Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Gets Put To Death?

The death penalty was declared unconstitutional in the landmark 1972 Furman v. Georgia case largely because of how arbitrary it was. You could commit a murder in one place and get a maximum of life in prison, while in other places the exact same crime would have you be put to death (of course, it was later declared constitutional again after nothing had changed, but we decided we missed killing people).

Looking back at the past five years, it seems that death sentences are just as arbitrary as ever. In fact, over that span, a mere 10% of counties in the entire nation have been responsible for 100% of death sentences meted out.

Seeing it graphically only highlights the disparity:

Regardless of how you feel about capital punishment, you've got to be hard pressed to find a way this type of clearly unequal justice does not fall under the label of arbitrary...

Monday, December 27, 2010

I Am About To Waste Hours Of Your Time

The coolest new thing to dick around on the internet to waste you time? Google ngrams.

It searches through all books on Google books, going back into the 1800s. Somewhere I read that this data set accounts for 5% of all books ever published, but I can't find where I read that, so set your belief levels accordingly.

Anyway, the ngram program allows you to search for how often different terms were used throughout whatever period you choose. So, in theory, you could use it to look at changing social norms over time, or the historical varieties of the English language.

Or you could use it to compare stupid things and giggle at the results. Either one is a totally legit use. Here's some awesome charts to improve your life:

Which do we write about more often, food or sex?

Do we write more about dudes or chicks?

What about communism versus socialism?

And, of course, when have we written more about punches, kicks, and ninja chops?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is Brett Favre Acutally Jesus, Or Does He Just Act Like Him?

You may have noticed that Brett Favre pulled off another drama-filled start last night, even though he didn't finish it. While some could argue this was a dick move, as rookie Joe Webb had been slated to make his first ever professional start only to have it ripped away from him at the last minute by an attention-seeking fame whore, few actually argued this. In fact, to most commentators it was nothing short of miraculous.

And unfortunately they would not shut the fuck up about it. Courtesy of our good friends at Deadspin, here's a collection of quotes people actually said about Brett Favre starting a meaningless football game. I emphasize that it's A) only a football game and 2) one that doesn't even matter for Favre or his team, because you might think he cured cancer.

Anyway, these are all things people who are paid to speak came up with:

The Vikings had the early momentum, when Favre made a miraculous recovery from a shoulder injury and suited up.
Did he really have one of those miracle moments where he woke up and was feeling a lot better than he had been the day before?
Somewhat miraculous, considering he was 100% out as of Saturday.
Favre made some sort of miraculous recovery in the last 24 hours, another one of his miraculous recoveries.
Cold, snow, wind, Favre making a miraculous recovery.
A miracle, is what it was, only slightly less miraculous than what happened to Lazarus.

I particularly like that it was apparently only slightly less miraculous than when Jesus fucking raised a guy from the dead.

Some sort of local youngster must have been listening to all this hyperbolic bullshit and naturally came up with this:

We got it wrong -- Brett Favre isn't like Jesus, he is Jesus!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Your Friday Marching Band Video

Because, why not?

Watch below as the University of Hawaii marching band forms a giant, Voltron-like stick figure that then kicks and equally large ball. It demands the minute and 17 seconds of your life it will take...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Other News, Water Hes Been Found To Be Wet

Put this one in the file of scientific studies that simply confirm what everyone with a functioning brain stem could figure out -- watching Fox News actually makes you more stupid than you already were (which you already must have been a little bit if you were watching Fox News in the first place).

People who reported getting all or most of their news from Fox News scored off the charts in their misunderstandings of world events. For example, 63 percent of them believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear), despite the existence of this.

What's novel about this study, though, is that it not only demonstrates that the stupid are drawn to Fox, but that watching it actually makes you less likely to understand current politics and world events. Of course, this too comes as little surprise to those of us who understand that's the point of the network...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

News! News! News!

Big goings on in the world today -- first, apparently German scientists have cured some dude of AIDS. The upside? Potential cure for the worst disease the world has seen thus far. The downside? It involves stem cells, so even if a reliable cure is found, it will probably never be allowed in the US...

In other news, Michael Moore has put up the money for Julian Assange's bail. He also makes some good arguments in favor of the whole wikileaks thing, including the fact that former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, Time's 2002 co-Person of the Year, claims that had WikiLeaks been around in 2001, 9/11 might have been prevented.

Curing AIDS and preventing 9/11. Now that's a news day...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Friday

As you prepare to throw off the shackles of the work week and enjoy the 48 hours of free time your laboring forefathers and foremothers earned for you, remember how this whole deal works:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What's This Wikileaks Thing All About Anyway?

With wikileaks being in the news constantly these days and wild over-reactions to it run from the media (who for reasons no one can explain to me hate someone who does their job for them) to politicians (who want to charge him for treason, even though he's not an American), it seems like time to step back and actually look at what this whole wikileaks deal is about.

While accusations that Assange is a terrorist are a little hyperbolic, they're actually not that far off in terms of his strategy. Here's a great dissection of what wikileaks is trying to do with the information they release.

Essentially, the point is that governments that operate behind close doors (such as one might be able to accuse the U.S. of doing) rely strongly on information -- on their ability to trust it (to make decisions), to protect it (to operate in private), and to selectively release it (to gain support for themselves or to punish others, a la Valerie Plame). As such, by breaking down the walls of secrecy and releasing confidential information, you cut off the power source for those operating in secrecy.

That's why these latest leaks are important, even though they don't contain much information. Both our Defense Secretary and his British counterpart have said there's really nothing in there (and especially nothing in there that could put people in harm's way). In fact, if you follow politics closely, there's really not much at all in these documents that's even surprising. Mostly it's just embarrassing to some highly placed officials. But beyond that, there's really nothing in there we didn't already know (or at least strongly suspect).

But that's the entire point -- it's not about the information released, it's about making the machine that relies on this information unable to rely on its information or its inability to control said information, thus making it unable to operate in secrecy.

And forcing Democratic governments to stop acting in secret and start operating in the open is exactly what wikileaks is trying to do...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Taming the National Debt

The national debt, and what we can do to lessen it, seems to always be a part of political conversations. But like so many staples of political conversations (healthcare, unemployment, war, etc.), rarely do discussions about it make any sense or have even a tangential connection to facts.

A great example is the graph on the right, put together by Chuck Spinney, a Pentagon budget analyst. As you can see, the deficit has grown the most during hard-line right-wing Presidencies, while declining (often quite precipitously) amongst more moderate and left-wing leadership. This of course flies in the fact of the conventional wisdom that right-wingers are concerned about fiscal solvency and limited spending while left-wingers spend our taxes like drunken sailors. This is not necessarily to laud more moderate/left leaders or say they have some sort of fundamental grasp on how to manage the federal deficit, but just to point out another great example of how what's actually going on is the exact opposite of what is widely believed to be true.

And it's not too hard to figure out the culprit, either -- military spending. Even though we outspend the rest of the world combined on our military, it's become a sacred cow that can never be trimmed. So even though we're discussing raising the retirement age and slashing social security to make ends meet, you can't even raise the idea that we don't need to outspend the rest of the world combined on our military without looking like a lunatic.

But hey, at least that spending is paying off, right? It's not like a dozen guys with box cutters could launch the most devastating terror attack on our soil in decades, prompting us to illegally invade two nations who have not attacked us and miring us in a never-ending war against a vague notion which has already outlasted both World Wars combined in terms of duration with no tangible benefits, right? Right?

Good. Budget busting spending justified.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Best Name Change Since Max Powers

An unemployed cabinet installer in Eugene, Oregon has legally changed his name to "Captain Awesome," after he was inspired by a t.v. show in which a character got that nickname.

Though he apparently had to sit through some serious grilling, the judge eventually not only granted his request for the legal name change, but also allowed him to sign his name as right arrow-smiley face-left arrow.

Truly a hero for our times...

Here is the actual form, complete with signature

Monday, December 06, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

What To Say?

This is apparently an ad for Absolut that ran in Mexico, showing a world where the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo never existed and half of 'merica was in the hands of illegals.

There's so many ways to comment on this ad -- for one, how companies advertise to different populations. Much like seemingly every company in existence has a gay version of their ads for pride events (and then make every effort to hide these ads from the larger public), I'm guessing Absolut never really wanted Americans to see this ad.

Or outside of advertising, it's a great visual of how ridiculous the argument over "illegal" immigration is, showing how much of our country was actually Mexican territory only a short while ago.

In any event, no one tell Lou Dobbs about this ad...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What New Not-Word Should Become An Official Not-Word?

The fine folks over at Urban Dictionary have put together the ballot for the 2010 word of the year (though they're more phrases than words), a competition was better than that stupid OED one.

For now you can go vote on your favorites from the 10 finalists -- I'm torn between "that's what BP said" (to be said after referring to massively screwed up things, in the vein of "that's what she said") and "Leno giver" (referring to someone who gives something only to demand it back shortly).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

And Now For Your NFL and Pornography Update

And this post doesn't even feature Brett Favre's alleged penis...

Rather, some porn site has put together numbers tracking its viewership in football markets on Sundays for days the team plays versus bye weeks. Not too surprisingly, their numbers shoot up quite a bit when the local team isn't on t.v. (link is to Deadspin article, so no need to fear clicking on it)

I'm tempted to make some stupid joke about the only things guys do with their time, but instead I'll just let the sad, sad facts speak for themselves...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All Hail the Wikileaks

Because I have my finger to the pulse, I've had wikileaks bookmarked for several years now, but it's certainly been exploding lately. Up now, a giant leak of international diplomacy documents, most of which are pretty damning.

The article linked above hits some of the highlights, but most of them shouldn't be too surprising if you follow the news. You see, it turns out many world leaders may not do the things they say publicly but may (gasp!) do all sorts of shady things when they think no one's paying attention.

But even bigger than the leaks themselves are the reaction of the American press to them. While you could guess politicians wouldn't be too happy about them, as Glenn Greenwald points out, you might think the press would be interested in somebody doing their job for them. But that's not the case after all -- instead it seems most members of the mainstream press are incredulous that someone dare ever release information about our government. As Greenwald horrifyingly points out, when they finally received them, the New York Times -- you know the supposed investigative journalists who hold the government accountable -- made sure to run everything past the government (and censor what they were told to) before printing.

Because why would a free press ever run anything without government consent? That's just crazy! Man, it's a good thing we don't have censorship here, unlike all those scary countries without our beloved Freedoms™.

Oh, and don't forget to keep your eyes posted for more from those wikileaks rapscallions, as they've hinted they have a good deal of sensitive information on major banks and other financial institutions in the US...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goodyear? No, It Was The Worst

Legendary actor and comedic hero to every weird kid who sits in the back of the lunchroom quoting stupid movies to his two friends, Leslie Nielsen died this past weekend. Because all are probably familiar with his story of stone-faced serious actor completely cashing in on that image late in his career to become one of the funniest movie straight-men of all time, there's not really much I can add here that will be a revelation for anyone.

But as someone who, like countless others in my generation, had their comedic world view completely shaped by Nielsen's work in the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker parody movies, this is truly a tragic time. I don't think anyone will ever be better at rapid-fire zaniness or straight-laced delivery of absurdist dialogue like he was.

And while I'm tempted to just start listing every great line the man ever delivered (and Lord knows some people are heroically doing just that), I figure it's more appropriate to leave you with the one line that will be most indelibly connected to him for the length of time recorded film exists.

Yes, surely I'm speaking of:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pope Officially Says Condoms "Kinda OK"

In a huge reversal of previous doctrine, Pope Benedict the XVI (P Benz, to his friends) has officially announced that condoms are kinda ok, sometimes, in some very limited circumstances.

While he didn't go anywhere near saying it's ok to wear condoms in AIDS ravaged parts of the world or, say, as a realistic way to cut down on the number of abortions in the world (less unwanted pregnancies = less abortions, one might argue), but it's still a pretty big announcement. Previously the only way to prevent a pregnancy or STI in the eyes of the Catholic church was to either never have sex or pray about it and hope God smiles upon your request, so it's pretty big to have the Church officially acknowledge that just maybe the use of condoms might not only not cause the end of the world but may actually help some people out.

Coming on the heels of saying the Beatles ain't so bad, it looks like the Church is starting to catch up to the 1960s, which is something, I guess...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why We Stay

Outsiders often have a hard time understanding the Twin Cities appeal -- it gets really cold here and there has to be nothing to do because it's the Midwest and as such not constantly commented about on tv, right?

I see this a lot as a grad student, when every year we get a fresh batch of folks from all over who seem to question why they bothered to come all of this way and who dread not being in New York or California or wherever the fuck they're from that they can't shut the hell up about.

But nearly all of them become at least partial converts to the charms of the TC and even if they don't end up staying here, at least they recognize how awesome this place really is.

And if you yourself need to brush on understanding why you're here (or learning about why you're stupid for not being here), the City Pages has handily assembled 50 reason why living here rocks. From noted local celebs to the fact that the stodgy St. Paul/fun Mpls split makes us "like an awesome giant mullet," I think this pretty much captues the gist of why the Twin Cities is great...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In Case You Live On Mars...

...in a cave, with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, there's this really sweet new Girl Talk mixtape making the rounds of the interwebs.

Called "Illegal Art" because it's full of, well, illegal samples, it will thoroughly rock your ass off of your face. And if you've been waiting for that Fugazi/Beyonce/Beatie Boys mashup you've heard in your head all your life, then you're in luck. That not your cup of tea? How about the Simon and Garfunkel/Li'l Jon crossover?

Or really, if you like recorded music at all, you'll probably find something you like in there. Don't trust me? Well GT handily supplies a list of every song and artist sampled (in easy-to-use alphabetical order!)

Go download it before the inevitable mass lawsuit takes it down and makes it slightly more inconvenient to find a copy...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who's Crazier? A Fun Morning Quiz

Glenn Danzig and Glenn Beck -- one's the preeminent metal Satanist of our times, and one is the preeminent tinfoil hat nutjob of our time. Yet both are named Glenn and both are batshit crazy (yet still have pretty big followings despite how humorously over-the-top their stupidity is).

But can you tell the difference between something crazy said by Danzig and something crazy said by Beck? For example, which of the pair said "The Satanists in today’s world ... look rational, look open-minded. They’re tolerant."

That would actually be Beck. Check out the full quiz here. It reminds me a lot of a quiz I saw a long while back asking you to figure out if a quote was said by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or Osama Bin Laden.

In either case, it just goes to show you that crazy-ass extremists all over the world are pretty much the exact same thing, just with different boogeymen for us to hate and fear...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Guide to Grading

While I've long held that the best way to grade papers is just to give everyone a B and then when the 3 students who care about their grades complain to you, give them an A. Then everyone's happy, and it doesn't even look like grade inflation.

But somebody came up with an ever more clever way to go through all their grading. Check it out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

He Just Keeps Getting More Hilarious

Fresh off announcing that he's the Taylor Swift of presidents, the hilarity of Bush II just continues to give and give, much like the president himself refused to do (to anyone but major energy and defense companies).

In what can only be called one of the most apt metaphors for his entire presidency, it turns out Bush likely plagiarized multiple portions of his own biography.

Of the many sources he plagiarized, the funniest is that he apparently borrowed extensively from Bob Woodward's 2002 book that the White House widely denounced as being inaccurate. I've yet to hear comment from the Bush White House about this book, but I can only assume Ari Fleischer will soon be denouncing this book from sometime in 2004...

Friday, November 12, 2010

"I've Tried to Follow Everything in The Bible, Even The Parts That Contradict The Other Parts!"

Some smart ass atheist organization has put together this handy chart of every passage of the Bible that directly contradicts another passage.

It ranges on everything from the pretty inconsequential (what color were Jesus' robes?) to things that might make a bit more impact on all the talk of Biblical literalism that is plaguing our nation (e.g. "Does God love everyone?" and "Do Christians need to follow the laws of the old testament?").

Figuring out what the Bible actually says on important matters is actually really important, given how many Americans inexplicably think everything in the Bible is literal truth (criticize what you will about the Catholic church -- and there's plenty to criticize -- but at least we realize you're not supposed to take the thing literally).

And it's not just crazy people living in shacks writing anti-government manifestos who have this belief, but elected officials. Elected officials such as John Shimkus, who is seeking the chairmanship of the Congressional Energy Commission, who actually said that global climate change is not something to worry about because God promised He would never destroy the Earth again after the great flood. And no, that is sadly not an Onion headline, but an actual argument made by a man who may soon chair one of the most powerful committees in Congress.

Maybe Mr. Shimkus needs to take a good look at the chart below, and in the words of whomever posted this chart to the website I'm stealing it from: “So to anyone who thinks the Bible’s the last word on anything, remember this: It isn’t even the last word on itself. “

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baseball Nerditry

Over at The Week, there's an article utilizing the best in theoretical physics (fun!) to determine the longest home run theoretically possible under the constraints of time, space, and human ability.

Turns out it would 748 feet, but would have to be hit by a someone who's 6'8" and ~240 pounds with less than 10% body fat hitting a 111 mph fastball. Sounds simple enough.

But even beyond the fun of physics calculations, the article's got some general fun info about hitting. It's often been said the hardest thing to do in sports is hitting a round ball with a round bat, but when you consider the physics of it, it becomes even more impressive.

Some fun facts from the article include that the average pencil is about twice as big as the margin of error for hitting the sweet spot on the bat and that a 99 mph fastball gets to home plate literally faster than the blink of an eye (395 milliseconds to 400 for the blink).

Go read it, it's worth your 5 minutes...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

How Much Do You Pay in Taxes?

A recent Government Accountability Office report has found that 2/3rds of foreign companies and well over half of all US companies doing business in America paid no income taxes at all for at least one year for the period from 1998-2005. Only slightly fewer companies paid no income taxes for at least two years during the same period.

Of course, this is not because they didn't have any taxable income or because they were operating at a loss (they had well into the trillions of dollars of sales), but because they were able to use tax loopholes to shift expenses to off-shore tax shelters or use any other number of financial mumbo jumbo tricks to hide their taxable income.

Not to sound too dangerously radical, but if you or I skipped out on paying our income taxes for multiple years, we could probably expect a visit from the IRS, not to mention some stiff fines and probably a little jail time to boot. This, of course, despite the fact that your taxes, my taxes, and taxes of everyone you've ever met or known don't even add up to a fraction of what one of these companies would owe if they were scrupulous.

But if I've learned anything about capitalism, they get away with it because the people who runs these companies are smarter and worker harder than we do, and that's why we're stuck paying our taxes like suckers, and they're busy swimming in giant pools filled with gold coins and yelling at their butlers for not properly polishing their monocles...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

This Will Go Very Well

They're tearing down the Spectrum stadium in Philadelphia and have an interesting idea on how to get rid of all of the stuff inside of it -- for $25, you can get three hours inside to take away anything you can carry.

This includes seats, t.v.s, office furniture -- literally anything not bolted to the floor or wall.

Seeing as we seem to annually have a stomping death on the day after Thanksgiving sales (and in those you actually have to pay for the stuff you grab), I can only imagine that when it's a one-price free-for-all this will not go particularly smoothly...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Worst Moment of the Bush Presidency?

What would you guess it was?



Mission Accomplished?

That whole shredding the constitution thing?

Nope. According to W himself, it was the time Kanye West was mean to him on tv.

He has gone from being the Inspector Clouseau of presidents to the Taylor Swift of presidents in one hilarious interview...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Trans Basketball and Our Fucked Up Gender Relations

So Kye Allums, a member of the George Washington University Women's Basketball team, is transitioning to life as a man but will continue to play for the women's team. The story for most people seems to be "GWU is playing a transgender person on their team," which I'll admit, is an interesting story. And good on the folks at GWU for being apparently really cool with the whole thing.

But to me, the more interesting story is in NCAA by-laws (isn't that always where the action is at?). It turns out the NCAA not-too-surprisingly doesn't have a very well fleshed-out policy on transgender athletes. But the rules they do have tell us a lot about how the NCAA still views male and female athletes here in the enlightened 21st century.

It turns out female-to-male transitioning people can play for either men's or women's teams, but male-to-female transitioning people can only play for men's teams until they've undergone at least one full year of hormone therapy.

You know, because men are better than women at everything, so while a woman can make a feeble attempt to play a man's game, it's just unfair to all those little, fragile women to let a man play against them unless he's become thoroughly woman first...

Monday, November 01, 2010

What's Better Than Actually Being There?

While I heartily support the concept behind the March to Restore Sanity/Fear of this past weekend, I wasn't about to do something rash like fly halfway across the country just to be there. No, like any good American, I DVR-ed the telecast of it and have yet to bother actually watching it. That seems more in keeping with the spirit of the rally anyway.

But I am enjoying the steady stream of pictures of clever signs coming in. since I'm usually the jackass at a regular protest holding some sort of irony-steeped cynical sign, I really appreciate an entire rally full of them. See an immense slide show of some god ones (and some not very good ones) here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Friday!

Because we always need a little end-of-the-week bemusement, I'm glad to pass along the link to Bayify any photo you have!

What's a bayifier you ask? Simple, it lets you Michael Bay-ify any photo you have, much the way he Bayifys his movies -- by needlessly inserting explosions, fancy cars, and Shia Lebouf.

Try it, you'll love it! And, of course, for your viewing pleasure, here is your humble blogger all Bay-d up:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best/Most Stereotypical Baseball Giveaway

Baseball is known for its wacky promotional stunts. Whether it's minor league teams with crazy giveaways to get people in the door, or professional teams realizing 81 games are hard to sell out without some extra incentive, we've come to expect interesting and funny promotional items at ball games.

And usually these take on a local flair -- for example, in the past two years the Twins have given away Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau fishing lures, a pretty Minnesotan giveaway.

But apparently in San Fran, they have the promotional giveaway to end all promotional giveaways. Although it's not done by the team (and probably not even condoned by the team), ReLeaf Herbal Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco, is giving away free joints for every homerun the Giants hit.

In addition to being the only baseball promo I've ever seen that skirts federal law, it also has to be easily the most stereotype-confirming giveaway since the Yankees famous "Entitled Obnoxious Asshole" promo...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Mean They Still Were Making Them?

Not even the powerful commercial appeal of the hipster returning en masse to the cassette ("I know it gives shittier sound and less recording space, but...uh...it's totally ironic!") could stop it -- Sony has officially announced it will no longer produce the Walkman. Widely credit with being the first truly portable recorded music player, the announcement of its death probably comes about a decade late, seeing as how the iPod exists and all of that.

But still, I can't help but be a little nostalgic at the announced end of my childhood music platform. Though it's pretty similar to 8-tracks being phased out (I assume) -- there's really nothing to recommend cassettes (other than their durability, I guess) and we have a so many different and better options for listening to music today the only surprise in this is that Walkmen were still being made -- it definitely signifies I'm getting older. Although I never owned a Walkman (I was usually made to do with Mama Generico's© Occasional Tape-Playing Device), it still signifies the end of an era that will likely never be brought back. Unlike the hi-fi lovers of records or the purists pursuit of wax cylinder recordings (I have to assume those people exist), the cassette is unlikely to ever make a comeback, unless you need to convince a coma patient it's still 1985.

Possibly the bigger tragedy contained in the article above, though, is that the floppy disk has also recently been added to the long list of technology no longer produced. This is undoubtedly the bigger tragedy, because whereas I can find my Twister Sister deep cuts on mp3, I don't know that any iPod is capable of playing Odell Lake or Fraction Munchers...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Look, Somone You've Never Heard of Died

Slow day today so not much to blog about, other than the death of Alex Anderson. Who? Turns out he's the guy who came up with Rocky and Bullwinkle (among many other characters). Though his business partner took the characters and eventually created the wacky adventures we all know and love, Anderson was indeed the one who came up with the majority of the characters.

In addition to moose and squirrel, Anderson also created Crusader Rabbit. Who? Turns out this was the first cartoon ever created for television, so there's another feather in his historical cap.

This is a classic case of a someone who rather deeply influenced my life (Rocky and Bullwinkle clearly shaped much of my warped sense of the world) that I never heard of until he died. So let this be my 5 seconds of thanks to him for giving me so many hours of mirth...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Surprisingly, The Military May Have Acted Inapropriately

Recently uncovered audio evidence has allowed forensic experts to conclude there was a clear order to fire on the unarmed demonstrators at Kent State 40 years ago.

For those of you who live under a rock or have never seen a history book, Kent State was the sight of one of the most infamous and naked displays of political repression in our nation's history. During a non-violent demonstration against the Vietnam war, Marines opened fire on the protesters for reasons that are still unclear, killing four of them and wounding several others.

There was never an extensive or thorough investigation of what happened or why 4 innocent, non-violent demonstrators were killed (other than, you know, their opposition to an illegal and immoral war), but it has always been played off as the unfortunate mistake of some low-level jar heads.

But this new evidence is a pretty major game changer, if not that surprising to those of us who are a bit cynical about such things. Regardless of what happens with the Kent State Truth Commission, it's got to make us all a little bit uncomfortable that a slaughter of non-violent demonstrators engaged in clearly constitutionally protected actions was approved by the Marines chain of command...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Help With Your Fear Mongering

It is unfortunately election season, and that means one thing for any Republican or "centrist" candidate -- it's time to scare the electorate! (As an aside, I'm not saying Democrats wouldn't run a scare tactics campaign, it's just they apparently haven't figured out how).

Well, as Colbert has noticed, there apparently aren't enough scary minorities running around to get good footage of them, even though they're supposedly everywhere. This tragic lack of scary minority images has forced racist candidates across the nation to use the exact same images of Hispanics to scare us into fearing our lucrative nannying/dishwashing/janitorial jobs will be snapped up by unwashed immigrants. It's like they all share one big racist flickr account.

And, of course, Stephen steps in to make a buck and help the people out with his handy fearstock.com, a website to get you just the racist image you need to get people scared enough to vote for you...

(No idea why the video won't embed properly, but the link should get you there...)
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Indecision 2010 - Revenge of the Fallen - FearStock.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

That Wacky Vatican...

Fresh off of declaring that Beatles boots may not lead directly to Armageddon after all, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, has once again waded into the pop culture cesspool to declare more shit A-Ok by them.

This time, it was the Simpsons, as L'Osservatore has pronounced Homer Simpson a "true" Catholic. This partially stems from his brief conversion to Catholicism (and not just for the wafers and booze), but mostly from his willingness to question the Almighty and grapple with other quandaries of faith.

The Vatican, however, remains puzzlingly quiet on his sacrilicious eating of a God waffle...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Could Have Been

With a tip of the hat to Howie, I present to you old ideas for Simpsons episodes from Bill Oakley.

As you can see, some of the ideas clearly became episodes (some pretty good ones, actually) while most were discarded for reasons unknown.

This certainly isn't some sort of earth-shattering revelation along the lines of who shot Kennedy or a detailed outline of how Bush planned 9/11, but I'm a sucker for these sort of "look at how history could be different" kind of things.

Of course, considering that the Simpsons has given me my outlook on life, philosophical and political views, and most of my education, maybe this is an earth-shattering reveal of an alternative historical timeline...

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Less Than Lovable Losers

The Detriot Lions are slowly becoming the Chicago Cubs of football. The franchise has been so poorly run (especially regarding anything ever said or done by Matt Millen) and the losses have piled up so high, that they're starting to beocme everyone's second favorite rooting interest. Even I, as an ardent fan of a divisional rival, have cheered for the Lions to finally win a game or even two and get out of a rut so horrible and so long it caused Barry Sanders to retire in his prime rather than have to continue playing for this franchise (which is such a crime against sport that the team should have been taken away form the Ford family at that very moment). The point is, they're so shitty and such a non-threat, that everyone can feel good cheering for them, knowing they'll never be good enough to challenge their favorite team in any way.

Well, the Lions finally not only won a game, but won it big, blowing out the more recently acquired sad sackery of the Rams. But the highlight the game had to have come Lions corner Alphonso Smith jumped a route and finished his pick 6 off with the Carlton. Thankfully someone not only captured it, but set it to the appropriate Tom Jones song:

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Amatuer Sociology Makes It Mark

In an interesting turn of events, a Pennsylvania judge rejected a plea offered to a white man on the grounds that a black man would be unlikely to get the same plea bargain. And he was probably right -- the charge was fighting with an officer while resisting arrest, for which a 3 month probation was offered as a sentence. Although we obviously don't know how this would have played out had the defendant been another race, we do know that minorities, especially African Americans, and especially African American men, are generally treated far more hrashly in the courtroom than their white peers.

Of course, this argument didn't fly with our judicial system, so the judge recused himself and was replaced by a white judge who accepted the plea. Sigh...

And just in case you're wondering if race truly does color (no pun intended) our view of people, check out this especially offensively racist political attack ad (complete with handy comparison to Jesse Helm's infamous white hands ad). The more things change...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sports and Race and Stuff

Race is a ridiculous filter to use in any facet of life, but one of the most obviously idiotic uses of it is in professional sports. If you watch any televised sports, you'll quickly notice players can only be compared to other players of their own race. Adam Morrison, for example, was always compared to Larry Bird, even though their games have nothing in common. But they're both white, and you're definitely not going to compare and up-and-coming (at the time) white player to somebody whose black, no matter how ridiculous the intraracial comparison may be.

Another way it's used is to differentiate between "hustle and intelligence" and "feel for the game." You'll especially notice it if you watch a black quarterback play against a white quarterback -- the black quarterback's bad passes are "poor decisions" compared to the passes that "just got away" from the white quarterback. While the white quarterback makes "good decisions," the black quarterback makes "instinctual" plays.

"Heart" is also something white players seem to have in spades, but not black players. Case in point -- Danny Woodhead. As the folks over at Deadspin point out, it's not so much that he's small and plucky, but maybe that he's white. They do a great job of pointing out the many black players who are smaller than Woodhead who have never been described as inspirational little engines that could who play with heart and are heroes to all.

But maybe race has nothing to do with it...

Monday, October 04, 2010

Your Required Womens International Basketball News

Not in the mood to bother trying to find the link right now, but not too long ago I read a great article about why women's athletic leagues make a big mistake when they try to sell their sport with sex. Unfortunately it's not enough that this is really regressive sexism, but it also doesn't work in drawing fans -- when the WNBA, for example, pumps out posters of their players in sexy outfits, the pictures are popular, but this doesn't translate to any greater reach for the league.

And it's not too hard to figure out why -- sexualizing women's athletics may draw eyes to pictures, but it doesn't make people see women as competent or successful athletes. And it certainly isn't very likely to get young women interested in taking up the sport, thereby depriving the league of growth potential through their possible future talents. Other, more successful, programs to get people interested in women's athletics focus on making the sports more exciting or accessible.

This is why the recent announcements of FIBA's proposed changes to women's international basketball are both exciting and terrible. On the one hand, FIBA is considering lowering the rims to increase inside play and bring dunking beyond the limited realm of Candace Parker into the sport in general. This is the good kind of change -- the kind of change that makes the game more exciting and interesting to the casual fan.

On the unfortunate other hand, FIBA is also considering raising the hemline on women's shorts to more accentuate their feminine bodies, or some dumb ass shit like that. Because the only reason international women's basketball competitions don't get more viewers is because those damn basketball shorts aren't sexy enough. I know the reason I tune into the NBA is because those guys wear properly sexy shorts...

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Comic Everyone Needs

Looking for a little light and frightening weekend reading? Why not try the Michelle Bachmann comic, chronicling her rise from completely insane ideologue to completely insane ideologue/United States Representative.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good News for the Weekend

A recent Dutch study has apparently found that people who have more than 10 drinks a week are more productive at work. Unfortunately the article doesn't really get into methodology or how they defined something abstract like "productivity," but I'm too lazy to find the study and perfectly willing to blindly accept these results as correct.

But if you do find a copy of the study somewhere, it might be smart to keep it with you for all of those work lunches when you work extensively on your productivity...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Case of the Wednesdays

And the long week continues...

To continue my blogs' dissent into nothing more than a collection of links and stories cropped from other sources (I like to think of myself as a more profane Reader's Digest), here's yet another link I meant to put up a long time ago but never got around to.

As the Twins continue their post-clinch slide, I've maintained to anyone that would listen that this is probably nothing to be worried about and that these loses mainly are coming from the fact that A) these games don't really mean anything (home-field advantage in baseball is the least important of any sport) and 2) they're playing their J.V. squad to make sure everyone's healthy for the games that count.

And the latter really is something so many people in the sports world tend to overlook -- the value of letting someone fully heal instead of insisting they "gut it out" or "play through pain" or whatever lame sports cliche is appropriate. But, of course, letting people fully heal is never as sexy a story as the guy who gives it his all despite pain, blah, blah, blah.

For someone's much more cogent thoughts on how the lauding of players who, often foolishly, play through injuries and how this might not actually be a good thing, check out this good deliberation on the subject from the folks at Red Sox Beacon, people who might know a thing or two about injuries derailing a season...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Case of the Tuesdays

As I'm currently in the midst of putting the finishing edits on some big funding applications (it turns out people don't just give you large sums of money without asking a lot of pesky questions about what you're going to do with it), I've got nothing to blog about.

But fear not! Having nothing to say has never stopped me before, and it will not stop me now. If you're bored and having nothing to do, A) I envy you, and 2) you should spend 5 minutes watching the immortal string of zingers from Norm MacDonald at the roast of Bob Saget. The powerful overlords at Comedy Central have blocked it from youtube, but you can see it on some foreign (Brazillian?) site here. Seriously, go there now. I'll wait.

...and welcome back. If you're still looking for time to waste, I still envy you, and will point you in the direction of this list of fictional character names you didn't ever actually know. For example, the police officer in Monopoly? Why, his name is Edgar Mallory. Of course.

You can thank me later for the literally minutes of entertainment I have supplied you with today...

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Case of the Mondays

If you, or anyone you know, is having a case of the mondays, nothing will cheer them up more than the recently animated, completely insane children's story as tweeted by NBA rookie De'Sean Butler.

It's the simple story of a young man, his dinosaur friend, having to clean up dinosaur poop, and living at Game Stop. It's got everything you could want in a Monday morning viral video...

Friday, September 24, 2010

A New Twins Anthem

Not that anyone can ever top the simplistic beauty of "We're Gonna Win Twins," but we now have an argument for something a bit more contemporary with the release of "Don't Call Them Twinkies" by the Baseball Project (featuring the obnoxious sprechstimme of Craig Finn). Highlight lyrics include "Watch it in slow motion, Ron Gant was clearly out" and "We don't buy championships but we've won two World Series."

And while we're on the subject of that popular local sports team, there's also this:

With 10 games to go, we've got a 1/2 game lead for best record in baseball, which ain't too shabby...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Hard Is It To Do An Easy Job?

As a long time reader of the funny pages, I've often been dismayed at the poor quality of what passes for comic strips these days. Even from a young age, I recognized that it can't be that hard to come up with more exciting action or funny punch lines than the weak, recycled crap you get everyday reading the comics.

Not too surprisingly, I've become a huge fan of the Comics Curmudgeon, a site where, as the title implies, there's a curmudgeonly take-down of the crappiest of the daily strips. But it's not so much mean-spirited as it's an attempted wake-up call to the people who have long abandoned any pretense of effort and instead sit back on their ever-diminishing royalty checks while twenty young hacks keep shitting out the same tired gags and story lines over and over and over.

Often the site comes up with some pretty fun ways to riff on this laziness, such as a running joke about how the Keane family of Family Circus is actually a millennial cult preparing for the end times or how Marmaduke is actually a soul-eating cerberus from hell sent to destroy everything in his path.

But sometimes the slights really get kicked up a notch, such as they have been this week with Random Dick, a simple internet machine that produces any three random Dick Tracy panels and then challenges you to find a difference between the three randomly selected panels (one randomly-selected “Dick Tracy” panel, one “Other Person” panel, and one “Building or Object” panel) and an actual, honest-to-goodness Dick Tracy comic. You can't, because there hasn't been a new or interesting Dick Tracy plot line since long before I was born...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We're Gonna Win Twins...

In what is a confusing development this early in the season, the Twins clinched the AL Central last night without even getting close to a game 163.

Over at Twinkie Town they argue this is because this is simply the best Gardy-managed Twins team yet, and I'd have to agree with them. The 2006 run was magical, but these guys have the moxie and the ability to actually hit the ball. And since we all know the playoffs are just a crap shoot, who knows what'll happen from here on out?

In more Twinkie-centric links, the always long-winded and entertaining Joe Posnanski wonders why so few people are talking about how Grady is clearly the best manager in baseball. This may just be my home-town bias, but you'd be hard pressed to find a guy who's done more with less like Grady has. And now that he has a realy payroll and a Hall of Famer coming off the bench to pinch hit instead of guys that probably shouldn't even be in Triple-A ball, we'll see if he can finally turn that managing acumen into some post season success...

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's About The Music, Man

Just read a really interesting article at the Wall Street Journal about how the Black Eyed Peas are the most corporate band in America. It's a great in-depth detailing of how group frontman/hologram will.i.am views the band as "a brand" and uses said brand to make millions, shift paradigms, unlock new cash flows, and other corporate buzz words I can't even bother to make up.

It's a pretty fascinating read and pretty indicative of the myriad problems of modern pop music. What's most striking about it is how proud Mr. i.am is of his corporate shilling -- it not only doesn't strike his as odd or out of sorts that he would spend most of the time recording an album working on the one promotional track for Dr. Pepper over the rest of the music, but how proud he is of his corporate connections. It's still somewhat shocking even for someone as jaded and cynical as I to read of a "musician" so proudly discussing how he specifically makes music only as a vehicle shilling for various corporate backers.

It's also a good counter-argument to people who call you a music snob for not listening to shitty music. When I say this type of music is horrible and only designed to sell cell phones and third-rate soft drinks, I'm not being hyperbolic, I am quite literally describing what happens. And much the way commercial jingles are rarely good, top-40 music that is specifically designed to be long-playing commercial jingles is rarely good as well.

It's just funny to think that at one point in time, bands were called sell-outs for leasing their music for commercials. A sad, far cry from specifically making your entire career for commercials...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Los Links!

First, a follow up to last Friday's post on the NFL's brewing labor troubles. Over at Rolling Stone Matt Taibi weighs in on the goings on in a much more eloquent and informed way, but hey, he gets paid to do this shit.

On a little more lighthearted and day-specific note, may I present to you Is It Tuesday?, the handy website that answers the eponymous question for you anytime you desire. It's based out of the UK, though, so be sure to factor in international time ones when interpreting the answer.

A Woman in Pants?!?

The strib has a fun little section in which they run old articles from issues past. And by old, I mean they're often 100+ years or so old.

Today's is especially fun, as it's an article from September 1883 discussing the ruckus arising from a woman wearing man's clothing.

It's not only humorous for the old timey language and the fact that people were upset over a woman wearing pants, but it's also a textbook example of our changing norms over time. Whereas once it was so scandalous for a woman to wear pants that it was an arrestable offense that makes the newspaper, now I would go so far as to argue it's almost even acceptable for women to wear pants.

Just a handy little example to remember the next time someone argues something has always been that way and will always be that way, because as intelligent and rational people, we know that's true about very, very few things...

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Little Labor Solidarity in Your Football

Last night before the Vikings pissed away a game to the Saints in which there was obviously some rust from the guy who didn't bother showing up to camp until he was begged and prodded with more money, also featured players from both teams showing a brief moment of labor solidarity on the field before the game began.

Even though I'm always a bit biased toward labor in any dispute, as this potential/likely lock up heats up and gets more intense, it's important to remember that most NFL players don't make millions of dollars. The average NFL career lasts 4 years and those players tend to make the league minimum, which granted, is in the mid 6 figures, but that does not set you for life. It's also very important to remember that the average life expectancy for NFL players is 50 years, and few get any form of health insurance from the league despite the myriad of on-going injuries nearly all of them have.

So remember that the majority of NFL players trade a third of their life for a couple years of good money, and then are saddled with crippling lingering injuries that often burn through that money incredibly quickly. Not that you should feel too bad for NFL players, but only a select few get the fame and millions of those on the commercials...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

You Think Your Job Is Stressful?

Well, for Sin-Soo Choo, right fielder for Cleveland, it's win a gold medal at the Asian games or join the army.

In South Korea, all males are required to serve a two-year stint in the Army, with exceptions given to those who win a gold medal in international competition. Apparently Shoo has been putting off his service for years now and is running out of time.

And now, unless he comes home with gold, he will not be able to put it off any longer. No pressure or anything...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What Makes A Crime Heinous?

The problem is, no one really knows. Sure, we can all look at some really messed up things, like the Oklahoma City bombings or the Dahmer killings, and say those are truly heinous, but really, it's all a judgment call. Quite literally in fact -- most states and jurisdictions have special provisions for the harsher punishment of crimes that are truly heinous.

Problem is, like so many things, when you leave this up to an individual person to decide, you get quite different results. And not too surprisingly, the crimes judged most heinous are often the crimes committed by the most socially maligned groups of people.

Well, in an effort to correct some of these imbalances, a noted group of forensic scientists are working on what they call the "Depravity Scale." This scale is attempting to create an objective measure of what the most heinous crimes truly are as a way to make sentencing more fair and focus on the heinous aspects of the crime in question rather than the individual in question.

And you can do your part by taking part in their survey to get a general measure of what American society finds truly heinous. Once enough data is collected, they should have a good view of what the American body politic finds most objectionable, and therefore a much more objective measure of what should induce those extra punishments.

If ever you've thought something was your patriotic duty to help correct some of the most glaring imbalances in our nation's criminal justice system, this would be a great place to start...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Great Meritocracy

In what has become my apparent quest to be a one-man People magazine, hot on the heels of Tuesday's post about those crazy rappers and their million-dollar silly words, I bring you the highest earning t.v. stars, from those muckrakers over at TV Guide.

The list is similarly amusing and depressing -- amusing in who is on it (Jada Pinkett Smith apparently still exists, and makes a shit ton of money) and depressing for the obvious reasons (Charlie Sheen gets paid over $1 million dollars an episode for what is possibly the shittiest show of all time).

So again, sit in your cubicle and peruse the list, and then try to hide from your coworkers the fact that you're crying because even the other guy on Two and a Half Men makes more per episode than you do in a decade...

My future employer?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Imperialism, Science, and Sociology Still Can't Get No Respect

Sociology definitely has little man syndrome -- we're so obsessed with proving we're a real science, we often go quite overboard in defending and attempting to prove our scientific merit. But much like the hypothetical little man who feels the need to prove his toughness because of some perceived slight, it isn't really our fault. Working on a recent research project, I was required to read several articles from nursing journals. And even though these were highly respected journals in their fields, if any sociologist used their methodology and tried to publish it, they would be laughed out of the profession. These articles would look at 12 people and make sweeping judgements about the general population, while sociologists often look at thousands of people and then make very limited and qualified statements about the world. But this is probably because nursing is recognized as a real science, while most people think sociologists are social workers.

Psychology is similar -- because psychologists work with the brain, which is "real" as opposed to social forces which many of my students insist I'm making up, they get a lot of credibility for their statements,even though their methodology is at worst horrible and at best not at all sufficient for the claims they make.

During my brief period as a psych major in college, I heard the joke multiple times that psychology is the study of the college sophomore. Turns out, that's not a joke, it's true.

A recent meta-study done by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that between 2003 to 2007, undergrad students made up 80% of all subjects in the top 6 psychology journals and 96% of published studies used subjects from nations that only compromise 12% of the world's population.

Yet these researchers, and especially the media reporting their findings, seem to have no problem claiming these are universal results true of all people. This is a great example of imperialist hegemony; not only is psychology seen as "real" science (and therefore speaks to all people), I can't think of a more imperialistic assumption that to say that 20-something American college students represent all people in the world.

And yet, sociology still gets no love...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Children Are Starving, Thousands Out of Work, Etc.

Those "brilliant" minds over at Forbes recently came out with a list of the top 10 richest people in rap for the past year. Leading the list is Jay Z, which isn't too surprising because he's passed only by Diddy (#2 on the list) in adding his name to crappy products for the endorsement checks.

And to show once again how wealth is rarely earned by the best, brightest, or hardest working, here's a great list of the stupidest line each of these millionaires has used in the ascent to moneyed stardom.

Peruse these, look at the money in your pitiful bank account, and try not to weep yourself to sleep tonight...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Double-Edged Sword

Possibly the best thing about graduate school is setting your own schedule. Even though it's a shit ton of work, I always say I'd rather work 70 hours a week on my own schedule than 40 hours a week when someone else gets to dictate when and where I work.

Especially now that I'm an advanced student, I'm barely at all tied to the university, because I'm off doing my on work. So I work from home, because it's more comfortable and it's got the animals and people I like all conveniently within arms reach. And I don't have to wear pants.

Which gets to the downside of working at home -- I realized that in the entire week last week, I only got out of my pajamas once. Which don't get me wrong, is pretty awesome, but also makes you feel somewhat worthless.

Anyway, the fine mind over at The Oatmeal has correctly captured the dizzying highs, dispiriting lows, and creamy middles of working at home far better than I ever could. Go check it out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Good Ol' Racial Violence

Look, we all know Fox News/Limbaugh/Beck/etc. are stupid and continually invent new threats for us to be scared by so we're not scared by (and doing something about) the things that actually threaten us. And why they do it is very obvious -- it's not our wealthy Wall Street owners and advertisers that caused this economic meltdown; no, it's actually the guy picking tomatoes for $3 an hour.

Over at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi puts together a really good argument about how this simple economics game (protect your investors and scare up viewership at the same time) is only a few steps removed from the Radio Rwanda broadcasts that launched a genocide with pretty much these same tactics.

Is Fox News inciting genocide? Not at the moment, but as Taibbi points out, if you continually tell people they're "under siege" by "illegal hoards" who want to "kill all white children" and that the government "will not stop it" (all actual Fox News quotes), what kind of conclusion do you suppose heavily armed people might come to about what they have to do to protect themselves? Hint: it might involve not being nice to people...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Many Bullets Does It Take To Kill A (Possible) Terrorist?

Apparently, quite a few. In fact, Global Security, a Washington think-tank, has recently estimated the U.S. military uses 250,000 bullets for every (suspected) insurgent it kills. For those keeping track at home, that adds up to about 1.8 billion bullets used each year in our on-going wars.

This is a pretty staggering number (one which the Global Security folks point out is probably an underestimate) and is somewhat emblematic of the problem with these wars in general. The entire existence of the war is predicated on the notion that you can kill people away from believing something, which is both A) not possible, and 2) our definition of terrorism. So we're poured incredible amounts of resources into these wars with little to show for it other than piles of bodies and people even more pissed at us than they were before.

This is also a great number to keep in mind when you see military generals and their lackeys on the news talking about the great "smart" weapons systems we have that can magically tell the difference between a terrorist and and innocent person and can turn corners and probably politely ask to kill someone before they do. Because even with all of these breakthroughs and fancy gizmos, we still apparently have to use a quarter of a million bullets to kill one person. And, of course, we have no idea if that person was a terrorist in the first place, but that's another subject for another day...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Here's a Funny Link

I'm lazy today, so here's a link to funny slideshow from Paste magazine on the evolution of the hipster.

On a better day, I'd riff on the irony of Paste making fun of hipsters, but I've used up all of my clever for the day. Please think of something funny you read somewhere else right now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yup, Still Racist

Hot on the heels of their straight-up admission of racism (though supposedly it was meant to be ironic, though I'm not sure how that qualifies as irony), yet another tea partier is caught saying incredibly blatantly racist stuff in public.

But this time it's not some small, isolated group that the rest of these idiots can distance themselves from to pretend they're not like them; this time it's one of the main founders of the tea party movement. Mark Williams, one of the first to organize around the term "tea party," recently referred to Michael Bloomberg and Scott Stringer as "Judenrats", the term used for those on the Jewish councils Nazis required Jews in all German-occupied territories to form.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's getting really hard to deny you're racist when you're intentionally using Nazi-created terms to refer to people you don't like. Though I'm sure someone right now is trying to come up with a reason why this isn't racist, and I just cannot wait to hear it...

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Tried and True Sideshow Bob Defense

In what is possibly my most favorite Simpsons episode of all time (it's like having a favorite child -- no one admits to it, but everyone does), Sideshow Bob is up for a parole hearing. As part of his cross-examination, he is asked about the tattoo on his chest that reads "Die, Bart, Die." He defends it by saying it's not a threat to Bart, but rather simply a German slogan meaning "The, Bart, The." The parole board cheerfully accepts this answer, with one even exclaiming "well, no one who speaks German could be evil."

Now in yet another great example of life imitating art, a Chicago sports blogger has invoked the Sideshow Bob defense in real life. The Sox fan had drawn the interest of Minneapolis police after posting "Die Mauer" on his blog. When asked, he claimed it was actually German for "The Wall," a supposedly begrudging compliment to Joe's defensive capability.

Just add this to the growing number of real-world events the Simpsons has predicted, and I'm starting to get a little nervous about the future of the world...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Constitutes Hallowed Ground?

The national debate about the "Ground Zero Mosque" (actually a community center in which there is a small mosque amongst many other things, much like an old-school YMCA) has taken an interesting turn, as such things always do, as those opposed to it try to come up with a non-racist reason for why they oppose it. Obviously they oppose it because they don't care for Muslims, Arabs, or really anyone different, but that doesn't play as well publicly.

So their excuse for opposing it is that the area surrounding Ground Zero is "hallowed ground" and it would be inappropriate to build anything there that is associated with the religion the 9/11 hijackers also happened to share. You see, they're not racist, they just want to protect "hallowed ground."

The Daily Show has done a great job pointing out that the sight of the mosque is a former Burlington Coat Factory, putting a bit of a dent in the hallowed-ness of the site. But to one up even that, here's a great photo collection of all of the other public spaces the same distance from Ground Zero as the proposed community center.

It does a great job of putting into perspective the other sorts of things these racist folks are perfectly fine with having on "hallowed ground."

Careful what kind of prurient thoughts you have here, for this is on hallowed ground

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Need A Painstaking Summary of What Messrs G and Dogg Are Up To?

Comedy is one of those things like playing a musical instrument or being able to do math that seems to completely mystify those who have never tried it. But what people who are mystified by these things don't understand is that they're all actually pretty simple -- sure, they take work and maybe some innate talent, but they all have pretty simple, straight-forward rules that once you learn, make them much easier to master.

Take music, for example -- once you know your scales and what types of notes make sense in the structure you're working with, it's not very hard to competently play along with a song or jam with some people. Granted, if you want to get really good at it you need to practice hard and blah, blah, blah, but if you just want to be able to impress some people at a party or pass the time away at home, it's just a matter of learning the rules of music, so to speak.

Comedy is much the same way. To be funny you don't need to be especially clever or witty (though it certainly helps), you just need to understand how to find the humor in any given situation. And there are rules as well; one of my most favorite (and probably most abused) comedy rules is that pretty much anything can be made pretty damn funny by simply over-explaining it, preferably with as obtuse of verbiage as you can muster. This works especially well when the source material is not something usually deemed worthy of an in-depth explanation with technical language.

Take as a prime example the wikipedia entry on Regulate, the '94 jam by Snoop's cousin Nate Dogg. It's a classic tale of two erstwhile gentlemen out for a night on the town, full of women, drugs, guns, and all other fantasy scenarios I can assure you these men never experienced but our nation's racial fears and imaginations make many think they did.

But that's not the point. The point is, if you read the article (and are at all familiar with the song), you will laugh your ass off. Why? Because it followed my favorite rule of comedy by treating a ridiculous subject as if it were intense scholarship, using all the footnotes and scientific citations you'd expect of the entry on blue wales or atomic weights. Is it especially clever? No, not really. but it did follow the rules of comedy and made you laugh.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today's Depressing News

From the same people who provided us a handy guide to the most likely (inevitable?) ways a zombie apocalypse will break out, we now have a list of reasons why a zombie outbreak will never reach apocalypse levels.

The logic seems pretty sound (zombies are poorly designed for survival, we've got plenty of weapons and ammo to kill them, etc.) but I think these folks are seriously over looking the fact that the hubris of man will render all of these points moot. Or else I have learned nothing from a life of watching horror films.

In any event, regardless of how unlikely a zombie infestation may be, I'm not making the mistake of being inadequately prepared for the inevitable outbreak...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Good Week To Quit Your Job

This has apparently been the week to quit your job in the coolest way possible. First, Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant, threw down the gauntlet. In case you've not yet heard his story, he was the guy who, after a particularly rude passenger refused to remain in her seat during the runway taxi (as you're always instructed to do, he grabbed the intercom, launched an expletive-filled tirade, grabbed two beers from the drink cart, popped open the doors launching the emergency slides, and then slid down, got in his car and drove away.

Hot on his heels comes a woman currently known only as Jenny, who after surviving a final indignity from her boss, quit her job via a series of pictures and story told on a whiteboard, in which she reveals the rest of her office's hate for said boss and his slightly embarrassing internet habits.

I don't have any thoughts of quitting my job any time soon, though right now I kind of wish I did. In any event, these two qualify as the best disgruntled job send-offs since Grandpa told his manager at the Krusty Burger "I never once washed my hands. That's your policy, not mine!"

Friday, August 06, 2010

Did You Celebrate?

I learned late yesterday that it was actually International Beer Day. I ironically learned this fact while surfing the web at the bar having a couple of drinks before I gave my students their final. This is possibly the best difference between being the student and being the instructor -- whereas my time before tests used to be spent cramming and worrying, it's now spent having some beers and reading funny websites.

In my tardy song of praise for international beer day, here's a nice story on how Carter's de-regulation of the beer industry is almost single-handedly responsible for the recent explosion of micro breweries across the nation and the saving of American beer. No word on whether this was prompted entirely by the creation of Billy Beer, but if it was, that's the kind of nepotism I can get behind...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Deja Vu, But With Life and Movement-Destroying Fun!

Remember that whole ACORN deal? You know, the one wherein a federal criminal made these highly-edited video tapes trying to frame the low-paid social workers at a tremendously helpful non-profit as horrid criminals? The same one where said non-profit was destroyed and is no longer available to help the millions of low-income Americans who rely on its services even though nothing illegal ever took place?

Yeah, that one.

Well, in a none-too-surprising twist, having clearly learned the lesson that destroying people is easy, consequence-free, and doesn't even need any real evidence, the same assholes have now destroyed the career of Shirley Sherrod for making a speech about how racism is wrong.

And you might think the news media that so quickly jumped on the ACORN-is-evil bandwagon and then had to apologize for never checking the facts (you know, the most basic tenet of journalism) would maybe take the next heavily-edited video from the same guy with maybe just a grain of salt. But you'd be wrong.

I don't mean to sound too radical, but this almost makes me wonder if the mainstream American media outlets are not very good at reporting the news...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Where To Go To College This Fall

In an annual tradition as majestic as the running of the bulls and as necessary as the Super Bowl, the Princeton Review has released its list of the top 10 party schools in America. With the University of Georgia leading the way and drunken Hawkeye fans clocking in at #9 (and while they only clock in at number 10 on Playboy's party school list, they are one of only 3 schools to appear on both lists), it's the handiest reference guide for where to go if you don't want people to respect your degree but you do want to have a really good time and/or herpes.

But not to be outdone, the brilliant minds over at HuffPo have put together the top 10 anti-party schools, where you can go to sit quietly in the library without all that damn noise.

So if you're a youngster thinking about attending college next year, I would study these lists carefully. Even if they don't help you make your choice, they'll most assuredly come in handy if you're ever on College Jeopardy.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

When Is A Dinosaur Not a Dinosaur?

In a classic example of how even the study of things long since gone constantly changes, a group of paleontologists have posited the argument that the triceratops is really just the juvenile form of the torosaurus. Apparently the triceratops' skull was still soft enough to evolve as it grew, flattening out and losing its sharp edges as it became an adult.

While I'm sure this is rocking the paleontology community, it leaves many more questions for the The Land Before Time series. In it, Cera's (the triceratops) father is clearly depicted as an adult triceratops, not a torosaurus. Does this mean the film is now due for a scientifically correct update? The world awaits...

Monday, August 02, 2010

Funkytown Beyond Prince

People outside of the Midwest tend not to know much about Minneapolis. As Slug pointed out, we've got 10,000 lakes and Prince, and beyond that, it's hard to find too much to brag about.

But like so many things about Minneapolis that surprise outsiders, we really do have a pretty rich legacy of performers/musicians/entertainers etc. that stretch well beyond the purple Yoda and the Garrison Keillor. The strib this morning has a great list of 50 moments that put Minneapolis on the map, at least in terms of pop culture.

While some are a little dubious and probably just included to make the list a nice, round 50 (Janet Jackson records her first album here entry -- I'm looking at you), but some are unquestionably important -- Nirvana holing up in a snow-barren studio to record In Utero, Rage gets shut down outside the RNC, the birth of MST3K, Dylan re-records Blood on the Tracks, August Wilson gets a couple of Pulitzers -- that really say something about the arts scene we've got going on here.

That, and about 5,000,000 less hipsters than NY, make MPLS one of the best arts and music scenes around, in my completely un-biased opinion...