Thursday, July 31, 2008

Personal Best = Botox Injections

Mark Spitz gets skewered in this article by Ann Killion at the Mercury News. Why you hatin' AK? A brother's gotta eat. I will concede: hawking botox injections is a bit of a come-down from winning 7 gold medals in 1972, but if even Ms. Killion seems convinced of Spitz's genuine enthusiasm for his paralyzed face, then good on him, I say! At least he's doing something that excites him. Some Olympic athletes like to parlay their success into motivational speaker gigs or celebrity has-been reality shows or even fodder for med school applications. Even if not the most noble of professions, selling botox to make people feel good about themselves is not nearly as titillating as perhaps getting caught partying in a short skirt without any underwear ~ especially for a 58-year-old dude.

There are gems of irony and real humor in the article as well though. I especially liked the anecdote about bullshitting the Russian swim coach into getting all the Russians to grow mustaches as well (nostalgia for the good old days when the bad guys were Reds... although I guess some things never change). But Ms. Killion sledgehammers the last line by tying the new Speedo swimsuit technology (LZR) to Spitz's botox.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

By Jingo, Chinese Paranoia Pondered

I never would have thought I would have a chance to use "jingoism" in my blog twice in one week, although honestly because I hardly ever post more than twice in one week, but this BBC blogger's post regarding his observations on the reactionary paranoia and bellicose nationalism displayed by many Chinese actually reflects some of my own observations. He's definitely put more thought into it than I have.

The almost-defiant pride displayed by many mainland Chinese is quite frightening, and it is coupled with what I would call paranoid suspicion of foreigner's motives. They often interpret adverse foreign actions as specially designed to attack Chinese pride in every case. It's as if they believe that honor and "losing face" are sufficient in themselves to explain any adverse action. Any other explanation, such as negligence (on the part of American bombers in Belgrade) or human rights (in the case of Tibet or political dissidents) are dismissed as facades for the true motivation of Western powers.

That's the other thing ~ Chinese I've spoken with tend to anthropomorphize (if that's the proper word) the entirety of Western society into a single sentient beast out to destroy their resurgence. I patiently try to explain that Western society is composed of hundreds of millions of people, thousands of cultures and dozens of nations, and collective action on their part is not only improbable but patently ridiculous. Even accepting that intellectually (and many of the Chinese I've socialized with are intellectuals), they nevertheless return to their (seemingly) instinctive Chinese v. foreigner mentality.

What I've seen since the 90s is an unbridled growth in nationalistic pride, probably fostered in part by the Chinese government to silence dissent and solidify their position. Tyrants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries have found ultra-nationalism to be a superb tool to ostracize the opposition and justify their methods ~ Napoleon. Hitler. Marco. Hirohito. Hussein. Khomeini. Mugabe. In the transition from Communist patriarchy to Free-market socialists, I can only wonder if China will be able to check its swing into fascist police state.

Pride is a cardinal sin because when mixed with other base human emotions, it leads to the other cardinal sins. That is why it is the greatest of the cardinal sins; as Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote, "inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin." What I've observed first-hand is a hubristic conviction that Chinese culture is superior to other cultures and therefore not susceptible to the dangers that history has shown us. Many Chinese I've spoken with see no inordinate self-pride in placing themselves above the other nations of the world, and do not see the irony in nevertheless excoriating the Japanese, British or Germans for doing the same in the past. Such willful blindness is incomprehensible to me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Finally, another use for my "Extender"

When I first "upgraded" *cough* from XP to Vista last year, I was excited about the possibility of streaming HD TV through my house and the unlimited storage space I could harness with my PC. I'm generally fairly satisfied with how that vision turned out. But in the process, I've discovered that I actually dislike most TV programming.

Looking at all the programs I've recorded over the last year, I have some operas recorded off PBS, nature shows, a few documentaries about historical figures, and a crapload of "Family Guy." It's actually an embarassing amount of Family Guy. I can't help myself.

Aaaaanyway, the end result of my discovery is that although I'm using the Media Center the way I meant to, I don't actually value it that much. Add in some technical and execution faults (response time to commands is SLOW, menus are pretty-looking but often useless to me, I don't have the high speed "n" wireless so I've got wires criss-crossing my living room, etc. etc.), and the overall palate has a bittersweet finish.

But!! If I could stream movies from Netflix through my computer and Xbox 360, that would be another happy use. A closer examination of the Netflix FAQ area shows that not all Netflix movies would be available, but rather a "separate, smaller library of 10,000 movies and TV episodes." I suppose it's possible that all 10,000 could be crappy, given the amount of dreck on TV nowadays, but I'm definitely intrigued by the possibilities. I suppose I'll give Netflix a try when they start that service.

It's Miller time!

InBev to buy Anheuser-Busch for $52B. The Belgians are coming. There goes the neighborhood. I'm not a huge fan of beer, or alcoholic beverages in general actually, but there are times when I like to throw one back and relax. Honestly, Budweiser is not my first choice if I have to choose "one" to throw back. My understanding is that Bud is an economical choice for multiple throwbacks or particularly large volume consumption. I'm sure it's quite acceptable as bong fuel.

Still, A-B is kind of an icon for American culture. A final bastion of unrestrained jingoism: "yeah, it's cheap and tastes like piss, but it's our cheap piss ~ rah rah American flag." As point of fact, A-B has, in recent years, tried to highlight in its ads its American ownership vis à vis SABMiller's South African ownership, and SABMiller has responded in kind with its "President of Beers" commercial line.

Well, that argument now appears moot as the Europeans flex their economic muscle.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tiki Torch deaths

I originally saw the tag "NJ wins Darwin award for rash of tiki torch oil related deaths. Hair oil called in for questioning" and snickered a bit. I clicked on the link and wondered whether I would be regaled with tales of self immolation or fiery hair-dos.

Turns out that people drank the tiki torch oil thinking it was apple juice. The report does mention that the bottle is labeled "Tiki Torch Oil" and carries warnings in English and Spanish, so I'm gonna assume that it is responsibly labeled. And the child that was injured was actually poured the oil as a drink by an adult, so apparently it's not immediately an instance of an attractive danger.

Really what's going on here is a cluster of New Jerseyans who don't bother to read labels before ingesting things. The report says the incidents were unrelated, so it wasn't just one person making a mistake that affected others.

I mean, FORGET reading nutrition labels for fat and calorie content. These guys don't even read labels for "DANGER: EAT ME U DIE." If it's in the kitchen, they eat it.