The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, May 17, 2003


In my previous post, on Matrix Reloaded and highway 101, I mentioned that I was going to talk about the SF skyline, which I forgot to do.

I just read Richard DeLeon's Left Coast City, on San Francisco politics from 1975 to 1991, for a political science class. The landmark accomplishment of the slow-growth antiregime in San Francisco, along with Art Agnos' election as mayor (which turned out not to be as great as it could have been), was the passage of Proposition M, which slowed the growth of new downtown construction to a mere drip.

However, looking at what the W brothers did to the SF skyline during the freeway scene, it sure looks as if the machines repealed that law!

Just came back from viewing #2 of Matrix Reloaded. Caught the plot twist dealies that I somehow missed before (you know, like Smith is now alive in the "real world" via that goatee'd fellow and is thus the one who walks past Neo before he leaves, sabotages the counterattack ships, and is laying unconscious aside Neo at the film's end), and was able to much more thoroughly understand all the stuff that both The Oracle and The Architect were saying.

Tidbit du jour:

---You may or may not have heard that the big freeway chase (all of 14 minutes, wow) was filmed in Alameda. You can see the Bay Bridge and other aspects of the San Francisco skyline in some shots (more on that in a second). But for you more experienced Bay Area citizens (particularly of the south bay), there are other treats to perceive. First of all, just as a note, the freeway in the movie is Interstate 101 (the other federal highway system, hmm). The big tidbit is, there's a highway sign, noting upcoming exits, that Bay Area people are likely to recognize immediately . . . that is, if they're looking for it (which I wasn't until my 2nd viewing). It reads (and I forget the mileage to each exit):
Whipple Ave.
Woodside Rd.
Marsh Rd.
Obviously Morpheus, Trinity and the gang are going to make a stop at Best Buy or REI. (for you out-of-towners, this sign can be viewed on southbound 101 just past the Holly St exit in southern San Carlos.) The question is: why are the W brothers transplanting freeway signs from across the bay? Two possible answers: 1) they are 101 signs, or 2) somewhere around that sign, just north of the heart of Silicon Valley, is a company that helped them with all them purty CGI effects, and this is some sort of happy payback.

Series of explosions in Casablanca, 40 dead, more injured, and 5 days after the Riyadh bombings which killed 34 people.

Friday, May 16, 2003



Trekking to the local googol-plex, all showings were sold out until about 1030, so my 2nd viewing of Matrix Reloaded will wait until tomorrow morning at 1130 (a good nerdy time to see a movie for the 2nd time). So over the coming days, I will occasionally post whatever thoughts come to my head about the SWFTNC ("star wars for the next century"). Presumably, this will serve to be one thermonuclear Google-bomb. Fair enough!

--I've read a few dozen reviews of Matrix Reloaded since I saw it on wednesday night, and the one I recommend most is by Salon's Andrew O'Heir.

--I re-watched the first Matrix movie last night, and a couple of things made a little more sense. In particular, pay attention to how the very beginning of the scene where Anderson/Neo is interrogated by the agents is filmed. You'll go, "oh!" And by the way, the first movie is still awesome. But there's a strange revisionist thought process circling right now, that "everyone hailed the original movie when it came out". Right. It didn't make a huge amount of money in its original release, many major reviewers claimed it was moronically melodramatic, stopping here and there to praise the joy of "bullet-time". This is why I get annoyed when critics are hard on Reloaded, all while saying the first movie was celebrated as some sort of vanguard at the time.

--As she falls from the big glass skyscraper, Trinity had better be careful not to bump into Tim Robbins and Eminem. Ok I'm a nerd.

--(the rest contain spoilers, highlight text to read) I find it amusingly ironic that now that he's free, Agent Smith can replicate . . . like . . . a virus!!! Though while it's awesome that he can do that (it provides us with one of the greatest fight scenes ever caught on film/computer, hehe), it's unclear so far as to how that ability will play out in the greater story (which I'm sure it will). Smith now goes from villain to "maverick outcast who will make a difference somehow". He's the Gollum of the Matrix.

---Neo stops the sentinels at the very end of the movie with his Neo-like powers, even though -- huh? -- he's supposedly outside of the Matrix at the time. Yeah yeah, it's the big cliffhanger, and we're gonna spend six months hypothesizing as to what that all means (though I'm sure there's a nerd website out there that has stolen all the answers already, sigh). Possible ideas include:
--By taking the left door (and being a cute young savior in love), Neo is walking a path different from that of his predecessors, and thus has come upon a second layer of defense by the machines: a Matrix within the Matrix. Like a powerful system of ambitious machine A.I. wouldn't give itself a little bit of defensive redundancy?
--The anomaly of Neo is so acute that somehow his abilities have transplanted themselves outside of the Matrix, perhaps? That seems to hack-ish of an explanation, the brothers W don't seem to prone to insulting our intelligence. Or, more likely,
--It will be something that none of us could have forseen. Yeah, that's it Brendan, take the easy way out.

That's enough for now.

I try to keep up with the latest breaking news. My goal when I started The Facts Machine was to tap into our nation's, nay, our world's pulse, and delve into that which the collective voice of the earth finds to be the most important.

Today, I believe I have reached the zenith of this process.

All but 3 merely 'dazed and confused' after fall

Twenty Holstein dairy cows grazing in the green hills of Marin County apparently got spooked late Wednesday morning and ran straight off a cliff, tumbling 50 feet down a steep hillside as stunned motorists looked on.

Miraculously, all but two survived.

Witnesses reported seeing the heifers tumble tail over tea kettle down the the steep hillside before landing in a heap on Lucas Valley Road just west of Skywalker Ranch at about 11 a.m.

Authorities were at a loss to explain what might have caused the stampede but surmised something -- most likely a rattlesnake or a predator of some sort -- frightened one of the cows. The rest of the herd, they assume, simply followed her over the cliff.

"We really don't know what happened," said John Reese, spokesman for the Marin Humane Society. "It's not like cows to venture into areas that are unstable. They aren't creatures that are prone to take risks." (full story)
(Just in case you were interested, the road was called Lucas Valley Road long before Skywalker Ranch came about)

I feel confident that I have done a great service to our lil' spnning ball in the Milky Way by reporting on this. There are, though, some interesting issues this brings up. First of all, what will become of those "Happy cows come from California" ads we see on tv so often? Secondly, we get a shotgun euphemism:
Two cows broke their backs in the fall, prompting a sheriff's deputy -- at the behest of the rancher and the Humane Society -- to "dispatch" them with a shotgun, said Sgt. Doug Pittman, sheriff's office spokesman.
Dispatch? When did Sgt Doug Pittman turn into a Knight of the Round Table?

Then there are the first-hand accounts:
"The motorist said, 'There's cows dropping on the road up ahead,' " Pittman said. "At first the deputy thought, 'Yeah, right.' But then another car came up and said the same thing."

Debrunner hopped back in his cruiser and sped ahead to find "several cows dazed and confused aimlessly walking along the road," Pittman said.
(they're on drugs!!! somebody get Ashcroft here now!!!)
"This was something that I hadn't, in all my years, heard happen," said Lorraine Silveira. "They do go through fences and do fall in a ditch, but nothing like this. There are very heavy trees at the edge, and that's probably what fooled them. They probably thought there was more land there at the edge."
Hmm, maybe it's Wile E Coyote's fault. That damn violent entertainment industry, get Lieberman on the case. Show no mercy, Holy Joe!
Via Jesse, this is the funniest thing I have read about Thomas Friedman. Excerpt:
Reading Friedman is fascinating–the same way that it’s fascinating to watch a zoo gorilla make mounds out of its own feces. The gorilla is a noble, intelligent animal that will demean itself in captivity. Friedman is a less noble animal of roughly the same intelligence, whose cage is the English language. It’s an amazing thing to behold.


The hallmark of the Friedman method is a single metaphor, stretched to column length, that makes no objective sense at all and is layered with other metaphors that make still less sense. The result is a giant, gnarled mass of incoherent imagery. When you read Friedman, you are likely to encounter such creatures as the Wildebeest of Progress and the Nurse Shark of Reaction, which in paragraph one are galloping or swimming as expected, but by the conclusion of his argument are testing the waters of public opinion with human feet and toes, or flying (with fins and hooves at the controls) a policy glider without brakes that is powered by the steady wind of George Bush’s vision.

Actually, no wait, this is still the funniest. But it's close!

50% of Americans . . . ugh.

Three cheers for the Killer D's!

So um, was that Homeland Security money put to good use?

I promised an entry on Matrix: Reloaded yesterday, but I'm delaying that until I have a second opportunity to see the movie, in about an hour.

Thursday, May 15, 2003


Caught a wednesday-night showing of Matrix: Reloaded at the Arlington in downtown SB, I am likely to post extensively on it later today. (anything of the spoiler variety will be in white text, so don't worry)

Rest in peace, Robert Stack. You have provided me with, well, too much entertainment for my own good.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003


On Monday, I had the chance to see my second ever presidential candidate*, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (very D - OH), speak at Campbell Hall on campus at UCSB. I found him to be a very inspiring, positive speaker, and not some negative-inluence kook, or "the left's Gary Bauer", as some have pegged him.

There's an assumption among some who follow political campaigns that fringe candidates like Kucinich damage the chances of the party they represent, that they are a liability or, worse, an embarassment. But if this is the case, Kucinich, as well as the Reverend Al Sharpton appear to have bucked the trend, the latter by keeping his rhetorical guns trained on President Bush while pledging to conduct a very comprehensive get-out-the-vote effort, and the former by staying on as immensely positive and forward-thinking a campaign message as I've heard from anyone.

Opening for Kucinich was his friend, a youthful singer-songwriter named Aaron Nicholson who, armed with a guitar and a microphone, belted out a very sincere, very perky song, co-written with Kucinich, called "Spirit and Stardust", which had an old-meets-new acoustic versatility well-suited to the grassroots campaign Kucinich seeks to run.

Kucinich's speech (conducted while striding back-and-forth in front of the podium with a body-mic; it was completely memorized) was optimistic and inspirational from start to finish. His strongest points were made in the whole-earth realm, foreign policy and sustainability in particular. His presentation, while nearly in total opposition to everything George Bush and company stand for, was not framed as an attack on the current administration but was angled more generally as what America could, and should accomlish. Signing on to the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, and an ambitious call for nuclear disarmament figured prominently within his personal platform. Conceptually, he promotes a more "holistic world view"; in this interest he attended the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last september.

He highlighted the fact that as a congressman, he drafted a resolution, signed by 47 other representatives, calling for the creation of a cabinet-level "Department of Peace" (being ironically ridiculed by others in congress, who called the idea "impractical"). This may have been a symbolic gesture, but it is thoroughly indicative of Kucinich's professed agenda which, as he described it, is to "make non-violence an organizing principle" in national policy. This is something that I personally have believed for a long time, that the world changes for the better when attitudes change. Right now the only American face seen by much of the world is that of war, and we have the power to change that.

Other interesting tidbits include:

-Kucinich is a proud vegan, and if elected would be our first vegan President. Animal treatment has never been a serious campaign issue in America, that would change if Kucinich figures prominently in the primary season and beyond.

-He made a clever reference to Boy George (the singer, not the Chimp), though I don't immediately recall its context.

-During the Q & A, he addressed his newfound belief in a woman's right to choose with a long and reasonably well-thought-out explanation, finally arriving at the pertinent policy connotation: He would use enforcement of Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for judicial nominations.

-When asked by a scraggly-haired audience member why he wasn't running out of the Green Party, he loudly retorted "I'm a green Democrat!" The confused young man stumbled back up the aisle, wondering why such a principled man as Kucinich wouldn't want to help give George W Bush a second term.

-Lastly, his idea for the USA Patriot Act was classic: Once in office, he would set it aside until such time as it would be repealed. In the meantime, he would have the Department of Justice working up to its ears in anti-trust cases, keeping the workload so high that they wouldn't even be able to enforce the Patriot Act. Priceless.

Does Dennis Kucinich have a chance of becoming President, winning his party's nomination, or even figuring significantly in the primary season? It is too soon to tell; after all, this long before the 1992 election, Bill Clinton was polling at 1%. What he has going for him is his positivity, his verbal passion, and a sort of unspoken understanding about working-class America, a inborn populism that could allow him to catch fire in the coming months. Nevertheless, in the post-9/11 American political climate, ripe as ever with the strategic cultivation of fear in the American public for political gain, Dennis Kucinich faces an uphill battle.

* - The first was President-elect Al Gore in September 2000

...Al Qaeda is still in business.
May 14, 2003 | RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Nonessential U.S. diplomats were ordered out and other Westerners made plans to leave Wednesday after coordinated suicide attacks linked to al-Qaida killed at least 25 bystanders at compounds housing foreigners.

The overall death toll rose to 34, including at least seven Americans and nine attackers, Saudi officials said Wednesday.

The United States had said eight Americans died, but Saudi officials insisted it was seven and the State Department in Washington later said it could confirm only at least seven. The count could be complicated by the fact that some of the dead held more than one citizenship.

The Saudis said nearly 200 people were wounded, most not seriously, and 40 of those were believed to be Americans.

Al-Qaida, the terror group linked to the Saudi attacks and Sept. 11, had railed against the presence of foreign troops in Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest Muslim shrines. The attacks on civilians came as the United States is pulling out most of the 5,000 troops it had based in Saudi Arabia. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that most would be gone by autumn.
A question, of course, is why are they attacking Riyadh when we're in the process of pulling out? My guess is that this is a going-away fuck-you from Bin Laden to the Saudi Govt for the whole US-troops-on-sacred-soil thing. Look, mr OBL, you got what you wanted, do more civilians have to die? You had a chance to be a bigger man after President AWOL -- your family friend, mind you -- just killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. Anyway, if anything though, this clearly illustrates that we have not necessarily made the world any safer by blowing up Iraq.

In a related note, while perusing the open thread at Daily Kos, I noticed an old McCain quote from 2000 unearthed by Kos reader Daryl Pearce:
In the 2000 election, John McCain said, "We saw the tragedy of the USS Cole and it reminds us its a dangerous world, the senator said, referring to the suspected terrorist attack that killed 17 American sailors aboard the Navy destroyer as it docked in the Yemeni port of Aden Oct. 12. We need a steady hand on the tiller, we need the kind of leadership that George W. Bush and [vice-presidential candidate] Dick Cheney will provide this country so we cannot have those kind of tragedies ever happen again. (link)
How's he doin?

Isn't it comforting to know that this is breaking news:
Tommy Chong, who played one half of the dope-smoking duo in Cheech and Chong movies, pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia.

Chong also pleaded guilty on behalf of his business, Nice Dreams Enterprises, which made a line of marijuana bongs and pipes. Doing business as Chong Glass, Nice Dreams Enterprises sold glass pipes and bongs that Chong acknowledged were used to smoke marijuana.
Well, uh, at least check if there's oregano in there, hehehe.

AM radio blowhard Michael Graham thought he was making quite the biting joke when he said this on Hardball:
Anyone listening to Hillary Rodham in her speech last week about patriotism, that screaming, screeching fingernail, I wanted to bludgeon her with a tire iron. That’s what I wanted to do.
Naturally, Atrios is all over this. And of course, if someone on the left had said this about someone on the right, the deportation proceedings would have already begun.

...was told by me, myself, Brendan Ranon Getzell, while watching the third quarter of last night's Lakers-Spurs game with a bunch of friends, at TFM Southern HQ in Isla Vista CA.

Official TFM housemate Aaron commented on Laker uber-guard Kobe Bryant, referring to him, quite aptly I might add, as "a ballhog".

And like a bolt of lightning, this two-parter hit me:

Part #1: "We shall pass through the Mines of Moria, let us not awake the dreaded Ballhog"

This got moderate laughter, but the capper came soon after, how's this for a smashing double-reference?

Part #2: "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!"

Oh, come on, that's good, admit it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The Onion weighs in on the Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Bush and Blair in its What Do You Think? section:

"It's about time. I'm
sick of them always
giving the Peace
Prize to all those
fucking pacifists."
-Ron Hadler

Daily Kos is all over the drama surrounding the redistricting efforts by the Texas GOP, and the Dems' response. Go here and then scroll up to here. I especially appreciate the comments made by New Mexico's attorney general, check them out in the 2nd post.

Monday, May 12, 2003


The about-to-graduate Jesse seems to have come up with a pretty reasonable theory about WMD in Iraq:
I would like to point out now the Pandagon Patented Rationale For The Illusion of WMD, which was that Saddam had no real military power in the region, and kept up the veneer of having WMD to maintain a commensurate level of fear and respect both from his people and his region. From everything I've seen in post-war Iraq, this makes more sense than virtually any explanation, especially given how thorough the absence of WMD is.
What we have, then, is a combination of circumstances, both Iraqi and American, which created a critical mass leading to the invasion of Iraq. Saddam put up a masquerade overstating the possibility of his posession WMD, to show an outward face of military power, and to use as a deterrent for the countries around him. Still, if this is all the case, then he played a fast and loose game, assuming "if we actually don't have them, the US isn't going to insist, using forged/etc evidence, that we have oodles of them, are they?" Obviously, he thought the other Bush was in the White House. Thus, he's out of power.

He's out of power because America capitalized on his assertion (mostly for a regional audience) by trumpeting for all to hear that Saddam has WMD, almost has WMD, has nukes, could have nukes, is a month away from having a nuke, etc. We told the UN Security Council that we couldn't wait thirty days! The end result is that we called a bluff that we knew was a bluff (remember, this war was supposed to be part of the "war on terrah", directly pertinent to national/homeland security), and we lied to get to that point. Neither side's lie excuses that of the other side.

Sunday, May 11, 2003


Via Drudge, we have a title for the next Michael Moore documentary: "Fahrenheit 911", and as the horse reported several weeks ago, it's gonna go after the Bush administration's explotation of the 9/11 attacks. The best part? He's gonna release it pretty close to the 2004 election. Wow.
am i qualified for this? "NO!"
(er, not yet, hehe)

"we call it government work!"

Though maybe with a little more time...
PORTLAND, Ore., May 10 — Position Available: Interpreter, must be fluent in Klingon. The language created for the “Star Trek” TV series and movies is one of about 55 needed by the office that treats mental health patients in metropolitan Multnomah County.

“WE HAVE to provide information in all the languages our clients speak,” said Jerry Jelusich, a procurement specialist for the county Department of Human Services, which serves about 60,000 mental health clients.

Although created for works of fiction, Klingon was designed to have a consistent grammar, syntax and vocabulary.

And now Multnomah County research has found that many people — and not just fans — consider it a complete language.

“There are some cases where we’ve had mental health patients where this was all they would speak,” said the county’s purchasing administrator, Franna Hathaway.

County officials said that obligates them to respond with a Klingon-English interpreter, putting the language of starship Enterprise officer Worf and other Klingon characters on a par with common languages such as Russian and Vietnamese, and less common tongues including Dari and Tongan.
Couldn't they just use their money to develop the universal translator and get it over with? And hey, will conservatives go after this in their ongoing assault on all things multicultural?

Our weapons task force is packing up and leaving Iraq, unable to locate a darn shred of proof of WMD's.


We're offering a reward to Iraqis for WMD information. Yeah, that worked so well with Bin Laden.