Monday, December 29, 2008

Marketing and the Thought Process

Sorry for the dry well of postings, but I'm visiting the folks and stuck using a dial-up connection that, in addition to be slower than (insert funny slow things here), also likes to cut out randomly every 10-15 minutes. So needless to say, my internet use has been paired down to a minimum of "necessary" time.

But here's one for the rants no one really cares about file: as I usually do after Christmas, I was in the major box stores looking around for cheap deals on necessary items with my folks, safe in the knowledge that they'll usually go ahead and buy it for me (I'm 26 and have yet to purchase a pair of socks myself). Taking advantage of markdowns on the incongruous items that I can't believe are ever purchased as presents, I picked up a 3 pack of generic boxers.

The boxers themselves are fine, but it's the packaging that kills me. They came in a standard clear plastic bag that you tear open on the top. Except on this package, there was one of those zip-lock closing mechanisms, like you find on a bag of carrots or the eponymous sandwich bags.

Now, I've been pondering this all afternoon, but I cannot figure out the purpose of this. I suppose it is a 3 pack, so I won't be wearing them all immediately, but do I need to keep them fresh? Am I supposed to wash them and then return them to the bag, closing it tightly so they don't get stale? Or are they designed to be carefully removed one at a time and then sealed back up, so the remaining, un-worn boxers retain that fresh new clothing chemical smell?

I'm not sure there really is a reason for the zip-lock, but what blows my mind is that at some point in time someone was responsible for deciding to put it on there. I have to imagine that a standard shrink-wrap package without the re-usable zip-lock is cheaper and easier to produce. So somewhere along the line, someone (presumably in the marketing department) had to stop and say "Wait a minute everyone? What if the boxers came in a resealable bag? You know, to retain their freshness." And then, understanding corporate America as I do, this had to go through several committees and higher-up personnel, all of whom didn't understand what was going on, or thought that yes indeed, it would be a good idea to put cheap pieces of underwear in a resealable bag.

It's these kind of things I can't help but think about every time I walk past the business building on campus and realize that the marketing majors inside will earn far, far more money in their lifetime than I will. But then again, I'm not smart enough to come up with the idea of selling a non-perishable item in a resealable bag...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

World's Oldest Pot Stash Found

Via the Discovery Channel website, it seems that archeologists have found the world's oldest stash of pot. Dating over 2,700 years old (the story is quick to point out it won't get you high after sitting that long), it was buried with a shaman. The careful removal of all male plants indicates it was harvested for the same reasons it's being harvested today. Apparently the shaman thought he'd need quite a bit in the hearafter, which either speaks to a really cool or really frightening afterlife, depending on what your personal views are.

In unrelated (or is it?) news, a contestant got the showcase exactly right on the Price is Right.

So big news in both marijuana and day time television; we have apparently just gone through the stoner's best week ever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Know, the Reason People Used to go to College

Over at the New America Foundation, they've compiled a list of what the BCS bowl pairings would be if academics were factored in (answer: we'd be looking at a one-sided drubbing of Boston College over Northwestern).

While such worthless pursuits as learning will never be a factor in big-time college football, the article highlights some pretty disturbing trends, such as a 30% graduation rate for University of Texas football players, with only a 27% rate for African-Americans. And the vast majority of those not graduating are not going on to Vince Young-level contracts in the pros. No, most of them are going on to meaningless dead-end jobs without college degrees.

To repeat a tired criticism of the shamatuer system in college football, back in the day when powerful Southern white men used poor and uneducated African-Americans to achieve great wealth while paying nothing for services performed it was called slavery. Now it's just America's pastime...

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Last Class...Ever

The end of the semester is always a fun and exciting time, but I have to admit today is a bit more exciting than all of the previous ones combined. You see, in my short 26 years on this planet, I have been going to school for 21 of those years. And not including the one year between undergraduate and graduate school, I don't even really remember the years without school, so I pretty much don't remember a time when I wasn't taking classes.

But today it all changes, as I head to the last meeting of the final class I will ever take. Granted, being an academic I will more or less be in the classroom for the next 50 years or so, but I will be in front of the room. And yes, I know we're all life-long learners and blah, blah, blah, but this is the clear-cut end of my formal, classroom-based education.

I still have a final paper to write for the class so this is a bit anti-climactic as an end point, but it nicely marks a formal end to my years upon years of course work. And on the plus side, since it's graduate school, we're meeting half of the course in the classroom and then moving to the bar for the second half, so it's a proper send off.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Support Chicago's Factory Occupation!

As I write this, workers of UE Local 1110 in Chicago have occupied their factory to prevent its imminent closure. Here's a good write up on the situation

Workers occupying the Republic Windows & Doors factory slated for closure are vowing to remain in the Chicago plant until they win the $1.5 million in severance and vacation pay owed them by management.

In a tactic rarely used in the U.S. since the labor struggles of the 1930s, the workers, members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, refused to leave the plant on December 5, its last scheduled day of operation.

"We decided to do it because this is money that belongs to us," said Maria Roman, who's worked at the plant for eight years. "These are our rights."

Word of the occupation spread quickly both among labor and immigrant rights activists -- the overwhelming majority of the workers are Latinos. Seven local TV news stations showed up to do interviews and live reports, and a steady stream of activists arrived to bring donations of food and money and to plan solidarity actions.

Management claims that it can't continue operations because its main creditor, Bank of America (BoA), refuses to make any more loans to the company. After workers picketed BoA headquarters December 3, bank officials agreed to sit down with Republic management and UE to discuss the matter at a December 5 meeting arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill), said UE organizer Leah Fried.

BoA had said that it couldn't discuss the matter with the union directly without written approval from Republic's management. But Republic representatives failed to show up at the meeting, and plant managers prepared to close the doors for good -- violating the federal WARN Act that requires 60 days notice of a plant closure.

The workers decided this couldn't go unchallenged. "The company and Bank of America are throwing the ball to one another, and we're in the middle," said Vicente Rangel, a shop steward and former vice president of Local 1110.

Many workers had suspected the company was planning to go out of business -- and perhaps restart operations elsewhere. Several said managers had removed both production and office equipment in recent days.

Furthermore, while inventory records indicated there were plenty of parts in the plant, workers on the production line found shortages. And the order books, while certainly down from the peak years of the housing boom, didn't square with management's claims of a total collapse. "Where did all those windows go?" one worker asked.

Workers were especially outraged that Bank of America, which recently received a bailout in taxpayer money, won't provide credit to Republic. "They get $25 billion from the government, and won't loan a few million to this company so workers can keep their jobs?" said Ricardo Caceres, who has worked at the plant for six years.

Please do all you can to help. If you'd like to donate some desperately needed money, you can do so here:

For more information on what's happening and on what you can do, click here:

There's also extensive coverage of the occupation here:

And if you're the petition signing kind, please go here:

Friday, December 05, 2008

Slow Week and All of That

On Tuesday morning I arose at 7 a.m. and donned a shirt and tie (two things whose monumental significance cannot be overstated) to defend my prelim. The prelim is basically a big test in the form of a paper we spend 6 months writing and then have to defend in front of our committee. By passing it, I've more or less passed the last big hurdle on the way to getting my Ph.D. Except for that whole dissertation thing, but how hard can that be?

Anyway, tuesday was the culmination of a looooooooong and draining process, so I've mostly spent the last week in a mixture of partying and recovering. Not that I don't have a great deal to do before this semester's over, but the nature of academia is such that you so rarely get an objective milestone to meet and pass. And when one of these rare events presents itself, one has to milk it for all of the congratulatory partying and time off that one can...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Economists Couldn't See This Coming, Which is Their Only Job

This is from a New York Times interview with Jamie Galbraith:

Do you find it odd that so few economists foresaw the current credit disaster?

Some did. The person with the most serious claim for seeing it coming is Dean Baker, the Washington economist. I saw it coming in general terms.

But there are at least 15,000 professional economists in this country, and you’re saying only two or three of them foresaw the mortgage crisis?
Ten or 12 would be closer than two or three.

What does that say about the field of economics, which claims to be a science?

It’s an enormous blot on the reputation of the profession. There are thousands of economists. Most of them teach. And most of them teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless.

You’re referring to the Washington-based conservative philosophy that rejects government regulation in favor of free-market worship?

Reagan’s economists worshiped the market, but Bush didn’t worship the market. Bush simply turned over regulatory authority to his friends. It enabled all the shady operators and card sharks in the system to come to dominate how we finance.

As a social scientist, it irks me when the opinions of economists are given such a great weight in public and political discussions, yet the opinions of people like me who actually do research rather than just spout the same ideology over and over are relegated to the dustbin of ivory-tower eggheads who don't know anything.

But what makes it even more insulting, is that economists are usually wrong, and often in spectacular ways such as this. And yet, they're still the highly-paid experts everyone listens to. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose...

Where Your Tax Dollars Go

So it turns out the fine folks at the St. Paul Sheriff's department spent over $300,000 spying on people in the run-up to the RNC.

Even ignoring the horrible things this says about our democracy, is there not something better we could be doing with a third of a million dollars in the Twin Cities? Last time I checked, we've got a bunch of homeless people who need places to sleep and food to eat, bridges that keep falling down, rising tuition costs at our universities...I could pretty much keep that list going all day. And everything on it would be a better use of a giant chunk of money than is spying on our citizenry who are doing nothing more than exercising their constitutionally-protected right to organize.

And really, what did this horrible breach of legality get us? It was already clear this small group was not going to be able to shut down the convention. All of the "intelligence" suggesting there was going to be violence was either made-up or based on a laughable and clearly incorrect informants (do we all remember how Mike Whalen's house was raided for shipments of weapons that turned out to be pamphlets about vegetarian recipes?).

For me, the timing of such a story couldn't be more perfect, as tomorrow morning I defend a prelim on how the police, both historically and contemporary, have existed far more to preserve the existing status quo than to protect the citizenry or prevent crime. I think any question I get about my central thesis can simply be directed to the reports of the police spending a third of a million dollars to spy on the anarchists based on the fact that people who look different are surely up to something...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let's Welcome a New One to the Fraternity

Ladies and Gentlemen, your humble li'l blogger has found and confirmed only the third known other Jesse Wozniak in the world. Well, technically in Google, but I'm pretty sure they'll own the world fairly soon anyway, so it's more or less the same thing.

As I've mentioned here before, I only know of two other Jesse Wozniaks. The first is the son of Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers and who is coincidentally pretty close to me in age. Switched at birth? Possible. My mom and Steve Wozniak had a torrid affair shortly before Apple took off and she and her now bastard child were denied any of his newfound wealth and glory? Probable.

The other Jesse Wozniak is a apparently a pretty respected ATV racer whom I was once mistaken for in college. He once found my blog and left a comment about finding out about me in much the same way. He also complimented the short plays I used to write at the time, and I felt like a compliment from a Jesse Wozniak that wasn't me meant more than from most. I have no idea why, but I think that makes me vain.

For a period I though there was a third JW that was a photographer, but the aforementioned ATV racer's comment seemed to imply that he was one and the same with the photographer JW, so I had to put photographer guy on the "maybe a Jesse Wozniak" list.

But now a well-intentioned self-googling (I don't remember the number of my office at school -- I just know where it is. So I always have to google myself when I fill out forms because it's the fastest way of finding my office number. Call it obtuse, but I call it adapting to today's technologies) turned up a gem.

Announcing the third Jesse Wozniak:

Hailing from the bustling metropolis of Ferndale, Michigan, this Jesse Wozniak plays multiple instruments and has been in such luminary Ferndale psychedelic bands as Corpse Smoke and Blue Black Hours. Having listened to a few tracks from BBH's MySpace page, on which this JW plays the drums, I can't say they're necessarily my cup o' tea (though "Space Lightning" ain't too bad a track), but they have over 20,00 page views, so the good folks of Ferndale must be behind them.

Let's all please welcome our psychedelically drumming Michagander to the flock, for he is:

A Jesse Wozniak.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Procrastination = Better Than Work

Check out the Notre Dame marching band giving tribute to Mario Bros:

Astute Mario fans/people with no life growing up will note that they appropriately form fish for the underwater level music, and make a castle for the finale music. The only thing missing is the giant Mario shooting a fireball at the goomba while they play the underground level music. Still though, easily the best marching band routine I've seen in a long while, which technically doesn't mean much, but its impressive nonetheless.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Bully With No Power

Though I am both politically and morally barred from ever feeling pity for President Bush, he really does look like the kid who just found out that everyone didn't love him, they were just scared of him. And now that they don't have to be scared anymore...well, the video says it far better than I could:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm On The Air Waves

The Contexts Podcast is finally here! Go to the website and download it.

The Contexts podcast serves to bring you cutting edge sociological research, in-depth interviews, and general social science smartness, all delivered in the relaxed and sonorous tones of your humble li'l blogger and his broadcast partner Arturo.

Go to the website to download/subscribe or search the Itunes store for "Contexts."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yes Axl Can!

Over at the AvClub, Chuck Klosterman reviews the long-anticipated Chinese Democracy. I don't mean to call it the most-anticipated album of my life time, but I've been waiting for this one since it was cool to like GNR un-ironically. And it turns out the album isn't that bad, either, at least according to Mr. Klosterman.

In this day of downloads and free corporate music, might I be actually compelled to go purchase Chinese Democracy? I'm not sure I'll go that far, but it would be like owning a piece of history...

Which makes me wonder -- between the election of a bi-racial president and the actual, honest-to-goodness release of CD, is this the most historical year in recent memory? I like to think so. I like to think that someday, when people are accepted regardless of their skin color and crazy conceptual hair-metal albums are released without restrictions on the "creative" process, we'll all look back on 2008 as the year that made it happen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My New Time Wasters

The best thing about working on a big project like your prelims is that you end up spending a great amount of time finding stupid things on the internet. My two most recent favorites:

Sleeveface, a website in which people carefully position album covers to look like they're part of the actual photo. Here's the best I've found:

And I feel like this one's already made the internet rounds, but I also quite enjoy Indexed, a collection of 3x5 cards that help explain life:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stand Up Against H8

See below the call for action in Minneapolis as part of the national day of protest against Prop 8:


Saturday, November 15
Outside Government Center
350 S. 5th Street, downtown Minneapolis

While celebrations erupted Tuesday night over the election of the first African American president, many also watched in sadness as California, Arizona, and Florida voted down marriage equality for LGBT people. Since then, tens of thousands have taken to the streets to oppose this discrimination and declare that the right to marry the person you love is a fundamental human right, regardless of sexual orientation!

Saturday, November 15th has been called as a National Day of Action in support of LGBT rights (see Tens of thousands will protest all over the country, in every state, declaring our opposition to all forms of discrimination and demanding an end to homophobia – and to help launch a new civil rights movement, for full equality for gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

This is an issue of equal rights for all Americans! Stand up and make your voice heard! Join us in pressuring the California government to overturn Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some National B.S. Becomes Local

Do you remember that girl from a Pittsburgh suburb who claimed she was attacked and beaten by Obama supporters for the crime of wearing a McCain button? The pictures were pretty terrible, and a for a few days, the right-wing media was all over the story. But then do you remember how it came out that she faked the whole thing and is now facing charges of fraud and filing a false police report?

Well, it turns out my own little neighborhood has its own version of this bullshit story. An Augsburg College first-year is claiming some unidentified black people beat her up election night for wearing a McCain/Palin button.

Now, the fact that this story is an exact replica of its more famous fake predecessor should probably be enough to let you know it's fake, or at least make a major metropolitan newspaper put a little more investigation into the story. Or so you might think.

But of course, you'd be wrong, because it was a giant spread in this morning's paper. What's most interesting about this girl's story is how she and her parents try to frame it as a minority's rights thing -- because everyone in the Twin Cities is a liberal they just can't stand the poor minority viewpoint of conservatives. I'm a bit confused seeing as how their entire platform is that minorities should have no rights what-so-ever, but I suppose it's different when you see yourself as the minority.

But even if the story was true, are we really to feel bad for this girl? Ok, that may be too harsh. Certainly, no one deserves to be beaten up for their political views. But what about those who support a candidate who built his entire campaign around racist attacks and vilifying all who are different? What about a campaign that used rhetoric so harsh the Secret Service has accused it of prompting death threats to Obama?

You know, conservatives love to stick it to anyone who ever claims discrimination and say they should quit whining about how the world is unfair, suck it up, and not blame their problems on other people. They vote against gay marriage and affirmative action because even recognizing the humanity of those different than them is beyond their capability. But then when the tables are turned, look at how quickly they run crying to Big Government to protect their sad widdle chiwdwen who are being picked on...just because they're different...


Sometimes I feel like this is all part of a grand scheme to destroy irony and all forms of satirical humor by making reality far more ironic than any sarcastic late-night pundit ever could...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Feel Free to Feel Old

Remember the controversial naked baby from the cover of Nevermind? Well, he's 17 years old now (and apparently kind of a douche).

For a visual comparison:

Current Season Weather Warning and the Culture of Fear

Several years ago, USC sociologist Barry Glasner wrote a book called The Culture of Fear, in which he essentially argues that most major institutions in America now use fear as a way to manipulate and direct people (though he obviously is a bit more nuanced in the book). I couldn't help but think about it this morning as the radio announced a "winter weather advisory."

Now, I'm sure this phrase actually means something specific, but just think about it as it is. Winter. Weather. Advisory. So let's see, it's the current season (winter) doing something that happens every day (weather) coupled with a blandly perplexing warning (what exactly are we advised to do?). They are essentially telling us that winter means there is bad weather, and you know, be careful about all of that. Because we all need a warning that the weather gets worse when frozen rain falls from the sky.

In a way, it's much like the terror alert level. Every time I've been to the airport in the last two years, the threat level has been "orange." Not only is orange completely devoid of any meaning as a category, it would do me no good even if I knew what category it represented. What am I going to do, single-handedly foil a terrorist attack because I now know to be on the lookout for it?

In much the same vein, the U has a text message program that lets you know every time a crime has been committed on campus. Again, in what way does this serve anyone other than to make them afraid? Oh, ok, a robbery happened outside the I never go the library again? What conclusion am I supposed to draw from such a random piece of information?

So I guess we can argue all day over how intentional this fear-creation is and to what ends it is being used, but it's hard to argue that we do indeed live in a culture of fear...

Monday, November 10, 2008

You Can't Spell "Relaxo" Without "Relax"

Well, I finally finished the prelim (well, the first draft) and got it send out to my committee. After doing pretty much nothing else for the past two months, I decided it's time to finally relax a little bit. So what did I do this weekend? Pretty much nothing productive. I did, however, watch a great amount of t.v. and imbibe at levels appropriate for doing nothing. Oh, and I played a game of flag football.

So, in other words, I had pretty much the perfect weekend...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Visiting the Home of Walt Whitman, Poet and Noted Queer

For fans of the State and/or Stella and/or surrealist semitic comdeia del 'arte, David Wain has a new weekly internet sketch comedy show aptly entitled Wainy Days. It's pretty much what you'd expect from David Wain, plus a lot of celebrity cameos (well, celebrities of the absurdist comedy world). If nothing else, it beats doing work:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My $.02 on Barack

So it was indeed an historic election last night. Of course, this didn't much help me sleep, as the folks in my hippie/immigrant neighborhood were out literally dancing in the streets into the wee hours of the morning.

And you know, I wish I could feel that elated. Don't get me wrong, this election turned out pretty well. Obama is clearly going to be a much better president than McCain, he'll probably get some worthwhile stuff done, and if nothing else, there's great satisfaction to be found in the Republicans losing an election in which they banked so heavily on fear and racism. It says at least a few good things about America.

But I can't help but feel Obama is the standard Democrat -- far better than the Republican alternative, but not really what I want. I couldn't help but feel a twinge of irony last night as people whooped and hollered over his statements about the war when the man campaigned on increasing troop levels, which is hardly what you do when you're ending a war.

And I'm not too cynical yet that I don't believe it's a big deal to finally have a president who is not white. It's a big step for this country, and I think it signals a great deal to the rest of the world (I have a whole different rant about how Obama's election really means more for our standing in the world than anything else).

Yet at the same time, let us remember that the entire point of the civil rights movement was that the color of a person's skin makes them neither inherently good or bad. Much as you should never look down at a person of color because of their skin tone, you can't say Obama's going to be any different or any better based on a bunch of rhetoric and his skin. Let us remember how much "better" England got when they finally got a female head of state...

In the end, like all presidents, this one is going to have to be pushed and pushed and pushed every day if we expect him to make any truly meaningful changes. So go ahead and celebrate and make orations about the historical significance of this moment, but be ready for January when we have to start work to hold him to everything he's claimed he's going to do...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote Convict 9653

"I'd rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don't want and get it"
--Eugene V. Debs

If you're in the Twin Cities and someone's trying to mess with your vote, call 1-866-687-8683, and tell your friends. Phones will be answered in English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong.

Monday, November 03, 2008

R.I.P. Studs

As most of you are probably already aware, Studs Terkel died last friday at the tender age of 96.

A journalist, skilled interviewer, labor organizing, sports broadcaster, and all-around rabble rouse, Terkel was an inspiration to many. As a researcher who attempts to understand and interview people, I can only hope to be half as good as Studs was in getting to the marrow of the issue with everyone he spoke to.

I don't have the time to write the kind of post a guy like Studs deserves (though here's a good one), but I'll never forget reading one of his most famous interviews with a former member of the John Birch Society, a racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic companion to the KKK in which the fellow describes how he came to understand that such racial divisions were just made up by the powerful to separate us from one another and the power we have when we organize and work together. Only a guy like Studs could bring that out of people.

He'll be missed.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Putting the "Slutty" in Hallo-slutty-ween

As that cinematic feat of social analysis Mean Girls pointed out, Halloween has become the one day a year when nubile young women are allowed/encouraged to parade themselves in the skimpiest/skankiest of outfits without being judged for it. Note that nubile young women are always encouraged to do this; it's just the magic of Halloween that provides a forum for doing it and not being judged (as harshly).

But did you ever know where this trend started? Well, neither do I, for I'm assuming the encouragement of women to dress in provocative outfits runs further back than modern Halloween celebrations. But I did find out today an interesting tidbit about the company facilitating the explosion in Halloween objectification: a classy little company called (I shit you not) Leg Avenue.

They've given the world such stalwart costumes as sexy nurse and sexy cowgirl, yet also opened us up to sexy Little Red Riding Hood and sexy Referee. But more importantly than the many sexy variations of all possible costumes is the more pertinent lesson Leg Avenue has taught us, namely that all proper Halloween costumes for women include thigh-high stockings. It's what separates the sexy zookeepers of the world from the standard zookeepers that may or may not actually be sexy.

And while Leg Avenue does sell men's apparel, for some odd reason it's neither anywhere near as revealing nor does it have the adjective "sexy" in front of every garment...

Anyhoo, Happy Halloween to you all and may your costumes be appropriately skanky!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Voting, Democracy, and All of That...Stuff

Voting has always been a sticky point for Radicals like your humble neighborhood blogger. On the one hand, I recognize that in a presidential election my vote consists of .0000000000000192% of the electorate, and is likely to be subject to voter fraud. Not to mention that by voting you implicitly endorse this terrible, terrible candidate-selection system that in no way responds to people's real needs.

Yet at the same time, you have to acknowledge that not voting for such reasons is a bit of a privileged position to take. After all, thousands of people have died in thousands of different conflicts to guarantee the right to vote (though of course I'm referring to those battles fought by women, African-Americans, Eastern Europeans, etc. to get the right to vote, not some bullshit war that accomplished nothing) and to not vote would be spitting in their face.

All that being said, I still drag my ass to the voting booth for every election there is. Assuredly part of it is to cancel out the votes of others, not to mention the high civic-participation rates of us here in the upper Midwest.

But I guess ultimately it comes down to recognizing voting for what it is: a relatively important 10 minute (if you live in a nice enough neighborhood to get polling stations that are actually staffed and well-maintained) act that is but one small part of making actual political change. I suppose it's a lot like grocery shopping -- it's important, but it still doesn't mean you have dinner.

Still not convinced about the semi-importance of voting? Don't take my word for it! Take the word of a guy who produces subversive surrealist late-night cartoons:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Anyone who's taking the time to read this knows how fucked up the treatment of RNC protestors has been, but especially for those charged with the completely bullshit terrorism counts. Below is a communiqué from the Friends of the RNC 8:

A petition by Friends of the RNC 8 has been put together calling for the Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner to drop all the charges against the RNC 8. Defend The RNC8! Dismiss the Charges! :

The goal is 100,000 signatures. Please take a moment to sign the petition. Then help get the word out by forwarding the petition to friends and family or posting a link on your Facebook page.

For updates on the case visit: . To get automatic email updates, sign up here:

The legal costs for the RNC 8 are estimated at $250,000. Donations can be made via PayPal or you can mail in a check (there is even a tax deductible option). All the information you need is at:
Donations of all sizes are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fuck the Weak and Elderly, I'm Setting a World Record

Today the U attempted (and succeeded well beyond expectations) to set the world record for most flu shots given in one day. Your humble li'l blogger is but one of many who helped set this record, but still, that makes me a world record holder in some sort of miniscule way. Can I claim such credit when I was one of thousands and was in no way involved beyond spending 10 minutes waiting in line and getting a simple flu shot? No, I really can't. But did I go ahead and put "World Record Holder" on my c.v.? Yes, yes I did. For I see very little difference between what that show-boating Bolt guy did and what I did. And I'm not even bragging as much as he did...

Sadly not the world record I hold

Monday, October 27, 2008

Whoopsie, Sorry About Your House and Retirement

Anyone following the news of this whole economic crisis by now knows that Alan Greenspan, that financial "genius" who would ensure us endless growth and prosperity, has now admitted he was wrong. It turns out this genius is just now figuring out that completely un-regulated markets directed by the greed of executive boards of major corporations will not lead to the greatest good for everyone. It's funny because I learned this in college, but maybe Greenspan's undergrad institution wasn't quite as prestigious as the University of Northern Iowa.

But that's why it must be great to be a powerful capitalist. Because even when you fuck up the world's economy using logic a child could see through, you get to just kick back and say "Whoops. Sorry about ruining the lives of thousands of people and all that. Well, it's back home for me to count my giant piles of money."

Man, nice work if you can get it...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Funk The War in the Twin Cities Today

A roving dance party/anti-war protest. It honestly gets no better than this.

Be there. Or be square. And fuck Huey Lewis, you do not want to be square.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More Music You *Need* To Hear

How on the heels of my post the other day, yet another group has come out with a book on the 500 songs you should hear before you die. Not quite sure why all of these lists reference your impending doom, but hey...

This one is from the fine folks at Pichfork, so expect a lot of uppity sass, pretension, and condescension mixed in amongst your reviews. Though on the plus side, after reading it you can be the pretentious music asshole at the party, and everybody wants to be that guy, right? Right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wordless Outrage, etc.

The Denver Police Department is currently producing and selling these t-shirts:

So yes, just so you can be up to speed: the Denver PD has designed, produced, and is currently selling shirts in which they proudly proclaim they beat people. And in case you can't see the details in the photo, the "peace" officer in question is wearing a button featuring a 68 with a slash through it, no doubt in reference to the group "Recreate 68" that planned many of the protest events.

Ironically for me I get word of this shirt while in the midst of writing a prelim section on police brutality. While I can't sum the whole thing up here, I think the shirt says it better than I could anyway. Police brutality is not an aberration of which the police are ashamed. Rather, it's something quite common and something which they're obviously quite proud of.

However, this does make me wonder how many Denver PD will be wearing this shirt when they're called into court facing civil lawsuits over their excessive violence during the DNC. I would guess that all of a sudden they'll be very contrite and pretend they didn't do anything wrong. But then again, I suppose that's the way it is with all cowardly bullies: they're the biggest and meanest kids around until they get in trouble...

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Have Seen the Future (of football)

And it is the a11 offense.

Developed by a small-enrollment high school football coach as a way to compete with much bigger teams, it exploits a loophole in the kick-formation rules to make all 11 players on the field potentially eligible receivers on every play. As one might imagine, it creates both havoc for defenders and some pretty cool youtube videos.

The coach who developed it argues it's the next evolution in football, as pass rushers get too fast for linemen and they become obsolete.

Now, I don't know that the o-line is going to become obsolete anytime too soon, but it's an intriguing development. As I've argued here before, football is getting to a crisis of size. Even college linemen have ballooned to obscene weights, and even some high school linemen are topping 300 pounds. Now, the vast majority of these kids putting themselves into such harmful body weights will never earn money for playing the sport, but will still be stuck for life with the debilitating problems such massive size brings. Heck, even the ones who do end up getting paid can look forward to an average life expectancy of 55.

Innovations like the a11 could be the way out of this arms race (or body race, to be more accurate), as they call for a leaner, faster player instead of bigger and bulkier players. And it has the added advantage of less serious injuries, as the crushing head-on blows of the current game are replaced with glancing blows in the open field.

Predictably, several states have already banned the use of the offense, with critiques running from it being too hard on opposing defenses to it simply being too confusing for refs, but it's gaining in popularity throughout the nation. It's far too early to say if it will be the new thing or simply a passing fad, but it could be a signpost toward a positive evolution of possibly the most violent game on the earth.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh, But I Love Solids

As I've pointed out in this space before, getting sick sucks when you're a grown up. Gone are the days of laying around in bed without a care in the world while all the other suckers have to go about their daily lives. No, as an "adult," when you get sick, you merely get much busier when you're better. Case in point: I woke up wednesday with a ridiculous stomach flu. Bad enough to send me to the doctor's office, and I never go to the doctor. It's a scary place and they no longer give me a lollipop for my troubles.

But it turns out it was nothing too serious, though I'm still off the solid foods (though I tried some toast this morning, so keep your fingers crossed). But the shitty thing is that right now I'm working on my prelim, which is more or less a big paper that is either good enough and I get to become a bonafide doctoral candidate, or is not good enough and I fail out and go back to selling match sticks on the corner for my 18th century, Dickensian step-father.

So as the good Doc was telling me not to leave bed for the next three days and offering to write me a note to get out of class, I couldn't help but laugh and wish that I was still at a stage where a nice Dr.'s note got you out of pretty much everything. Instead, I went home and attempted to write through the fog...I haven't gone back and looked at those sections yet, but I'm imagining they aren't very good.

So it looks like a fun weekend of playing catchup, once again shredding what few moments of free time I hoped to have...

Oh, and since I haven't blogged on anything political in awhile, remember how the New York Times uncovered the secret Pentagon program of writing fake news reports and other propaganda to convince Americans and Iraqis that the highly unpopular occupation is a good idea? Well, it's still going on, just fine and with no signs of stopping.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What You Should Listen To...

There's a great number of interesting music blogs I've been tempted to ape when I have some rare free time for writing such flippant things (most intriguing is the favorite song for every year you've lived idea), but one I fear I shall never try is the the 1,000 songs you must hear before you die.

Since seeing the list, I've been brimming with ideas of who would be on my must-hear list, though I feel like it's really a list that a 26 year old kid shouldn't/can't be writing. Maybe I'll leave it until the days I'm old and gray, sitting in some sort of fancy future rocking chair, sipping some sort of fancy future tea, and complaining about the weird fancy future music all of those damn future kids are listening to.

But I do have the workings of a list started. Perhaps I'll write the 250 songs you need to hear by the time you're 30; I don't know. But I do know that any such list is incomplete unless it heavily features the shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner, the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher and the competent drumwork of Don Brewer...

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Shark Messiah Arrives

Scientists have just confirmed the second known virgin birth of a shark, which could only mean one thing:

The sharks now have their messiah.

What does this mean for humanity? Only one thing, I'm afraid: The sharks will rise up, led by this new shark messiah and will over-take humanity at the top of the global food chain.

There is nothing left to do now except accept out new overlords. And let me be first to say, woe to all those who challenge the intelligence and temerity of our new shark leaders! All hail the shark!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Time To Party Like It's 1999 (+2)

Ah, the halcyon days of 2001...N*Sync was still considered a valid pop group, an aging Joe Piscapo pondered a run for the governor of New Jersey, the events of September 11th Changed The World Forever™, and the domestication of the dog continued unfettered.

In honor of their 10th birthday, Google has created Google 2001, allowing you to search their oldest available index, which, as you may have guessed, is from 2001.

So go play around on it and be reminded of a simpler time before moose-hunting secessionists and a massive economic's kinda fun.

The top internet fraud scams of 2001...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Getting Cold and Manning Up

Here in the great north, turning the furnace on is a big deal every winter. While sooner or later everyone has to break down and turn it on, it becomes a point of pride to see how long you can go before turning to the comforts of artificial heat. Personally, I think having your heater running anytime before November is a sign of getting soft, but opinions vary.

So while I've been able to hold off on the thermostat, I did today have to bust out the insulated slippers. It feels early, but it's a cold and miserable day, and I think I'm getting sick, so I finally had to break down and admit it's getting to be cold outside.

But while my feet have given out on me, at least I haven't turned the heat on yet...

Monday, October 06, 2008

The One Benefit of Private Schools

I'm not a fan of private schools. I'm sure it's due partially to the fact that I've attended nothing but public schools throughout my life, but it's more an ideological stance. Education is a basic human right that should be afforded to all, not split between those who can afford great schools and ghettoized prison complexes for the rest of us.

But while at the lady friend's college reunion this weekend, I learned the one upside of private schools: there is a much better chance some of their wealthy alumnus have gone on to do something famous. Or in this case, marry someone famous.

For you see, the fourth Mrs. Gingrich is a proud Luther College Alumnus. And this affords you a chance to annoy Mr. Contract With America himself, while he takes awkward sideways glances at the leftist propaganda emblazoned all over your bag and clothes. But being a good politician, he faked a smile for us anyway:

Remember when I was a relevant political figure?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When Do The Police Answer for Their Fuck Ups?

Amongst the many people who had their houses illegally searched and were detained for no reason prior to the RNC (well, check that, detained for the very specific reason of preventing them from using their constitutionally protected rights to free speech), one was longtime local activist and founder of Arise! bookstore.

Why was his house raided and all of its occupants arrested? Because police "intelligence" confirmed that he was receiving shipments of weapons to violently shut down the RNC. The only problem is that the police were completely wrong.

The boxes of weapons in question were nothing but pamphlets about vegetarianism which, while a very backward and dangerous ideology, probably does not necessitate breaking into people's houses with your guns drawn and arresting everyone inside.

But what I really want to know is why the police don't have to answer for such monumental fuck-ups. If I tried to publish a paper with such obviously wrong ideas and was proved to be incorrect in every way possible, I would laughed out of my profession. But if cops operate on obviously faulty intelligence and harass law-abiding citizens, nothing what-so-ever happens to them. In fact, their mayor comes out in support of them saying they showed admirable restraint.

Good work if can get it, I suppose...

Friday, September 26, 2008

September Baseball and Community

Growing up in a small state with no professional sports teams, there wasn't really a consensus on who to root for. Sure, I was a die-hard Twins fan, but most of my friends liked the Cubs, or Cardinals, or any of the other teams from bordering states. So when your team won, there weren't too many people to celebrate with. You just kind of went about your day happy for a victory, but alone in your joy. Which, in a way, takes away some of the best parts of sports; namely, having an amazing collective experience.

But living in the same city as the team you love is an incredibly different story. It really is like that scene in Major League where the punks are hugging the suits and the rabbis are hugging the clerics and all of that. Just wearing a Twins shirt or hat opens you up to the possibility of conversation everywhere you go.

And it really is a great feeling. Not to go on a Putnam-esque rant about the state of today's society, but big city folk don't usually talk to strangers. It really makes the town feel a whole lot more homey when everyone has a smile for everyone else after an amazing three-game sweep of the hated rivals. Even the buses flash "Go Twins" between giving route information on their little electronic signs.

I'm tempted to wax philosophically about the power of sport to bring us all together, but I know whatever unity it brings is ephemeral and fleeting. But still, when you're in a playoff hunt in september, it's pretty amazing the way everyone is suddenly friends...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen...

Welcome your FIRST-PLACE Minnesota Twins!

Obligatory Twinkies Post

Despite sending away arguably their two best players this past winter, the Twins are again playing meaningful* September baseball. And damn if it ain't exciting. At the game last night I definitely got some grey hairs out it all, but in the end saw another young guy step up and saw Twitchy McXanax get his 200th career save.

And with time being a major crunch for me lately (possibly related to the fact that I'm spending a bit more time watching baseball than I probably should), I don't have time to go on a full-length rant about the state of parity in Major League Baseball, but suffice it to say that it just came out that the Yankees spend twice as much on their payroll as the Rays and Twins combined. In fact, just the left half of their infield (Jeter and A-Rod) make more than either the Twins or the Rays payroll.

And yet, the Rays are cruising to 1st place in possibly the best division in baseball, and Twins are gutting it out again with a bunch of 23 year old kids making 15 cents a day.

As with all things in Minnesota, you have to measure them on a different rubric. I can't see these Twins going too far in the post-season (but I love their chances next year), but right now, all of this is good enough that I don't really care. For late-season fights for the pennant are the Minnesota version of playoffs anyway.

*Yes, I know in the grand scheme of life no baseball is actually meaningful, but in the context of things, etc...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mainstream Criminology and Market Failures

I'm TA-ing for Intro to the American Criminal Justice System right now, and as much as it's an interesting class, the content is a bit different from how I would teach it. For in this class, the students are learning about two mainstream theories of crime -- Order Maintenance Policing (OMP) and Collective Efficacy.

Basically, OMP says that if you aggressively police small crimes like vandalism and loitering, it sends a message that crime is not welcome and will prevent bigger crimes from happening. Despite some very thorough and convincing research that this doesn't actually work, it sounds like it makes intuitive sense. On the other side of things, collective efficacy holds that the more social cohesion there is in the neighborhood, the less likely people are to commit crimes because they see that everyone is committed to a safe neighborhood and won't tolerate illegal activities.

Now, there are tons of problems with both of these theories (for instance, use either of them to explain Enron to me), but the biggest problem is that they both rest on a highly punitive theory that sees people as rationally calculating actors who will commit crimes if it's more profitable than legal activity and vice-versa. Therefore, we just need to raise the costs of doing crime (longer jail sentences, etc.) and people will stop committing criminal acts.

Of course, such a line of logic completely misses the fact that most property crimes are committed because the person in question has no other choice. It's not like they're weighing the options of a Harvard MBA versus mugging people. They're much more likely to be weighing starvation and homelessness against mugging people.

But an even bigger problem with such logic is that those who spout it know full damn well it doesn't work and are clearly only using it as a way to round up the poor and minorities, providing cheap prison labor, easy scapegoats, a roll-back of the civil rights movement, and a whole host of other disingenuous motives.

And how am I able to make such audacious claims about their motives? Because when the criminals are wealthy elites, suddenly the logic flies right out the window, as the above cartoon illustrates. For the poor we can't have rehabilitation instead of prison, as the conservatives argue, because it will make people dependent on the state and not punish them for their crimes. However, when you purposefully commit illegal acts and create a national financial crisis, you get $700 billion, which of course in no way encourages future criminal action. No, it sends the strong message that white collar crime will not be accepted.

So let that be a message to you, future CEOs of America: if you act criminally and fuck up the entire nation's financial system, we will harshly punish you by giving you hundreds of billions of dollars. So please, walk the straight and narrow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Two Short Plays About the American Economy

Here's what would happen if I fucked up really bad and lost a bunch of money on a shady housing deal:

Jesse: Oh fuck! This house I clearly couldn't afford is being taken away from me!

U.S. Government: Of course it is! You should manage your finances better.

Jesse: But now I'll be homeless and destitute! Where can I go? What can I do?

U.S. Government: Well, maybe being homeless for awhile will teach you a valuable lesson about fiscal responsibility.

Jesse: Dang, looks like it's back to living in the car for me!

Here's what would happen if I were the CEO of a major lending firm:

Jesse the CEO: Oh fuck! Lending large sums of money to people I knew full well would not be able to pay me back has bitten me in the ass. I clearly have no idea what I'm doing!

U.S. Government: That's ok. Here's 700 billion dollars with no strings attached. Enjoy!

Please contacts your Senators and Reps.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arg, It Be That Time Agayne

Yes, once again it is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and for your help and edification, here's the official guide to talking like a pirate, including how to speak like a pirate in German, Swedish, and Mandarin.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Innocent People Dying, blah, blah, blah

The busy semester is keeping me really busy (as one might infer from it being called "the busy semester"), so I haven't had much time to crank out some thoughtful blogposts. In the meantime, I'll just keep you posted on many of the standard yet horrible injustices going on in the world.

Horrible injustices such as Georgia Executing an Innocent Man. It's a fascinating case with the particulars, but otherwise it's the standard police couldn't find a suspect so they shoe-horned an innocent blackman into the role and now he's going to lose his life for happening to have been where he was at the time the actual crime was committed story...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How Do You Know It's Gotten Out of Hand?

When Karl Rove says you've gone too far. I haven't actually seen the commercial in question, but when the dark overlord of all that is unholy says you're going too far, chances are you've said something pretty fucking terrible.

You know what else went way too far? The policing at the RNC. Want to see a really good example of the cops needlessly pepper-spraying and beating an unarmed and passive protestor, and then closing ranks around her so they could beat her without the camera being able to pick it up? Well, the click here, but I'll warn you in advance, it's pretty disturbing. Though not as disturbing as what they've been accused of doing once inside the protective walls of the local jails when there was absolutely no chance of a television camera picking it up...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Art of Being a Dick, featuring Norm McDonald

Being a dick is a difficult thing. It isn't just about making fun of people, or making passers-by uncomfortable. The talented ones can do it and not look like jerks in the process. For example, my brother is one of the few who has elevated it to a fine art. Even when he's being such a dick that you can't stand it, on a certain level you have to applaud both the commitment and cleverness involved. It's actually kind of a beautiful thing on an odd meta-level.

Norm McDonald has basically made a career out of it, and few are better. See for instance, this recently uncovered clip of him being a giant ass on Conan many years ago:

But note that what makes it wonderful is that even though he's being a giant dick to everyone involved, it seems warranted. After all, it is indeed a stupid career move to leave a top-rated show for a Carrot Top movie that has a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even if you are Courtney Thorne-Smith. And really, wouldn't most people rather see Norm McDonald make fun of a flash-in-the-pan star than hear another rehearsed, packaged interview comprised of nothing but pre-written studio sotck phrases? I think so...

Who's Reading Jesse's Bog? Part IV In a Never-Ending Series

I'm not much of one to shill for people (except for the great taste of Miller Lite©...great taste, less filling. Just one of the many fine beverages from the good folks at the Miller Brewing Corporation), but I do have to give a shout-out to google analytics. It's this really sweet program that tracks everything you could ever want to know about who is visiting your website or blog.

And trust me, it gets really fascinating. For example, I know that I have a certain international appeal, but now it's been confirmed, for my humble li'l blog has been visited by people on every single continent. Save, of course, Antarctica. Though to be fair, they don't keep track of antarctic visitors, so for all I know they're reading it down there, too.

And that's a pretty cool feeling. Of course, as I've acknowledged before, a pretty healthy chunk of those "people" are really just trolling internet programs trying to sell me black market viagra, but still, some portion of the visitors to my blog must be real flesh and blood human beings.

Some of the nations of visitors are surprising (I'm kind of a big deal in Yemen, it turns out), but others I could have guessed. The Cannucks seem big on me, and I'm huge in both Germany and France. They must be tuning in for my progressive America-bashing and/or support for socialized medicine. I also get a fair number of hits from India, but to be fair, even if I were getting thousands of hits from India it would still be only about .000001% of their population.

Though I would really like to point out that I have hits from China, meaning my li'l ol' blog is safe enough to get through official government censorship. Now, maybe it's just because I'm a communist, but I like to think that the demand for my witty insights into life is so high that even totalitarian governments must bend to the will of my many fans. Or they're the ones posting all of the discount viagra comments. Either way, though, it's pretty cool.

Update: After posting this, I just realized it's 9/11 you know, bake an American-flag shaped cake or punch an immigrant or something. We all have to do our part, you know.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Helping You and Needing Some Help

One doesn't simply go from being an all-american small town altar boy to a rabble-rousing, law-breaking malcontent all by themselves. Sure, I had a head start on it compared to most people with a lefty family and an economically devastated hometown with no opportunities to show me the dismal side of our political and economic system, but even I needed a nudge along the way.

And many people along the way helped me a great deal, but amongst those who did the most, one finally pushed e from respectable upstanding citizen to common criminal. Fr. Frank Cordaro (ret.) of the Des Moines Catholic Worker House was the first to introduce me to a life of civil disobedience and Christian resistance.

The Des Moines Catholic Worker House is a part of the larger Catholic Worker movement, made up of Anarchist Catholics dedicated to serving the poor and remedying social injustices. They have given up nearly all of their material possessions and live in community and poverty. The Des Moines Catholic Worker not only feeds the homeless daily (as well as providing them many other services), they are also the heart and soul of the Iowa peace movement. Whether it's been protesting the Iowa Air National Guard's patrolling of the no fly zones in Iraq (which means preventing needed food and medicine from reaching the Iraqi people) or attempting a people's arrest of Karl Rove for War Crimes, they provide the services our government can't or won't to the people who need it the most.

But like most everyone in Iowa, they were hit pretty hard by the floods. Especially considering all of the members of the worker community live in formerly condemned houses they have rehabilitated, which as you may guess, don't hold up so well to floods. Due to many circumstances beyond their control, they are also down in numbers of community members right now as well, so they are having an especially hard time recovering from the damages.

And we cannot let this community die, or we can kiss goodbye a great chunk of all Midwestern radical peace organizing (these people do a lot of work, I'm telling you). If you're at all inclined, send a donation to them here:

C/O Frank Cordaro
Phil Berrigan CW House
713 Indiana Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50314

Of if you happen to be in Des Moines, stop by and lend a hand. Tell 'em Jesse sent you. And, as always, keep them in your prayers.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Rest of the RNC

So it turns out that when you have a bunch of work piling up, the semester starts, and you're busy protesting every day, you run out of time for the little things, like sleeping, eating, and of course, blogging.

But now that all the confetti has been cleared out, all of the police have been tucked back into their suburban homes, heavy with the happy rest that only 4 full days of hippie ass whompin' can give you, and all of the rabble have been safely charged with ridiculous made-up felony charges, I have some more free time on my hands. Which is not to say I have much free time, but enough to vaguely keep my head above water.

Day 3 of the RNC was pretty low key for me. There weren't any major actions planned, but I did go to a great performance of Wake Up World, the world's only 6-hour long morning show, created by one of the co-creators of the Daily Show. It was a fun time, but mostly we were there for Billy Bragg's intimate performance, which was quite good but ended far too soon so we could watch that lipstick-wearing pitbull, or whatever the hell that speech was about.

And that night, yet another Rage concert ended in arrests, as concertgoers from their downtown Target Center performance we arrested en masse for charges that still haven't been made clear. Though I imagine if they had been at say, a Toby Keith concert and acted in the exact same manner they probably would not have been arrested.

Day 4 we had been warned by our inside informant to stay away because the cops were really ramping up their efforts that day, and sure enough, as I mentioned in an earlier post, about 300-400 people were arrested that afternoon to put the week's arrest total over 800 (compared to 150 arrests at the DNC in Denver). Given the amped-up presence and a relationship event of significance, the lady friend and I took a personal day and avoided the melee.

So now things are back to relative normativity, but all of those charged with a felony last week (which was scientifically determined by what each person was wearing, according to scores of those arrested and legal observers) have launched a class action lawsuit against the city of St. Paul and local fascist demagogue Bob Fletcher for their heavy-handed and inept policing of the RNC. But, the RNC 8, those arrested in pre-RNC raids held on some serious felony charges, still face some really bad prison time for expressing their right to free speech. If this makes you a little uncomroftable with the state of our democracy, please check out their website and help 'em out.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Out of Order Quick Post

So really quickly, the police crackdown has dramatically increased. They shut down a march today and expect to have arrested several hundred people, putting the total reached in the week somewhere near 700 people total having been arrested. Tonight's arrests included 15 reporters, who were obviously neither protesting nor breaking any damn laws.

If you disagree with the Heartland becoming a police state, please contact Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher at 651.266.9333, and ask him to please stop trampling the last shreds of our constitution. While you're at it, please share thoughts with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (651.266.8510).

It doesn't really have anything to do with where you fall on the political spectrum...this is embarrassing to all of us as citizens of democracy and human beings.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Day 2 of the RNC

Day 2 was a pretty interesting day all around. To begin with, it was the first day of school, and I've drawn possibly the worst TA assignment one can get this semester, so I'll be having an interesting school year, but that's largely beside the point.

A friend had gotten some tickets to the taping of the Daily Show, it's first day here in St. Paul. After waiting three plus hours just to get inside, we finally got to sit down and wait for another hour. Finally the pre-show warm-up guy came out, and after nearly half of the sociology department had been involved in his little set, John Stewart came out to do some q+a before the show started. And it takes way to much background information to work out of context, but suffice it to say that this humble li'l blogger asked a question good enough to make him laugh and throw him off his game a little bit, which made me feel way cooler than it should have. But at least I got a good story out of it.

The show was really fun to watch live like that, and provided me with many great stories, but the real story was on the streets. After the taping, they wouldn't let us leave because all of downtown was on lockdown. Earlier in the day, there was a free concert, and when Anti-Flag tried to cut their set short and give the stage over to a surprise Rage Against the Machine performance, the police cut the power and shut down the show. Zach grabbed a megaphone and lead the crowd in some acapella versions of a few Rage songs, but then the concert was broken up and the police forced everyone into the streets, where they met up with a pre-existing rally...a brilliant strategy for keeping peace and order.

But the real excitement for the night was after the taping, when we were able to stand on the street and watch fascism in action. After the rally passed, they were followed by phalanx after phalanx of riot police (over 150, by my count). All of a sudden, all of the police lined up single file, knelt in unison, and took off their helmet to put on gas masks, then stayed bent over and covered their heads.

So that was definitely a scary moment, but we got away without being gassed (though they were apparently gassing people up the street). However, my inside source at the St. Paul PD then texted me to get the hell out of there because the National Guard was being called in with live ammunition (live ammunition meaning real bullets).

So I got out with my life, but it was another long, fun, and scary day. But I guess I'm going to keep up with this one-day-behind coverage, so check back in tomorrow for day 3 news, featuring another Rage concert leading to arrests and an intimate Billy Bragg show.

I'll be checking out the last protest this afternoon which may be against my better judgement, seeing as this is the pigs' last chance to whomp some hippie ass, but I just can't stay away. On the plus side, only one more day until all of those out of town trouble makers (CIA, FBI, National Guard, etc.) are out of our peaceful town.

Also, just for your edification, over 100 of the people summarily arrested monday have already had their charges thrown out as blatantly false, and one staffer for a Republican state senator was arrested in the middle of the mass arrests. So in other words, they've only arrested one actual criminal thus far...

A Great Time in The Ol' Police State

So it's been awhile, but in case you haven't been paying attention, the Twin Cities are more or less under siege in a complete police state. But here's a re-cap of what your favorite rabble rouser has been up to...

Day 1 of the RNC:

Day 1 started out fairly mild. There was the big, legal and well-organized march. It was good time; we marched, we chanted, we walked through the freedom cage, we angered the 4 or 5 counter-protesters. All in all a pretty standard protest march. But the highlight? The Iraq Veterans Against the War attempted to enter the RNC to present their demands for immediate withdrawal and were met by over 100 officers in complete riot gear blocking the building. Undeterred by the fascism they were supposedly fighting overseas, they did not back down and eventually, the police parted and let them through. They then read their demands on the floor of the RNC itself. Perhaps you haven't heard about this, but far be it from me to suggest the mainstream media does a poor job of covering political dissent.

After the march, the lady friend and I headed over to the Take Back Labor Day rally/concert, and it was easily one of the best shows I've seen in a long, long time. Though we missed most of Billy Bragg's set (no worries, seeing him tonight), we did see Steve Earle and Alison Moorer turn in a nice performance as we settled down to lunch. Atmosphere did a damn fine set, Mos Def was a little disappointing, and Pharcyde was phar from that good (see what I did there?).

But Tom Morello as the Nightwatchmen stole the show. His set was an amazing combination of informative politics and unabashedly passionate music. Highlights include him doing an acoustic version of Guerilla Radio (complete with replicating his famous solo on the freaking harmonica) and when he invited the Iraq Veterans Against the War to lead the crowd in the most rocking version of "This Land is Our Land" that you will ever hear. I actually started to get chocked up during that one.

However, the fun dissipated as right across the river we were all treated to a display of state repression as over 300 peacefully assembled people were surrounded by the police, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, and some beaten. They are currently all being held, but charged with nothing. This is a nice continuation of the police's weekend pre-RNC raids on several area houses, often breaking doors down and entering with weapons drawn to arrest people for no specific crime (most still have not been formally charged with anything).

Finally, after a long, fun, and scary day, we biked the hour back home to Mpls to rest and marvel at the police presence. This post is already too long, so look for tomorrow's coverage of Day 2, featuring a visit to the Daily Show and your blogging hero nearly getting gassed. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is John Mayer more talented than me? And other questions that haunt my nights...

I've been a musician for more or less my whole life. From piano lessons in grade school, through bands and choirs in school, through bands with friends, through picking up instruments here and there, and even riding a vocal scholarship halfway through my undergrad years. I can play about a dozen instruments, half of them pretty well, and I'm a good enough singer to garner the aforementioned scholarship. In short, music has pretty much dominated my life. I've been spending the majority of my days either listening to or performing it for as long as I can remember. I know it inside and out, classical and contemporary, theoretically and wanking jammery.

Yet my one big project this summer has been to write a song. A song of my own. One that I would perform and say "here's a little ditty I wrote" or something witty like that. How hard can it be? To borrow a phrase, the radio is full of no-talent ass-clowns winning Grammys all over the place. Certainly it cannot be that hard.

And yet it vexes me so. I simply cannot write anything I would ever perform in front of other human beings. And in my quest to figure out why this writer's block has such a grip on me, I've been relentlessly analyzing all forms of music I listen to.

And you know what I think? I think I'm just not full of myself enough to do it. I mean, seriously, look at the lyrics to your favorite songs. Read them aloud, with no music or anything, just read the words aloud. You'll notice they sound completely ridiculous. So ridiculous you have to wonder if the people performing them ever get embarrassed of having to say such things night in and night out on tour. But they don't, because they're able to accept their own bullshit as if it were legitimate.

And it's not just accepting your own bullshit, it's truly believing that others want to hear your bullshit. And don't get me wrong, I'm plenty able to force my bullshit on others, but for some reason, just not musically.

So I'm working on it, and making a little bit of progress. But I have to believe I'll overcome this and write some eventually, because I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with the fact that there are things the likes of John Mayer can do that I can't...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kick-Ass Upcoming Events in the TC

Tomorrow night at Arise!, world-renowned graphic novelist and social justice activist Seth Tobocman will be appearing at Arise (2441 Lyndale in Uptown). Seth is best know as co-creator of the comic World War II Illustrated, but my favorite of his would have to be You Don't Have To Fuck People Over To Survive, a brilliant thesis on anti-capitalist work, and also the book I read while getting my first tattoo...the book isn't tattoo-related at all, but it holds special memories for me in that way, too.

Second, make sure also to get your ass over to Harriet Island on the first day of the RNC to see the Take Back Labor Day festival. A combination of music and activism put on by the SEIU, it will feature so little-known no-name acts as Atmosphere, Mos Def, Billy Bragg, Steave Earle, Alison Moorer, pharcyde, and some kid named Tom Morello, who apparently has another band playing in town the next night.

Anyway, it's a good time to be back in the Twin Cities. And if you're out of town and thinking about visiting soon, remember that bars can stay open until 4 a.m. for the Republicans...just so you know.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Home -Grown Terrorism and Where the Police Waste Their Time

I remember back in undergrad after it was revealed that the police had been spying on a group of mostly elderly priests and nuns I did anti-war work with, the mother of the girl I was dating at the time explained to me that it was necessary for the police to keep tabs even on pacifists, because "terrorists do run in those circles."

Now, it goes without saying that this lady was incredibly stupid (though for many more reasons that just that statement), but she was even more astoundingly stupid than usual that time.

Because American terrorists are not leftists, they are conservatives. After the recent murder of the chair of the Arkansas Democratic party, we have the second story in just a few weeks of a right-wing nutjob going crazy and shooting up leftists because of Rush Limbaugh convinced him it's ok to do so.

But really what these stories point to is that incredible ways in which our law enforcement resources are woefully mismanaged in order to intimidate progressive activists rather than actually, oh I don't know, enforce the laws or stop crazed right-wingers from blowing up federal buildings, for example.

Time and time again, the facts have proven that lefty peacenicks are completely non-violent (you know, much like the names "pacifism" would imply), while radical right-wingers are not afraid to use murder to achieve their aims, whether it be against abortion, liberal churches, black churches, or any other group or institution they feel is a threat to their insane world view.

But yet where do local, state, and federal law enforcement put their resources in investigating political groups?

Though to be fair, it must be pretty hard. I mean, on the one hand you have groups asking the government to stop killing, and on the other hand, you have groups openly advocating murder. It must be pretty hard to figure out which one poses the bigger threat...but then again, I guess it depends on what you define as a threat. While I might say people who advocate murdering innocent people are a threat, I can see how people who say that perchance the United States shouldn't dictatorially control the world or murder over a million people in a war based on lies must seem pretty threatening, too...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Um...At Least We're Not the Only Racist Nation?

In a recent ad for the Spanish sports magazine Marca, the entire Spanish Olympic basketball team posed while making "slanty eyes" to promote their appearance in the games in China.

This is pretty much just 100% fucked up, so I don't really think it needs any commentary...though in unrelated news, I hear they hired Don Imus as their play-by-play announcer...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

I am 26 years old today.

I have no clever saying or relevant song about turning 26, so there is no long-winded essay today. I'm finally home from the east coast and it's my birthday.

Even though I cleaned, cleaned the apartment on my birthday, it's still a pretty good day. I am going to lounge around in my pajamas and play Tecmo Super Bowl, possibly the greatest video game ever made...ever.

And then a surprise party tonight (the suspense!).

And that's a quality birthday.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Finally Coming Home

After a long, warm, humid, and Godless month on the East Coast, the lady friend and I are finally beginning the long trek home tomorrow, interrupted only by stops for food and the occasional cool-looking mini gold course.

Words can not express how good it will feel to be back in the loving embrace of the Twin Cities.

So blogging will be pretty light for the rest of the week, but return with a vengeance as soon as I'm back to my own computer and my own home of righteously indignant know...stay tuned for that.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I Wish I Were Still Naive Enough to be Shocked

Seymour Hersh, the pulitzer-winning columnist for the New York Times, reports that Cheney had a series of meetingas to determine how to build an excuse for war with Iran. Really, that should be offensive enough. But it gets better (or worse, depending on your view of humanity):

One of the ideas discussed was building boats that looked like Iranian warships, staffing them with U.S. Marines dressed to look like Iranians, and having them open fire on U.S. troops, thus provoking a war.'s true. Let that sink in for a good moment or two.

The Vice President of the United States was willing to sacrifice the lives of American soldiers so that he could stage a fake fight with Iran, thus allowing him to convince the American people to waste the lives of thousands more Americans and Iranians so that he could start a war with no actual justification.

This is really shameful, but more to the point, it is fucking treason. Cheney was fully prepared to have U.S. soldiers fight each other to start yet another illegal war. How are these people allowed to still be in office, let alone not in prison? Or, if I remember correctly from my eigth grade social studies class, the punishment for treason in hanging, right?

But I suppose it just invokes the old adage that if you kill one person you're a murderer; if you kill a thousand, you're a hero. Not quite sure what you are if you kill well over a million, but you're sure not as bad as a a guy who lied about getting a blowjob, apparently.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Hearty Huzzah

Just got word today that one of my papers has been accepted for publication. While this isn't technically the first paper I've published, the (one) previous paper was in a special issue of a journal a good friend was guest-editing. And while it was still reviewed and all that, this one feels a lot more real and a lot more like my first one.

And sure, I know that the average number of readers for any given journal article is 3 and the modal number is zero, but I'm not letting that get me down. I'm damn proud of my paper that no one will ever read.

So today is a good day. And I'm heading back to God's country so very soon, I can almost taste it. Life is indeed looking up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Big Uppin the Hometown

Though I may be stuck out in the Godless East Coast, it warms my heart to see the hometown getting some positive press. Though anyone who's been through knows it, people are finally starting to recognize the greatest city in the world for what it is.

For starters, British politics and lifestyle magazine Monocle named Minneapolis one of the 20 most livable cities in the world, citing our world-class arts, theatre, dinning, and a whole host of other great things. And quick on the heels of this report comes the regular update of how Minneapolis continues to lead the nation in volunteering for the umpteenth year in a row, even in spite of the fact that volunteering rates are dropping nationwide.

So there you have it -- a kick-ass city with the nicest people in the nation. That's God's country for ya.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Right Wing Does Not Get This One

There's an hilarious op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today by Andrew Klavan suggesting that the Dark Knight is nothing but a thinly veiled tribute to the Bush administration. As The Hater points out, Mr. Klavan has to stretch pretty far to make the connection, with his best evidence being that the bat signal looks kind of like a W. He also makes the entirely specious comparison that lefty documentaries against the war have made far less money than this supposed paean to the right-wing and organized murder. Because documentaries always out-gain giant summer blockbusters, you know.

But even beyond his flawed logic and gargled tones (you see, it's hard to understand someone when they're so busy fellating the president), the analogy simply doesn't work. After all, Batman actively refuses to kill his enemies, because he knows that as soon as he does, he's no better than they are. The whole movie is set up to deliver the message that no matter how capricious or cruel your enemies are, if you abandon your morals in fighting them, you've already lost. The only times in the movie when the bad guys actually win are those times when the heroes stoop to their level, which is exactly what those bad guys want in the first place. You know, like when a certain Reagan-funded billionaire pays some people to crash planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in order to provoke a war which recruits him thousands of new allies after the inevitable imperialist backlash.

But hey, far be it from me to suggest the Wall Street Journal has some sort of editorial bias that might blind them to the obvious morals of the film...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

American Teen Review

Just went to my first-ever pre-release screening tuesday night. It was for the up-coming docudrama American Teen, and while it didn't really blow me away, I'm a sucker for having gotten to see a movie before everyone else gets to. Really the highlight of the movie was the grand-prize raffle drawing for a one-night stay at the Four Seasons, which I unfortunately did not win.

The movie itself was more or less a live update of the Breakfast Club, as it followed the senior year of a popular jock, a rich beauty queen, a weird arty girl, and a band geek. Only Judd Nelson was missing.

Ultimately, it was a fairly fun movie, but it suffered from the fact that it had relatively few surprises for anyone who had ever gone to high school. Well, actually I should say anyone who went to high school in the Midwest (it was shot in Indiana) as people of color were for all intents and purposes completely absent in the film. But otherwise, the popular girl stayed popular and didn't get into trouble for anything, the jock played basketball and remained popular, the weird arty girl continued to be weird and arty, and the nerdy band kid stayed a nerd. The best parts of the film were actually these little animated montages that more-or-less mocked what the kids wanted to do with their lives, some deserving that treatment, others not so much.

I really wouldn't recommend anyone rush out and see this unless you're a big reality t.v. fan, but it's a pretty solid rental, if nothing else than for reliving your awkward high school moments through other people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Of all the things the U.S. leads the world in -- imprisonment, military expenditure -- perhaps the one we should be most proud of was just discovered. The World Health Organization (WHO) just released its first-ever cross-national drug use statistics, and the U.S. comes well out on top in both marijuana and cocaine use, despite having some of the most draconian anti-drug laws in the world.

Our slightly over 42% of the population who admits to using marijuana (a number that is low compared to some other reputable social surveys) ranks in at twice as high (no pun intended) as the Netherlands, where pot is legal. Our cocaine usage rate of 16% is four times as high as Columbia, a nation practically drowning in...well...Columbian marching powder. it turns out arresting 830,000 people a year on drug charges gives you the world's highest rate of drug usage. Not to be too radical, but maybe if there's a widely available, non-lethal drug that nearly half the population of the nation uses despite incredibly harsh laws and punishments, maybe we should think about a different way to handle it. You know, other than locking up nearly a million people a year and changing absolutely nothing but people's arrest records...