Monday, February 28, 2005

More Change in the Middle East

Sharing a headline with the worst insurgent bombing to date in Iraq (125 dead at least) is the incredible news that the Lebanese goverment has bowed to nonviolent protestors and dissolved itself. The basically-evil Syrian occupation draws to an end, peaceful "people power" breaks out in the Arab world, dogs and cats living together, etc.

It might be premature, but I'll be the first to admit I underestimated the Bush Administration's ability to enact this type of change in the Middle East. To be sure, things are far from toppling domino-style in one of the most despotic regions of the world. But the signs have never been better: Mubarek calling for election reform, Gaza withdrawal and settlements cut out of Israel's wall, hell even the Saudis let a few men vote for a few seats last month. How much of this can be attributed to our invasion of Iraq? A lot, I think. Sure, the Palestinian breakthroughs can mostly be attributed to Arafat's death, but even there the alternative might have been nudged toward the reconsiliatory by the Marines next door. At any rate I don't think we can credit the breakthroughs in Egypt and Lebanon to anything else. I'm curious what the pundits to have say tomorrow.

It seems to me that only a true partisan hack would begrudge the positive impact our military presence seems to be having in the Middle East. Sure, the war in Iraq is more bloody and costly than advertised; it was poorly planned and we might well fail there yet. But I for one would love to be proven wrong in the larger picture, and see the region change for the better in the next decades.

It Begins

So the Michael Jackson trial begins this week, and I couldn't be more excited. I mean, it's been simply ages since we had a big tabloid trial. Can you even remember the last one? Martha Stewart? My god, she's almost out of jail already.

So, as we get ready for Total Media Saturation, let me provide this helpful primer to get you started with the basics. Let the show begin!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Jonathan Safron Foer: Update on New Book

Today's New York Times Magazine has a long article on Jonathan Saron Foer, the brilliant novelist who wrote Everything Is Illuminated. It's a funny interview -- he's an amazingly articulate, insightful guy considering he's like 27 -- and we learn some things about the new book:

Foer's second novel, ''Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,'' will be published in about a month. It shifts his landscape from the wounded earth of Eastern Europe to a fresher site of devastation. The book's main narrator is Oskar Schell, a 9-year-old schoolboy whose father was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. An aspiring inventor, Oskar consoles himself by thinking up far-fetched creations that could protect people from all sorts of injury. In the process, he becomes a kind of artist, someone whose dreams are so romantic that they are destined to failure. Oskar's creativity is echoed in the design of the novel, a highly experimental affair that draws upon photographs and typographical play in an attempt to blur the old boundaries between image and text. ''It's the kind of book that will look great next to the toilet,'' Foer said jokingly, in response to a compliment about the novel's appearance.

I heard a reading of the first chapter at the New Yorker Festival last year, and it was great. This is probably my most-anticipated new book of 2005...

Friday, February 25, 2005

In Other News...

Animal rights activists are upset about Kraft Foods' new "Road Kill Gummi Candy" which looks like little critters that have been run over, complete with tread marks.

"It sends the wrong message to children, that it's OK to harm animals. And that's the wrong message, especially from a so-called wholesome corporation like Kraft," said [SPCA]spokesman Matthew Stanton.

Uh, since when is Kraft a wholesome corporation? Even a so-called wholesome corporation? When you're talking about the company that makes Marlboro cignarettes, I think fruity candy is the least of your targets...

The Onion: "I Support the Occupation, Not Our Troops"

Pretty lame issue of The Onion this week, except for this little gem of an editorial entitled "I Support the Occupation of Iraq, But I Don't Support Our Troops". The best line:

Need I remind the reader that it is our flag, not the troops, that we salute? It is our nation-state, not a bunch of 20-year-olds in parachute pants, that deserves our allegiance. As a patriot and true American, my heart sings at the thought of the Pentagon, and the zealous, calculating measures undertaken by the proud military bureaucracy of this great superpower. I feel a surge of pride when I think about our high-tech GBU laser-guided bombs, capable of carrying a 2,000-pound warhead. I tied a ribbon around my tree for the safe return of our nation's F-16s, because our military aircraft are instrumental to finishing our work in Iraq.

Hilarious. He goes on to say that the troops themselves are "no more worthy of our consideration than a box of nails."

Forget Barry Bonds, This Is the Real Scandal

One of my favorite sites,, points out that in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, the photo editors have left in what appears to be silicon inserts in Mallory Snyder's cleavage. Nice.

The Gates

People keep asking what I think of The Gates, Christo's installation of 7500 saffron (don't call them orange!) flags in Central Park. I like 'em. They might not be great art, but they are a great public work -- getting millions of people to stroll through the park on a cold sunny winter day, creating a micro-economy of vendors and tourism.
I also like The Gates because they are a rare example of the sort of 'experiential' art that we don't see much in the West. I really enoyed some of the buddhist and hindu monuments in Southeast Asia, such as Angkor Wat and Borobudur. Those monuments are not iconic in the way that the Eiffel Tower or Statue of LIberty are, in fact you can't take a decent picture of them to save your life. Rather, they unfold around you as you walk through them, sort of revealing themselves slowly as you explore them. The Gates are a perfect example of this, offering us a breath of fresh air in more ways than one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Getting Ready for March Madness

Just because I'm trying to fill this up with some funny things to read, here's an amusing piece from McSweeney's from a guy doing 'power rankings' of his family. Here's one of the rankings, to give you a sense for it and fill up space in the blogosphere:

No. 5
My wife, Connie

I wanted to seed Connie higher, but she nagged me about clearing the table after dinner 19 too many times this week. Enough already. I have an ingrown thumbnail. Doesn't she know how incapacitating that is? It makes playing video games difficult, and that depresses the hell out of me. I don't see what's so important about clearing the table right after dinner, anyway. It's not like anybody is going to steal the dishes. Instead of nagging me, Connie should be thanking me for putting her in the top five this week. If it weren't for the hot sex and the cupcake making, she'd be sitting at the ninth spot, just behind the goldfish.

Man Arrested for Plotting to Kill Bush

According to the Times today, they just arrested a guy for plotting (with our friends the Saudis) to actually kill President Bush. Here's the lead:
A Virginia man has been charged with plotting with Middle East terrorists to assassinate President Bush, either by shooting him on the street or by detonating a car bomb, the Justice Department said today.

The department said that the suspect, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, had conspired with terrorists in Saudi Arabia, with whom he lived from September 2002 to June 2003, and that he had obtained a religious blessing from a co-conspirator to carry out the killing

IRK Recommends: Homestar Runner


I think this is my favorite site on the internet. Yes, even more than The Onion. It takes a while to sort of get into it, but once you do you realize it's pure genius. I recommend starting with the "StrongBad Emails" -- StrongBad is one of the characters and he answers viewer mail every week. I know it sounds like a strange place to start, but they are really funny. Anyway, enjoy.

What better way to start than with a fat guy?

I assume by now everyone has seen this fat kid lip-synching to his webcam. I thought I would post a link to the (original, unadulterated) movie, though, in honor of everything this website stands for. I'm not sure what that is, but somehow this kid seems to embody it.

IRK is back, back again

After exactly one year's haitus, I am re-launching IRK. Yes, I lost the URL but now that blogging is so mainstream that the New York Times uses words like blogosphere, I think everyone can handle it.