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...