Monday, December 24, 2007

Dialing up a good blog

With nothing to do and armed with but a dial-up modem (Fort Dodge, IA: Where it always 1996!) I have successfully wasted nearly all of this Christmas Eve Morning, which is possibly the mom nonsensical string of nouns and adjectives I've ever heard used on broadcast television, which is saying quite a bit.

Anyhoo, in reflecting on many year-end lists and what not, as usual the Onion has effectively destroyed them through superior, cynical sarcastic displays. And also as usual, they have a much better take on most subjects than pretty much anyone involved. For instance, check out their statsheet on the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal:

The discovery of a dogfighting ring in a house owned by Michael Vick has led to speculation of what other secrets the Falcons quarterback might be hiding. Onion Sports runs down the potentially damaging sights that frequent visitors to Vick's mansion have reported witnessing

Embarrassingly thick glasses Vick needs to see more than 20 yards in front of him

A fully annotated slam book, evidence that Vick and his friends can get pretty catty when they get together and start talking

Empty beer cans everywhere, because although Vick is well over legal age, something about empty beer cans always seems to add drama to an already troublesome situation

Authentic original of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," implying that either the version in the Oslo museum or the one owned by Norwegian billionaire Petter Olsen are in fact forgeries

Over 200 tubes of lipstick in various tastefully understated shades

Perfectly legal, albeit tasteless, cat-fighting set-up

Framed diploma proving that Oxford University awarded Vick a doctorate in Jacobean theater during the 2003 offseason

Water cooler with secret compartment containing stash of Oreos

Assorted helmets, pads, and other gladiatorial gear, presumably for use in some grotesque human-versus-human bloodsport

Note that last one. In all the uproar and Peta protests and all of that hoopla, what was conspicuously missing from the discussion was the fact that football (as much as enjoy it) is far more gruesome and damaging than dogfighting.

The counter-argument against this is usually that pro football players get paid millions of dollars. However, this really only applies to the elite few. The average NFL career is 4 years and the average life expectancy of an NFL player is 50, due to the stress the put their bodies through. Think about that: these players literally sacrifice a quarter of their lives to play football for a couple of years. Not to mention the fact that most of them spend their retirement in intense pain and often in poverty, given the terrible treatment retirees are given by the NFL and the astounding medical costs to deal with their old playing injuries.

I'd like to draw some sort of grandiose conclusion about a society that sends you to jail for two years for hurting a dog yet gives millions upon millions of dollars to owners and executives who force human beings to work themselves quite literally to death for them, but it's Christmas Eve Morning, so I'll leave that for a future post.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry War on Christmas

Before I shut this thing down for the holidays in a little bit, I'm hoping to get a flurry of interesting stuff out there...or at least enough to justify coming back to read this thing. Anyway, here's an interesting recent video:

It's part of an effort by Robert Greenwald, master of the quickie-leftist documentary (see Outfoxed, Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, etc.), to step up the boycott of Fox News. Two Democratic front-runners, Obama and Edwards, have alreay publicly declared a boycott of all-Fox sponsred events.

Now, I understand that the Deomcrats are not much better or much more desirable than the Republicans, but if they were to enact a whole-sale boycott of Fox News, it could actually do something positive. Recenly, Fox has begun to slip from the highest-rated cable news network into the land of shrill partisan shouting so slanted that even the American public views it with distrust. And for a politics/news channel, a boycott by one of the two major parties pretty much spells death. If not death, at least a Ralph Nader-like decline into an oblivion where even the people who agree with you no longer want to be associated with you.

So check out the video, head on over to the site, sign the petition, and hope the Dems grow a pair sometime soon...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Update: Troops don't support the troops

In my last post I began to address the out-dated notion that you can't support the troops without supporting the war. Well, today's Los Angeles Times reports that apparently families of active-duty personnel and the soldiers themselves don't support the troops. I tried to reproduce the poll graphic here, but it's too small to legible. It's embedded in the article, or you can look at the most interesting response here.

When asked about when the troops should be brought home, more families of soldiers in Iraq and veterans of Iraq want them home immediately than do those in the general public. Similarly, the same number of vets as the general public think the war was not worth it that (60%).

For people not familiar with military culture, this is huge. It is incredibly rare for members of the American Armed Forces to ever publicly discredit the president, even more so during war time.

So this brings us to the inevitable question: America wants the troops home. The citizens want the troops home, the military wants the troops home, everybody wants the troops home. Why won't our elected officials bring them home?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Supporting the Troops

By now it is such a moot point that it's become a cliche to say you can support the troops and not support the war. Or maybe (more likely) it's become cliche in the circles I run in. Either way, though, pretty much every American has to have seen at least one "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home/End the War/Etc." sign, pin, or bumper sticker by now.

So that's not really the problem anymore (yeah, I know there are plenty of people who think otherwise, but just grant me this for the sake of argument). The real problem is that nobody looks at what the other side is doing. Namely, how are those supporting the war, and especially those who started the warm, supporting the troops?

It's still criminally under-reported that the Bush administration has been cutting veteran's benefits since the start of the war and continues to do so. And let's not forget the famous "hobo armor" stories of soldiers who have to patch together their own safety armor, or the stories of families purchasing flak jackets themselves to send to their relatives in Iraq and Afghanistan who were not equipped with armor.

But even more criminal than the cuts and the shoddy armor are the ways in which the soldiers who have returned home are being almost completely ignored in many instances. This was brought to light recently when a CBS investigation turned up the fact that there are 120 veteran suicides per week. Coupled with the fact that Veterans make up the largest percentage of the homeless, with even conservative estimates putting it at 33% of all homeless being veterans of some branch of the military, this paints a very bleak picture.

This isn't to just grind a political axe (though I could point out that my anti-war actions in no way effect veterans, whilst the actions of those in power who say I don't support the troops significantly negatively effect them), but rather to simply point out the completely criminal nature of our military system. The people we task with fighting for our country (rightly or wrongly) are thanked with debilitating injuries for which they receive little to no care, mental illness for which they rarely if ever receive care, and massively disproportionate rates of homelessness.

So, to beat a dead horse, who is supporting the troops?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yeah, it's cliche, but...

Over at MSN, they're once again loudly touting those brilliant business minds who have figured out how to not pay taxes.

The reasons given for not paying taxes are even more laughable than the already low tax rates most major corporations have. For example, DirecTv paid only 2% in taxes last year because of "historical losses." Yeah, why should they have to pay taxes when they're down on their luck? It's just like the way I barely make any money so I don't have to pay taxes...oh wait, I'm taxed quite heavily despite having .000013% the income of DirecTv.

Or how about Broadcom, a semiconductors manufacturer? Well, they pay 1.1% in taxes because while they made $703 million overseas, they "lost" $336 million domestically. And yes, that still means they made well over $350 million in profits, but hey, who's counting? Oh, and before you go crying for them about their domestic losses...well, they aren't really loses. Broadcom is just one of many corporations to put it's highly developed Research & Development wings (which require highly educated and trained workforces) in the U.S. while they put their manufacturing (which does not require costly education or training) overseas, in this case Singapore.

As such, while they continue to make obscene profits, they're technically losing money in the U.S. As such, they pay incredibly low taxes because their domestic earnings are so low. Never mind the money all goes to the same place (which is inside the U.S.), or that the money they're "losing" in the U.S. is simply part of the payroll of any tech company. They simply figured that if they split it up like that they won't have to pay taxes. And this is all legal.

So you know, just something to think about when you're filling out your taxes this year. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking I'll start counting the money I make from teaching foreign students as over-seas expenditures. That oughtta bump me down a tax bracket or two...

Monday, December 03, 2007

The run up to war...again

It's fairly amazing, when you get down to it, how recent wars have been fought on evidence roughly as credible as notes passed in eighth grade math ("Do you like neo-liberal hegemony? Check yes or no"). By now, everyone (hopefully) knows about how the U.S. case for the invasion of Iraq was almost entirely predicated on the testimony of Ahmed Chalibi, which of course turned out to be completely made up.

But the fact that it's made up doesn't matter. Because even though the Bush administration itself has admitted it fabricated every reason for going to war, we're already there. There's already hundreds of thousands of people dead, and the Democrats sure as hell aren't going to do anything because then they won't look as tough as the Harvard and Yale-educated, Conneticut-born cheerleader who likes to play dress up.

Well, not surprisingly, the exact same thing is happening with Iran. While the big Lie has yet to come (is Iran looking for yellowcake yet? Probably! Stay tuned!), the little lies that fan the flames are already coming.

Case in point: the National Review Online, the elctronic version of the hyper-conservative National Review, has a regular feature writeen by ex-Marine/"reporter" W. Thomas Smith, Jr. Smith has been fabricating lies left and right on the NRO website, with the biggest being that "thousands" of Hezbollah forces were invading the Christian section of Beirut, a claim which turns out to be completely made up. A good overview of what's going on here.

And what was the National Review's response to this completely fabricated story? Some good ol' timey racism. According to the editor's of NRO, it's not Smith's fault that he completely lied about what's going on; rather, it's actually due to the "Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate."


Anyway, when this Smith guy is sitting next to the first lady at the next State of the Union address being touted as the only reporter courageous enough to expose those dirty I-ranians and allow the U.S. to invade, and then three months later the government quitely apologizes as all of his stories and "facts" have been proven to be completely false, just remember that you heard it from me first.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Week in the Arts

As usual with my increased free time around the ol' Thanksgiving holiday, I've been filling as much of my life as possible with as many entertaining, non-school-related bits of work I can before I return to the soul-crushing drudgery of my life. So here are, in no particular order, the more interesting things I saw/heard last week:

M.I.A. w/ opening act The Cool Kids at First Avenue

You know, I'm not really much of an M.I.A. fan, but this was a really fun show. I think it stems from the fact that her music is dance music, and isn't really something you just plug in and sit there listening to. Because let's be frank; if you can tell the difference between any two M.I.A. songs you are either a shaman of some kind or a liar.

But live? Live is a whole different story. With incredible energy and dance moves that can only be described as nearly as confusing as her singing, it's a fun time. Plus, the Cool Kids turned out to be a quite pleasant surprise. I must admit I was pretty wary of a band I'd never heard of that also had such a stupid, stupid name, but they know how to rock the mic. Highly recommend them if you are a fan of rap from the years 1988-1992.

No Country for Old Men

The Coen brothers are a rare pairing in that they barely ever make flops. Widda T likes to say the only reason they made The Ladykillers is because their new dog had bladder control issues and they couldn't afford a new carpet, which is the best explanation I've heard thus far.

Fortunately, this is no Ladykillers. No Country is probably the best serious Coen brothers movie since Fargo (I say serious because Lebowski is beyond reproach, but of a completely different style of brilliance). It's always pretty much impossible to sum up one of their movies, so I'll just say I highly recommend this. And the ending...I won't ruin it, but it was one of the most challenging and interesting movie endings I've seen since Gone, Baby Gone (a highly under-rated flick). Definitely should make your "Best Of" year-end list you've got kicking around in your head.

I'm Not There

I must admit I'm still torn on this one. I'll really need another viewing before I can say definitively how I feel about it, though I definitely lean toward the positive. I like the idea of having 6 different people play Dylan, with only one of them even attempting to look like him (Cate Blanchet, ironically). As Dad pointed out, even if that wasn't the best way to do it, it sure as hell beat whatever they could've done as a straight biopic (see: Walk The Line).

But some parts of it failed to impress. Possibly the worst decision was the attempt to integrate Dylan lyrics into the movie. At best, they thudded awkwardly into the conversation, but often they felt more like Scary Movie-style mentions of pop culture that reward even the stupidest viewer for having once heard a chart-topping Dylan song. But despite it's significant flaws, it's moments of brilliance kept me engaged. Any time a two-hour plus movie doesn't drag at all, you know something was done correctly.

Well, having experienced a pretty satisfying week of living, I turn back to my insular world devoid of meaning and free time...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Will write journal-length academic papers for food

Got a thick(er) envelope from the folks at Deviant Behavior today, but it turned out to be another rejection letter. Which is a bit disappointing, seeing as they're not that great of a journal. It's kind of like being turned down by the homely girl at the least you were kind of expecting rejection from the pretty one.

So it's back to drawing board again...sigh...always an academic bride's mate, never a published bride...

Friday, November 23, 2007

This, my friends, is the stuff dreams are made of...

As I noted round abouts this time last year, I've never been successful in my attempts to leave the kiddie table.

But what a difference a year makes. After sustained complaints, my family (albeit quite sarcastically) finally let me move on up to that de-luxe dinning table in the dinning room, as it were. I didn't get to move up to a full bed this year, but at least I got to move onto a couch in the upstairs living room, which receives heat. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

And let me tell you, the adult table is everything I thought it would be and more. Real chairs! Real table! Real words used in conversation!

Suddenly, the world is my playground. Food tastes better, the sky is bluer, the young ladies are more comely, and the slow-gripping desperation brought on by neo-liberal hegemony seems less overwhelming.

But more importantly, I feel as if I've finally crossed one of the great thresholds into the strange land of adult-hood. Today, I can stand in front of my God and my peoples and say unequivocally that I am indeed a Man, with a capital M, for that is now my right.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Man, there weren't toys like this when I was a kid...

A friend came across this playmobil set in Target. Yes, Target.

In case the details escape you, it's a WTO-protest anarchist vs. cop playset. Hopefully Arise! will be carrying them soon, just in time for the holidays. Perfect for that anti-authoritarian on your list!

UPDATE: Arise! indeed does carry them now. Stop in and buy yours today--teach your children how to fight authority while simultaneously supporting collective bookstores! It's a win-win!

Monday, November 19, 2007

My two cents on the writer's strike

Possibly the best thing to come out of the writer's strike thus far is ironically a demonstration of the power of the internet as a superior medium for communication. The writer's union has (not suprisingly) come up with the clever idea of putting together internet sketches, some parodying the shows they write for and some just simple interviews, but all discussing the strike and explaining what is going on broadly and giving the latest updates. They're now posting them regularly on YouTube as a way of forcing the agenda into the media, which for some reason doesn't seem to be providing very good coverage of a strike against, well, them. As a propaganda tool, it could not be more cleaver. Unions especially, but the entire progressive left generally, could take an example from this as a powerful model of strike/protest actions moving outside the status quo. Similarly, the media could take this as an example that the internet is indeed at least of equivalent importance to television, and that the writers should be compensated for their internet work.

The best one I've found thus far--"Not the Daily Show" starring One of the Writers:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

News round up in a bad day for America

Two articles jump out at me this morning as I peruse the daily news:

First, the U.S. has fallen to 15th in average worker income.

And second, in what I can only hope is un-related news, the U.S. has been called a haven for war criminals.

It's fun to put news stries side-by-side and wonder about the state of this nation.

In a bit of slightly positive news, the Edwards campaign has said that if elected, he will introduce a bill that would strip Congress of their healthcare until they institute universal healhcare.

Now it's not a very good plan in that it still allows for insurance companies to rape and pillage, but it is a serious attempt from a recognized candidate to force the issue of single payer healthcare, which is a pretty big sea change from only a decade ago.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What have I become?

Last night, while reading a book I might include in the syllabus I'm preparing, I checked an end note. You know, the little number that appears after every so many sentences in academic books that corresponds to a number in the back of the book in the midst of a bewildering collection of diagrams, notes, and 10 point font.

And while I excitedly checked to see what book was being refferenced in the text, I stopped myself and wondered aloud how I had gotten to this moment. Here I was, nerdily flipping to the back of the book to find out what was cited. Not only that, but I was actually interested. I had followed the author's aside and honestly wanted to know where this information was coming from.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being excited about learning. Being a grad student, I would pretty much have to be a nerd who's excited about learning, or I never would have made it this far. But even I have limits. Even I have sighed loudly with relief upon noticing that the last 20 pages of the chapter I've been assigned are actually the end notes, meaning it's 20 pages less of reading. I've always pondered the very existance of such notes, knowing, just knowing deep down in my heart that no one but no one actually reads these things.

I mean, what the hell could be back there that would be worth searching through all of those notes, tucked away between the index (useful) and research design(whaa?!?)? The cure for cancer? The recipie for a low-fat brownie that doesn't let you down in the flavor department? What Meatloaf wouldn't do for love? I had always figured they were just a way to pad page numbers, built on the flawless assumption that you get paid more for writing a bigger book (though I still think that might be true).

But now here I am. Here I sit before God and all of you, my faithful reader(s), and admit that I have read an end note. But not only read it; I have seriously considered going out and finding the book refferenced.

How the hell did I get to this point? Man, graduate school is a weird process.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not sure what this means, but...

in yet another blatant bit of theivery from you-gun:

cash advance

Congratulations. If you have ever read and understood my blog, you are apparently smart enough to graduate from high school. Or, conversely, I'm smart enough to write things that sound like I graduated from high school. I think the both of us should be notably proud of our collective accomplishment.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Veterans Day

And as a reminder, those who have fought for our country and received debilitating physical and mental injuries are woefully under-cared for. For instance, my cousin was talked into an honorable discharge form the Navy one week shy of the time required for medical benefits. Now she's in third stage kidney failure and can't afford the bills, and our compassionate armed services have politely told her to fuck off.

Oh, and one of every four homeless people is a veteran. That pretty well sums up our collective level of commitment to them.

And I'm the one who doesn't support our troops...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Race and Capital Punishment

In doing some work for Contexts, the "public sociology" journal that recently came here to Minnesota, I ran across some really interesting work on the death penalty. In addition to finding out that only 10% of those sentenced to death are ever actually executed (crazy, huh?), these two recent artciles by David Jacobs and friends had some pretty interesting findings.

Probably the most interesting was that civil-rights protests reduce both public support for and the number of executions, and are the most important factor in doing so. As a person who's had to answer the "why do you bother protesting? it's not going to change anything" qustion/annoyance several thousand times, that's a pretty comforting finding.

Another major finding in these two articles was that the death penalty is applied in an inherently racist way (surprise, surprise), but that it probably works differently than you think. While the race of the person convicted definitely matters, the race of the victim is the much bigger factor. Not surprisingly, those convicted of killing a white victim are far, far likelier to actually be executed than those sentenced to death for killing a black person.

Anyway, sometimes it's hard to write posts like this because if you still believe the death penalty isn't a racist form of state-sponsored murder, then you most likely live in a gumdrop house at the end of lollipop lane and frolic all day in the sugar cane forests with magic elves and pixies, and therefore scientific findings don't mean anything to you. But nonetheless, I think it's pretty interesting.

If you're a huge nerd and would like to find out more, check out these articles at your local library:
--Jacobs, David and Stephanie L. Kent. 2007. The Determinants of Executions since 1951: How Politics, Protests, Public Opinion, and Social Divisions Shape Capital Punishment. Social Problems 54 (3): 297-318
--Jacobs, David, Zhenchao Qian, Jason T. Carmichael, and Steaphnie L. Kent. 2007. Who Survives on Death Row? An Individual and Contextual Analysis American Sociological Review 72: 610-632

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why the Patriots actually suck, almost as bad as the insular media

Yet another football-related post.

Unfortunately, this past sunday, the Patriots beat the Colts 24-20, keeping their perfect season alive and allowing everyone at ESPN to open up a little bit wider and take the Patriots collective cock a bit further down their throat. Recently there was a good critique at the A/V Club about the problem with ESPN is that while it used to be a sympathetic yet good and critical outsider approach to sports (a la the New York Times) it has become a sycophantic sports-worship machine with posts filled by former athletes who will never question the game (a la the Wall Street Journal).

The current Patriots are a good case in point. The NFL is the un-disputed king of major league sports in America, but it jealously gaurds its place atop the sports mountain and is always clawing for new markets. And let us not forget the spectacular failure that has been their attempt to branch out into foreign markets, especially when compared with the success of baseball and basektball internationally. As such, the NFL, and it's underling ESPN, needs the Patriots. They need a team that's dominant, fun to watch, and yet ever-so-humble.

The problem is, the cracks are starting to show. For example, the Patriots are the most class-less team in all of professional sports, constantly running up the score. Two weeks ago, they even went for it on 4th and 1 with a 28 point lead in the 4th quarter, jsut to run up the score. What has the response been from the commentators at the major sports network? The consensus seems to be that if other teams have a problem with it, they should stop them. Much like the way I'm sure they would look at their mother getting raped on the street and say that if she has a problem with it, she should stop the guy, but that's fodder for a whole different post on the conservtaive individualism of sports broadcasting.

What no one seems to be pointing out (possibly because they've gotten a bit too cozy with each other) is the reason why the Patriots are so good:

Because they cheat.

They were caught illegally filming other team's practices to know their plays ahead of time. When they were caught, the league issued a fine and tried to bury the story, because as we've covered, they need the Patriots. But this does complicate the "if you don't like, play better" response: maybe the other teams (like the Colts) are playing well, but they aren't cheating.

And maybe we could cut out the praise of Bill Belicheck, the asshole who everyone thinks is a genius but already been proven to be nothing but a cheater with a bunch of good players. I think any coach could look like a genius if they knew what plays the other team was going to run.

For example, look at the coaches who have left. Remember how Charlie Weiss was an offensive genius? Well, now he's in charge of some of the greatest college football players in the nation, and yet cant score points to save his life, while the Fightin' Irish are en route to their worst season ever. Maybe it turns out that he's not so much as genius as it's really easy to look like one when you have the other guy's plays ahead of time.

All of which you think would make fodder for a great story, but not when the media needs this to go away just as much as the league does. Then there is no story. But the bigger problem is that when this happens with sports, it's annoying at worst. But the exact same process is going on with things that really matter (such as the impending war with Iran), and nobody's getting upset about that either. I guess it just goes to show that no one ever wants to question the motives of a Patriot, even when they're clearly lying.

UPDATE: Turns out Don Shula agrees with me.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

On this day 402 years ago, a group of Catholics in London, assisted by explosives expert Guy Fawkes (pictured above as he may have looked if he were a bad-ass super hero) were foiled in their plot to blow up Parliament and thereby assassinate the king and most members of the protestant aristocracy. Check out the pretty good wikipedia entry here.

The move triggered some increased freedom for Catholics, although it would be another 200 years before Catholic emanciaption was finally brought to the United Kingdom. While it's still mostly celebrated as an English day of rememberance, it marks an important international turning point for the freedom of Catholics.

Guy Fawkes has over time become a sort of cult hero amongst some, especially after the release of Alan Moore's superb graphic novel and later not-so-superb movie V for Vandetta.

So mark the day today, for it's a nice day to remember. Suggested activities include fireworks (as they do in Britain, Canada, and a few other paces in the British Isles) or acts of terrorism against oppresive governments. They're both pretty, but require varying degrees of commitment.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why this commie still watches football

Two words: Adrian Peterson.

If you did not watch the Vikings game today (possibly doing work that desperately needs to be done, unlike me) then you are a grade A sucka. Adrian Peterson just put on possibly the best game of football I've ever seen, and I've watched a fair amount of football for a chap my age.

For crying out loud, the man just set the NFL single-game ruching record as a rookie. I know the Vikes are not looking dood at all this season (hey, it's touch plyaing without a quarterback or reciving corps), but this paints a rather rosy picture for the franchise. I personally would argue they should call this a practice season, tank the rest of their games, and then pick up one of tha half-dozen really good QBs that are going to be in next year's draft. And before you laught at the suggestion, just note that fact that tanking last year and getting a top-10 pick has seemed to work out pretty damn well thus far.

Anyway, without getting too excited off a caffeine-buzz/home-team win, you've got to admit Peterson clearly has the potential to be one of the greatest, possibly even better than that LT guy on the other team who had a pretty lackluster day. It really makes me want to wax poetic about the beauty of the savage ballet that is football, but I just spent three hours loving every minute of it and am now painfully behind for the day.

But then again, the Colts/Pats game is just starting, and that could prove to be fairly entertaining as well...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You have got to be shitting me...

The Central Intelligence Agency has recently un-veiled it's new "terrorist buster" logo

Yes, this is the actual logo.

No, I'm not making this up.

Though it does explain a great deal. It must actually be that these people are not evil, there's simply a river of ectoplasm running under the Whitehouse, and Dick Cheney's body is actually posessed by the spirit of Vigo the Carpathian.

See, I knew these people couldn't actually be that crazy...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why I Love Free e-mail...

Surprisingly, it's not some angrily dogmatic Marxist celebration of equity. It's shit like the picture above. I think that woman is supposed to be dancing around sensuously to her favorite music...? I don't know, it's the best I can do to figure out what it's actually supposed to be. But seriously, give me a compelling argument as to why it isn't just some woman listening to music and smelling her armpits. Thank you, Yahoo! music services. I now know your music is so good it will make me want to smell my armpits. That's very informative and helpful.

But when you log into your Yahoo! page, you don't go straight to your inbox. That would simply be too ludicrous a function for an e-mail server. Rather, you go to some weird, nebulous void of internet space and are bombarded with today's headlines, sports scores, and all sorts of awkwardly dancing silhouettes who are presumably happy of the falling mortgage rates.

And these headlines I speak of? The most important news you will ever need to know. For example, through Yahoo! I have learned that New Orleans is one of the laziest cities in America. Out of respect, I will make no joke about evacuations. I'm saddened to report that it doesn't get any more rosy elsewhere. For example, you wouldn't ever want to relocate to Philadelphia, America's ugliest city.

Thank you, Yahoo! You and your disturbingly up-beat exclamation mark have made me the informed citizen I am today. And lose some weight, Philadelphia; you're getting even fatter than your lazy-ass brother, New Orleans.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The City That Almost Was and Then Wasn't

Anybody get the Simpsons refernce in the title? Just checking to see if it's too obscure or not...

This past friday eve during my shift at the good ol' neighborhood radical info shop (though not the one in my neighborhood...not that it matters, but the kids are easily confused these days), I was pleasantly suprised by the screening of new documentary, Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea.

It's a fascinating look at what can only be described a modern day ghost town (narrated by the legendary John Waters, none-the-less). The Salton Sea was formed accidentally at the run of the century by a design mistake in irrigation fields. It sat as a little-used curiosity until the 1950s, when an enterprising group of entrepreneurs attempted to turn it into a second Palm Springs (the actual Palm prings being only a few dozen miles away).

While it did indeed enjoy a brief period of immense popularity, a series of environmental and political disasters have decimated the once-thriving town. Now there are only a few thousand people who still cling to their bit of paradise amongst economic ruin. The towns surrounding the sea once again enjoy some popularity, but mostly with young skate-boarders taking advantage of the many empty swimming pools and free-spirits & those running from the law who come to enjoy the lack of supervision or really government in any form. In other words, it's basically a ghost town for the new millenium.

The few locals left largely match these visitors in both poverty and colorful personality. It's not all a rosy story, though, as both environmntal and geographic racism/classism figure prominently into the fate of the greater Salton region. It's an interesting meditation on what could have been and what sadly currently is. Highly recommend it. Check the website for a list of up-coming screenings or to just buy it, you cheap-ass. If you're in the Minneapolis area, fret not, while you may have missed it this weekend, it will be coming back in November.

And as a last word to get you to check it out, this screening (as are almost all of them) was attended by co-director Chris Metzler, who in addition to being talented film-maker, is possibly one of the nicest and most knowledgeable people you'll meet. It's simultaneously a funny, powerful, and heart-wrenching story of a bizarre piece of Ameicana. You could find many worse ways to fill up 75 minutes of your life.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mojitos and State-Sponsored Terrorism

Recently, Bush has been stepping up the pressures on Cuba, calling for the "freeing" of the Cuban people. However, as a representative of the Cuban governtment, Felipe Pérez Roque, noted, this is really "an unprecedented escalation in the anti-Cuba policy" and an attempt at "the re-conquest of Cuba by force."

Humorously, Bush announced he was thinking about softening the 40+ year embargo so that religious philanthropy groups could bring computers into Cuba, a little odd for a nation with hundreds of thousands of computers and near-universal internet access.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that Castro is a particularly great fella, and I'm completely for free and open elections as well as a free and independent media. There are many more ways in which one could validly criticise Castro, but to imply that the Cuban people are hampered or "backward" because of state socialism is completely laughable.

For example, Cuba has lower infant mortality rates and higher literacy rates than the United States of America. Yes, a tiny island nation under embargo from half of the world for the past half-century manages to have far-superior health and education systems than the richest and most powerful nation in the world. I'm still waiting for a convincing argument as to how this proves that socialism doesn't work.

But what makes Bush's latest round of threats even more odd is that they are explicitly the kind of terrorist tactics we're wasting trillions of dollars supposedly fighting in the Middle East. He's even go so far as to propose the creation of an "International Fund for the
Freedom of Cuba," to basically fund any and all attempts to overthrow Castro and instill a capitalist regime in Florida's peskiest neighbor.

In retalitaion, the Cuban government issued a statement of initiatives they could agree to support:

1. Respect for Cubans' right to their independence and sovereignty.

2. An immediate end to the policy of aggression and threat.

3. An end to intervention in Cuba's internal affairs and attempts to manufacture an internal opposition.

4. An end to subversive acts against Cuba and the dismantling of the radio and television that offend the name of the national hero (José Martí).

5. The immediate lifting of the blockade.

6. The elimination of the ban on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens and family visits by Cubans living there.

7. An end to the stimulation of illegal emigration from Cuba. The repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the fulfillment of the Migratory Agreements.

8. An end to the aggressive disinformation campaigns.

9. The release of the five anti-terrorist fighters, political prisoners in U.S. jails.

10. The extradition of the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela or his trial in the United States.

11. The immediate closure of the torture center he created on the Guantánamo Naval Base.

12. The cessation of pressure on the international community to support his anti-Cuba policy.

Again, say what you will about the Cuban government, but not only are these demands more rational than Bush's, they also comply with international law, which is supposedly "the supreme law of the land" according to the Constitution. I know, I know, but I'm still one of those people who foolishly believes the Constitution still exists for some purpose.

Anyway, just something to muse over this weekend...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Insular Academic Post on the Importance of Education

This post is complety irrelevant to those outside of academia (well, I could make an argument on how it's relevant, but you know), so unless you're an academic or really bored, this would be a good time to wander over to ebay and start bidding on velour jumpsuits. They're comfortable and stylish, and unlike this post, are appropriate for all occasions.

With that out of the way, we had a long and interesting discussion in my Sociology of Higher Educaiton class today about reading loads for undergraduate students. Some argued that in light of the many demands on today's undergraduate students, most notably the many hours they must work to afford higher education, we should keep readings light, some arguing for no more than 20 pages of reading a week. The argument goes that students are too busy to read anyway, so we may as well keep the readings short and really delve into them.

And there's definately something to be said for such arguments. After all, students are working more than ever (most of our Soc undergrads work an average of 20 hours a week) and it's always a challenge to balance breadth and depth.

When I noted that the actual problem is a capitalist system that doesn't value or fund education, everyone agreed, but the arguments didn't change. And while I'm always one to advocate for student needs, I find it extremely problematic that the solution is to de-value education even further.

The vast majority of students would never think of asking their employer to cut back on their hours of work because it is interfering with school. And they would certainly never ask for the same amount of pay for these reduced hours (though they really should). However, this is exactly what they're asking of us. They want the same degree and all of its inherent benefits, but with only a fraction of the work that was once expected.

The counter-argument that I can already hear is that they need the work to pay their bills and afford school. True, but if they completely sacrifice their education to pay for it, what purpose did it serve in the first place? Is their job washing dishes truly more important than their education?

Saying that we should reduce course workloads to accomidate students higher pay workloads simply serves to reinforce the idea that education is secondary to capitalist accumulation. The purpose of a college education is to learn, not to wash dishes, and not even to earn a piece of paper that allows you to get a better job upon completion. But instead of crititcally examining such issues, we instead wring our hands about how we can best stay out of the way of the neo-liberal pressures that our destroying our universities.

Of course, we could instead be debating how to best pressure administrators to cut tution, or how to convince elected officials to fully fund public education, or even more effectivley, how to end the capitalist economic relations that cause these tensions in the first place, but that's the kind of critical thinking we don't particularly care to encourage in higher education.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The unintended positive of internet piracy

Like pretty much every other human being of my generation, I'm very pro-internet piracy. But it's not just the free music. Don't get me wrong, I hear the free music is great (but given recent events around here, I would like to make clear that I would never, ever do something as heinous as download music...), but I love internet piracy because I think it is going to save the future of American music.

The claim floated from the industry is that record sales are down because of internet downloading. Defenders of downloading claim that it's just the shitty music the industry is making, as record execs similarly opposed blank cassettes for home recording, MTv, and multiple other venues "destined" to destroy the industry. However, contrary to these previous claims, it seems that internet downloading could actually destroy the current state of record companies (but alas, even I can't dream big enough to think the record companies will be destroyed).

And I couldn't be happier. If the internet actually were to take all of the profit out of recorded music, it would do nothing but good for all of music. Think about it--the only way for performers to make money would be to go back to relentless touring that would provide a great, but not ridiculous, lifestyle. Would Justin Timberlake be in music if he could only keep an upper-middle class lifestyle through constant effort? Maybe, but I'm not entirely sure about it.

In fact, without the current star-production system, with performers being forced back into refining their playing skills instead of relying on pre-recorded music and highly-trained dance teams, performers wouldn't be able to fake their way into millions of dollars with little-to-no talent. Don't get me wrong, I like the spectacle of big stage shows. But there is a big difference between those who use lavish sets and pre-recorded clips to put on a consumate show (think Flaming Lips) and those who do the same to mask their bland and unimaginative music (think the entire Pop Tarts® Presents: American Idol Tour).

But it's even bigger than destroying pop stars (which would be great). At the heart of it, what I really yearn for is a return to music being connected ot the people. Maybe it's just my punk aesthetic left over from my younger days, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly prefer stadium shows to intimate venues. I'm reminded of a story a good friend's uncle always tells of the time he saw Johnny Cash shooting up in a bathroom in a bar in Prarie Du Chien. It blows my mind to think that only 30 years ago many world-famous performers still made their living through relentless touring and building a fan base, instead of drinking Cristal from gold-platted chalices while occassionally recording music. It's inconceivable to think of running into a celebrity like that in such a situation now, because no musician that makes more than ten dollars a year would ever set foot in Prarie Du Chien, Wisconsin (not that I can blame them).

In the end, though, that's what it comes back to. I want my performers to be regular folk, who walk off-stage after the show and have a beer at the bar, instead of retiring to their grandiose tour van, protected from the people who pay their salary by dozens of beefy and angry security gaurds. In other words, it would be nice if mainstream musicians were human beings again, making music for and with their fans again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blog Action Day

So it's Blog Action Day, a day in which bloggers are supposed to all blog on the same issue as a way of raising awareness. This year's theme is "the environment." Yeah, it's that vague.

I don't ever want to discourage actions such as these. I mean, seeing as it's a basically no cost way to theoretically raise awareness about an important subject it's hard to call it a bad thing. But I say theoretically because I can't see too much awareness being raised by it. The problem with such blanket issue ideas like this is that they are of necessity watered-down. There's no way you can get a million bloggers to all agree on something unless it's pretty weak. For example, I highly doubt that the same amount of people would have agreed to blog on the issue if it were putting forth clear-cut calls for real change. Note that we're just supposed to blog about the environment, not call for an end to te capitalist organization of the world economy that is directly responsible for the majority of wasteful and harmful anti-environmental practices that are killing the earth.

Furthermore, there's always the self-selection process. Because of recent high-profile events surrounding the environment (up to and including the stupidest Nobel Peace Prize award since Hank Kissinger), there are very few people unaware of the current environmental crisis. In addition, it's become such a politicized issue that it's pretty likely all those who see a problem with the environment will gravitate to those blogs that speak to a need for change, and those who think global warming is just an anti-business communist plot will probably gravitate toward blogs that think we dont really need to do anything.

I'm sure many people will write some very moving, humorous, poetic, and/or brilliant screeds today on the need for action and environmental change. And those posts will be read primarily by people who agree with them. Which again is not to say that it's bad these people are writing these posts, but just that it will likely have very little effect, outside of possibly motivating already sympathetic peoples to be more resolved in their actions, which is certainly not a bad thing.

But one could argue that such events actualy have a harmful aspect to them as they focus on individual action instead of far-more effective collecive action. The danger in these days-of-action semi-movement types of action is that they allow many participants to feel not only that their participation in this day of blogging made a difference (which again is quite questionable) but that they are now absolved of responsibility for further action because they've done their part. I understand that a significant number of people blogging about the environment are seriosuly committed and will continue their struggles long after they've written their posts, but without a clear and agreed-upon set of demans, the impact of such days will be little more than some feel-good time for all involved.

Which is not a bad thing, but we should always keep in mind the distinction between actions that do good and actions that make us feel good. Both are important, but it can cause serious problems when people mistake one with the other.

But in the meantime, try to do something environmental today. Plant a tree, walk to work, recycle your shit, get those fancy long-lasting lightbulbs, start a compost pile, masturbate manually instead of with some sort of battery-powered device...whatever floats your boat. But if you're interested in making a real impact, why not try to track down a few people and get a real movement going.

So there, I've fulfilled my duty as a citizen of the blogosphere. Tomorrow: more wackiness and potty talk, with no mention of the environment what-so-ever.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Seriously, though, are all Republicans closeted homosexuals? Part II of a never-ending series...

So, as I asked before, are all Republicans closeted homosexuals?

But I'm not being facetious anymore. Someone actually prove to me that it's not true. Once again we have a Liberty University grauate and former Jerry Fallwell employee dead with an...ahem...the fake version of a miniature piano player inside of him and a Christian children's clown who was also a 20-year veteran of the polcie force (where he was a youth-liason nonetheless) is found to be a child's molestor as much as a child's entertainer.

That makes these two gay-hating, ammendment-demanding,, Fred Phelps-loving assholes numbers 1,079,892,914 and 1,079,892,915 on the list of moralizing Republicans found out to be really confused self-hating, super-hypocritical gay men.

But let's make something perfectly clear here: there's nothing wrong with the fact that these men are gay. And the fact that these men are gay is not what leads them such interesting and emberassing ends. But do you know what does lead them to such emberassing situations, like trying to find sex in a men's bathroom in the Humphrey-Nazi airport?

Well, it's two things. Some people have weird sexual kinks, and will get off from having sex in public bathrooms. But arguably a much bigger reason is that we have demoinzed homosexuality to such an extent that even in the year 2007 gays and lesbians can only live on the margins of society. But even worse than that is the fact that homosexuality is so demonized that homosexual men will be elected to the United States Senate on promises to harass and persecute homosexuals.

I feel like I'm starting to understand why Kurt Vonnegut always noted how emberassing it is to be human sometimes...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The last horse crosses the finish line on Gnarls Barkley

So I kind of missed the whole Gnarls Barkley thing. I mean, I always meant to go out and pick it up, but it never really happened for many reasons. A combination of the fact that I'm lazy and I rarely make a point to rush out and buy big-label albums. Besides, by the time I got around to the record story, Crazy became passé and I was sick of it anyway, and then the public moved on and I had just kind of missed the phenomenon.

But now that I’ve finally listened to the album, I think I can honesly argue that it is the most necessary hip-hop album to come along in a long while, especially given the current state of top-40 radio rap. To actually see two guys making intersting music that actually steps outside the status quo of repititious hi-hats, cheesy synth samples, and ignorant lyrics about nothing puts a glimmer of hope into what is becoming one of the most co-opted art forms we've seen in quite some time. It's not just the wild, shirtless lyrics of Ce-Loo, or the bong-rattling bass courtesy of Danger Mouse, or even the competent drum work of the Roland 808. It's the fact that these guys are actually going out on a limb to make interesting music, when either one of them could easily sit inside the mainstream and cash checks pretty much as long as they feel like it.

It's also been fascinating to see how the music establishment has handled these cats. I can't even count the number of reviewers who have had aneurisms trying to figure out what these guys are doing. They want to consider them white guys, because only white people take rap in weird directions (goes the conventional wisdom), but both of them have such street cred that they have to be accepted as "real" members of hip hop. One reviewer, in trying to solve this paradox, figured their careers must be on the down turn, even pitying Cee-Lo for being reduced to doing "college" rap, in one of the more inventive ways I've ever heard anyone challenge somone's racial identity.

Theoretically, their due to release a follw-up in the ambiguous "late 2007" so it remains to be seen what direction they go in the second time around. Even more interesting, though, will be to see if their album has any kind of impact on the direction of mainstream hip hop, or if they remain relegated forever to white kid bin...sorry, the "college" sound.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

When does schadenfreude become regular freude?

Notre Dame is terrible this year. After dropping their first five games in rather emberassing fashion, they are 0-5 for the first time in school history (of course, this comes immediately after starting 0-4 for the first time ever). With their next three games, respectively, at UCLA and then at home against #12 BC and then #2 USC, it looks like they won't start winning anytime soon. In fact, it would be fortunate at this point for the Irish to finish 3-9, but even that isn't seeming entirely likely.

And I couldn't be happier. It's not just because Notre Dame has always been the most over-rated team in all of college athletics (quick: name the last bowl game they won), but they're also uncomfortably racist. Let me explain.

A few years ago, the Irish were terrible as usual, so they brought in young coach Ty Willingham. After a great first season, in which the Irish started 8-0 and Willingham won multiple awards, he struggled the next two season with the team finishing 5-7 and 6-5 in the following years. After these mixed results in this short term, he was fired. Now it's widely known that if a coach only has three years at a program, he never really had a chance. It's simply the nature of college recruiting--Willingham, for better or for worse, was really playing with a team his predecessor put together. But Willingham already had a big strike against him, namely that he was the first black head coach in the history of a rather, how do we put this politely, lilly white school.

After Willingham was villified and run out of town, ND settle don a newer, whiter coach who happened to have made up most of his resume, but Notre Dame apparently doesn't really check into things like that. Afer he was let go (and then taken in by the Vikes...motto: "We Don't Judge"), they made the move to Charlie Weiss, a man who has more in bosoms than in head coaching experience, but was also white.

And Wies also had a great first season, also using his predecessors (this would be Ty Willingham's) recruits. But what happens when a white coach has a good first year? Well, for some reason, the white guy gets a unprecendented 10-year, $30 million contract. Even after the Irish once again proved how over-rated they were by getting their asses handed to them by LSU in Sugar Bowl, Weis was the golden boy in South Bend. The term genius has been thrown about more than actual footballs, which may explain why the Irish are doing so terribly once again.

But what's happening now that Weis is using his own recruits? Well, it turns out he may not be the genius that everyone seemed to think he was. In fact, he may not even know what the game of football is, judging by the incredibly inept play of his star-studded roster.

So now we can only wait and see how racist the administrators and alumni of Notre Dame are. The black guy was run out on a rail for going 6-5 in his third year. What happens when the white guy does even worse? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What have I been up to lately? Apparently the answer is "nothing interesting"

I've been pretty bad about keeping up with the regular updates lately. But it's not out of spite, or even out of a general laziness that permeates all that I do. Rather, I've just been really, really busy. Not busy doing anything interesting, or I'd have all sorts of blog posts on the interesting things I've been doing.

So instead of trying to figure out somehting interesting to write about from my rather un-intersting life, I figured I'd give the people what they want: Bill O'Reilly acting like a complete jackass. Apparently, he has a hard time believing that that black people can eat dinner without swearing.

Read it. It's well worth your time. Then, when you're done reading it, remember that this guy is one of the highest rated news anchors in America, and ponder what that means for the fate of our dear nation.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

They're nothing but a bunch of sumbitches, I tell you...

In yet another sickening development, this morning President Bruininks, Provost Sullivan, and the Board of Regents sent a student to the hospital.

Background? Several students, faculty, and staff have been on a hunger strike since monday, vowing not to eat until the U finally gives AFSCME a fair contract. This morning, one hunger striker (I'm going to withhold the name until we find out how they're doing) collapsed and was taken to the emergency room. Updates have been hard to come by, but I'll keep you all posted.

If you would like to give a call to any of these folks and ask them why they are sending students to the hospital because they refuse to pay their workers the money allocated to them, you can contact them at the following places:

Please note that by including their home addressess, I'm am NOT advocating any illegal activity. But if you'd like to stop by in a very neighborly way and ask them for a cup of sugar and decent wages, by all means, feel free

Update: Check out the hunger strikers website.

"Honorable" Patricia S. Simmons
600 McNamara Alumni Center
200 Oak Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455-2020
(507) 289-0616

"Honorable" Anthony R. Baraga
Box 26
Side Lake, MN 55781
(218) 254-3559

"Honorable" Dallas Bohnsack
5550 Bohnsack Way
New Prague, MN 56071
(952) 758-2140

"Honorable" Maureen Cisneros
1062 Ottawa Avenue
West St. Paul, MN 55118
(651) 353-2387

"Honorable" Linda Cohen
2402 Oakland Road
Minnetonka, MN 55305
(952) 544-1817

"Honorable" John Frobenius
3008 Dunbar Road
St. Cloud, MN 56301
(320) 255-9951

"Honorable" Clyde E. Allen, Jr.
Vice Chair
318 44th Avenue S.
Moorhead, MN 56560
(218) 236-7213

"Honorable" Venora Hung
2445 Manchester Drive
Golden Valley, MN 55422
(612) 625-6300

"Honorable" Steven D. Hunter
175 Aurora Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55103
(651) 227-7647

"Honorable" Dean Johnson
3228 Eagle Ridge Drive W
Willmar, MN 56201
(320) 235-6815

"Honorable" David M. Larson
Cargill, Incorporated
15615 McGinty Road W
Wayzata, MN 55391
(952) 742-7411

"Honorable" David R. Metzen
273 Salem Church Road
Sunfish Lake, MN 55118
(651) 455-3020

President Bruininks
Office Address: Ofc Of the President
202 MorH
100 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Provost Sullivan
Office Address: Acad Affairs and Provost
234 Morrill Hall
100 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The next best thing...

Baseball fans in Minnesota are more than familiar with Legovision, the far-superior mode of watching highlights. However, with Bat Girl's saddening departure from the scene, we've been left with nothing.

Until now. Check out the infamous Mookie Wilson v. Bill Buckner showdown rendered in exquisite 8-bit glory, courtesy of RBI baseball and people with too much time on their hands. Go about 7'15" in for the infamous play.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Shutting down the Board of Regents, 101

In a community-service learning project this morning, the Student Solidarity Committee stormed the weekly Board of Regents meeting with the demand that the University meet the terms the striking AFSCME clerical, technical, and medical staff have asked for.

During a question and answer session, one student asked president Bob Bruininks why he won't give the workers a decent wage. When the Board refused to acknowledge the question, the students chanted "Shame on you! Shame on you! Give a fair contract at the U!" at which point in time the Board cowardly fled the room rather than answer for their money-grubbing practices. Then 5 of the demonstrators were arrested apparently for being the 5 closest to the police, because no explanation was given as to why 5 random people from the crowd of over 100 were arrested.

One board member, Steven Hunter, had the guts to stay and talk to the students, though it must be noted that he is the Treasurer/Secretary of the AFL-CIO in Minnesota. Through him, the students negotiated a truce with the Board that held that the students would sit quietly and not disrupt the meeting as long as the Board agreed to at least discuss the strike.

When the Board members finally returned to the room almost an hour later, Hunter read a weak, 3 minute long statement about how all sides want the strike to end as soon as possible, and that maybe the U should think about giving the workers a decent wage. After this, Board of Regents Chair Patricia Simmons called the meeting back to its regular schedule. When the students became upset at the bold-face lie of the Board in its refusal to even discuss the strike and began chanting "Shame on you!", the Board cowardly fled again down a back elevator to a van waiting for them and called off the rest of their meeting.

All of the students then left with a vague sense of wonder as to why the Board of Regents can't even answer the simple question of why they refuse to intervene on behalf of the workers, who are only asking for the pay the state Legislature already earmarked for them.

This may not be the last the Board hears form the Student Solidarity Committee...

If you'd like to be involved in the strike, please come to the weekly community Strike Support meeting at strike headquarters (University Baptist Church, at the corner of 13th and University) and/or come to the next meeting of the Student Solidarity Committee this monday at 4:30 at May Day books (in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Devil's Pie Chart

A theoretical breakdown of the greatest rock song ever written, via Big Pappas:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fuck Univeristy Intimidation

I received the following e-mail form a lackey of Provost Sullivan today:

Dear Jesse

Executive Vice President and Provost Tom Sullivan asked that our office respond to your concerns about the email you received from him regarding possible strike issues. The purpose of the email was to be as informative as possible with respect to both the legal obligations and University expectations of all those with teaching responsibilities.

The Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) explicitly requires non-striking University of Minnesota employees to report to work in the event of a strike by another union. In addition, under PELRA, non-striking University employees who refuse to report to work as directed, are absent from any portion of their work assignment without permission, or who abstain wholly or in part from the full performance of their duties, are considered to be engaged in an illegal sympathy strike and are subject to discipline. The reasons for requiring classes to be held on campus, and the University's expectations in that regard, are set forth in the email you received, and we expect those University employees with teaching responsibilities to carry them out as assigned.

We certainly appreciate your and others' desire to be supportive of the striking employees. However, you must do so consistent with your University obligations. The two are not mutually exclusive. We encourage you to explore other ways in which you can lend your support to the strikers while fulfilling your assigned teaching obligations.

Shelley Carthen Watson
Associate General Counsel
University of Minnesota
360 McNamara Alumni Center
200 Oak Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: 612/624-4100 Fax: 612/626-9624

To which I sent the following reply:

This is an interesting stance that the University has taken, but it is both morally reprehensible and legally questionable. While I'm well familiar with PELRA, it in no way applies to the current situation.

By taking classes off-campus we are not striking. A strike would be a refusal to work, e.g. not holding class. We are instead following our legal right to not cross a legally recognized picket line. It is actually the University who would be in violation of PELRA by disciplining faculty and staff who refuse to cross a legal picket line.

Furthermore, there has been no explanation of why this rule has not been enforced before. If there is something about the University course that it must be taught on-campus at all times, why have not the many faculty who have previously taken classes off-campus been disciplined? I have personally had multiple professors hold classes off-campus for a variety of reasons, but nothing ever happened and they most certainly did not receieve thinly veiled threats from the Provost.

It is incredibly humorous that the University officials paint themselves as the ones operating in the parameter of the law when you are implying that you will fire anyone who practices their completely legal right to not cross a legally recognized picket line.

If I were you folks, I'd start worrying about counter legal action, because there are far more people than me who are upset about the University illegally trying to pressure us into crossing picket lines.

Or, you know, you could develop a heart or even the most basic level of human compassion and simply pay these people a living wage. Either one is fine by me.
Jesse Wozniak

I know it will not amount to anything (or even be read by anyone), but I figure if they can threaten us for no reason, well, the least I can do is threaten them right back.

But as always, for more info, be sure to check out for updates.

Also, if you can spare it, be sure to donate to the strike fund. The union doesn't have a pre-existing strike fund for its workers, so many of these folks are going on strike knowing full well that they may not be getting a paycheck for sometime now. The least you can do is chip in a few bucks and help out, ain't it?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

This one is for the li'l guys

I'm sure you've already heard this, but in case you haven't, the back-to-back Football Championship Subdivision (f/k/a I-AA) Appalachian State Mountaineers won a shocker over national powerhouse #5-ranked Michigan 34-32.

Coming from an FCS school (that has produced two NFL MVPs in the past 15 years), I couldn't be more happy. I've often held that the best of our league could hold their own against the best of the big kids league. And today, the ol' App Mountaineers proved it to be true.

So the sincerest thank you from the bottom of my heart to those guys, for giving fans of the little guy something to hang their hat on for quite some time to come.

Go Mountaineers!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

University of Minnesota strong-arm tactics

If you're anywhere around the Twin Cities, you know that AFSCME workers at the U voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike (72% in favor). However, the University is hell-bent on doing nothing about it, and has refused to offer anything more than the offer that caused the strike vote in the first place. But as always, those greedy union fat cats are intent on ensuring a decent living standard, like the selfish bastards they are.

With the strike poised to happen next wednesday, the second day of classes, the strike support committee is busy scurrying around finding space for faculty and TAs who want to hold their classes off-campus and not cross the picket line, which is our right by law to do so.

But just today, all faculty, teaching assistants, and teaching staff received notice from wealthy academic higher-up E. Thomas Sullivan that if we hold classes off-campus, we are actually a sympathy strike (which is untrue; if we were striking, we would not be teaching) and therefore illegal actors and subject to discipline.

Now, don't get me started on the ridiculous nature of even having a notion of legal and illegal strikes. But even if you accept that idiotic legal framework, we're well inside our legal rights to refuse to cross a picket line. This is just pure intimidation, through and through. The university knows that in the cut-throat world of academic appointments and funding that it's very easy to scare grad students and younger faculty into line, and they're using our own personal interests as a way to break the power of the striking clerical workers.

Well, fuck you E. Thomas Sullivan ( or 612-625-0051 if you want to give him a piece of your mind). We're doing it anyway, because even if it isn't legal, it's still much more important.

If you are an instructor, TA, or any teaching faculty, please contact Kris Houlton with AFSCME at 612-616-2537 to find an off-campus site for holding classes.

Si, Se Peude! Ha Wakarna! Yes, We Can!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where conservatives and commies collide...

Normally, I don't agree with anything written on the National Review website (yet I'm strangely fascinated by what they have to's like looking at a car accident), but I've finally found something I agree with them on. Here is a map of those receiving farm subsidies. In Manhattan:

The bigger red dots are those getting over a quarter million in subsidies. If you wonder why the family farm is dead, I'm sure it has nothing to do with this at all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sometimes the irony just burns

Quick question:

Is every single conservative Republican a closeted homosexual?

In a repetitive story with a local twist, yet another Republican has been arrested for solicitng gay sex, this time it was Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who has been charged with looking for loving in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.

In addition to having the usual laughable excuse ("I was just in there looking for directions on how to get away from there!"), Sen. Craig was also a big supporter of Mitt "If I Don't Support You Today, I Will Tomorrow" Romney, a famous flip-flopper on the question of gay rights.

Incidentally, I remember reading years ago of an academic study (I want to say it was in psychology) that found that men who had the most self-reported homophobic feelings were also those who were most aroused by gay pornography in a lab setting. The thrust of the article was that often the most virulently homophobic are actually closeted homosexuals who can't or won't come to grips with who they are. If anybody else remembers or knows of this study, I'd love to get my hands on it. It seems as if the conservative movement has dedicated the last 5 years or so validating the findings.

Updated for extra irony:

Here's what this particular Senator had to say in 1999:

MR. RUSSERT: Larry Craig, would you want the last word from the Senate be an acquittal of the president and no censure?

SEN. CRAIG: Well, I don’t know where the Senate’s going to be on that issue of an up or down vote on impeachment, but I will tell you that the Senate certainly can bring about a censure reslution and it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s a, “Bad boy, Bill Clinton. You’re a naughty boy.”

The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughtyboy.

I’m going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.

Travel recollections

I'm finally back safe and sound on the 3rd coast, having survived the depravity and cultural elitism of the East Coast. Far too much happened in the two week span to recall here, but I figured I'd throw some stuff out there, because it was an awfuly interesting little jaunt.

Things I learned on my travels:

1) Geraldo flies commercial. No private jet for this man of the people. Though he was riding first class.

2) Midwesterners are still completely awe-struck by the most minor of celebrities.

3) At a good academic conference, academics should be the least of your concern. There's a great deal of fun to be had in New York, whether it be crazy little diners with 25-page menus, a dance club that used to be a shady massage parlor named "Happy Endings," or even just wandering aimlessly for hours because you're lost. It's all very exciting. I did actually make it to a couple of the actual meeting sessions and learned a bunch of intersting things, but that's far less exciting.

4) People in Boston really talk like that. You know, with the word "wicked" and without the letter R. It's like being in a colorful sitcom 24 hours a day.

5) Travelling by train, although about 57 hours longer than a flight, is far superior to any other mode of transportation. The seats are actually large enough for a human being to fit in, and there is an actual dining car. Like in the movies and all that. That shit is crazy old-timey fun.

6) The nice people of the Village are really concerned that you don't accidentally walk into a gay bar. While out in the village with a few friends, two of whom were gay, we were warned both by a random stranger and by the guy working the door at the bar that we should know we were about to enter a gay bar. Apparently, we must have looked extra Midwestern that night, not like the sophisticated New Yorkers we were trying to imitate.

7) The East Coast is really, really expensive.

Well, there's probably several hundred more things I could write, but seeing as this is already a rather inwardly-focused, self-centered post, it's probably best to stop there. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of really fun and crazy times, so just give me a holler if you want to hear the good stories.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

East Coast Tour '07

Blogging is going to be even lighter than it's been lately as I head out for my East Coast tour tomorrow. Well, it's not so much a tour as it is going two places, but hey, that technically makes it a tour.

Anyway, first a stop in the most entertaining and over-rated city in the world for the annual American Sociological Association meetings (which are exactly as exciting as they sound) and then onto Boston to help out for awhile with the Matt Geary for Boston city council campaign .

As the bridge collapse has forced me to take some time off of the project I'm working on right now (for some odd reason, police officers, medical examiners and coroners, and media folks all seem to be really busy right now), it should be a fun, interesting, and relatively carefree trip. I'll be turning 25 on Saturday while in New York City, which I have heard has a decent night life, so that could turn out to be a fairly interesting evening. I've already got one invite for a BYOB karaoke bar in Korea town from an old college bandmate, but I have to imagine one or two other things may happen that evening. Then I get to stumble home to a one-bedroom apartment that has been converted into a hotel room, in which we're cramming 6 people. Well, 6 people thus far with the possibility of more, but such is the life of the bohemian graduate student.

Boston should be just as much fun, but in a less getting-drunk-in-a-crazy-city way and more in a sticking-it-to-the-man kind of way, as I'll be helping one of my comrades in his quest to be elected to the Boston city council. If you live in Boston, or really anywhere on the Eastern seaboard, you should make an attempt to help out as well. Matt is the candidate of Socialist Alternative and is hopefully the first of many candidates our budding organization will run for office throughout the nation. Exciting stuff, if you believe in the equitable distribution of power and resources.

So this is likely my last post for the next two weeks unless I run into a computer in Boston, so check back in late August for what I can only assume will be some posts chock full of colorful travel stories and snarky digs at snooty East coast assholes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sometimes I wonder...

...Why I even try comedy writing when others do such a better job than I. But it is indeed true that the Pentagon has lost nearly 200,000 guns in Iraq, or in other words, one gun for roughly every 130 Iraqis, which may not sound like much, but I'm fairly certain there were already some guns floating around before this.

Anyway, lately so many of these updates have been so ridiculous that I can't even figure out a way to make a joke about what's going on, because it's already become such a tragic comedy of errors over there that making fun of how the war is being handled is like a Saturday Night Live skecth about Paris Hilton: the target is so easy to mock that it almost seems more mean than funny (though that's probably a bad comparison, because nothing on Saturday Night Live is ever funny). And I think that's the most telling point of all--that an ardently anti-war activist such as myself is biting his tongue because it just seems mean to continue to point out how completely inept our current government is.

Or maybe I'm just becoming a bit too Minnesotan...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fuck corporate tie-ins

For a long time, I (and many other rabid fans) have held my toungue on the Simpsons rampant merchandising. While they parody the concept of over-the-hill t.v. characters cashing in on their questionable fame constantly, especially through Hershel Schmoikel Krustofsky, Matt Groening and company have certainly gotten the merchandising bug themselves once or twice. Of course, that's a polite way of saying they'll liscence any product that they come within 500 feet of. Especially with the movie, it's gotten insane lately. I've seen everything short of the Simpsons Home Pregnancy Test (Warning: May cause birth defects), but I wouldn't be too suprised to see it at this point.

The rampant commercialism of all these tie-ins bothers me on a philosophical and political level, but also at the much more immediate level. Being an ardent Simpsons lover, well-meaning yet misguided friends and family members have always bought me that stuff, incorrectly assuming that because I enjoy a television show greatly, I would then also enjoy a really shitty product based on said show. Now don't get me wrong, some of the stuff has been pretty cool (I still haven't figured out the Homer rubiks cube), but much of it remains unopened, left sitting there too useles to use, but something I feel too guilty to give away since it was given by a friend/loved one in a genuine attempt to get me something that I would appreciate.

But the final straw has finally broken this proverbial camel's back. Recently, Burger King has designed a website as a cross-promotion for the movie called, where one can ostensibly upload a picture of themselves and have it remade in the style of Simpsons animation. A few people I know have used it, and it's eerily uncanny for the most of them.

So finally, finally we have a lucrative corporate tie-in that's legitimately cool. Has the problem been solved? Of course not, because I can't get it to fucking work for the life of me. I followed all the instructions on the page, down to taking a picture of just my face, with good lighting, in front of a plain white wall, and wearing a text-less t-shirt so as to reduce all possible digital noise. I have tried using said photo on a Mac and a PC, and in both cases used at least three different browsers. And I've come up with nothing. Every time, I get the same infuriating message that the system is too busy and I should try back later, whether I try it at 3 a.m. or 5 p.m.

In a way, this kind of sums up the week I just had. Not particularly bad, but just full of dissapointment on many levels. But hey, it's now less than a week until my birthday, and my parents bought me a coffee maker. And a microwave. And we found a used couch for super cheap that's actually a hide-a-bed. I dare say things are looking up, even though they're not looking Simpsonized at all...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tragic disasters can be a real pain in the ass...

Fortunately, or as fortunate as this can be, the death toll in the bridge accident is much lower than I or what I would imagine most people previously thought. Last I checked, the death toll was holding at 4 confirmed, altough about 30 more people were missing and are pretty much presumed dead at this point. While this is a terrible tragedy anyway you look at it, the numbers of dead are thankfully not anwhere near where I thought they would be, given how packed the bridge was during rush hour and the fact that it crashed into a pretty wide and deep seciton of the Mississippi.

Though you want a real tragedy to cry about? Well, I'm trying to work on an interview project with police officers and county medical examiners and coroners that was finally getting off the ground. And for some reason, now they're all too busy to talk to me. Talk about your real victims. This tragedy could not have come at a worse time for me.

Of course, none of that was serious. Well, I mean I really can't get the interviews now, but the rest of it was a joke. Probably in poor taste, but we all have our own coping mechanisms...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007



Not much that can be said about it right now, but it seems even crazier when it's 3 blocks from home.

Crazy, crazy, crazy.

But for those who are wondering, I am indeed safe. Thanks for your concern...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood

I've never been one to compromise my values for a buck, but sometimes life gets a little bit more complicated than that. Case in point, I start my first of hopefully many interviews tomorrow for my current research project. While I'll spare you the boring details, the interviews are going to be mostly with members of the criminal justice field. These folks are notoriously tight-lipped, and they're probably even less likely to open up to a guy with a 6-inch long mohawk.

So tonight I am cutting my hair in the interest of professional advancement.

To be fair, I'm kind of getting sick of the haircut anyway, but still, my main impetus for the new 'do is most assuredly a vain attempt to look professional. Right now I'm justifying it by telling myself that it's a greater good type thing, i.e. my project will do more to advance critical thought than an obnoxious haircut. But it still stings a little bit.

I think it's just a little bit more of a bitter pill to swallow because it's emblematic of a larger struggle in my life right now. The problem for an anti-materialist li'l punk like myself is that the vast majority of our culture's signifiers of adulthood center around consumption and the ceasing of deviant behavior. Think about it--a good job, a home, a car, marriage, children...all of them require money and leave little time for anything else, especially radical politics.

Normally, this wouldn't be such a big deal. I more than used to rejecting society's norms by this point in my life, but being the youngest of a youngest child and always by far the youngest child in my grade throughout all of my school life (up to and including grad school), I've developed a bit of a complex about being accepted by the older kids. And doing radical scholarship, it's extra infuriating when people write it off a youthful phase that I will most assuredly grow out of once the weight of the world has crushed my spirit, much like it did theirs. It's been getting to me even more lately, as I'm in a profession that on its outset looks pretty left-leaning, but in reality is just as shallow and careerist as any other field. And the folks in the my department, most of whom make little to no effort to disguise the fact they respect neither my research nor myself, put a great deal of pressure on one to become more respectable, only adding to my little pocket of anomie. And it doesn't really help any that I look like I'm about 14 years old, which certainly doesn't make me feel very adult-like.

So as soon as this post is done, the clippers are coming out and I'll be a respectable looking young chap once again. Now I'm a firm believer in the notion that one does not need to abandon their youthful ideals simply because they're not in college anymore and their girlfriend/boss/parents all tell them they should settle down, but finding the balance is becoming a bit harder than I thought it'd be.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Becoming Minnesotan, step by step

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, I missed out on a lot of things, good music being cheif amongst them. Sure, I could find things here and there on travels and hear about things form friends, but this was pre-internet, and it's not exactly like I could walk down to the nearest collective and pick up the latest issue of Chunklet. So needless to say, I've been in the dark about a great number of things.

For example, local heroes Dillinger Four. I had gained a passing familiarity with their music while in college, but had noweher near the love for them that most Mpls folks do. I mean, I knew that one of them ownd my owned one of my favorite watering holes, but I didn't even know that the crazy huge bartender there was another member of the band.

But after winning free tiickets to their latest show through the Arise! punk dating game, I can say I'm finally a convert. According to some witty inter-song banter from Paddy, D4 is apparently ranked 22nd on some list of bands you should see live before you die. So, as he pointed out, I guess I can now die a little less disappointed with my life.

And a little more Minnesotan...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Some political ramblings

Two good bits form Tom Tomorrow that should be getting much more attention.

First, here's one soldier's description of what a typical house raid is like. Keep in mind, hundreds of these raids are going on every night in Iraq:

Raids normally took place between midnight and 5 am, according to Sgt. John Bruhns, 29, of Philadelphia, who estimates that he took part in raids of nearly 1,000 Iraqi homes. He served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, a city infamous for its prison, located twenty miles west of the capital, with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in April 2003. His descriptions of raid procedures closely echoed those of eight other veterans who served in locations as diverse as Kirkuk, Samarra, Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit.

“You want to catch them off guard,” Sergeant Bruhns explained. “You want to catch them in their sleep.” About ten troops were involved in each raid, he said, with five stationed outside and the rest searching the home.

Once they were in front of the home, troops, some wearing Kevlar helmets and flak vests with grenade launchers mounted on their weapons, kicked the door in, according to Sergeant Bruhns, who dispassionately described the procedure:

“You run in. And if there’s lights, you turn them on–if the lights are working. If not, you’ve got flashlights…. You leave one rifle team outside while one rifle team goes inside. Each rifle team leader has a headset on with an earpiece and a microphone where he can communicate with the other rifle team leader that’s outside.

“You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you’ll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there’s no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.

“You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you’ll ask the interpreter to ask him: ‘Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all–anything–anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?’

“Normally they’ll say no, because that’s normally the truth,” Sergeant Bruhns said. “So what you’ll do is you’ll take his sofa cushions and you’ll dump them. If he has a couch, you’ll turn the couch upside down. You’ll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you’ll throw everything on the floor, and you’ll take his drawers and you’ll dump them…. You’ll open up his closet and you’ll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it.

“And if you find something, then you’ll detain him. If not, you’ll say, ‘Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.’ So you’ve just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you’ve destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes.”

And, in what I'm sure is completely un-related news, it turns out that even Republicans don't like the Republican nominations for president. According to a recent Ipsos/AP poll, 25% of registered Republicans had no candidate in the field they liked, which was well ahead of the number that supported any particular candidate. If only we could find a Democrat who will actually end the war...