Quick hits

T. of Johnny Triangles, whom last we saw trying to get Gawker commenter invites, is now armed with a fistful them. He already got one account banned from Gawker. Crime: "Making us feel bad about our unfinished novel manuscript, defending Ann Coulter."

A page of retro calculators! Groovy. (Via Signals vs. Noise)

Can't really dispute this: arguing on the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics. No offense to Special Olympians, they put in a lot of work.

There was some big story going around about psychedelic mushrooms giving people a transcendent religious experience. Ivan Lenin, who has some experience in the matter as well as apparently being a Russian mushroom himself, says "If I were yo mama, I would certainly tell you not to put those things in your mouth."

WWIII thinking

Are we already in the middle of World War III? Or World War IV, if you're one the people who go in for that?

Two underreported facts to corroborate that idea:

Six to nine Iranian soldiers have been killed fighting in Lebanon (via Protein Wisdom).

And Hezbollah has been heavily aiding the anti-American insurgency in Iraq since the beginning of the war.

So there's a clear alliance on the other side.

I think the reason there's no consensus on the "World War III" thing is that, strange as it sounds, "war" doesn't really exist in 2006. The idea of nations or tribes fighting each other, pitting one army or air force against another doesn't happen anymore, even in less-developed areas. "Fighting" in Rwanda, for instance, mostly meant civilians being hacked with swords. In the Iraq War, that conventional form of fighting lasted less than a week, and really it was only about two days before the Iraqi Army was decimated. Nowadays evil regimes mostly fund organizations to do their fighting for them (you could call it - outsourcing?). And these organizations tend not to have military goals, just the idea of causing chaos by killing whomever they can - Iraqi civilians, Israeli Arabs, whoever.

So, yeah, I don't know.


The rules are changed, it's not the same

What happens when Europe and the Arab world's basically aesthetic dislike for Israel comes in conflict with their real fear of Iran, and their new experience with local Islamic terrorism? Mark Steyn, in a radio interview, says Israel wins the debate:
Normally, by this stage, the public rhetoric of the Europeans and the Arabs would be ferocious. And instead, I think both of them have been very circumspect in public. And certainly, the ones I've talked to in private are in fact, in a strange way, and possibly unprecedented, at least in the last thirty years, they're rooting for Israel.

I don't think that any of the people of these countries, or their governments, like Israel any more than they used to. But realizing that your country and Israel share most of the same enemies certainly seems to help clarify the mind.


Inconvenient burger

I knew eating meat had a big environmental impact, but I hadn't seen a direct analysis until this:
According to a recent University of Chicago study, a meat-free diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year - as much as switching from an SUV to a hybrid car.

Personally, I don't care about global warming, though, if you didn't know, I am a vegetarian; together that must put me in some upper echelon for smugness. Seriously, though, if you happen to be concerned about global warming, I really suggest you look into eating the veggies. You'll feel healthier, and you'll do your part to prevent coastal cities from getting flooded. Or freezing over. Or baking. Or whatever it is is supposed to happen.


Reconsidering a bit

Okay, so the situation's worse than I thought it would be...

Apparently the evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments is strong enough that even our Secretary of State is willing to say it openly:
Rice said there are ``very direct links'' between Syria and the Hezbollah attacks on Israel and said ``it would be unthinkable'' that Iran is not also playing a role.

Then again, there was some story that Iranian "Revolutionary Guards" were firing into Israel, as evidenced by an Iranian-made missile hitting Haifa. Now that appears not to be the case.

Then again, by the Bush doctrine, since the governments provide material support to Hezbollah, there's already more than enough of a pretext for Israel or the U.S. to attack either Syria or Iran and depose their governments.

Will that happen? I doubt it. I'm sticking to my belief that this crisis will involve nothing more than a lot of mutual shelling and air strafing, and no ground fighting.

Other links... Esther, currently in Israel, is fine. Chainik has a prayer. Ace has evidence that, as I said before, the Lebanese government is basically on Israel's side. Karol hates France.


Is this war?

Well, it is in that there are rockets being launched in multiple directions, by both Israel and various terrorist groups. It isn't in that no governments besides Israel have gotten (or, I think, will get) involved. (I'm not counting the Gaza Strip, because the people in charge there are not a government in the sense of being able to accomplish anything). It's Israel fighting against terrorist groups being funded by the governments of Syria, Iran, and, indirectly, the European Union, the United Nations, and, sadly, the United States as well, to a smaller extent. Which isn't really anything new: the last time Israel fought against other countries was in 1973; since then it's been wars of attrition against the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah in various combinations, with the EU, the UN and the US taking the place of the Soviet Union as the source of Western funding.

This time they hit Haifa, my old home town, which I don't think has been hit since Saddam launched some Scuds there during the Gulf war. So that's an escalation.

Still, war? The governments of Syria, Lebanon, even Iran have known for the past 30 years that they can't get into a direct war with Israel; their government buildings would be obliterated. And other things have changed: Iraq is now a United States ally. As of last year, Lebanon is a quasi-democracy with a pro-U.S. prime minister (Fouad Siniora) whose government is almost as threatened by the presence of Hezbollah as Israel is. There's no more heart left in the Arab world for a ground war with Israel (a single nuclear attack, maybe). So, if anyone cares about my opinion, I don't think a war is coming.


Updates, updates

I wrote before that I stopped listening to Kings of Convenience, because Erlend Oye's solo album had a lyric that read "one Jew that was never invited". Well, now I'm going to start listening to them again, because... it turns out I misunderstood the lyrics. As I recently discovered, he explained in his online forum that the lyric is somewhat personal:
The jews have historically been the outsiders.
Dispite the fact that they always been very talented artists,
business men, scholars. Or maybe excactly for that reason.

In this respect I have often felt like a jew.

Okay, so, bigoted: no. Twee: very much so. So I apologize for the aspersion.

One more "Fountainhead Cafe" update: so the soon-to-be-Objectivist in the West Village cafe was fully back to just being "Fuel" a few weeks ago, having removed even the "Fountainhead Cafe" sign. Today the cafe was closed. Have renovations started? Who knows!

Project's going fine. There's now two others which are happening at the same time, which is slowing things down.

There's some small chance I'll be at the anti-New York Times protest today in midtown New York at 5. I fully agree with Karol that "protesting is sort of dumb" (at least, if you live in a democracy, with other options available to you), but, hey, a more pro-America attitude on the part of the press seems like a good cause.

If you watched that world cup: that bizarre head-butting incident that may have lost France the title may have been prompted by the Italian calling the Algerian-born Zidane a "terrorist". Way to push some buttons!


Armond's right, again

This is a little late, but Armond White nailed it in his review of Nacho Libre:

First, notice the color scheme of Nacho Libre. Its hues are vibrant and intense like luminous bible illustrations. In outdoor scenes, characters stand out against the slightly surreal backgrounds as if figures in religious chromos or Catholic prayer cards. Director Jared Hess instantly communicates his beatific view of ordinary things. Whether focusing on homely or misfit people—the demoralized monks who work at a Mexican orphanage, the pudgy yet hungry foundlings, the impoverished townfolk or the hapless, rotund title character played by Jack Black—Hess’ imagery remains unexpectedly radiant.


When Nacho teams with a homeless man, Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez), to win the Lucha Libre competition, he becomes infatuated with a novice nun, Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera), who stirs his ego and tests his faith. This trio flips and reworks Don Quixote, yet the film’s rousing theme song “Hombre Religioso” (“I am, I am/A real religious man”) sets a devotional comic tone. The pastoral landscapes where Nacho and Esqueleto practice their wrestling moves recall Rossellini ("The Flowers of St. Francis") and DeSica ("Miracle in Milan") while the hostile, sardonic Lucha Libre confrontations evoke Buñuel ("Nazarín"). Hess’ counterpoint of saintly and worldly experience is not new; it’s just rare in American pop culture. When Sister Encarnación warns that luchadores fight for vanity and power, that they are “false idols,” it comments on Hollywood’s routine hero-worship. Hess and Black find something deeper.

It's rare to see a Hollywood movie with a real moral center to it - Adam Sandler's movies, I mean the ones he's produced, definitely have one (think of all the times bullies get karmic retribution for their sins in his movies); other than those I can't think of any off the top of my head, at least not from anytime recently. Some people have accused the movie of being immoral, saying it's anti-religious in that it makes the priesthood look drab and priests look silly, but as White points out, it's just a comic take on the real-life struggle between materialism and spirituality that 99% of other movies can't even bother to deal with. How many other movies can claim a man of the cloth as a hero (an action hero, no less)?

By the way, if you're as obsessed as I was for a while with the theme song, it's a 1975 song by the Mexican band "Mister Loco", and Some Velvet Blog has it plus a few other songs from the soundtrack, like Os Mutantes' "Bat Macumba". (Update: it's not actually Os Mutantes' version, it's the original. Never mind!).


Midwest tour

A college friend of mine got married in Minneapolis over the weekend, so my girlfriend and I took it as an excuse to make a mini-tour of the Great Lakes Region, AKA the Midwest, AKA Real America. In addition to the Twin Cities, we got to see Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee. It's nice to see the middle of America, which until the weekend was, seriously, pretty much unknown to me. I had a good time.

Of all the places we visited, Chicago was the most impressive, especially after we saw all the gleaming architecture, but I think the most liveable was Minneapolis. Chicago has areas that are a little bit run-down and scary; Minneapolis is supposed to have those too, according to the Powerline guys, but I didn't see it. All we saw were the nice parts, including, of course, the nearby Mall of America, giant shrine to consumption:

You can buy stuff there too.

I got some nice shirts at Express and H&M. For a big city they're pretty politically laid-back too: their county went 60-40% for Kerry over Bush in 2004, compared to the ridiculous 82-17 in the People's Republic of Manhattan. It just seems like a really nice area, and the wedding was a lot of fun too.

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