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...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How is this not America’s most popular sport?

Recently, the trib has run several critical stories on the upcoming hockey fighting camp, in which youngsters are taught the finer points of the only reason to watch hockey.

I'm really fascinated by what this says about us as a nation--Americans are always branded as violent thugs, yet this game of violent thuggery is fading and could soon be dieing. Major newspapers across the nation are dropping their coverage of their local hockey team's away games because the sport is fading so much that they don't want to waste the couple hundred bucks to send a staffer out on the road. Some newspapers are dropping coverage all together, and it doesn't look like the NHL is doing much of anything to reverse the tide.

Maybe I'm just too wired into negative case examples because of the current project I'm working on, but I can't figure out why hockey is losing popularity so quickly. If it's true that Americans are so drawn to violence (which is a fairly difficult claim to prove, but seems to have some face validity) why is the most violent of the major professional sports declining? Yes, we still have gruesomely violent football, but if you get into a fight in football, you’re suspended for several games. In hockey, it’s two minutes in a box unless you really mess up the guy.

In fact, take a quick perusal of Rule 56, a/k/a the "fisticuffs" rule. in addition to being the only thing written after the year 1920 to use the word "fisticuffs" earnestnly, it outlines the rules and punishments that govern fighting in Hockey. Not only do most of the rules only focus on the instigator, but some rules even reduce punishment for a fella who makes the fight even. For example, check out Note 4:

"If a player penalized as an instigator of an altercation is wearing a face shield, he shall be assessed an additional Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty.
(NOTE 4) Should the player who instigates the fight be wearing a face shield, but removes it before instigating the altercation, the additional Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty shall not apply."

Think about the equivalent: what would the reaction be if Major League Baseball said that a player wouldn't be suspended if he took off his helmet before charging the mound? I can't help but believe such an announcement would be met with all forms of righteous indignation, but in hockey, it's just par for the course.

As for Mr. Boogaard's camp, I think the outrage shown over a hockey player teaching children to fight is a bit misplaced at best (I would wager that an illegal and immoral war that has taken over 600,000 lives teaches children much more about the acceptability of violence as a solution to our problems than does a one-afternoon course on hockey fights), but the outrage alone speaks volumes about the complex relationship we have with our violence, especially in relms where violence is not only accepted, but encouraged as the only way to win. I'd like to think it signals a shift in our collective attitude about the acceptance of violence, but with the surging popularity of "ultimate fighting" and other such blood-sports, I must dejectedly admit their must be some other force at play here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm fairly certain Clinton inhaled as well...

In a story that's getting shockingly little local coverage (read: zero), Norman Kent, a Ft. Lauderdale-based lawyer and former college buddy of conservative local Sentaor Norm Colman, recently published an article on Alternet alleging that the currently harshly anti-drug Senator once smoked plenty of pot. And given most of the legislation the esteemed Sentaor supports, I wouldn't doubt that he's still using it quite frequently.

Sentaor Colman has yet to respond to the accusation of former pot-head-ness, but it's a pretty believable story: man smokes a bunch of pot during college, goes on to successful private career, and then gains easy votes by denouncing his former pasttime. And as most social survey ecidence shows that many Americans are regular marijuana users and the majority of Americans have at least tried it, this story serves as a great exemplar of a disturbing wider societal trend--while many, if not most, Americans are using marijuana, we are at the same time incarcerating folks at the highest clip in the world, most of whom are just coincidentally poor and/or ethnic/racial minorities.

At this point in the "debate" I basically feel like we're arguing with the anti-evolutionists. If all the evidence in the world points to the fact that marijuana is non-harmful (or at the very least, far much less so than two other widely-available and legal drugs you may know of) and completely non-addictive and yet you refuse to believe that and argue for its continued legal ban, then there's obviously nothing that can be said to convince you otherwise.

But man, when they discover new dinosaur bones next to primitive dinasuar-sized bongs, Norm Coleman and the rest of those folks sure are going to be pissed.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Those damn kids and their music

I often feel like my generation is the America of generations. The analogy is a bit tortured, but quite apt on a certain level. While it seems all other generations have had outspoken leaders and activists working to make the world better, while my generation has a couple of those, try to name one. This is much in the way American's tend not to care much for even talking about social equality issues, while most of the rest of the world at least pays attention to, say, a certain illegal and immoral war that has killed well over 600,000 people.

But more to the point, the analogy came to me the other night while I was thinking about the Beatles. I've never really been into the Beatles, and while I don't deny that they're a good band, I would probably call them the most over-rated band in history and I really prefer most of their solo stuff to Beatles music (of course with the exception of Paul's music, because nobody has ever liked Paul's music. Linda was just faking it to push her vegetarian agenda).

Nonetheless, those Beatles did make a huge impact on both pop music and pop culture. To think that they went from wanting to hold your hand to having blisters on their fingers in such a short time span simply amazes me. The only equivalent for my generation would be if all of a sudden N*Sync had switched from glossy, over-produced boy band music to openly experimenting with illicit drugs and radical politics while pushing the definition of pop music in strange and new directions.

Think about it--until they started with the jazz cigarettes, the Beatles were just an N*Sync that played their own instruments. Depressingly, that would make Justin Timberlake the John Lennon of my generation. I guess that would mean that Cameron Diaz is our Yoko, and Britney Spears is…uh…the Pete Best of my generation.

Yep, that seems to sum it all up. My folks had John Lennon and I have Justin Timberlake. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm quite glad that sexy has finally been returned to its rightful place, but it's just that exhorting a crowd to rock their bodies seems somewhat less meaningful than asking them to give peace a chance.