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Friday, October 24, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on October 24 at 8:00 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday this morning, discussing local levies and who's voting for them, bachelor degrees and who in the 8th District congressional race has mischaracterized them, the election and who might or might not steal it, plus lots of other news from this eventful week.

94.9 FM if you want to listen. Anything else we must discuss?

UPDATE: For those of you griping about my Burner-Reichert coverage in the comments... You'll want to listen to this show. I'm running out the door to head to the studio right now, so I don't have time now to post what I've just been sent about Reichert's B.A./A.A. claims, but I'll talk about it on Weekday. (And will post here as soon as the show's over.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on October 17 at 8:05 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday this morning, talking about hard economic times, the Red Scare in Washington State, and why I'm being called a premature articulator and a member of the liberal elite.

That's 94.9 FM beginning at 10 a.m. if you'd like to listen. Any other topics we should discuss?

Friday, October 10, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on October 10 at 9:10 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday this morning, starting at 10 a.m., to talk with other journalists about the news from this crazy week.

That's 94.9 FM. Suggestions for what we should discuss?

Friday, October 3, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on October 3 at 7:33 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday this morning, talking about the news of the week with other news-junkie types. Likely topics: The VP debate, the economic bailout, the Nickels budget, the Boeing strike, Rossi-Gregoire, and Paul Newman.

That's 94.9 FM starting at 10 a.m., if you want to listen or call in.

Anything else we should discuss?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Word of the Day

posted by on September 19 at 4:06 PM

The word of the day at Urban Dictionary...


Coincidence? Dunno. I do know, though, that Dan and Terry's baby is almost 11 now, and we never once used the term "gaybie" to describe him...

Blacks Against Obama

posted by on September 19 at 12:23 PM

Barack Obama's campaign rally in Coral Gables, Florida Friday was interrupted by a group of about 10 African-American protesters holding signs that called themselves, "Blacks Against Obama."

The signs said Obama was for gay marriage and abortion, and said his candidacy was "endorsed by the KKK." Another sign said, "Jesse Jackson hates Obama."

Perhaps they'd seem a teensy bit credible if it weren't for the "white supremacists support the black man" sign. But the great thing here is actually how Obama handles the little twits.

Being all white and stuff, I shall demur from commenting on what appears to be, um, let’s just call it a conflict of interest. But as a faggot, I shall seize this moment criticize my own ilk who vote against our interests: Log Cabin Republicans can go fuck themselves.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cthulhu: The Kinda-Like-It-or-Totally-Hate-It Local Film Begins Its Hometown Run Tonight

posted by on September 12 at 10:49 AM


In case you hadn't heard, Cthulhu—the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired, quasi-gay-horror flick directed by Seattle's Dan Gildark and written by former Seattle City Council candidate/monorail advocate/Stranger contributor Grant Cogswell—kicks off a week-long run at Metro Cinemas today.

Stranger reviewer Paul Constant hated it:

Cthulhu has been trumpeted in the pages of The Stranger for years now, so it is not without a certain amount of institutional shame that I admit Cthulhu is a poorly made film with almost no merits. The "almost" here refers to the cinematography by Sean Kirby, which is, at times, beautiful. But everything else is shit. The pacing is awkward, the costumes are embarrassing, and the dialogue is wooden and just plain dumb.The worst part is that the filmmakers are trying so hard to artfully transcend the apocalyptic horror genre—to comment, through little parodies and self-aware digs, that they're making a "real" movie with "real" themes—that they wound up producing a horror movie that's not in the least bit frightening. Cthulhu is possibly the worst in a long line of shoddy H. P. Lovecraft film adaptations. It's a goddamned shame, is what it is.

Paul's not alone is his hatred of Cthulhu—I've heard from a lot of people who also thought it was shit. However, I saw Cthulhu at SIFF a couple years back and I did not hate it. The unequivocal repulsion experienced by many of my peers challenged me to clarify in my mind what it was about the film I liked. Grant's a friend, and I hated to think that was the basis for my appreciation. (This would also be unlike me—my friends count on my compulsive, almost-Tourette'sish aesthetic honesty, and I have the list of ex-friends to prove it.)

But this review from the Willamette Week gets at what I think Cthulhu has to offer:

Gildark and screenwriter Grant Cogswell’s nervy work is a reminder of the timidity of most independent filmmaking—even when Cthulhu fails, it fails with panache...Even Gildark’s most obvious gimmick—gay love story meets otherworldly horror—has emotional weight. Cthulhu is basically the tale of a religious-fundamentalist family willing to take extreme measures to cure their son of his sexual orientation. And it takes a certain daring to repurpose The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as an allegory for a gay idyll. The movie, like most bold pieces of art, flirts with unintentional comedy, but it pushes right past that threat, even as its plausibility crumbles. The movie falls apart—the center does not hold—but its anarchy is a blast to watch.

It's as a "gay movie" that Cthulhu has the most to offer, I think—the film captures the creepiness and barely subsumed antagonism of small-town life like no other film I've seen. Still, appreciating a film by a friend through the prism of a cinematic sub-genre is what Josh Feit would've called "a double-reverse back-flip" of a recommendation, and there's a good chance you'll hate it. You can find out this week at Metro Cinemas.

On the Radio

posted by on September 12 at 7:30 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday tomorrow morning, talking about the news of the week with other Seattle journalist types. Likely topics: lipstick, pigs, Sarah Palin, Pit Bulls, striking teachers, striking Boeing workers, my article in the current issue of The American Prospect, and a new piece in The Stranger that addresses the growing epidemic of Election Anxiety Disorder.

Anything else we should discuss? That's 94.9 FM, beginning at 10 a.m., if you want to listen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pro-Choice Pop Star

posted by on September 2 at 5:04 PM

At long last, thanks to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, I've discovered the perfect way to combine my two favorite things: Neil Diamond and abortions! (I mean, a way that doesn't involve breaking and entering and the phrase "Breathe into this rag, Neil Diamond.")


This Saturday, September 6th, I'll be "celebrity" judging the Pro-Choice Pop Star karaoke contest and cocktail mixer (to benefit NARAL) at the Spitfire in Belltown. My worthy fellow judges are the über-beloved DJ Riz, and the sprung-from-our-governor's-loins Michelle Gregoire. Also on hand will be macabre ringmaster Armitage Shanks, comedian Vince Valenzuela, and my parents!

Points will be awarded for "Best Pro-Choice Take on a Song" (last year's winner, apparently, was "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" from Grease). A few suggestions for this year: "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time" or, perhaps, "Oops! I Did It Again."

View the flyer here.

Sssshhhh. Go to sleep, Neil Diamond. GO TO SLEEP!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Interview With a Vampire Lady

posted by on August 22 at 1:00 PM

All hail Paul Constant, who wrote a fantastic exploration of Stephanie Meyer and her best-selling vampire books for The Stranger, and also helped prep me when I got asked to interview Meyer for TIME Magazine's "10 Questions" series.

The product of his vampire tutelage is here.

On the Radio

posted by on August 22 at 8:58 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday this morning talking with other journalists about the news of the week, including the recent primary in Washington State, the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and that endless Seattle public toilet saga.

That's 94.9 FM, beginning at 10 a.m., if you want to listen. Any other news we should discuss?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Horse That Keeps On Giving

posted by on August 19 at 2:32 PM

Dear Mister Charles Mudede,

As an editor of NEON, Germany’s monthly, award winning spin-off from STERN magazine for young readers, I am currently working on a feature article on zoophile people... I would like to travel to Enumclaw in September or October.

Do you think it is possible to see the horse...

And then there's this.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

10 Zeros

posted by on July 30 at 12:16 PM

Nothing can save this country. Nothing. The whole of it is dead.

HARARE, Zimbabwe —
Zimbabwe will drop 10 zeros from its hyper-inflated currency - turning 10 billion dollars into one - the country's reserve bank said Wednesday. President Robert Mugabe threatened a state of emergency if businesses profiteer from the country's economic and political unraveling.

Shop shelves are empty and there are chronic shortages of everything including medication, food, fuel, power and water. Eighty percent of the work force is unemployed and many who do have jobs don't earn enough to pay for bus fare.

One third of Zimbabweans have become economic and political refugees. Another third is dependent on foreign food aid. But Mugabe barred non-governmental organizations from handing out food last month, claiming they were supporting the opposition.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tweaking the Design

posted by on July 29 at 1:51 PM

Giving the Ford Probe a run for its money as the worst-named anything ever, some folks are promoting the the worst-named event in Seattle: Methfest. Because nothing sounds more appealing than a bunch of greasy hipsters on meth. Here’s their poster:


Methfest's poster is a riff on an old Hempfest poster—a poster I made in 2000 (the original was better, if I do say) that's been butchered to promote, not legalizing pot, but smoking meth! At the bottom, it says, “Pissing off hippies since 2005.” Um, nice try, Methfest, but I’m not a hippie. And to show I’m not upset, here's your poster!

Friday, July 25, 2008

KUOW: On Building a Better House Trap

posted by on July 25 at 6:45 AM

I’ll be discussing the pros and cons of the city’s design-review process for new buildings—and whether it needs reform—on KUOW from 9 to 10 a.m. I'll be joining a developer and the head of the city’s design-review program, Vince Lyons. You can listen here.

Mayor Greg Nickels recently suggested that all new townhouses should undergo a review by staff at the Department of Planning and Development. I’m tepid to the idea. It would be an onerous process for the city and developers (there are thousands of townhouses to review each year), but it wouldn’t necessarily reduce the repeating problems with Seattle’s townhouses, such as: four-pack housing separated by pedestrian-hostile auto-courts, living spaces that start on the second floor, and foreboding structural overhangs. Design review could put lipstick on those pigs—but the council needs to revise the multi-family code to require, among other things, shared pedestrian-friendly open space or row housing without several garages or driveways facing the street.

Meanwhile, design review has made striking improvements to bigger buildings. Just walking down any arterial, you can differentiate between the dysfunctional crap built before the program went into effect in the mid-1990s (that would never be allowed now), and the stuff built afterward, which relates to the sidewalk. However, design-review boards need to push more for functional buildings, but dwell less on esthetics and stop rubber-stamping poor designs to unload whining developers.

Think there are better solutions for townhouses? Or that townhouses in Seattle are fabulous just the way they are? Got an idea about better ways to review for function and tasteful design? Toss ‘em in comments and I’ll try to bring it up on the air.

Friday, July 18, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on July 18 at 8:00 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday this morning, starting at 10 a.m., to talk about the news of the week with other local journalist types.

Topics may very well include: That controversial New Yorker cover, inappropriate touching at the Department of Natural Resources, attacks on the presidential candidates' wives, Seattle's toilet auction, and whatever else you call in to demand we discuss.

That's 94.9 FM if you want to listen in. Oh, and if you want to get inside my head early, the comments, as always, are open.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Park Land

posted by on July 16 at 12:04 PM

Thinking of Canada, this news story:

OTTAWA - Air Canada has launched an informal investigation in the emergency diversion of a London-bound flight after the co-pilot fell ill somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, with one passenger saying the pilot was having a breakdown and calling for God.

Sean Finucane said the co-pilot was bound by restraints and carried into the cabin.

"He was very, very distraught. He was yelling loudly," he told CBC.

"His voice was clear, he didn't sound like he was drunk or anything, but he was swearing and asking for God," he said in an interview from England. "He specifically said he wants to talk to God."

Is the inspiration of a new film, North American:
DSC_0165.jpg (For Tim Appelo: the image is by Matt Daniels)

[I]t’s the story of an airline pilot having a mental breakdown mid-flight. Put up in a Seattle hotel, the pilot sneaks across the street to “an incredibly dense and seemingly endless terrain” fused “of the major Olmsted parks into one diverse geography located in the middle of downtown Seattle.”
The reason why Devor and I decided to make this film, which is almost completed and photographed by Sean Kirby? Seattle has a stunning park system. It's one of the four reasons I settled here--the near end of North America.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anyone Left on the Science Beat in Seattle?

posted by on July 15 at 7:40 PM

After all the buyouts and staff cuts, is there anyone left reporting on science in Seattle?

I'm not asking about a business reporter who covers biotech. Nor someone who reads press releases and RSS feeds of published scientific articles. I'm definitely not asking about wire reports, or reruns of New York Times articles. Is there anyone, at any of the local papers, who actually covers the scientific community in Seattle, who knows the lab managers, the budget officers, the department chairs, the graduate students and fellows? Anyone who is connected enough to know the science that isn't being done, what crucial questions are going unanswered?

I'm not gloating here. I'm horrified. Seattle is a world class scientific city, right up there with Paris, Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo and Baltimore. The University of Washington is consistently one of the largest federal grant recipients--many years second only to Johns Hopkins in total dollars, typically hovering around a billion dollars--largely due to the high quality of work being done. With all we need right now from science, to have no real press coverage, in one of the primary centers of global scientific research, is terrifying.

I don't count. I'm far to conflicted to honestly report on the state of science in Seattle. I can say there are fantastic stories to be had. Anyone out there?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Studio at Havana

posted by on June 25 at 3:28 PM

Looking for something fun to do tonight after Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cabaret? Head up to Havana for...

STUDIO at Havana has a regular following of devoted Disco, Italo, Cosmic and Mustache Groove fans. Every Wednesday night punks, bike messengers and skaters join Disco Enthusiasts and crowd onto Havana's small dance floor to move and sweat while STUDIO's resident DJs—American Athlete and H.M.A.—spin vintage vinyl along with guests.

STUDIO is Seattle’s only real disco night and STUDIO is STRAIGHT. Mostly. But tonight the boys behind the night are hosting a very special Gay-ass Disco Night to mark Gay Pride Week. Sponsored by the Stranger with give-aways from Boy Butter Lube.

I'm posting this under Nightlife and Conflict of Interest because I happen to be sleeping with one of the guys that will be DJing tonight. Go and see if you can guess which.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Saying Nothing

posted by on June 20 at 9:59 AM

Yes, Zoo was released and promoted by ThinkFilm:

"May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you're dead." The Irish saying, which inspired the title of ThinkFilm's highest-grossing release "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead" is an apt one for the specialized distributor, which is currently facing the worst financial crisis of its seven-year history. If last year's release of the acclaimed Sidney Lumet drama marked the heavenly highpoint of the company's career, now Lucifer appears to be breathing down its neck.


Producers associated with Robinson Devor's documentary "Zoo," Susan Kaplan's "Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family" and David Sington's "In the Shadow of the Moon" all refused to comment for this story on the advice of their lawyers.

I ain't saying nothing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Salute Your Short

posted by on June 10 at 12:00 PM

You could call this a conflict of interest, since comedian Hari Kondabolu is a friend of mine, but whatever. His comedic short film, Manoj, is playing at STIFF tonight (6:15 pm, Jewel Box Theater, $8). I recommend it, unconflictedly.

I can't vouch for any of the other shorts in tonight's program, but Manoj--a mockumentary about an Indian comedian and America's clumsy affection for stereotypes-- is funny and smart and painful. (Read Charles's profile of director Zia Mohajerjasbi here.)

In other Hari Kondabolu news, he'll be appearing on Comedy Central's "Live at Gotham" on Friday, July 18th at 10 pm. If you like Hari Kondabolu, which you should, save the date.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Nuclear Power

posted by on June 7 at 2:10 PM


With oil prices spiking again--I say from both real increases in global demand and speculation piggybacking on the market conditions, you may disagree--and global energy supplies at some of the tightest margins ever, is it any surprise that...

Nuclear power, long reviled as a dangerous source of energy, is on the verge of a comeback. That’s because a growing body of scientists, politicians and environmental activists see atomic energy as part of the solution for global warming and our ever-growing dependence on foreign oil, much of it from nations that, if not downright hostile toward us, certainly don’t share our values.

Well, what of nuclear power? On the Dear Science blog, I've just completed a six post series on nuclear power, covering...

...the physics behind nuclear power:

Every nuclear power plant in operation today works by capturing the energy release when a really unhappy large nucleus breaks up into two smaller and more successful get-togethers–atomic fissioning. When these cranky huge parties break up, a few neutrons typically get flung out at high speeds–think of these as a few type-B’s from the party screaming away in tears. If these neutrons hit another large nucleus, teetering towards breaking up already, they can smash the party to pieces, sending yet more neutrons out.

So, you can imagine a game where you place enough of these large nuclei next to one another, such that the neutrons from one breaking up shortly cause a neighboring large nucleus to break up, sending more neutrons out to break up more nuclei… creating a chain reaction.

... how almost all current nuclear power reactors work...

The goal? A controlled fissioning of large nuclei. You’ll need fuel, moderation, coolant, and some control...

Hey, something nifty! Water is both a good coolant and moderator! No moderator, no chain reaction, right? So, if you use water as your coolant and moderator, your reactor has an intrinsic safety feature. If you lose coolant, you lose moderation and the chain reaction stops. We all live! Thus, almost all nuclear reactors in operation today use water as a coolant and moderator.

... radiation...

Alpha particles, the cannon balls, can be stopped by a single sheet of paper. Smash! Likewise, the dead outer layer of skin does a damn good job of protecting your living cells from alpha particles. Beta particles, the bullets, go right through paper. A thin sheet of aluminum, or something of similar density and substance, will gobble these up.

Gamma radiation is trickier. Gamma radiation is just a freakishly high energy version of light, with almost no substance. Just like light can pass right through your hand, gamma radiation can pass through all but the heaviest and densest of metals, wreaking havoc deep into the body.

... nuclear waste ...

When we loaded our reactor, the fuel was chemically fairly pure. Recall, however, that nuclear decay typically results in new chemicals being created–whether by alpha or beta decay or by fissioning. As our reactor operates, these new atoms build up. Most are radioactive themselves, also undergoing various decays. Most of these atoms are neutron hoarders–gleefully absorbing our precious neutrons, while offering up few when they themselves decay. So, as these new atoms build up, we lose more and more neutrons. Eventually there are too few free neutrons left to keep the chain reaction going, even if we completely remove the control rods. Such fuel, still containing a bunch of Uranium but now contaminated various highly radioactive but non-chain reacting atoms, is called spent. It’s hideously radioactive, more radioactive than when we put the fuel in the reactor, but useless as fuel.

Welcome to the trickiest problem of nuclear power, the waste. What can we do?

... the two most famous disasters at nuclear power plants ...

I’d like to imagine the following exchange, between a middle manager in the Soviet Union and us, some plucky nuclear engineers, when planning these plants:

Middle manager: “You have my plant design?”
Us: “Yes, but it is incredibly dangerous!”
MM: “But it will work without any Plutonium, enriched Uranium or heavy water?”
Us: “Yes. In fact, it produces Plutonium as a waste product!”
MM: (Claps hands) “Excellent. We shall have such nice dachas when I tell everyone of this plan.”
Us: “It is far to dangerous to build. I refuse to do it!”
MM: (Laughs. Then pauses.) “Oh. You’re serious.”
MM: (Considers his boss, probably some one-eyed, one-armed veteran of Zhukov’s Berlin campaign in the Great Patriotic War, who won’t be sympathetic to concerns about hoards of irradiated civilians after asking why his reactor isn’t operating yet.)
MM: (Points to us.) “Guards, shoot this man.”
Us: (Shot in the head)
MM: (Turns to our assistant) “So, ready to build the reactors?”
Assistant: “Let’s just pick some places in Ukraine, Romania and other shitholes to build ‘em, yes?”

... and finally what future reactor designs will be like.

The designs are, individually, brilliant. The lead-cooled variant is designed to be modular. The reactor is small, easily installed and removed and works for about fifteen to twenty years without having to be opened or refueled. Perfect for countries or remote areas with no interest in or infrastructure for refining nuclear fuels. The gas-cooled variant can operate safely at huge temperatures and is incredibly efficient at minimizing waste products in a relatively simple manner. The sodium-cooled design is the dreamiest to me. Such a reactor complex could not only operate at tremendous efficiencies, but also eat up the waste of the older pressurized water reactors. Keen!

2030 is too far away. If we were smart, we would throw resources at these fourth generation technologies, pushing to have the pilot reactors and designs finalized within ten years. None of these are perfect. No source of power is without risk or environmental injury. None. Our planet hosts nearly seven billion people. Fossil fuel reserves are dwindling. The atmosphere and oceans are buckling under the carbon strain. Nuclear power, particularly responsibly applied with standardized plant designs and a real plan for dealing with the waste, remains our best hope. The physics and technology is available. We just need to do it. Now.

It’s time we talked about nukes. For most, the opinions run deeper than knowledge. Read my series, or pick up a good book on the subject. Educate yourself. Get an informed opinion and then go out and win some arguments.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Donate to Get Beaten in Guitar Hero

posted by on June 6 at 1:12 PM

Ever wanted to get obliterated by Guitar Hero addicts for a good cause? 826 Seattle hosts an all-ages charity GH tournament this Sunday afternoon at its Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co location. [Address is 8414 Greenwood Ave N; go here for directions.] Show up around 1 p.m. to register, hang out, and maybe practice before the competition starts at 2. (There might be a Rock Band setup as well, Jonah.) Entry fee is $5 for under 13, $10 for over, and the proceeds all go toward 826's zillions of free programs for helping Seattle students. Prizes will be given to winners and runners-up from folks like VAIN, The Sneakery, The Vera Project, Archie McPhee, and Everyday Music.

Unlike GH nights at bars, this one should be all about the insane talent of young people who wield plastic guitars. I've already resigned myself to not winning this, but if I have any shot, it'll only be because the competition is separated into under-13 and over-13 camps:

See you there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why Cyborg Monkeys Are Cool

posted by on May 29 at 4:26 PM

RobotMonkey.jpg (From the current edition of the journal Nature.)

Thanks to our continuing success in Iraq, you might have noticed distinctly fewer limbs in today’s America. Hence this recent work published in the journal Nature is quite encouraging:

Here we describe a system that permits embodied prosthetic control; we show how monkeys (Macaca mulatta) use their motor cortical activity to control a mechanized arm replica in a self-feeding task. In addition to the three dimensions of movement, the subjects' cortical signals also proportionally controlled a gripper on the end of the arm. Owing to the physical interaction between the monkey, the robotic arm and objects in the workspace, this new task presented a higher level of difficulty than previous virtual (cursor-control) experiments. Apart from an example of simple one-dimensional control, previous experiments have lacked physical interaction even in cases where a robotic arm or hand was included in the control loop, because the subjects did not use it to interact with physical objects—an interaction that cannot be fully simulated. This demonstration of multi-degree-of-freedom embodied prosthetic control paves the way towards the development of dexterous prosthetic devices that could ultimately achieve arm and hand function at a near-natural level.

The big plan here? Brain cells make electrical currents when doing their jobs. By listening for these electrical spikes with electrodes, we can eavesdrop. Using a map of the brain, giving us a clue which part of the brain controls (or controlled) the limb, we can put the electrodes over the right spot. When we detect a change in the brain cells in this spot, we can move a robot arm. Enjoy your new cyborg limb!

Well, Meel Velliste et al. got a monkey to move a robotic arm just by thinking. Nifty. Many groups, including my buddy Kai Miller right here in Seattle, have gotten people to play video games just by thinking. This brings us one step closer to replacing all those lost limbs.

Still, we really don’t have the best idea of exactly what these brain cells must say to one another when they want to move a limb or a finger. The better we understand this language, the better we can program the computer sitting between the electrodes on the brain and the robotic limb. Back to my friend’s thesis defense this week.

Listening to the brain with these electrodes, that read millions of brain cells at a time, is a bit like listening to the crowd at a stadium. You can hear large groups chanting in unison, horns or general roar; trying to pick out an individual conversation in all of this is next to impossible.

Still, we can figure a lot out at this level. When parts of the brain are at rest, they’re subject to regular gonging. The idea is somewhat like the best scene in Blazing Saddles (“Dag namit. The sheriff is a n{GONG}…”) Every time the part of the brain starts getting an idea to activate out of turn, the gonging from deeper levels interrupts the planning. So, the absence of this gonging is one way to detect when a part of the brain is activated. The problem is, this happens over a huge area of the brain. We need to figure a way to listen in on the planning among the brain cells that can now proceed uninhibited. A good old-fashioned scientific knife fight emerged in the field. One camp figured this planning would be synchronized--like a section in the stadium starting to chant, “Wave! Wave! Wave!” The other camp figured it’s hard to plan anything by only chanting in unison. Any meaningful planning would be the brain cells taking to one another, out of sync, and thus just sound like a bit louder roar from a small section. Screw listening for chants, listen for an increase in crowd noise and you’ll figure out when the brain is trying to, say, wiggle a finger.

My friend, sifting through recordings from human brains and using complex mathematical earplugs to separate the raw data from the electrodes into manageable pieces, figured out the second camp is probably right. Listen for the roar!

Two fun advances in science at a timely moment.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bethany Jean Clement Raids Renee Erickson's Refrigerator

posted by on May 19 at 10:15 AM


Seattle's got a new food quarterly: Edible Seattle, devoted to "celebrating the seasonal bounty of Puget Sound."

The premiere issue is on stands now, and features the start of a new series by Stranger food writer/Bar Examiner Bethany Jean Clement: Icebox, in which BJC investigates the contents of a notable chef's refrigerator.

Subject of the first installment: Boat Street Cafe's Renee Erickson, whose fridge is home to an array of fascinations, along with Best Foods mayonnaise, Heinz ketchup, and Diet Pepsi.

You can find EdibleSeattle all over town.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seattle U Professor Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges

posted by on May 14 at 2:08 PM

Stranger news intern Chris Kissel—continuing the proud tradition of news interns breaking news about child prostitution—scoops the dailies in Seattle University's newspaper today, The Spectator, reporting that an SU military science professor, Andrew Franz, has been arrested in Colorado on charges of criminal solicitation, enticement of a child, sexual assault on a child, trafficking in children, soliciting for child prostitution, pandering of a child and inducement of child prostitution, as well as a misdemeanor charge for unlawful sexual contact. According to Chris's story, Franz was on contract from the army to teach at SU, and had just gotten married.

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What's Worse than Reading About Video Games?

posted by on May 1 at 12:10 PM

Listening to people talk about them. Tune in to 94.9 KUOW at 1 p.m. today, as I'll be a guest on The Conversation and its opening segment about Grand Theft Auto IV. I'm crossing my fingers that they've also booked a pro-family, anti-gaming horse's ass. And even if sparks don't fly, you'll at least get to hear how my last name's pronounced. (Hint: Not Makokokokovich.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wednesday Night: Lewd Puppetry and Accordion Music

posted by on April 28 at 1:40 PM

What: A benefit for the Vera Project.

Who: A puppet show by the always awesome Sgt. Rigsby and His Amazing Silhouettes.


Also, music by Accordion Boy (also known as Nate Mooter of Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Strong Killings, and the Lashes).


Where: McLeod Residence.

When: Wednesday April 30 at 7 pm.

What else: Fish and chips. And whiskey.

How much: Suggested donation of $15.

Background: Last year, Sgt. Rigsby offered to donate a private puppet show for our Strangercrombie charity auction. Our own Ari Spool bought the package and, overachiever that she is, decided to double-down on the do-gooding: a puppet show bought for charity, repurposed into a fundraiser.

The result is like a miracle—everything anyone could want (Sgt. Rigsby, Accordion Boy, McLeod, Vera, whiskey) all in one place.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Go Me!

posted by on April 23 at 4:42 PM

PMID #18425849

I also have a new column up in this week's paper, explaining the financial crisis through junk food.

Many modern financial investments—whose number and amount of money invested within increased dramatically after the depression-era financial controls were dismantled in the 1990s—are more like processed foods than produce. Investors just figured this out. And they've started to get nervous about where their cash has gone.

Take the mortgage-backed securities at the center of this crisis—in which thousands of mortgages were blended together, sliced into pieces, and then sold to millions of investors. Compared to the traditional mortgage lent out by a single bank to a single investor, these are the pizza-flavored low-fat Pringles to a baked potato.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Slog Happy Last Night

posted by on April 11 at 10:41 AM

It was nice to see many of you at last night's Slog Happy. Sorry I didn't get the chance to talk to everyone.

Some Topics Discussed: How to fist yourself on a statue, James Joyce, Alyson Hannigan's hotness, e-mailing penis photos to a stranger on Craigslist, which authors are assholes in person, how to get involved in short pornographic film production, how many chins I appear to have in a certain digital photograph (popular consensus leaned toward 23 chins), the relative attractiveness of men in the 1980's, and whether Chad Lowe looks like a hockey player.

I Saw You: Mr. Poe, heading outside and returning decidedly more, um, organic; Scary Tyler Moore, pointing at me and making the drinky-drunk motion with her hand; Original Monique, taking photos of everyone, no doubt with the nefarious intent of sticking faces onto pornographic photos with Photoshop; NaFun, wearing the greatest coat since Vin Diesel's scene-stealing giant fur monstrosity in XXX; Will in Seattle, looking quite dapper (did you do something with your hair?); Aislinn, telling the story of her shattered foot, which was injured in a fit of exuberance. Pretty Much Everyone But Me: Heading to Saint after leaving Moe Bar.

This Hangover-Free Morning (and also chins 16 through 19) Brought to You By:


DiGiorno's Ultimate Four-Cheese Oven Fresh Pizzeria Pizza. Motherfucking delicious.

Friday, March 21, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on March 21 at 8:50 AM

I'll be on KUOW's Weekday tomorrow morning this morning to talk about the news of the week with a couple of other news-following types.

Show begins at 10 a.m. on 94.9 FM. What should we discuss?

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's Cocktail Time, and I Must Away

posted by on March 14 at 4:47 PM

My beloved gay husband and I are taking the weekend off to travel in a big loop through the mountains to Leavenworth (short stop for a bratwurst?) then on to Yakima (antique stores, burgers at Dusty's) for Saturday night. Sunday morning we move on to The Maryhill Museum in Oregon to see Marie of Romania's stuff, the concrete Stonehenge, and the Theatre De La Mode. Finally, over to Portland for a night in a good hotel (thanks Orbitz!), a nice meal (at the Veritable Quandary, perhaps) and Portland things on Monday like Powell's, Counter Media, etc.

Any suggestions for somewhere to stay in Yakima area that won't cost an absurd amount and isn't too scary? We are teh gay, and therefore can enjoy the kitsch, but we are also over 40 and like to be reasonably comfortable.

Is there anything not mentioned on our itinerary that we should stop for?

Thanks everyone for letting me SLOG today. I got little else done, but enjoyed myself thoroughly. Sorry I didn't unearth any showtunes for Fnarf, sorry I wasn't able to share my thoughts on Hillary VS Obama (short one-issue version: The Clintons have been known to toss the gays under the bus at the earliest opportunity. I'm hoping for better from Obama.) But thanks to Amy Kate and everyone from the Stranger for letting me spout off today.

And to finish up by being completely self-serving. Let me mention that I bar tend (most) Sunday afternoons at MOE Bar, starting at 3 PM. Come have some drinks and tip me lavishly.


As for the pagoda, we found it on Craigslist!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

An Oral Version of 'Gimme Head'

posted by on March 13 at 12:54 PM


Last November, the lovely and talented Angela Garbes, a Stranger food columnist and writer par excellence, appeared with some other local food writers at an event called "Talking With Your Mouth Full." She read Gimme Head, which is about eating the heads of animals. The audio of that event is now available here, and it's a lot of fun. Think of it as a very special, offal-centric episode of "This American Life."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Don't Have Time to Slog Today, but...

posted by on March 11 at 4:34 PM

I do have time to go on right-wing talk radio.

I'll be on KVI, AM 570 at 5 O'clock to bash the Democrats in Olympia.

"A Lot of Writers Write Because They Don't Want to Die"

posted by on March 11 at 10:08 AM


Dear Leader Christopher Frizzelle was on KUOW yesterday, discussing this story, which concerns Moby Dick, death, and an awkward Christmas-dinner conversation in which his stepmother (newly religious—the worst kind) asked about his higher power.

Interviewer Megan Sukys also digs up a little personal history: How his family got religion (via adultery), how they responded when he came out (it wasn't pretty), and whether literature, and language, can be a person's religion.

Listen to the whole thing here.

(Christopher's interview begins around 43:30—before that, you can listen to a poet with breast cancer [the beginning], trapeze artists in love [14:00], and Nancy Pearl talk about Ender's Game and a book about health care [34:20].)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Youth to Power

posted by on March 10 at 1:55 PM

Tomorrow night at Town Hall, our own Eli Sanders will interview Michael Connery, an author and blogger for and

Connery got sucked down the net-politics hole by the Dean campaign and the thesis of his latest book, Youth to Power: How Today's Young Voters Are Building Tomorrow's Progressive Majority, is in the title.

Sanders and Connery will discuss the "millennial" generation (first-time voters) and how they're the future of the Democratic party and how their influence may or may not arrive in time to tilt this presidential election.

The discussion begins at 7:30 pm. Tickets are five dollars.

(And, while you're at it, read Sanders's latest feature, "Washington State as Prologue: Washington State Is Already Living a Democratic Dream, and It's Not So Dreamy," about how our governor (the only female governor in the U.S. working with a democratic legislature) is "a study in cautiousness.")

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on March 5 at 10:20 AM

I'll be on KUOW's The Conversation this afternoon, starting at 1 p.m., to talk about the results in Ohio and Texas, and to help parse all the exit poll data.

That's 94.9 in the FM.

Want to pre-spin me? Drop what you think are the most interesting exit poll data points into this comment thread and maybe I'll mention your prized piece of exit poll proof on the show.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On the Radio

posted by on March 4 at 2:35 PM

I'll be on the Ron and Don show (710 AM KIRO) from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. this afternoon talking about the big votes today in Texas, Ohio, and elsewhere, and what it all might mean.

Then I'll be back here on Slog blogging about the results as they come in. See you here after 4 p.m., and until then, consider this an open thread for predictions about what's going to happen tonight.

Oh, and our (growing) list of local election night parties is here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

LiveBlogging Savage on Bill Maher

posted by on February 29 at 9:51 PM

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

Hey, there's Dan!

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

God, Christopher Hitchens is a douchebag.

A Compelling Reason to Stay Home on Friday Night

posted by on February 29 at 4:58 PM

Our very own Dan Savage will be appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher (a show that apparently is on a television station referred to by the kids as "The HBO") tonight at 11 pm (8 pm eastern). Other guests include Christopher Hitchens and Harry Shearer.

Any Slog readers who have both technical and pay cable capacities are encouraged to put the show up on YouTube for posterity.