Friday, May 28, 2010

Even Their Fans Are Jerks

While the Twins mercifully and finally won a home game against the damnable Yankees, even their fans were busy being entitled brats who have no respect for anyone. Watch it:

My other favorite part of the video? The Yankees network reporter saying "Two words: pork chop stick." Apparently they can't count, either...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Continue To Assure You I Am Not Making This Stuff Up

In a plan that should shock and surprise no one, and yet horrify us all the same, the CIA had plans to portray Saddam and Bin Laden as pedophiles through fake videos (presumably in separate incidents, unless they were going for a scandal of historic proportions).

This is absurd and ridiculous in oh-so-many ways, but here's a few that show both the arrogance and ignorance of the U.S. intelligence community:

To begin with, is the agency run by an 8 year old? We don't like the way someone else runs their country, so we say they like boys? Or maybe someone had just seen too much Dateline: Predator episodes and figured if Chris Matthews could do it, certainly the CIA could pull it off.

It's also an example of a tried-and-true American method for dealing with people we don't like -- continually try to kill, humiliate, or otherwise discredit them, and then when they speak out against the U.S., act as if it's crazy they could ever have anything against us and they're completely irrational for not doing everything we demand they do. The same thing happened with Castro -- the CIA tried to kill him or overthrow him a good dozen or so times, and then acted shocked, just shocked, that he would denounce the U.S. as a military aggressor.

And finally, it points out how completely tone-deaf the people who are supposed to be experts on international culture are. For while a same sex encounter with a teenage boy would cause incredible controversy in the United States, it really wouldn't cause much of a stir in many Middle East cultures. Shockingly enough, not every place in the world views everything the same way the United States does.

Take for instance the recent DoD study that found that many Pashtuns in Afghanistan have sexual contact with men but don't identify as homosexuals. It has lead to many American commentators concluding those poor Afghans must just be confused. Because after all, any sexual contact with men = homosexual. But similar to studies of American prisons that find men who completely identify as heterosexual having sex with other men while in prison, it is totally possible to have a sexual orientation that is more flexible that totally hetero- or totally homosexual, but that's another post for another day.

But then, what do I know? I mean, the CIA probably has a grainy video of some guy who looks like me doing all sorts of deranged shit...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Sarah Palin Is The Most Brilliant Political Mind of Our Era

I don't think it's being too radical or cynical to suggest that today's major politicians are much more about style and image than substance. And in their defense, you really have to be at the highest levels of politics. While you might be able to get away with actually making an argument about policies or governing philosophy in a run for city council, you simply can't do that if you're running for President or a high-profile Senate seat or the like. With the 24-hour news cable shows and the internet and hack partisan attack ads et al waiting to tear apart every word you say, there isn't much room for nuance. Really, there's only space for making bland and banal comments while posing in front of a flag/factory workers/soldiers/school children.

And this is why I think Mz. Palin represents the pinnacle/nadir of modern politicians. She has completely mastered the style without even attempting any of the substance. Whether it's her answering which newspaper she reads with "all of them" or answering the question of which Founding Father™ is her favorite with the same, she clearly realizes what she says is not nearly as important as is looking vaguely attractive, very white, and/or posing with her mentally challenged child.

So when it was discovered that (surprisingly!) she's not a folksy, salt-of-the-earth regular Sally but instead someone who demands multiple SUVs and luxury hotel suites and even bendy straws over regular ones (though I have to agree with her there), this should be damaging to her image, right? No, for in the next speech she delivered after this came out, she mocked it as if it were all a made up smear, saying something to the effect of "oh, look, I've even got one of those bendy straws they say I insist on."

And this is what makes her brilliant -- "they say I insist on." No, "they" don't say that, you say that in a legal contract you signed demanding they be provided every time you give a speech. This is not a random baseless accusation, it is a literal reading of a document you signed your approval of.

But you see, that's substance. And substance does not matter. Style does. And she sure used her folksy, you betcha style to make it look like this very real substance was just another ad hominem attack. And her supporters, who love her style and probably have no idea what her substance is, ate it up. And that is why she is so brilliant.

Of course she didn't address the veracity of the claim the contract demands "children's caretaker must be of Korean ethnicity or higher," but then she can't respond to everything...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Elephant in Your Taco

One thing that's really hard to explain to undergraduate students is that not only does racism still exist, but that token symbols of cultural integration don't really mean much. For example, just because you listen to rap music it doesn't mean you're not necessarily racist or that you're free to use the black-specific racial slurs that so frequently populate rap albums.

But here's another great example of this -- owning a chain of "mexican" restaurants doesn't mean you don't hate Mexican people. Take for example Tony Sutton, chairman of the Minnesota GOP and owner of the Baja Sol chain of faux Mexican food.

While you might think his ownership of a chain of Mexican restaurants might make him somewhat sympathetic to the plight of Mexican peoples, he's actually a major proponent of a 1070-style apartheid law in Minnesota.

Or, as a more cynical observer might put it, not only does he not care about Mexican people, he's actively exploiting (a poor imitation of) their culture to grow wealthy while simultaneously seeking to oppress and disenfranchise them. In other words, despite the fact that he has the trappings of multiculturalism around him, he's still a good ol' fashioned white supremacist.

If you live in the Twin Cities area and want to help point out the hypocrisy/insanity of this fella, those crazy rabble rousers over at SEIU are organizing weekly events at his restaurants to highlight ridiculousness. Come on down and join in the fun!

Monday, May 17, 2010


In some seriously sad news, legendary metal frontman Ronnie James Dio died this past weekend.

Dio is probably most well known as the guy who replaced Ozzy as the lead singer in Sabbath, but he also had some pretty good albums with Richie Blackmore's Rainbow and his own eponymous band. He received a bit of a late career bump after Tencious D included a tribute to him on their LP and featured him in their movie. He was set to tour with his latest group Heaven and Hell (actually, just him and Sabbath under a new moniker) before he succumbed to cancer.

Dio will leave quite the legacy. His soaring, operatic vocal stylings essentially created a new genre of metal music, and his obsession with medieval weaponry added an element of wizards and dragons that while not necessarily lacking in metal before Dio, certainly brought it into greater prominence. And of course, he is widely credited with being the first person to throw metal horns, popularizing perhaps the most recognizable hand gesture in the world.

For me, Dio's death is on par with the passing of Kirby in terms of losing my childhood heroes. While the poseurs and johnny-come-latelys have been acting like they like Dio now that he became ironically cool, I was a Dio fan of the highest order. In addition to owning all his albums, I was once a proud card carrying member of the Dio fan club. And even though my musical tastes have matured a little past metal, I still go back and dig out the Dio CDs fairly often. And it's no coincidence my metal side project covers not one, but two Dio songs.

Metal has truly lost one of the luminaries of the field. Somewhere in Hell there is most certainly a demon crying...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Time Today

Don't have time to blog today, but hey, check it out -- Minnesota is the 9th most educated state in the nation!

No indication whatsoever what that is based on, but hey, it's better than nothing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Do Not Want To Work Today

From the if-you're-not-reading-it-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you goodness of Hyperbole and a Half
, here's a visual representation of my spring time feelings about work:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Everything is Becoming Automated...

Academic jobs are thought to be somewhat safe in the near future -- sure, tenure is disappearing, class sizes are increasing exponentially, and funding is being cut daily. But despite all of this, you really can't outsource academic teaching and research. You can to some extent (especially with the growing popularity of online courses), but if nothing else than for prestige purposes, universities seem unlikely to completely eliminate traditional academic positions anytime soon.

One of the biggest reasons this is happening is because it's still too dependent on human skills. Unlike a lot of assembly work which has been robbed of most of its need for human intelligence by advanced automation, you still need qualified professors to make a university work.

That is, until now -- the dastardly bastards at the University of Chicago writing program have devised a Write Your Own Academic Sentence algorithm.

For me, it came up with "the ideology of post-capitalist hegemony is always already participating in the reification of the nation-state," which is already a more intelligent sentence than I could write. Maybe the automation process is coming to the academy faster than I thought...

Friday, May 07, 2010

Hello, Would You Like To Give Me Several Thousand Dollars?

So I have this really ambitious dissertation plan. And it's a good plan. Like a really, really good plan. Everything is all set -- I know who I want to talk to, I know what I want to find out, and I know how I'm going to do it all.

The only snag is that I need lots of money to accomplish it. Say, somewhere in the range of 10-20 thousand dollars.

I do not have 10-20 thousand dollars.

So I've been applying to all of these places for money. And it's not like these are easy applications. No one accepts "I'm smart! Trust me!" as reason enough to give someone 5 figures. No, they want lots and lots of details. So you spend like a month and half working on each of these applications.

And then they reject you. And then you are sad. In this case, by "you" I mean "me." I am the one who is rejected and sad.

I have one more organization I'm waiting to hear from. After they reject me I will officially be a guy with a really good plan and nothing else. But at least when I'm a penniless bum turning tricks on the corner to get another bottle of booze to wash away the painful memories of when I thought I was going to do something with my life I'll have a really good plan I can tell people about.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Happy Getting Drunk and Making Racist Caricatures Day!

Cinco De Mayo is a great example of so many things that are off-kilter about America. We tend to be pretty xenophobic, but are happy to temporarily accept any foreign culture if it means we have an excuse to get drunk on a weekday (see also: St. Patrick's Day).

While many Americans actively harbor hatred for Mexican peoples (see also: the state of Arizona), I think it's safe to say even those Americans that have no active hatred know basically nothing about Mexican people, culture, or society. All this, of course, despite the fact it comprises a tidy 50% of nations that border us.

Go ahead and go to any local bar and/or restaurant tonight where people are "celebrating" and ask any random American what Cinco De Mayo is. They'll likely say it's the Mexican independence day (it isn't) or some sort of important national holiday (it isn't). In fact, it's pretty much only celebrated in the United States.

As such, it becomes a great example of what sociologists call "appropriation," which is essentially when one culture (typically a dominant one) steals the fun parts of another culture while simultaneously disrespecting/ignoring the culture from which they steal (see also: white people and rock and roll). Here in the U.S. we celebrate this "Mexican" holiday not by learning anything about Mexico, talking to any Mexican people, or even attempting to understand the history of the nation.

Instead, we use it as an excuse to get drunk and use incredibly racist caricatures (see graphic above). And then we somehow pretend that being racist and getting drunk is really a way of "paying tribute" to our neighbors to the South that we ignore and know nothing about.

And that sums up our relationship to not only Mexico, but pretty much the entire world. Not that it's going to change my plans of getting "Mexican" food that in no way resembles what people eat in Mexico and having a ludicrously over-sized margarita tonight, but then again, that's my God-given right as an American...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Adding More Fuel to a Pointless Fire

As you may have noticed on this blog, I will from time to time take a break from political rantings and sports chatter to make fun of Wisconsin. Why? Partially because it's so easy, but mostly because as a partisan of my adopted home state of Minnesota, Wisconsonian is by default my natural enemy (though I'm half Wisconsin by birth, which makes for complicated feelings, but hey, we're all complex people aren't we?). These two great states of the frozen North have been locked in a battle since time immemorial to prove that we're real states and not forgotten fly-over country, as the rest of the nation seems to view us. Of course, we both look down our noses at the Dakotas, but hey, even the band nerds can make fun of the special ed kids.

(Disclaimer: I don't endorse or condone the mockery of special education students. They are simply the only people below band nerds in the high school social hierarchy...)

So to add fuel to a completely unnecessary fire, I like to point out flaws in the state of cheese and high-quality paper products, such as their unusually high bar to grocery store ratio. Or their development of a special cheese-slicing laser (because the good folks in Madison have apparently never heard of the knife). Or a yard full of fiberglass statues, which I think is technically the Wisconsin MOMA.

But recently, it's come to my attention that the "Forward" state is home to none other than Stalin's only daughter. Granted, she probably had little to do with the famous purges that allegedly killed up to 20 million Russians, but it is telling that when she wanted to pick a place to run to and hide where no one would ever bother looking, it seems her first choice was Wisconsin...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Call me Michael Ian Black, Because I Love the 90s!

In today's update on things that are completely unnecessary but sure are fun time wasters, I present to you the Geo Cities-izer, an application that allows you to view any website you want as if it were created by a 13 year old in the year 1996.

For instance, this is what my humble li'l blog would look like as a Geo Cities page (don't forget to turn your sound up for full effect).

This is a great reminder of how quickly the world changes. As the semester wraps up, I've been trying to show my students that pretty much the only constant of the social world is change, and therefore it's not a question of if things will change, but how and why they will.

And you can see it with this humorous but trifling app -- only a little over a decade ago this stuff looked cutting edge and futuristic, and now it's something we laugh heartily at. And that forces us to ask ourselves what we now see as normal or even cutting edge that will soon be laughable.

In any event, check in on this blog in 2025 and we'll see what we're laughing at then...