Near Earth Archive

A backup of Near Earth Object by Paul Fidalgo

Month: May, 2008

Sarah Palin Hates Polar Bears and Wants Them to Die

We are led to believe that the zeitgeist is beginning to shift in regards to global warming and political attitudes toward the ecosystem as a whole. First, Democratic candidates were promising to run carbon-neutral campaigns, the GOP nominee delivers a major address on climate change, and more recently, the Evil Empire itself, the Bush administration, said we need to start taking care of our nation’s polar bears. There is a growing environmental enlightenment throughout the American political spectrum.

Which has obviously got some paleo-Republicans in a tizzy. Yes, she’s on many McCain veep shortlists, yes she’s a charming, affable, and talented politician, and yes she looks sweet and innocent, like a perky librarian (are there perky librarians?), but Alaska’s governor Sarah Palin has a dark side colder than the icy tundra which she oversees.

Sarah Palin wants to kill polar bears.

Oh, she’s not so overt as to publicly advocate for their wholesale slaughter, joyfully wallowing in their gleaming viscera, all the more pronounced as their red life fluid stains the snowy Alaskan vista, her cackles echoing against the now-disintegrating glaciers as the white landscape slowly creeps to a sickening bloody pink. But the AP has reported today that Gov. Palin is challenging the Department of the Interior’s decision to place polar bears on the threatened species list, citing lack of “evidence” and fears about the impact on oil producers.

Take a second and digest this. The person charged with the care of the habitat of polar bears is claiming that the oil-obsessed Bush administration is being too nice to polar bears, and is now going to do her civic duty in ensuring that no one drilling for oil will ever live in fear of stepping in polar bear poop (which I would assume would just be like a frozen rock by the time anyone actually stepped on it. It’d probably be pretty fun to kick around, or throw at your oil drilling buddies as a gag).

This should really get the McCain camp’s attention, though. I can see it now. McCain/Palin 2008: You’re next, American Green Tree Frog!

Oh wait, wait! Or! Or! McCain/Palin 2008: Fighting the War on Bear-orism!

Oooh! One more! The Straight Talk Express – 167 Red Bellied Turtles Flattened since 1999.

Oh, extinction of species, is there any way you’re not funny?

* * *

Update: Changed the picture because, apparently, I had an image of someone who looks like Palin. I like this one better, anyway.


This New Tune, “This New Town”

I’m no Part Time Lover, but I am a Part Time Receptionist, and soon I will pile on to that Full Time Student, so I wanted to make sure I got some new music out before being swamped by studies.

I wrote this song almost three years ago upon the breakup of two good friends:

Download “This New Town” right here.

And don’t forget to visit for all my free tracks (and there are MANY). And pop over to Aime Street for the coolest way to buy music online.

Even the Chinese Food is Mocking Me

Cruel, cruel universe.

Very funny, Hunan King.

Bad Writing is the New Good, Part 2: The Intertubes ain’t the Only Place for Dump Trucks

A few weeks back I wrote a little tirade about some sloppy writing in a well-read tech blog. My ire was sparked mainly due to the fact that, unlike the vast majority of blogs, this person was being paid for his work. Let me extrapolate: he was being monetarily compensated, and therefore able to scratch a living on what we are supposed to assume is informed analysis.

Take a look at the original entry to see what I mean. It seems my rage was too narrowly focused. Surely, it’s no mystery that poor writing is epidemic, not at all limited to pixel form. Even words that get ink stains on your fingers can be rent horribly asunder.

In few areas is this more apparent than in the world of political opinion. Of course, no one would expect such “publications” as the New York Post to be paragons of prose, but again, the folks who do their reporting and opinionating are remunerated, I assume to a degree that allows them to pay rent and eat in New York City. Given that, one would hope that the level of analysis would rise beyond that of a kindergartener’s picture book.

One would have one’s hopes dashed.

Take a look at this piece on Clinton’s West Virginia victory from today’s New York Post. To save you a click and any browser window management, I’ll excerpt a bit.

With no hope of winning her party’s nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton is running out the clock by laying the foundation for her political future, circa 2012.

As she seems to float in and out of reality on the campaign trail, it is so easy to dismiss her as delusional.

She is not.

For many years, the Clintons have dined on opponents who mistakenly dismissed them. As with her husband, there is always a method to her madness.

By sticking with it against all odds, Clinton becomes the patron saint of lost causes and never giving up.

It is no coincidence that Clinton chose a crucial swing state in which to fight her heart out against these insurmountable odds long after everyone had dismissed her.

After last night’s victory, she is free to quit.

Or she could see her way next week through Kentucky, which she’ll also win handily.

Or, she could sprint all the way to the end on June 3.

Whatever she does, her biggest accomplishment is what she did last night.

And Barack Obama proved fairly well last night he’s not likely to put West Virginia, a crucial state for Democrats, in play in November.

Do you notice anything?

You see, folks, if you write entirely in one-sentence paragraphs, your writing becomes more intense.

Get it?

It’s almost like a movie poster.

Clinton won a state.

Obama did not.

Anything can happen.

Moved, aren’t you? But wait, let’s boil this piece down to what it’s really about…


I can’t boil it down. There’s nothing to boil. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in this piece that

  1. Tells us anything we don’t already know

  2. Attempts to elaborate on any point made

  3. Is good

This is just one example of the reams of paper wasted on like columns, pieces in which the obvious is double spaced into semi-formed paragraphs, essentially trying to pass off a day-old wire story as if it were analysis.

But wait, you say. Paul, your writing isn’t very good, either. Where do you get off?

Well, I have only one thing to say to that.

I am not being paid to do my writing, and by the way, you’re ugly and you have no friends.



P.S. That “excerpt” is roughly 75% of the enitre article.

Closing the Loop of Irrelevance – A Presidential Debate Opportunity

This could be you! (No it couldn\'t)Of all the anticipatory scribblings about the upcoming Obama-McCain matchup, what might be most interesting to me is the oft-touted prospect that the two candidates may participate in a substantial series of town hall style debates. I have always been for more debates and fewer ads, as long as the debates are relevant and not simply a means for candidates to lob insults at each other. Giving these two senators the benefit of many doubts, I choose to be optimistic.

My biggest beef with presidential debates, though, is their exclusiveness as it pertains to third party and independent candidates. We all know the Loop of Irrelevance; a third party candidate can’t get into the debates unless they poll highly enough, but they won’t poll highly enough unless they get into the debates. Clearly, something here has to break in order for sufficient viewpoints to be voiced on the national stage.

Primary debates tend to be more inclusive, and sometimes to a fault. I was all for the continued participation of former senator Mike Gravel in the Democratic debates, until it became totally apparent that he was not adding enough substance to the debate – not that he didn’t have important things to add, but he did so in such an erratic, discourteous way, that he became a burden to bear rather than a voice to heed. The point being that those 90 minutes are precious, and no one wants them wasted by someone who not only has no shot, but has nothing to add.

But if Obama and McCain follow through and do hold a large number of town hall debates, free of the constraints of the Commission on Presidential Debates, a wonderful opportunity opens up to allow dissenting voices join the discussion, and break the Loop of Irrelevance. Now that those 90 minutes will be little less precious, as they will happen more frequently, we can afford to squander a bit.

Here’s how. I propose that the candidates agree to include a set of independent and third party candidates once, at the very first debate. Let Obama and McCain perch on their stools joined by Ralph Nader, Bob Barr (if he is the Libertarian nominee), Cynthia McKinney (if she is the Green nominee) and so forth. (How does one decide which candidates get to join? Perhaps signatures or party membership numbers, but put that aside for now.)

Here’s the twist. If polls following the first debate show an uptick in support for one the independent candidates, say, in the 5 percent range, they get to come back for the next debate. Nobody else. If after the second debate, their numbers fail to move, then that’s it. Do not pass “Go,” etc. Kind of like a reality show, when you think about it, only, you know, important.

This seems to me to be a fair way to acknowledge that not every nutjob with a “political party” deserves a place on a stage next to viable candidates, but nor should we be excluding serious people with real ideas and substantial support. Let them debate, but if they fail to move the public, lock them out for next time.

Of course, for the major party candidates to agree to this, they’d have to feel that they have something to gain, and unless they think the balance of newbies on the stage tilt toward the other guy’s political persuasion, they probably won’t sign off. So what then? The only thing to do is for many, many people to ask them.

So get on their websites, hop on their MySpace pages (if you can keep from throwing up), and call up the campaigns, and tell them you want to give some other folks just one fair shot.

Ed Koch: Thanks, But No Thanks

Maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe the stress of having been the mayor of New York, the false idolatry that celebrity provides, and the mental decay of advanced age have turned Ed Koch into the blight on the Democratic Party that he is today.

Who, Ed? Not Ed!

Well, my friend, just look at what Ed’s been up to. He sent out an e-mail commentary this past weekend in support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Did he stick to the new “healing” tenor the campaigns are now supposed to be adopting? Take a look at some juicy bits, and decide for yourself.

  • “I simply do not trust Senator Obama’s judgment.”
  • “We are now engaged in a war against Islamic terrorism and are in need of someone who can be trusted to advocate on behalf of the United States. Senator Obama, regrettably, was silent [about Rev. Wright] for too long.”
  • “We now know just how far Senator Obama is prepared to go to defend our friends and allies. It is not far enough.”

Hey, thanks, Ed! No way that’s going to get used by, say, Republicans!

Okay, so Ed just hates Barack Obama. I mean, no one can be liked by everyone, right? It’s probably just a personal thing about Obama, you know, he doesn’t respect a man who can’t bowl. This is an isolated incident.

Doh! Not so fast. Remember, the Democrats also wanted to win the White House in 2004, not that it was always obvious. Take a look at what Ed had to say in 2003 on “Scarborough Country”:


“Well, firstly, because I believe in truth in packaging, even though I’m a good Democrat, I’m voting for George Bush, because I don’t believe the Democrats have the stomach to go after international terrorism. And Al Gore appears to be the worst.”

He also told some conservative e-rag that “the Democratic Party just doesn’t have the stomach to go after terrorists.” Go, Ed, go!

I also recall that on one of the cable shows before the party had a nominee, Ed called the entire Democratic presidential field a bunch of “clowns” or “jokers.” I can’t seem to find the transcript, so you’ll just have to trust me on that one. Good thing I’m not a real journalist, eh?

So I think it’s time to make it formal. Howard Dean (who Koch called “McGovern II,” whatever that means) or Nancy Pelosi need to write him a nice note, or pay him a quiet visit, and tell him in the most polite, professional manner to officially get bent.

They Came at Night Leaving Fear Behind

Is this only amusing to me? Some experiments in live performance of this song make me think that might be the case.

But I refuse to let that be the last word. I took a Phil Collins song, and adapted it to a distorted stereotype of country music. I dare you not to love it. I dare you.

Download my cover of “Don’t Lose My Number” right here.

P.S. Purists will note that in the chorus, where one would normally play (in this key) an F major at “find you,” followed by the G sharp, I go right for the G sharp, omitting the F altogether. This is because I decided that for this particular genre, the G sharp was more melancholy. I hope you’ll understand.

P.P.S. Bonus points for folks who identify the other song to which I pay tribute in this track.

Loophole, or, Degrees of Happiness

It should come to no surprise to (least of all) me that after a year and a half of life in the real world (read: outside of theatre) I would grow listless, feeling creatively pent up, and longing to do that which allows me to emote publicly and absorb positive feedback for my nearly psychopathic need for attention. But even if it is not a surprise, it is something I’ve had to pretend would not overtake me in order to make a legitimate go of this DC life – offices, memos, networking – and of this attempt at a master’s degree.

The latest course to which I have set my reluctant rudder is toward finishing my degree as quickly as is reasonable, and then to explore further academic possibilities. On the surface, it sounds fairly straightforward, but it’s important to remember that the whole purpose of the degree – the whole reason I am here in DC! – is to take part in professional politics. To take an academic, professorial direction is a definitive-if-subtle way of saying that my master’s degree from George Washington University was fundamentally a waste of time and money.

See why I’m not supposed to think about it?

Unfortunately, the trepidation does not end there. I do find the prospect of teaching politics or communication or some such topic quite appealing. I have always had a kind of rosy view of the life academical, and pedagogy, at least on the lesser levels in which I have partaken, has usually given me great satisfaction.

But let’s be honest right now – no matter what I might wind up teaching, pursuing the necessary doctorate will in effect make my master’s degree moot. I would be a professor of whatever-I-go-to-school-for-next, which may have nothing to do with politics, professional or theoretical. In order to make my degree-to-be relevant, I would have to jump back into the fray of electoral politics, a prospect that as many of you know has lost its luster for me.

This is a roundabout way of saying that perhaps it’s time I go back to the theatre. Of course, theatre itself had lost its luster – in fact it was becoming something to which I felt shackled. I could no longer see the point in (or bear the idea of) entertaining middle class white people night after night with the same material. Sure, it was the best material in the world, but nothing seems quite as good as it truly is when recited for the 100th time.

Perhaps most importantly, the consequences of my choices now resonate beyond my singular (if substantial) ego. I have a wife, with whom I am deeply in love and to whose happiness I am utterly devoted. To “screw it all” and delve back into the existence of a just-above-starving artist would hinder terribly plans for a home, a family, or any kind of stability, let alone simple personal time to interact

So I am looking for a loophole. How can I rediscover what makes me who I am while not forsaking my wife, while not jeopardizing our future well-being, while not putting to waste the vast debt incurred in school in the pursuit of a degree that will wind up a curiosity hanging on the wall of a den I will never build?

And how can I be sure that would make me happy?

Suggestions appreciated.

Obama’s Bet

Photo by Matthew C. Wright, via Flickr

Barack Obama, May 6:

“The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they will run; it’s what kind of campaign we will run.”

I noted this when Obama gave his victory speech in North Carolina, as it was a line that blew away a lot of the fog in my head from the past couple of months. Democrats are so jittery about the GOP’s previous success with getting into the heads of Al Gore and John Kerry, and developing false narratives to paint them as unacceptable leaders, that many simply assume that Obama would fall victim to the same malicious exercises in definition. We use up a lot of breath, ink, and airtime tensely bracing ourselves for the attack we know is coming, already assuming our presumptively-presumptive nominee will be felled by it.

So previous campaigns have followed the rulebook for Democrats: be vaguely populist without being totally xenophobic, be pro-security without being militaristic, try to make nice with all your core constituencies without seeming too beholden to them, hold your breath, and hope not too many people want to have a beer with the other guy. In short, be inoffensive, and hope it’s all over soon.

But I’m betting that Obama is right. One way to reword Obama’s sentiment would be to say that Democrats can no longer be content to try and weather a campaign framed by the other side. Instead, we write a new rulebook and we sell that book to the American electorate. We go all-in betting that they will want a campaign played on our field, with our rules: a campaign based on “issues,” of course, but truly, one based on reality, relevance, and sincerity of intention. I even believe there’s a chance that John McCain may want to play on that field himself (more than I can say for his party’s attack machine, of which we’re all so terrified, to the point of babbling incoherence).

I’m not (entirely) naive. Obama could run a flawless campaign on these principals – and he will certainly not run a flawless campaign – and still lose . But if he does run that crazy, idealistic, hope-filled campaign (and possibly brings McCain with him, at least part way), we will at least have started on the right path. We’ll have made the waters a little less muddy and made the stakes a little more clear. Surely, it’s better to be in the White House when you want to make the world a better place, but it can – and must – start with the campaign that gets you there.

It’s about the kind of campaign we will run.

You Scratch My Back

iLike is very honest with its users.I’ll make a deal with you.

You see, I am getting a little weary of having my music languish in obscurity. The few comments and reviews I receive, along with my own uninformed and utterly biased opinion, have convinced me that my music shouldn’t be limited to the handful of ears who happen to have been exposed to it (I am eternally grateful to those ears, by the way).

But I’m a busy guy. I have no time to gig or spend hours promoting. I have a degree to earn, rent to pay, and most importantly, a beautiful wife who has this unreasonable thing about actually wanting my time and attention. The point being that there is little room for me to actively promote my music.

So I want to make a deal with you. I’m asking you to find some music blog, some popular MySpace or Facebook page, or any other Internet entity to which lots of people turn for new music, and get them to highlight the music of Paul Fidalgo and the Conflict of Interest. Write them an e-mail saying how much you like it, and send them to my website. Send them an MP3. Post a message on a forum talking about your favorite track. Call or write to a radio station, and direct them to the music. Post a review on Amie Street, Amazon, or iTunes — anything along those lines to help pull me from the quicksand of irrelevance.

But you’re busy, too. I totally get that. So here’s my deal: you do me one of those favors or something like it, and if it pans out, if it leads to a mention, a plug, a featured download, etc., I’ll owe you one favor of similar effort. What’s that mean? Hard to say, but whatever I do in return should match the effort and time it took you to do your part of the bargain. To make it clear, let’s look at a couple of examples.

GOOD: You send an e-mail to http://www.GenericMusicBlog.fake telling them they will love the Conflict’s music, and they feature one of my songs on their site as a result. I, in turn, check out your YouTube video, and write something about it on my blog, giving it Interweb love like Diggs and reditts.

BAD: You get PopularFacebookChick to tell her 1000 friends about my music, which leads to many downloads, and you ask me to do your thesis paper for you.

Make sense? Sound good? You ready to help me out?

Great. I’m excited. I’m thrilled. Malcolm Gladwell’s gonna write a frickin’ book about this. Thanks in advance, and good luck. I’ll need it.