the meaning of propaganda with respect to political commentary, and also provides an informative article on the term itself.

If I weren't already too-greatly distracting myself from finishing my last week of school, I would probably pontificate at greater length, but so be it.

Links Update

I've made several additions to the Links section without comment, so I suppose it is about time I account for said changes ("said [whatever]" is an often-misused phrase, but I think I've used it correctly here. Comments are appreciated).

The Darth Side: A hilarious diary by the Dark Lord himself, describing his galactic travails complicated by the incompetence of his subordinates and his malfunctioning robot leg. Helmet tip: Port McClellan

Eric Umansky: This is a somewhat untested (by me) blog by an author whose entries I used to enjoy on Slate's Today's Papers (TP is a convenient one-page daily summary of what the major newspapers are covering (or not covering); I still have it delivered to my email but rarely read it anymore).

Daily Kos: The uberblog of the political left - and also by far the most-visited blog on the internet, according to Truth Laid Bear's Traffic Rankings. I read it occasionally, although there's too much there to fully digest it all.

Howard Stern: My favorite radio show, and a good website full of news and discussion of the show, lewd photographs (though the most "intimate" areas are clouded-over), and links to anti-FCC and other (sometimes) dissident political news and commentary.

PortMcClellan: An excellent blog run by one of my roommates, which like ports of old, is a center for spirited debate on a variety of wide-ranging topics, and the trade of ivory, tobacco, and wineskins.

Power Whine: Although I generally try to keep the discussion of politics on PositiveMode in check, or at least restrict it to topics in the sidestream or obscurestream, this site is a necessary antidote (if only for my own good temperament) to the sophist squawkbox that is Powerline. The authors have assumed a Blog Role of responding directly to most of the outrageous right-wing propagandrivel set forth by a site that is sadly quite highly ranked in the blogosphere (lest you accuse me of improperly utilizing "propaganda" in this latest example of my wordcoinery, I will discuss the meaning of that word in an upcoming post).

Rosenblog: Run by Matt Rosenberg No. 2 (not the proprietor of NegativeMode), an apparent ex-hippie neocon, I generally disagree with his views but somehow feel compelled to direct you his way, at least for the time being.

The Truth Laid Bear: I'm not yet quite sure what to make of this site (that is, I'm not sure what its general concept it is; though I suppose you level substantially the same criticism about PositiveMode, harmonizing of Theology and Geometry notwithstanding) but I like its author's ethos. Plus, it seems to have the most thorough and accurate Blog Rankings out there, although PositiveMode is not yet listed. Keep your fingers crossed.

Volokh Conspiracy: Another highly-ranked right-leaning blog, I was compelled to list this one upon reading a post by the blog's namesake, Eugene Volokh, briefly discussing the history of why Americans put periods and commas inside of quotation marks - like "this." Instead of "this". This is a fairly hot topic as far as I'm concerned, and anyone that agrees starts off on my good side.

So there you have it. Hyperlink away.

Kung Fu Hustle

I saw a great movie this weekend that I highly recommend - Kung Fu Hustle. It's really quite good.

Regarding the film's use of CG (that's Industry for computer-generated special effects), reviewer Andrew Sun from the Hollywood Reporter informs us, and I can confirm that "While everyone else tries to make the CG look realistic, he goes bonkers with over-the-top kicks, punches and other maneuvers that are so unreal, they are downright cartoonish." (emphasis added).

Weeks ago I promised I would provide an exposition my current interest in the word "downright". Well, I'm not ready to provide that essay just yet, and although my interest in that word has waned somewhat in recent days, I will discuss it soon.