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...