Ukraine Pushes World to Brink of New Cold War

Ukraine Main Photo.

Update: Ukraine has chosen sides, and things aren’t looking pretty. Since the time this piece was written Friday evening, Russia has admitted to the presence of its army in Crimea (to the tune of 16,000 troops), surrounded Ukrainian military posts on the peninsula, and has refused to remove its troops in an effort, it claims, to preserve democracy and protect the millions of Russians living in Crimea.  Many Western governments have condemned Russia’s actions and threaten sanctions, including potential removal from the G-8 group of nations.  Should Western powers decide to respond with more than just rhetoric, Russia’s place within the Security Council makes United Nations action impossible.  This would force an intervention by an EU/US-led group (economically and politically) and/or NATO (militarily).


Note: This article was originally posted on February 28th, with the update on March 3rd.  More updates will follow as the situation continues to develop.

Did you guys see that? No, seriously, did you?  Because, if you blinked, I think you might have missed some of the most significant activity in the Eastern bloc since the fall of the USSR.  We’ve heard first-hand the difficulties of life in Ukraine and now the Ukrainian revolution, which began with peaceful protests encouraging Ukrainian/European integration in November 2013, has turned progressively violent in recent days and is becoming an international clusterfuck that makes up the wet dreams of Model U.N. students everywhere.

After the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last week, Ukraine’s new government was dealt a serious blow with reports that unidentified troops (bearing matching camouflage uniforms and automatic weapons) had entered the historically pro-Russian Ukrainian region of Crimea.  These forces, who have refused to identify themselves, have secured the two airports in the region, established armed checkpoints on roads, and took control of Crimea’s parliamentary building.  And, while these anonymous soldiers reek of Russian involvement, Russia’s government denies being involved in anything outside of the legal bounds of pre-existing agreements it has with Ukraine’s government.

Russia’s denial, while seemingly par for the course, raises a number of important questions that will come to define Eurasian politics for years to come: If Russia is telling the truth, then who are these heavily armed, well-organized soldiers? Who is their leader and what is their purpose for becoming involved?  How did they have access to their not-insignificant equipment and logistical capabilities? And why come out of the shadows now, when the tensions in the country could have called for their appearance at any point over the past week?  However, given the extremely pro-Russian actions of these anonymous forces (these forces just happen to be guarding the road that leads to the Russian naval base in Crimea, while hardline pro-Russian politicians now somehow populate the newly-formed Crimean government created by decree of these anonymous forces) it is fair for observers to take Russia’s proclamations of non-involvement with a grain of salt.

Crimea Soldiers

In addition, everything I’ve written of so far has ignored the increasing involvement of the Russian nationalist motorcycle gang known as the Night Wolves. When you think of the Night Wolves imagine Hells Angels, only if President Obama went on annual rides with them through disputed territories and awarded their leader (lovingly known as ‘The Surgeon’) with national medals.  The leader of the gang, Alexander Zoldostanov, flew into Crimea on Friday, with plans for a Night Wolves ride along the Eastern border of Ukraine on Saturday.

Ostensibly, the purpose of the ride is to improve spirits and to deliver supplies to ethnic Russians in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.  Yet, upon landing, Zolostanov crushed any (faint) hope of limiting the violence by stating, “Wherever we are, wherever the Night Wolves are, that should be considered Russia.”  I’m sure Ukraine’s current government would have a few points of contention with that statement.  With significant records of the relationship between Vladimir Putin and ‘The Surgeon’ available for all to see, it is highly doubtful that the gang leader would take any action without the implied approval of the leader of Mother Russia.

The Surgeon

All of this leaves Ukraine’s current leadership with little room to maneuver as it looks longingly towards Western governments to assist (economically, politically and militarily) with its transition to legitimate authority.  However, Russia’s insistence on non-involvement with these rouge troops severely limits the legal remedies available to foreign powers.  Economically, old and continuing woes within the US and Europe (remember Greece and Spain?  Yep, they’re still there) leave little likelihood that Ukraine’s government will receive the Western bailout it desires while Ukraine’s recent checkered past with the IMF leaves that path very difficult to follow, as well.  Not to mention Ukraine’s extreme reliance on Russian natural gas, which will surely dry up or increase in price should the new Ukrainian government deviate from Putin’s preferred route.

This is all to say that we are now entering territory that should be very familiar to anyone versed in international relations post-WWII.  Whether it’s Georgia, Syria, or Edward Snowden (that international eavesdropping program could be pretty helpful right about now), the U.S. and Russia have shown a willingness to be directly at odds over some very important issues.  This embrace of conflict between the two powers pushes the stakes in Ukraine ever higher and, like a number of countries had to do in the last half of the 20th century, Ukraine must quickly decide whose side it’s on.




A Thousand Miles of Fire

Which me
The Spotify listen history, Facebook, Whoever this is at my desk

Which
wholly insignificant yet shockingly accurate representation?

Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian
Christian, Buddhist, sometimes Atheist

The only me I want to know is the visceral one.
The one that’s with me in the shower.
That one that has to trust, to feel, to think.

To decide.

I dream, I nightmare
I love. Try really hard not to hate.

Bleed. Cry. Make her cum.

Be present.
Dance. Dance always.


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Plant Veins

In search of
it

Tried,
tried real hard
thought to have glimpsed
it

a Snitch. not a normal 3 hour one neither.
one of those 10 day mother fuckers.

Looked a shot at
it
square in the eye.
gave chase
it left.

(or more appropriately went batshit)
(Preach.)

Try
to fly straight
hope
to be ready

when it comes back around.


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What We Knew About the Oscars

02.27.14

We asked some friends a few days back to send us their thoughts on the Oscars.

We’ll check back in after a while to see how wrong/right we were, and what we learned in the meantime.


eonline.com
eonline.com
Derek Schuffenhauer

This is Matthew McConaughey’s year.

Rising like a phoenix from no-longer-relevant-leading-man obscurity, and transforming from the bongo drumming, happy go lucky charmer to a respected Hollywood elder statesman, I could not get enough of Matty Mac.

Even while facing stiff competition from Chiwetel Ejiofor (an actor I’ve had a man crush on ever since his role as The Agent in Joss Whedon’s Serenity), Leo, and Bale, he’s racked up so many awards on the road to the Academy Awards (Golden Globes, Broadcast Film Critics, SAG) it will be tough to derail the Matthew McConatrain. Plus, his excellent turn as the nihilistic detective Rust Cohle on True Detective has kept him in the pop culture zeitgeist and ensured no one will forget how great of an actor he can be.

Then again, what the fuck do I know. Bruce Dern will probably win.

guim.co.uk
guim.co.uk
Joe Smith

I have a whole litany of thoughts about the above-the-line categories, but I won’t waste your time with them here.  Just stop me on the street and say Inside Llewyn Davis.

I’d like to talk about the Academy Award for Best Editing. (which was won last year by the two folks in the picture above that no one can name).

Aside from the Sound categories, this has to be the least understood by both the audience and the voting body.  Year after year, the winner winds up being the movie that feels like it was “cut”–movies like The Bourne Ultimatum, with fast moving cuts that ratchet up intensity.  And sure, using editing to make things feel fast and intense is a perfectly fine demonstration of the importance of editing.  BUT the art of editing is so much more than that.

Most directors and editors refer to the editing process as “the final rewrite.”  Great editors function, under the guide of the director, to take hours and hours of raw footage and forge from it a finished picture.  It means choosing from among a dozen shot options to establish perspective and meaning.  It means shaping performances from takes that vary in intensity, pace, clarity.  It means creating powerful emotional moments by juxtaposing one moving image next to another different one.

Sometimes great editing can be so subtle you just assume the director had always intended it to play that way.  Sometimes he or she did, most times it was a discovery made months after the film was done shooting.  Editing–like writing and acting–is at its best when its at its most invisible.

So, knowing what I know about Oscar, I’m pretty certain that Gravity or Captain Phillips will win on Sunday, because they boast the most visceral of the editing in the list of nominees.  And that’s fine, because both evidence worthy work.

That said, I’d really like to see American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave, where the editing is subtle in service of sprawling performances and emotionally-driven formalism, respectively.

http://gorgview.com/
gorgview.com
Charles Qian

Like the other “major” awards shows, the Oscars represent a double edged sword that, in all likelihood, doesn’t accurately represent the “best” films of the year so much as the ones that mattered, for whatever reason, to a very specific group of people whose tastes often have very little in common with my own.

Coming to this realization was difficult, and no matter how regularly I think there’s a clear cut “best” choice for each category, I realize that the voters, and other people who care greatly about film and are equally or more knowledgeable than I am about it, can feel equally as strongly that another choice is the right one.

With that said, I know that, in 2014, the three best films I watched were 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and Upstream Color, probably in that order.  I say “best,” because my personal favorite of those three is the last.

I feel strongly that 12 Years a Slave should win Best Picture, Alfonso Cuaron should win Best Director, Matthew McConaughey and Amy Adams should win Best Actor and Actress, and Jonah Hill and Lupita Nyong’o should take the supporting awards.

Gravity should win just about every technical award, because damn.

forbes.com
forbes.com
Kevin Osman

Each of the Best Picture Nominees I’ve seen has bothered me in some way.  The protagonist of Her dismissing physical contact as a necessary aspect of a relationship, Jennifer Lawrence’s nomination for a comedy-heavy role portraying a woman who committed suicide as a result of the events the movie portrays, just a few things that I couldn’t really get behind.

The Wolf of Wall Street director Martin Scorsese has stated that he was trying to share a cautionary tale, thus forcing the audience to examine society’s role in encouraging this type of activity.

From where I sat, when the secretary was paid thousands of dollars to shave her head, no time was left for reflection before the conga line of money, drugs, and hookers retook the frame.

While positive intentions may have been there, I think more Americans left wishing they could experience a piece of Jordan Belfort’s life than thinking of the need for serious financial regulatory reforms and re-calibration of America’s moral compass.

In actuality, all Scorsese accomplished is another Best Director Nomination on his CV and the lionization of a man that represents everything he claims to be trying to fight against.

Should his movie win, Scorsese’s speech will represent the lasting impression of his movie and the message he feels the audience should take from it. Right now, I know I will be very interested to see what exactly that is.

onsugar.com
onsugar.com
Charlie Thaddeus

American Hustle is going to win a lot of awards and I think that this is going to piss people off.

I feel like this happened with Argo last year. Everyone enjoyed Argo when it came out, but then when it won Best Picture, instead of a some of the other, more divisive choices, people decided that Argo wasn’t “worthy” of the prestige. Whatever that means.The Best Picture win has somehow altered the legacy of Argo, which went from being a well-made, entertaining movie to a flawed, impostor Oscar winner.

I hate that this happens.

Is American Hustle the best movie that was made in the last year? No. But it’s safe to pick David O. Russell (all of a sudden an Oscar darling) and his cavalcade of enjoyable actors, which is why the Academy will do it. People will all of a sudden forget how much fun they had in the theater watching it. They’ll see it inevitably pop up on FX or AMC in a few months and scoff at it or make some snide comment. They’ll forget the whole reason we watch movies in the first place.

I hate that this happens.

cloudfront.net
cloudfront.net
Wesley Burger

The Oscars are out of touch and tend to lag behind reality, offering people makeup awards for the performance after the one they really should have been rewarding.

I see the ceremony this year as as series of snubs (Her and Inside Llewyn Davis were two of my favorite films), business decisions (winning an Award can great increase an actors asking price or a movie’s overall box office), and foregone conclusions (the same celebrities being celebrated, the same red carpet shtick).

That said, at it’s best the Academy Awards are an appreciation of art and a chance to turn the national conversation toward the arts and some of the really important issues in areas film often explores: Race, class, violence, history, love, family, politics, and the environment.
Film is good at that and America is good at / in love with film — it’s a mixed bag, but ultimately a cultural bonus for our country.
http://thefunambulistdotnet.files.wordpress.com/
thefunambulistdotnet.files.wordpress.com
Christian Edwards

Gravity was entirely unlike any film or life experience I can point to previously.  The most enjoyable, impressive and emotionally draining 90 minutes I’d had in some time.

For myself, and perhaps others that support this as the “best” picture of 2014, the experience of interacting with a story in the context of an unique visual and audio environment is an central tenet of the media.

I fear that we are perilously close to losing the appreciation of that interaction.  Netflix, Redbox, and other, perhaps more nefarious, ways to watch movies on your couch/laptop/tablet/phone have subconsciously removed our necessity of being “there”.

I don’t like this. I need to be “”there”.

I need my movies to be made with the intention of being consumed on a screen that can’t fit in my house.

I need the same for sound.

Mostly though, I need to not be concerned with my phone or computer or dishes or laundry and focus on the film.

If/when I won/win the lottery, I’d open an IMAX theater that only shows Star Wars IV-VI, Gravity, Avatar and Raiders.  

I’d then buy a few smaller theatres, pick some other movies that were meant to be seen on a big screen (Return of the King, Jaws, The Goonies), create an elaborate advancement/relegation system and allow the audience to vote which movies make their way up and down.

I feel like Gravity, along with Raiders and Empire, stay on that IMAX for quite some time.



Rasputin

You golden-cocked sorcerer
did you reek of resin and gunpowder?

I saw you in O’Connell’s
staggering and screaming
trying to heal hemophilia with I-Ching
sticks and burnt sandalwood, like vampires
give a good goddamm about smells—
They’re dead like you, you live with
them and you borrow their clothes

Fire and burning—
did you burn, finally?
Have you ever burned?
All that’s left of you is 10 golden inches
in a jar in Moscow.
I taste your fingers every morning
grey and boney, feeling nothing.
Have I ever felt anything real?
Have I ever burned?
Stack bottles for the crows
while we watch Russia, pregnant


  • Billy Hagberg

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Hookey, ’07

The fish circling in the current
answer none of my questions.
I hear his breathing, a tin can
wind-rolling with gravel inside.

He begins humming a song as he
unbuttons his shirt, joining me
in barechested camaraderie. I hear
ice shuffle in the cooler, giving up.

Conversation trickles between cans
that wander through the river’s eddies.
We will forget what the other said, taking
only fishgut in our fingernails to the morning.

We both start when the sun dips
below the rusting concrete refinery.
Red shade browns like a sliced apple, not
before we find the crawfish-chewed remains

of our trout, ignored more frequently through
the day. Only their heads remain
hooked beneath stones, bloodless kites
in the riverflow. We shake out the cooler, offering
each other its single can before sharing it.


  • Billy Hagberg

    Claims to be a member of the Wu-Tang Clan and cites Batman as his major poetic influence.

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How to Design New Animals

Where do we start? Should
we take some emotion like
rage or ennui or something
unnamable or maybe some
condition
          Struggling to remember a smell from childhood

          Annoyance with how one’s keys are pointed in
your pocket

          Fear of turning the age that your sister died and
continuing to age

Do we go to a clay wheel? Will
this require a kiln or is it more
of a loom activity? That must
depend on the animal— I doubt
that Mako Sharks and Spinosaurus’s
are lovingly knitted by some
old lady God in a flowing white
muumuu. But how cane we be
sure that each and every squirrel
wasn’t wrought in some Vulcan
rodent forge and carries with
it steel memories of Damascus
resolve? How can we do anything
when every action you or I does
is even more befuddling? Let’s
start simple. Bring me
the sparkles, Elmer’s Glue
and a tooth the size of my hand.


  • Billy Hagberg

    Claims to be a member of the Wu-Tang Clan and cites Batman as his major poetic influence

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HIMYM and the Dilemma of Jumping the Shark



Kevin Osman

02.25.14

http://theculturallabyrinth.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/how-i-met-your-mother.jpg
theculturallabyrinth.files.wordpress.com

I can recall the exact moment that my favorite sitcom took a great metaphorical leap over a certain deadly fish, kicking-off its slow spiral into the depths of mediocre-TV land.

Season 6, Episode 5: Ted Mobsy gets the break of a lifetime, designing a skyscraper in New York City, and who does he run into? A beautiful protester named Zoe, who would go on to terrorize How I Met Your Mother fans for the remainder of the season with her low-stakes storyline and countless boating-related jokes. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back it was so clear.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were some standout moments and episodes that occurred after Zoe’s introduction (Barney’s duck tie was fun, Robin choosing Kevin over Barney was one of the most powerful scenes in the series, and the episode dealing with the death of Marshall’s father unfortunately came on a night I was cutting up a LOT of onions). But, it was clear from season 6 forward that the HIMYM crew’s magic was dwindling.

Still, despite my complaints in the paragraph above, I have stayed and will remain a devoted fan.  I have seen every episode of the series and have no plans on giving that up with only 7 weeks left.  But, as I watched a recent episode in which Barney continued the longest night in the history of television, I thought to myself: Would I want it any other way?

 

Office Cast 850x350

Sure, I’ve cringed more than I’ve laughed for most episodes this season, but would I trade the last 3+ seasons of added episodes for a cleaner narrative arc?   And for any HIMYM fan out there: would you give up an extra 50 hours of time with characters you came to love for the opportunity to see their story lines end on the producer’s original creative timeline?  And what about fans of Lost, Homeland, Californication, House, Scrubs (but only season 9! I’m an original 8 die-hard), The Office, Glee, Roseanne, Heroes, and countless other shows?

Was Lost’s last season really that bad? Was it really such a bad thing that all the actors on The Office (many of whom will have limited opportunities to have feature roles on network sitcoms) got to collect paychecks for an extra 2 seasons?  And who doesn’t want to see David Duchovny treat Los Angeles like a sexual lazy river for as many episodes as possible?

At this point, my various feelings regarding this issue start to clash.  Take, for example, Homeland, a show whose first season was, to me, one of the greatest single seasons of television history. Watching Brody in that bunker was a revelation to me in terms of a show’s ability to build tension within the smallest of moments.  Never before had I been compelled to frantically pace around my living room on the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon, unable to look at the screen for too long because of the intense anxiety I felt, yet at the same time unable to push pause on the intense roller coaster.

Watching Season 2 (and a few episodes of season 3… Caracas lost me there) just felt like an unnecessary epilogue to an amazing story that had already been told.  I wish my last image of Carrie was of her about to undergo electroshock therapy, straining to share the truth with the world but having her desire for justice go unrequited.  However, the logical aspect of my knows that the show won a bunch of Emmys, Showtime needed a tentpole show to compete with HBO, and Claire Danes and Damien Lewis weren’t exactly drowning in high-quality roles prior to the Homeland’s success.

fanpop.com
fanpop.com

Some bemoan the lack of artistic integrity or the cash grabs made by lazy actors and producers, but who can get mad at people making money doing something they love and other people love watching them do? Last time I checked we are living in America, and the if someone can make millions of dollars coasting through 24 episodes (Hey Jason!) then who are we to be upset?

My personal opinion, as much as it bothers me, is that it is highly selfish of any fan to be bitter about the continuance of a show, no matter how painful the death spiral becomes.  Even if that death spiral includes the main character of your show spending an entire episode eating bacon. (Yes, in one recent episode HIMYM spent 22 minutes with Ted Mosby & Co. with Ted’s sole plot point being that he needed to eat a tray of bacon, but hadn’t eaten bacon before. He then proceeded to eat lots of bacon.)

In my mind I can never shake the idea that, no matter the quality of the product, there are still 200 people getting paid to do lighting, sound, catering, and costumes.  There are still writers, editors, and set builders that exist in a fickle profession which doesn’t need to be made worse by fans demanding a show stop lest it ruin its integrity.  And besides, there have gotta be people out there that feel the last two seasons of The Office is when the show really hit its stride, and who are we to tell them any different?  Not every show can have a Breaking Bad-esque run of growing popularity and critical acclaim that peaks for the final season.

There are real, normal, white-picket-fence-and-2-and-a-half-kids people affected by a show being cancelled, and their needs should be put above those of the fans being disappointed in a season 7 plot point.

Besides, if you didn’t watch Season 8 of House, did it really even air at all?




High Maintenance and the American New Wave 2.0

Joe Smith

imgshack.us
imgshack.us

Note:  This post contains discussion about various episodes of High Maintenance.  It’s not Lost or anything, but you might enjoy it more without it being spoiled.  So do yourself a favor and maybe check out a few episodes first (particularly “Heidi”).  

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Plastic

Rachael Walker

Double exposures taken with a Holga film camera.


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    A Brief Tangent on Gen1 Pokemon

    • http://images.wikia.com/

    • Ain’t No Loadin the Roster Up in Here.  NOT UP IN HERE.

      On beating the elite four, choosing a proper starting Pokemon, and using the Master Ball like a boss.

      archive | itunes

    What We Knew About the NBA’s 2nd Half

    We asked some friends a few days back to send us their thoughts on the NBA’s 2nd half.

    We’ll check back in after a while to see how wrong/right we were, and what we learned in the meantime.

    sportschump.net/
    sportschump.net/

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    Derek Recommends: Vol 1

    what I’m reading, what I’m watching, what I’m playing

    Derek Schuffenauer

    02.18.14

    In a semi-regular series, I’ll be giving y’all an update on the various media I’m currently consuming. Because I know you care. And thank you for caring.

    It’s a transitional time for me, as I just recently picked up a new game, a new TV show, and a new book. These are my experiences with each.

    See More

    Boo You Gmail.

    So Gmail has recently started considering The Morning Brief spam.

    (If you feel the same way, please feel free to unsubscribe. No hard feelings.)

    In order to avoid it ending up in spam moving forward, follow these easy steps:

    -Open your spam folder. You’ll probably have to click the “more” option.

    B1

    -Open the email w/subject “xx.xx.xx Morning Brief”

    -Click the drop down arrow in the top right corner and choose “Filter messages like this”

    B2

    -In the filter screen, enter “Morning Brief” into the Subject line. It’ll auto-populate w/ “From” as “christian@keepingitbrief.org,” and to be safe you’ll want to get rid of that.

    (That’d probably work, but the subject one should definitely work.)

    B3

    -Click “Create Filter w/This Search”

    -Choose where you want the email to land. At the very least, “Never send to spam” is probably a good call.

    Voila. You get The Brief in your inbox tomorrow like nothin happened.

    Hope all is well.

     

    nr. 1

    Do you know how to make people happy?
    I mean, in the easiest way?
    It really isn’t so hard –
    No matter what the news might say.

    Of course you can tell a joke,
    That might make them crack a smile.
    You could even walk your pet alligator,
    Whistling a tune all of the while.

    As long as no one is allergic,
    You could surely grow some nice flowers.
    But to be polite, please check first,
    Or else they’ll be sneezing for hours.

    But to do it is really quite simple.
    People aren’t so difficult, you see.
    If you want to make people happy,
    Come here, my friend, listen to me.

    The next time you go through a threshold
    Say, of a museum, an office, a store…
    See if there’s a person behind you,
    And hold open the fucking door.


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      Lessons in living a courteous life – explained in rhyme, meter and verse.

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    • ETTA



    A Brief Tangent on Mitt

    •  

      Mitt

    • On Mitt

      In light of the new Netflix documentary Mitt, KO and Christian look back at the 2012 election and wonder what someone would have to do to be a good person and still win a party nom.

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    Feeling Some Type of Way About Type of Way

    Dantonio

    I’m pretty sure my favorite song of the last two months, a song that I’ve walked around mumbling the chorus to in business attire, is about partaking in the gangbanging of someone else’s girlfriend, then subsequently mocking dude’s response while continuing about your day to day showing literally zero remorse.[ref]

    The song in question is Type of Way, and it goes hard. My reading entirely depends on the line “me and my homies g’d your ho, you feel some type of way.” but Rap Genius says I’m right.

    Back[/ref]

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    Best of the Brief – January

    Your Five Favorite Gifs

    -Andrew Luck Spits Like a Boss
    -Crash Test: 1957 vs 2007
    -Joe Biden is Not Impressed by The State of the Union
    Emma Thompson Ain’t Got Time for Shoes
    -Jamal Charles Lit Up by Teammate During Pro Bowl

    A Not-so-Brief Reading List

    -Actually have a pretty solid set of recommendations built up.  Reminder:  There’s a pretty good chance you can find these at your local library, which is likely free. Long live the library.

    …And Dinner for Darn Near a Month

    -All of these can be made with items you (should) have in your kitchen and less than five other ingredients.

    The Most Newsworthy News

    State of the Union Fact Check

    The Best of the Rest

    -Pre/Post Sandy Google Map
    -“Miles just called…”
    -Snow trapped drunk dude makes Craiglist ad for Taco Bell driver
    -Not giving a damn, in 12 pictures
    -Because I Said I Would

    …And the One that Mattered the Least

    -News anchor interrupts former Congresswoman to break Justin Beiber news.