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...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Everything I Do Turns into Terrorism

As I've mentioned before in this space, I don't usually go looking for trouble, trouble just finds me. I mean, I'm a political activist and all, so obviously I'm bound to get into some kind of shenanigans sooner or later, but I feel like I've gotten into more of my fair share. You know, like the kind when the FBI shows up at your front door.

Anyway, a new and interesting corollary to all of this is that everything I am connected to is also slowly becoming terrorist, too. For instance, not too long after I got seriously into activism, my dad, the humble high-school chemistry teacher, apparently became a terrorist.

And now, only a little more than a year after I joined the editorial board of Contexts, it will be featuring an article by noted sports-critic and now recognized terrorist Dave Zirin.

Man, I'm like the King Midas of anti-leftist hysteria...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Adding A Completely Unecessary Voice to the Chorus

Friday night I did something I have never done and really never thought I would do: I waited, with ticket already in hand, in line 3 hours for a movie. Oh, and it was in Washington D.C. in July. Which means it was (according to the bank on the corner) 92 degrees during that three hour wait, with a humidity level of roughly 1,946,833%.

But damn if it wasn't worth it. I can only say that pretty much all the reviews were correct. I went into this movie with ridiculously high expectations and yet somehow still feel the movie exceeded them. After the movie, all I could pretty much do was sit there and mutter "wow" to myself. And, of course, like everyone else, I was so blown away by Heath Ledger's iconic joker performance that I found myself incredibly bummed out that he could never repeat it, though in a way I think it serves to cement its iconic status.

What really resonated for me in the story were the none-too-veiled references to the war on terror. As Batman so eloquently demonstrated, if you lose your ideals in attempting to destroy evil, you've completely failed, because your no longer fighting for anything. It's almost as if the movie was trying to tell us that, say, invading a country because its ruthless dictator tortures all those who disagree with him in these horrible chambers of death and then using those same chambers of death to torture all the people that disagree with you is not doing any good for the world. But that might be me reading too much into it.

Anyway, go see the movie. It's fucking brilliant, and proves what the overweight outcast in middle school knew all along: that comic books really do tell great stories with intricate morals that are both moving and relevant. And as a former overweight middle school outcast who loves comic books, it's really gratifying to see the rest of the world finally catch on.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why the RNC *Might* be a Good Thing

It should come as no surprise that I'm not a very big fan of Republicans or the absurd spectacles they put on to congratulate themselves on destroying our nation and a good chunk of the rest of the world. That being said, I'm actually kind of glad the RNC is going to be in the Twin Cities this fall.

No, I'm not happy about the millions the state is shelling out in revenue, or the way most (if not all) of our civil liberties are being rolled back in the Twin Cities so that we don't upset the Republicans and their fetishistic hated of all things free.

But I do like that fact that I just need to take a nice walk to protest their horrible ways. And I'm really excited about the fact that on the back of protest concerts already announced by the likes of Tapes N' Tapes, P.O.S., Anti-Flag and others, Steve Earle and Tom Morello announced they will be rocking St. Paul during the convention. Even more exciting, Morello has slyly hinted that some "friends" will be coming along as well, leading to rampant speculation that Rage will be playing, or at least some other kick-ass names will be showing up.

So I guess you can chalk this one up to my eternal optimism, but even this hardened radical is kind of happy that the RNC is coming to town.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Big Ups to the Mountie

You know, I wasn't even going to watch the Home Run Derby until it was announced that Morneau would be participating. And despite the heroics of the heroin-addict guy (in case you haven't already memorized every detailed of his story, you needn't worry for you'll hear it approximately 5,000,000 times before the end of the season), he pulled it out.

And like a true Canadian-turned-Minnesotan, he was more gracious in victory than the heroin-guy was in defeat. He seemed almost embarrassed to win, and gave big ups to Mr. Heroin. Even when all of the reporters rushed passed him to interview the loser, he still graciously said everything he should have.

The announcing, like usual, was terrible. Though rick Reilly did make the good point that for a sport as diverse as baseball it was a bit odd that there were only white guys in the competition, they pretty much top-to-bottom disrespected "Jason" and the Twins, as the national media always does. has a pretty good round up of the most stupid things said throughout the season.

But all-in-all, it was one hell of a show and it was very cool to see the first Twinkie ever to win the derby. Now let's just hope that it doesn't end up ruining the rest o his season like it has for so many other derby winners...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Barely Containing My Righteous Anger, Education Style

Blogging is always tough when you're on vacation, even when it's a working vacation. In fact, it's even harder when it's a working vacation, because in addition to playing tourist and meeting new people and all that, I'm doing actual work nearly every day. Damn you graduate school. Gone are the salad days of my youth when summer meant 14-20 hours of television a day, and my only concern was baseball standings. Now, I'm actually filling my summer days with work and responsibility and I don't like it.

But that has nothing to do with this post, it's just an excuse as to why I've been shirking my blogging duties lately. The actual purpose to this post is to lament that final dying days of the liberal education. Today the strib is running a run-of-the-mill tight job market story. But what got my attention was the also (unfortunately) typical accompaniment to such articles, a poll question asking if colleges and universities put too much emphasis on liberal arts education.

To put it politely, fuck that bullshit. This is like asking if hospitals are putting too much emphasis on curing disease. The last time I checked, the very reason that colleges and universities exist is to provide a liberal arts education. If you just want some job training, go to a community college or tech school. They're fine places, and they'll certify you for a wide variety of careers without making you learn a bunch of stuff. But if you go to a liberal-fucking-arts university, I think you should expect to take some liberal arts courses. Because, you know, it does happen to be in the fucking title of the institution.

As a scholar of criminology, I think we get this a bit more than most other majors. A good chunk of crim students just want a piece of paper that will help them become a cop (though I must admit it's not as bad at the U as it was back in Ioway). But as is usualy the case, it's the people who complain about it the loudest who typically need it the most. Call me an old-fashioned sucker or a wide-eyed idealist, but I'd just like a police force (and citizenry in general) capable of rational thought. And that, my friends, is the purpose of the liberal arts university.

So if you're asking whether colleges and universities put too much emphasis on liberal arts education, then I'm afraid you're really asking if they're spending too much time doing their job.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Gluttony Fucking Rules,or How I Celebrated the 4th

Last night, I had what may long be remembered as the greatest moment of my life. I ate at Fogo De Choa, a putatively Brazilian steak house. I don't know how Brazilian it actually is, but I do know exactly how American it is: very.

Long story short,for an un-Godly sum of money, you get all you care to eat of a rather wide selection of high-end meats, ranging from filet mignon to filet mignon wrapped in bacon. Ok, so there were many others, but these definitely dominated my several plates.

Though it's hard to estimate how much I was eating, as I'm still in a meat-induced haze, I'm pretty sure it would be measured in pounds, not ounces. And though my dining partner and I would occasionally stop to reflect on how much places like this are a giant "fuck you" to the millions of starving peoples in the world, it sure didn't stop our meat orgy.

And what is more American than that?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Day of Independence to White, Property-Owing Males!

So I know I've been on a big political tip lately, but sometimes you just get fired up about things. And lately, I've been a bit upset about the fact that we're torturing people. And yes, I say "we" meaning all of us, because let us not forget that the majority of people who devised and approved of the torture techniques used are elected officials. Shit, a lot of them even ran on that platform.

If you were at all intrigued by the description of Taxi to the Dark Side (which if you haven't went out and gotten yet, please go do now), then you'll really be interested in Christopher Hitchens' recent article on waterboarding, aptly titled "Believe Me, It's Torture."

Hitchens was subject to waterboarding under controlled circumstances, knowing he could quit at anytime and go back to his cushy day job with no fear of reprisal. And yet his description of his brief encounter with the notorious torture technique speaks volumes. Go read the article, it's fascinating in the sickest way possible. Hitchens' also does a great job of laying out the case (or more accurately, repeating how the case was laid out for him by an Army interrogation specialist) on why torture not only doesn't get good or reliable information, but actually makes our nation far less safe. Not to mention it's horribly fucking wrong and should never be done to another human being for any reason, but that argument is a little too bleeding heart I suppose.

Well, have a good time grillin' and watching fireworks tonight, but do try to remember that while you're doing that, hundreds of innocent men are being brutally tortured and murdered by our own government. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Taxi to the Dark Side review

Just got back from a screening of the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side. Though it's hard to separate the flotsam from the jetsam in the recent glut of anti-war documentaries that have come out, this one definitely stands out. Taking a hard look at the U.S. torture practice in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo, it made me angrier than anything I've seen in a long while.

Besides some really shocking facts (for example, the U.S. Military admits that over a third of the deaths of those in detentions were willful homicides), it really blows the lid off of any of the illusions you may still be desperately clinging to about the morality of the United States government or military. Of course, the painful juxtapositions really make themselves, as you look at the bloated corpses of innocent men who have been beaten to death (after being forced to stand naked chained to a wall for days in a row, then forced to masturbate in front of cheering guards, then attacked repeatedly by vicious dogs, then repeatedly told their mother is a whore while being force-fed I.V.s until the soiled themselves, and about a million other indignities) as you are then immediately taken to a smirking Donald Rumsfeld saying that it's nothing worse than what he has to do in his day-to-day job.

And it completely blows away the argument that these people are so dangerous that we much imprison them and torture them lest they attack us. Because not only does the military admit that the vast majority of them are not Al Qaeda, insurgents, or in any way a threat to us, but it proves who the real terrorists are. I am now much more afraid of the United States military than I am of any sort of Islamic terrorist.

Though I think what I'll most take away from it is the fact that no one responsible for this will ever be punished. Sure, a few scapegoats will get a week or two in jail, but Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and the whole lot of those arrogant war criminals will never be brought to justice. In fact, as the movie points out, Bush has already signed a pardon for himself in the event that he is charged with any war crimes. It reminds us that the real reason the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg is because they lost. For when you win, it doesn't matter how many innocent people you tortured and murdered.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

When They Do It...

Whenever I watch a game show in which obviously working-class people are making idiots of themselves for what amounts to really not that much money in the grand scheme of things, I can't help but think how propagandistic this would look to anyone outside of capitalism. As my old man always notes, the problem with Americans is that everyone of them think they can become rich. So even though the vast, vast majority of them never will, they resist higher taxes for the wealthy or any sort of income redistribution because they see it as a moot point, given that they will be rich themselves someday.

And this is clearly what game shows are predicated upon; they're basically saying "no, don't get upset about your inability to pay for basic human services like healthcare and heating for your house, for someday you could win big!" If the Soviet Union had had shows like The Price is Right we would laugh at the propaganda they need to keep their citizens thinking their lives aren't so bad and filling them full of false hope. Yet when we do it...well, one man's propaganda is another man's patriotism.

Unfortunately, the bad-for-them-ok-for-us mentality extends far beyond game shows and mystifying propaganda. For it turns out that the military's guide for "interrogation" at Guantanamo Bay was simply copied verbatim from the manual the Chineese used to torture Americans during the Korean war.

So when they do it's torture, but when we do get the idea.