Monday, June 30, 2008

East Coast Tour '09

For a guy who really, really hates the East Coast and all of it's better-than-thou stuck-up-ishness, I seem to be ending up here a lot. This time I'm doing a month out in the District of Columbia while the misses earns us some dolla bills.

Anyway, it's a long drive, and while a bunch of crazy stuff has happened (including a hippie fest in Columbus...where it is legal for women to be topless, just for the record) I'm too tired and have too limited computer access at the moment to regale you all with stories right now.

But in the meantime, tide yourselves over with a new entry to the ol' blogosphere, my soc buddy Tim. He's new to the world of blogging, so head on over, check out his stuff, and give him a virtual pat on the ass. Tell him Jesse sent you.

Friday, June 27, 2008

It's Just Like the Cool Toys

You know how every cool toy is invented once you're just too old to play with it? The lady friend's two-year old nephew definitely has way cooler shit than I ever had as a little one.

And now the state of Iowa is doing to me what the toy-makers of the world have been doing to all of us for years: making cool things once we're gone.

When I lived in Iowa I saw exactly three good shows: Dylan at the State Fair, Willie at the Cattle Congress, and then Willie opening for Dylan at the minor-league ballpark.

But now there's the 80-35 festival.

Just look at some of the people in this ridiculous line-up:

The Flaming Lips
The Roots
Yonder Mountain String Band
Jakob Dylan
Andrew Bird
Drive-By Truckers
Black Francis
Ingrid Michaelson

And that's not even half of it.

I lived in that damn state for 23 fucking years and nothing, nothing even approaching this cool ever came through. But then you leave for a year or two and lookie what happens...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Weighing in on the Shaq Thing

So Shaq did some pretty shitty freestyling and made fun of Kobe. It's not really as ground-breaking of a terrible event as the media would put it. Really, the story there is that he's gotten no better with the mic since the Shaq Diesel days, easily in the running for worst vanity musical project ever (but really, what is the worst vanity music project ever? that's a good future post idea). It's not surprising that he was publicly a jerk to a guy he wouldn't have won three of his championships without. According to all of his public behavior to this point, he seems like the kind of guy who's a huge asshole but hides it behind acting like he's just a funny guy, joking around.

But you know what? I'm still fine with him being raked over the coals. Because I cannot stand the man. He's not even a good basketball player. His skills involve being really tall and really fat and not getting fouls called on himself. You know, I could score 30 points in a game if I didn't take a shot from more than 3 inches away from the basket all night, too. And of course Wolves fans will never forget the Western Conference Finals game with time expiring at the half when Shaq simply pushed over a motionless Kevin Garnett, stepped over him (without dribbling) and dunked, in both the clearest traveling and charging violations ever committed in the game of basketball, yet there was no call. So that doesn't really help me like him.

But even worse than his shitty-basketball-disguised-as-good-basketball are his notoriously conservative political views. In his spare time in Miami he was a deputy police officer who even helped out on some drug raids and he wants to be a cop when his career's over. Being a cop isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but being a conservative asshole who acts like he's entitled to the world and a cop is a bad thing.

Well, at least he's finally gotten some comeuppance. In light of the offensive language and racial slurs in Shaw's rap, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has stripped him of his badge. Even the Sheriff admits it won't really do anything, but it's nice to finally see someone publicly call this guy out on his bullshit in some capacity...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Because Sometimes Pointing Out the Obvious is Fun

Republicans are racist.

Ok, not all of them. I'm always reminded of a great David Cross bit in which he says "I'm not saying all Republicans are racist, sexist homophobes. That would be absurd. It's just the people they elect to office who are racist, sexist homophobes"

And he's right. Not every Republican is racist, but there sure are more than a few of 'em who are. For example, check out a button that was selling like hotcakes at the Texas state Republican Convention:

Yeah, I know it's not that surprising in the great state of Texas. And I'm not much of an Obama fan, because the guy is nothing but empty rhetoric about change he damn well knows he is not going to make or is even planning on making (for instance, read about him backing down on his previous commitment to fight NAFTA). But still, this is pretty fucking bad

Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

To add my voice to the cacophony of folks eulogizing Mr. Carlin today, I thought I'd toss up a quick note about him before I get to work today. Though most folks in my generation are probably familiar with him as Rufus from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, or as the conductor of Shinning Time Station (he was wayyy better than the Ringo character), or possibly his short-lived sitcom, I fortunately had a buddy or two who were into his good comedy and got me properly introduced.

Though I don't buy the "new Lenny Bruce" tag hung on him (it's like calling people the new Jordan; just accept that there was only one) he was a great comedian and a great advocate of the freedom of speech (the mug shot above is for doing his routine in Milwaukee and "disturbing the peace" with naughty words), both efforts which have enriched our little world. He'll be sorely missed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Grand Ol' Time at the Midway

This past Friday I went to my first ever Saints game, and watched the next-door-to-hometown boys destroy their hated rivals Sioux Falls 7-nil. And even more fortunately, they did it by the 7th inning, thus insuring everyone in the crowd some free ribs. And really, isn't that the point of independent league baseball? Sure, when you get down to it, it's really just inferior baseball played by guys you've never heard of. And sure, you could drive 20 minutes the other direction and watch one of the most exciting teams in the bigs. But then you'd really be missing the point.

The point of independent league baseball is to watch some guy who really love the game play for little to no money. It's bad for them, but great for you, as you can get right behind home plate for $13, or the same price you'd pay at a big league stadium to be vaguely able to make out the fact that a ball game is going on. And where else do you see a random guy in a Mexican wrestling mask roaming the stands for reasons I can't quite figure out? In fact, I'm still not sure whether he was employed by the Saints, or just a guy who likes to dress up and come to ball games.

But the best thing about indy league baseball is that the recognize that baseball is really kind of a slow game, especially when most people there don't really care about the outcome of the game. As such, there is a great emphasis placed n between-inning entertainment and crowd give-a-ways. And because of this, I had my very first-ever experience of being in a prize-winning row. Sure, it was no Hormel Row-Of-Fame, but I did get a free foam finger, and there's nothing more apple-pie-American-baseball than that.

So if you're like me and had been meaning to get out to a Saints game but never actually got around to it, you can't be a cheap night at a gorgeous stadium...and a high likelihood of free foam fingers...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why I'd Be a Twins Fan Even If I Weren't

For those of you who weren't watching the Twins beating up on the hapless Nationals last night, you missed a great play that was inches away from an amazing play. With runners on first and second, there was a sharp grounder to thirdbaseman Brian Buscher, who stepped on the bag, rifled it to Alexi Casilla, who just barely missed the bag before sending it on to Morneau for the second out.

Any good Twins fan was already thinking it before Bert said it: Gaetti, Newman, Hrbek. In a 1990 game against Boston, the venerable infield, just a season away from wining it all, turned two triple plays in one game. To put it in perspective, that is not only the only time that has ever happened, the record for triple plays in a season is 3. Yes, the Twins infield got 2/3 of the way to the season record for triple plays in one game. Of course, being the Twins, they lost that game 1-0, but still...

To bring this to a point, that is exactly why being a Twins fan is so much better than being the fan of a team that "wins consistently" or "puts up offensive numbers." Sure, the Twins may be last in the bigs in homers (though they're safely in the top half of runs scored), but let's face it -- homeruns are really pretty boring. Not all the time; everyone can appreciate the drama of a slugger getting a big homer when his team is down late. But with the steriods era and general power surge (not to mention the DH in the American League), homeruns are pretty common. And most of them aren't dramatic at all...sure, you get to see about a cool two-three seconds of a big swing and then a towering fly. And then you get to witness the pure excitement of a fat man jogging and the historicism of knowing this guy will only do that another 30-40 times this season and a couple of hundred times over his career.

Contrast that with knowing that at any moment, you could see one of the rarest plays in baseball, a play that requires athleticism and split-second reactions, much more so that a fat guy standing there hitting something. Call me a purist, but I think it's a bit more engaging to watch a team, you know, play baseball instead of line up a bunch of guys for a homerun derby and then take the next half of the inning off.

And that's why Minnesotans love the Twins. Even though they'll pretty consistently break your heart, they play the game the way it's supposed to be played. And out here, we'd rather you do something the right way than win.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This is Sadly Very Un-Surprising

For those who aren't already familiar, wikileaks is probably the most important website to have been launched in recent history. Much like it's apolitical big-sister wikipedia, it's a one-stop, user-run clearinghouse for leaked documents alleging corporate and government misconduct. And again much like wikipedia, it is subject to the whims of a few jerks with too much time on their hands, but is far more often than not right on the money.

Well, wikileaks has recently received a 219-page document authored by the United States government on methods of counter-insurgency. Please only read this if you already have a handy several-feet-thick wall of cynicism protecting you like I do, but in the meantime, have a sample:

The manual, Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces (1994, 2004), may be critically described as “what we learned about running death squads and propping up corrupt government in Latin America and how to apply it to other places”. Its contents are both history defining for Latin America and, given the continued role of US Special Forces in the suppression of insurgencies and guerilla movements world wide, history making.

The document, which has been verified, is official US Special Forces doctrine. It directly advocates training paramilitaries, pervasive surveillance, censorship, press control and restrictions on labor unions & political parties. It directly advocates warrantless searches, detainment without charge and the suspension of habeas corpus. It directly advocates bribery, employing terrorists, false flag operations and concealing human rights abuses from journalists. And it directly advocates the extensive use of “psychological operations” (propaganda) to make these and other “population & resource control” measures more palatable.

The document has been particularly informed by the long United States involvement in the El Salvador…

As Jonathan Schwarz points out, for those doubting the authenticity of the document, remember that a few years back the State Department advocated the use of "The Salvador Option" to bring Iraq under control.

So, with the risk of adding several more feet to the aforementioned wall o' cynicism, please explain to me why I should continue to believe in a government that openly espouses torture, kidnapping, and murder as completely acceptable foreign (and domestic) policy initiatives?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Good News on Coffee

As I sit here rather wired after my third cup of coffee, I pass along with pleasure the idea that coffee may reduce the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. A Harvard Medical School study of 125,000 found that those who were regular coffee drinkers were much less likely to suffer heart attacks or other related diseases.

Granted, it's a rather preliminary study, and there could be a whole host of other reasons why these results were found, and I'm hopefully a long way off of worrying about such things, but in the meantime, at least I on longer have to feel guilty about one of my biggest vices...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nice Work if You Can Get It

By now you've more than likely already heard David Brooks pontificating about Obama's chances in the election and taking him to task for not fitting in at the Applebee's salad bar. And I'm sure you've also already heard that Applebee's does not now, nor did it ever, have a salad bar.

For anyone who ever reads David Brooks' work, this is not surprise. The man has built his entire career around pretending that liberals are elites while proving how embarrassingly elitist he is himself. I think you can actually hear irony slowly gasping for life as Mr. Brooks savagely beats it every time he writes. Brooks may be the most pristine example of media and conservative hubris, as he constantly undercuts and insults regular people in order to prove he has their best interests at heart.

But yet, here he continues to have a regular column in the New York Times, the nation's most prestigious newspaper. Think about it -- the guys constantly fucks up the one thing he is supposed to do, and is rewarded with more money and more respect. Take a second to think about how that would work in your day-to-day life. If you fucked up everything you did, constantly revealed yourself to be a complete idiot and incapable of even the most fundamental logic, would you still have a job? I know I wouldn't.

But then again, maybe I'm just so elitist I believe people should be required to "understand" things if they're are going to be seen as "credible," which I'm sure is something very foreign to the folksy columnist/television-pundit/millionaire. But when you're making nearly $12,000 a year like me, you lose touch with ordinary folks...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Cannot Be the Only One Who Sees This

In case you've been living on Mars, in a cave, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, you're probably aware of Wall-E, the newest Pixar release coming out this summer. The early buzz is pretty positive, and I'm sure the delightful li'l scamp gets into all sorts of wacky hi-jinx set to the tune of today's hottest music and eventually learns some sort of lesson in the end. I'm also sure that we'll be forced to view this image roughly 17,000,000 times this summer. But since I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but note the uncanny resemblance to a cheeky robot from an early era, the incomparable Johnny 5:

I'm not sure that the plots will be at all similar, but this one is bound to feature both less racist-stereotype characters and less Steve Gutenberg. Both of which are positive signs of growth in American society, I suppose.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cleaning/Stroking My Ego

Spring is for cleaning, as the old saying goes. Well, there is probably no saying that goes like that, nor is it likely that there was anyone who's ever said that phrase (except of course for me doing it right there).

Nevertheless, as a grad student, you have very little free time. It becomes very hard to use your precious few moments of free time every day for mundane activities like cleaning and hygiene. As such, the first few weeks of summer for me are almost always spent digging my apartment out form under all the crap that has built up over the course of the school year. This also extends to the electronic realm, where I've been busy at work going through and deleting hundreds of old e-mails.

But fortunately for you, lucky reader, I'm vain enough to save my own outgoing e-mails I think are clever, so that I may read through them and be amazed at how brilliant I am. And don't pretend you don't do the same thing...

Anyhoo, I found one that I thought I had already blogged about but apparently have not. Please enjoy:

I've been working on a paper all day, so I walked home for some dinner and to watch teen nick on saturday night (well, only one part of that was intentional... which one? Who knows?!? Sounds like a job for Boy McBoy, Jr., the junior boy detective!) and I actually saw the following inoffensive events on some sort of "teen" based variety show:

Black girl walks in door
Overweight black boy makes eye contact with her
Both run to fridge
Both grab for...wait for it...

The last grape soda.

They both want it so bad
So they have a...wait for it...

Dance off for the last grape soda.

Fat black boy dances in funny dance
Black girl dances in funny dance that is apparently better
Fat black boy dances again feverishly
Black girl dances feverishly as well and knocks over fat black boy
with...wait for it...

Her large buttocks (I believe they refer to it as a "booty").

Fat black boy knocked to floor
Multiethnic supporting cast runs to his aid
Fat black kid humorously asks to be avenged (canned laughter is amused)
White girl defends his honor by dancing

White girl dances poorly.

Black girl also knocks over white girl with booty
Enter svelte black boy
Svelte black boy dances well
Black girl dances well
Both dance so well they explode

Fat black boy gleefully gets up and chugs the grape soda.

Thankfully, in all of this, not a single racial stereotype was used. I mean, I remember a time when t.v. shows were all predicated upon outmoded racial stereotypes.

Thank the good lord we've passed that dark age.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Working on Vacation

Been out of town quite a bit lately, so I haven't had much time to update the ol' blog. I was going to write a really interesting and thoughtful entry on the passing of Bo Diddley, but it got lost to the vagaries of time and the information super highway. Suffice it to say it made me sad and should make you sad, too.

But in the balancing sad news with good department, Dennis Lyxzén and David Sandström of Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy fame, have formed a new band, AC4. No crazy sonic experiments or up-beat dance here, it seems to be pretty straight-forward hardcore. But I trust these kids in pretty much everything they do, so I'll be seeing them at any upper-midwest tour stops. And you probably should, too.