Wednesday, August 29, 2012

You Didn't Know You Need To See This, But You Do

I bet you woke up this morning, a slowly-dawning sense of existential ennui covering you like a shroud.

"Sigh," you said to yourself, absent-mindedly, "what's the point? Wake up, go to work, come home, go to sleep, start all over again. Just another in a pointless series of events before my inevitable death."

But fear not, loyal reader! For today, I present the video that will fill the void in your life you're tried so desperately to cover over with cats and late-night ice cream binges.

Yes, today you get to see Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, frontmen for horror core rap group and apparent Republican party science counsel Insane Clown Posse, break down hit-of-the-summer Call Me Maybe MST3K style.

You will now measure all events in your life by this moment. You are welcome.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Bit More On Gun Control (Last one! I swear it!)

Ok, so this is apparently my second gun-control post in a row, but it concerns a point I've been finding myself making repeatedly, so I wanted to put it down in written form.

As I mentioned before, one of the biggest impediments to meaningful gun control (or hell, even a meaningful conversation about gun control) is this ridiculous Dirty Harry fantasy in which gun nuts imagine that if only they had been in Columbine/Aurora/Tucson/Virginia Tech/wherever, they would have pulled out their trusty revolver and put the shooter down with one shot. Because of this, not only should we not have any form of gun control (not even, say, for this group of people who bought over $87,000 in weaponry and were planning on killing the president), but there should actually be more guns available.

What makes this argument so frustrating is that it's based completely on fantasy -- not only has this never happened (despite, you know, ample opportunity), but even a child could see the problem with this logic. You know what, gun toting vigilante fantasy guy? Maybe you're not quite as good a shot as you think you are. And maybe we shouldn't base our public policy off of your fantasies.

And while I'm making this argument with multiple people, along comes a situation proving exactly what I'm saying. Now that the dust has settled around last week's Empire State Building shooting, it turns out all bystanders shot were hit by police bullets.

So to recap, a team of trained professionals who are charged with handling such situations and have actually practiced what to do in such situations still end up causing multiple injuries and shooting multiple innocent people. Because it turns out that in very chaotic situations, even well-trained law enforcement have a hard time stopping a crazed gunman.

But I'm sure you, crazy gun nut who thinks they're some amazing shot, would do far, far better than trained law enforcement in such a situation. In fact, I'm so confident you'd be able to do it that I agree cyanide-tipped armor-piercing bullets need to be freely available for purchase. After all, I've got a nation full of gun experts ready to sprint into action should anything go wrong. And since they've successfully stopped so many mass shootings already, don't they deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nope, Totally Don't Need To Do Anything

A little while back I wrote about the shooting in Colorado and gave more or less the exact argument you'd expect out of someone like me -- the constant occurrence of such mass shootings clearly indicates something needs to be done, and while what specifically if obviously up for debate, those who say we don't need any sort of gun control or that such gun control would do nothing really need to come up with some evidence for their argument stat. Because otherwise they're setting public policy with their ridiculous Dirty Harry fantasies, and this is directly leading to people dying.

I'm not going to rehash that here, because the post exists, and because I'm tired of having this argument right now.

But what I will point out is that the Onion tried to make a joke about our rampant gun-murder culture with its article Nation Celebrates Full Week Without Deadly Mass Shooting, mockingly suggesting going a full week without someone using a gun to shoot up a public place would be reason for celebration.

And yet in a horribly sad illustration of where our nation's obsession with guns has gotten us, between the time the article was written and when it was published, the Empire State building shooting happened. So they couldn't even make satire about it, because our gun culture is too extreme to even satirize.

So I'm not going to get all into this debate again, but when shit is so fucked up you can't even mock it, that probably indicates something needs to be done.

Friday, August 24, 2012

You Did Not Know You Needed To See This, But You Do

This is a video of the fin of a squid listening to Insane in the Brain. Well, it's a little more sciency than that -- there's obviously no ear on the fin (well, actually, squid don't have ears at all), but sound being the magical thing it is, can easily be converted into electrical energy (more or less). The resulting electrical energy can be passed through, say the tissue of a squid fin, and that energy will cause the muscles to react in various ways.

Hook it all up, put it under a powerful microscope, and you've got yourself a trippy little music video. Happy Friday.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Welcome To My Blog About Not Rock Climbing

This post is inspired by this somewhat misleadingly titled article about how annoying crusading atheists are. Since this has long been a pet peeve of mine, here's my assorted rambling thoughts on the subject.

As always, whenever I'm going to denigrate a large group of people, I like to point out I'm fully aware they are not all one and the same. So I'm not speaking of all atheists, I'm speaking about the evangelical atheists who take it upon themselves to rid the world of religion. Atheists who just don't believe in religion are all fine by me. This is just for those who think not believing in religion somehow makes them better or more intelligent than everyone else.

Because ironically, as the article points out, crusading atheists are often just as ignorant, stubborn, and obnoxiously condescending as the religious zealots they mock. But I think the crusading atheists make actually have the corner on condescension.

And that's what really gets me about these folks, the condescension. Because it's not enough that they don't believe in God or any sort of religion, this is also apparently something that proves they are far, far more rational and intelligent than any of those fools who do, regardless of what they believe or why. That's what really irks me about evangelicals of the believing or non-believing type: anyone who assumes they've figured out the greatest questions of humanity and that anyone who doesn't share their answers is a complete idiot is fucking infuriating to have to deal with. I mean, have some fucking humility -- maybe there's a reason people have been asking these questions since at least the beginning of recorded history.

For example, whenever I end up in an argument with a crusading atheist, which happens fairly often when you're a radical leftist, I use the example of gravity. Because most people have no idea how gravity works; they were just told it's there and it keeps them on the planet and they accept it (on faith, if you will). If you actually look into how gravity works, you'll find we don't really know. I'm not a physicist, but I do know that for a long time there was the Newtonian idea of gravity. And then Einstein came along with some new ideas and asserted gravity works a very different way. Then string theory came along and offered a new and very different way of understanding gravity. And amongst serious scholars, you'll see allegiance to various explanations for how and why gravity works.

But regardless of how it works, the average person has no idea. Sure, they know science is behind it, but they don't know any of the science and don't have any way of verifying it. Yet even the staunchest crusading atheist will uncritically accept gravity. Without evidence. Which would be the exact definition of faith -- accepting something as true despite having no evidence on which to base that decision. Usually the crusading atheist I say this to will become exasperated and point to something about how scientists agree on gravity, but I'll point out A) they really don't, and 2) you're still taking what they say on faith. Sure, you can argue you have reasons to have faith in them, but I can similarly argue I have reasons to have faith in my religion, with technically just as much hard evidence as you have.

This isn't really to argue that we all need to become experts on the mechanics of gravity, but instead to point out that we all accept thousands of very important ideas and concepts on a purely faith basis, so it's fairly ridiculous to point out one version of that as somehow more baseless than any other.

A bigger point of contention I have with crusading atheists is that they fail to separate the idea of religion from those who practice it. Because often I will say something to these folks along the lines of "who cares if it's all a made-up fantasy? How does it hurt you if someone else believes something different than you?" And this question is almost always met by pointing out the many horrible things people have done in the name of religion.

And that argument is most likely the most stupid of them all. For not only does it have no way to address both the many good things done in the name of religion and the many bad things done with no reference to religion (remember, Stalin was a staunch atheist, but it would be pretty disingenuous of me to use that as an argument against atheism wouldn't it?), it also conflates the idea with the actor. Because there are plenty of horrible things done in the name of religion, and I will gladly condemn those right along with you. But such actions should be condemned regardless of their connection, or lack thereof, to religion.

Yet possibly the biggest point of contention I have is with how cowardly crusading atheists act. Because they often vocally condemn religion, but it's almost always only the evangelical Christianity of rich white people. For example, a few weeks ago I was having this exact argument with a crusading atheist who was wearing a Malcolm X t-shirt. But he didn't really see the irony, because Malcolm X doesn't fit the convenient narrative of an idiotic religious believer, so he's not an easy target to pick on. The same folks who say nothing good has ever come from religion and that all people who believe in God are just children who can't see past a fantasy world forced on them by their parents rarely seem to say this at, say, a remembrance of MLK. Not to mention the awkwardness such people back themselves into when discussing something like the xenophobia and racism displayed toward, say, Muslims or other minority religious groups. Because why is it a problem to crack down on Muslims, what with their crazy belief in an idiotic institution? Haven't their been a lot of terrible things done in the name if Islam? Shouldn't this be greeted as the first step on the glorious path to ridding ourselves of all religion? A rational atheist would say, no, it's no ok, because people should have the freedom to believe in whatever they want, even crazy shit. But the crusading atheist doesn't really have much room to work there.

But really what I find so odd/amusing about crusading atheists is that they care so damn much about something they don't believe in. I mean, I've never been rock climbing. In fact, I think it's a fairly stupid and pointless endeavor. But I don't publish newsletters and hold meetings and start campus groups to talk about how I don't rock climb. I just don't fucking go rock climbing.

I can already hear the objections of crusaders saying something like "but rock climbers are not setting our political agenda or using their collective power to oppress countless groups. That's not a fair analogy." But that's where you're wrong, because of the difference between an idea and its followers. After all, it's not religion that's setting our political agenda or oppressing people, it's some assholes using religion as their excuse to keep themselves in power and shut out the groups they don't like. Thinking getting rid of religion would change that means you probably haven't paid much attention to human history.

So the analogy does work. Because if a bunch of rock climbers founded "Rock Climbers For Fascism" and started going around the nation beating up poor people and trying to foment a fascist take-over of the government, then I would totally be part of the movement to stop them. Or if rock climbers started using their collective finances to try to outlaw abortion, again, I would be strongly opposed to them.

But if they just want to spend their Sunday morning rock climbing?

Well, then I just don't fucking go rock climbing with them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Upon Further Analysis, I May Not Be a "Hep Cat" But Perhaps Instead a "Jive Turkey"

Easily my favorite Skinner monologues, and quite possibly one of my favorite bits in the entire run of the show, is when he's trying to track down a school-skipping Bart. While Bart is arguing his way into an R-rated movie, Skinner is checking all of the places he thinks a young child skipping school would go, and the scene cuts back and forth between these two shots:

Principal Skinner has decided to walk around town to see if he can find
our delinquent young friend.

   Skinner: If I were a truant boy out for a good time, I'd be right
            here: the Springfield Natural History Museum.  [chuckles]
            You're mine, Simpson.
             [Bart argues at a triple-R rated movie box office]
      Bart: Look, if I was under seventeen, I'd be in school, right?
Ticket boy: Yeah, I guess you're right.  Enjoy "Boobarama", sir.
             [Skinner has left the museum, meanwhile]
   Skinner: Why, there are no children here at the four-H club, either!
            Am I so out of touch...?  No, it's the children who are

I just got my teaching evaluations back from the course I taught this spring. For the most part, they were pretty routine; mostly good, a few standard complaints (why don't you put your lecture notes online, I'm a big baby who can't be bothered to take notes), a few "you were the best teacher I've ever had" (seriously, I'm now at over 2 dozen of those, not that I'm keeping track, that would be tacky), one bad review, etc. Again, pretty standard stuff.

But two common threads in this last crop of evaluations are new ones I've never seen before, and they are equal parts baffling and scary, yet for entirely different reasons.

The first thread was that people liked me because I'm young and come up with relevant examples that reflect their life (seriously, sometimes I think these comments are auto-generated from the blurbs on the back of textbooks). Now, I've already covered in this space how the kids these days find me "young" and "hip,"but this is the first time I've ever had anyone, let alone multiple students, write something about me being young in my evals, even though this was, by definition, the oldest I've ever been while teaching.

I'm sure a large part of this has to do with the fact that I still look like I'm 15, but that doesn't really explain why it came up this semester. Maybe it's because this was an intro class and most of the students were first-years and had assumed all their professors would be elderly? I really have no idea why all of a sudden my youth is apparently a selling point to students, and I'm not really sure it's a compliment my students see me as young and relatable. I always strive for more of an "angry and unapproachable" vibe, mostly to keep students from e-mailing me too much.

The other, far more disturbing, common thread in these evaluations was for the first time ever I had multiple students say the Simpsons are getting too outdated to play in class. I have never had a student complain about the Simpsons, and usually have many who are glad it was played. And sure, there were still several pro-Simpsons comments this year, but there were at least 4 or 5 students who thought they were too old. Gah!

So, ironically in the first semester I'm ever referred to as young, I feel older than ever. In fact, I feel like this allows me to pinpoint the exact moment when I began to lose touch. I mean, I have no idea what will replace the Simpsons in my lectures, and I'm not about to start paying attention to youth culture.

Oh well. At least I have written confirmation of a time when I was considered an instructor students could relate to and enjoy in class. 10 years from now when all of my student reviews say "this weird old guy just kept referencing some tv show none of us have ever heard of," I can rest assured it is the children who are wrong.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Feeding the Trolls (Or Why Fame Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be)

Let me tell you a long-winded story that will be relevant eventually. Bear with me.

I've tended to attract weirdos all throughout my life. I'm not really certain why this is, beside the fact I'm fairly odd myself, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, I've always been a magnet for the weirdos no one else would talk to. If there was a kid in class who never showered and played with Star Wars toys instead of interacting with any other human being, you can bet they would just go ahead and consider me their best friend. While this used to really bother me as a kid (even the weird kids want to be cool), as I grew up, I realized it was generally either fun (I have got to meet a lot of interesting people I'm assuming most people never bother to talk to) or, at worst, kind of annoying.

But then in college I started getting heavily into politics. I had always been somewhat involved, but around 19 I became your stereotypical college activist, with the requisite loud mouth and, eventually, even the long smelly dreadlocks (though I used a mint-scented soap to wash them, so my dreads actually smelled minty fresh most of the time). So now, in addition to attracting all the odd folks I used to, I started attracting the political weirdos, which, for the uninformed, are way, way worse than normal weirdos. Some were weirdos who agreed with my politics, but many were weirdos who greatly disapproved of my politics. These are the weirdos who would shout shit at me as I walked around town, send me death threats (anonymously, of course, because people who send death threats are invariably cowards), or even occasionally, tail my car (though, again, they would never actually do anything, because again, these people are cowards. Though funny story: once a guy in an over-grown hotwheels truck tailed my car around town for the better part of 20 minutes and when I eventually stopped, he wedged his car behind me so I couldn't go anywhere. When I got out he said he was going to kick my ass because of my bumperstickers. So I asked him to make it quick because I was trying to run errands, and he just called me a faggot and drove away. See? Cowards. All of them).

Now some of these weirdos are just temporary, but some of them take an odd, bordering on the pathological, obsession with me. In college it was this guy named Trevor (shit. Or was it Tyler? Yeah, that's it. Or is it? Fuck, I can't believe I can't remember dude's name. Man, I am getting really old). Anyway, Trevor/Tyler was head of the College Republicans and wrote a regular column for the alternative conservative (yup, oxymoron) paper on campus. So obviously we didn't see eye-to-eye on much. And while for me Trevor/Tyler was just some dude I didn't agree with, for Trevor/Tyler I was the epitome of everything that was wrong with the world, and apparently some sort of personal white whale that he had to slay to prove...well,  I'm never really certain what these people are trying to prove.

So Trevor/Tyler started a one-man crusade against me. During a several month period my senior year in college, every editorial he wrote for that paper was about me and what I was up to. In the beginning it was cute, but it started to get creepy when he began writing things that made it clear he was either spying on me regularly or had access to some weird case file about me I'm not aware of. For instance, one week I was having car trouble so I was in my backyard working on my car, and he mentioned this is in one of his anti-me screeds. Not sure how he would have known any of this unless he was casing my house, or some such thing. Creepy, right?

At first, this was all somewhat flattering. It's fun to feel so important someone becomes maniacally obsessed with you. But then it just starts to get creepy and sad. Because there's nothing more sad than someone who thinks they're engaged in a fierce war of ideology with a person who doesn't care and is only vaguely aware of this supposed battle.

But beyond the creepy factor and how sad it made Trevor/Tyler look, it got really embarrassing for me after awhile. Not because of anything he wrote (what was true I was fine with, what was made up was so obviously made up I didn't care), but because it made it look like I was part of all this. I barely knew the kid and to this day still don't know why I was the object of his ire. Sure, I was a very outgoing and outspoken radical activist, but so were most of my friends, many of them more so. I actually only spoke to Trevor/Tyler in person two or three times as far as I can recall. Yet nonetheless, he chose me to continually write about. What made it embarrassing is having to repeatedly explain to people that I neither knew this dude nor knew what his problem with me was. Because when a crazy person repeatedly talks about you in public forums, people start to think you have something to do with that crazy person. But I didn't. I don't even remember his damn name.

But really the overwhelming feeling from the whole process was just pity for Trevor/Tyler. He had somehow built in his head a world in which not only was I apparently incredibly important, but that I somehow cared about his opinion of me or what he wrote in his wildly odd/entertaining editorials about me. I guess he sat there typing away, filling with glee over how angry this would make me and how it would shatter my fragile world and...shit, I don't know. I honestly don't get it.

Basically, Trevor/Tyler was an internet troll before that was a big thing (this was awhile ago folks, I'm getting old). Internet trolls are people who throw out insulting contrarian views in the hopes that this will provoke some big reaction from people or destroy their ideals or some such thing. But that never happens. All it succeeds in doing is make the troll look like a small, sad, and petty person. Which would describe Trevor/Tyler in as far as I knew him.

Right. So that's a shitload of exposition about someone you don't know and don't care about. Here's where it gets relevant...

It looks like I have a new Trevor/Tyler in my life, though I don't know who this person is (again, cowards never use their names). Whoever it is and I disagreed about unionizing grad students. As far as I know, I've never actually met this person, but given that I like to procrastinate, I probably spent a fair amount of time arguing with him (I'm going to assume this person is male for ease of pronoun use) on the internets during the union campaign. Then there was an election, and unfortunately, it didn't turn out how I wanted it to. Then I moved on with my life.

But you see, whoever this is did not move on with his life, as far as I can tell. Because the fact that I disagreed with him about this thing that happened several months ago apparently means he and I are enemies for life. Which is fine by me. I don't spend any time thinking about whoever this person is, so he's free to think about me whatever he wants.

And think about me he seems to do quite a bit. I know this not just because he comments on this blog, but because of where he comments and what he writes about. I think the first comment he left was on a post I wrote about the union election. Fair enough. That makes sense, as it was something the both of us were very invested in (well, I was very invested in it. I'm assuming whoever this is was as well, but again I don't know, because: coward). Sure, he only came to gloat like a child whose daddy bought him a better toy, but again, I don't care what that dude does, so to each their own.

But then it started to get creepy, as it always does. Because I get e-mail alerts every time someone comments on my blogs. So I start to get all these notifications that someone has commented on my posts. But the posts being commented on...well, some of them were from about 5 years ago. Meaning dude is obsessed enough with me that he's read through at least 5 years of my blog's back catalogue. I just wish I had fans that dedicated.

So that's already creepy enough, but hey, he seems like the kind of dude who probably doesn't make many friends, so I assumed he's just got time on his hands to read a bunch of shit online. But then he left a comment the other week about the new job I got, making a dig at both my field and the institution to which I'm going. That's not such a big deal, right? I mean, people make fun of me and sociology all the time, so how is that creepy? Well, I thought about it for a minute and couldn't remember ever writing anything about getting a job or where it was. And the more I thought about it, the more curious I got. So I went back through all my posts and checked. And here's the really creepy thing, friends:

I had never in this space posted about getting a job prior to his saying that, and I've certainly never come close to mentioning where it is. In fact, I've made no public announcements about it at all.

Then I checked a little further. And no info about me getting a job comes up until the fourth page of google results. That means dude is so obsessed with me he's clearly spending inordinate amounts of time searching out information about me. And while it's flattering (don't get me wrong, I am a pretty awesome person to obsess over, given how amazing I am), he's crossed the line from cute crazy to "show up at my door with a shotgun mumbling about the cleansing rain of the Lord" crazy.

And again, I'm left not really understanding it. Sure, he and I had possibly a spirited back and forth online during the election, but that was months ago. And we're adults, who I would think are capable of separating political discussions from the rest of our lives. Also, I don't understand the insults. You can go ahead and read through his illuminating comments if you like, but they all basically boil down to "leftist politics are stupid and you are stupid for being a sociologist. And you smell.'' (In his defense, I usually do smell pretty bad). I'm actually pretty surprised he hasn't left any yo mama jokes in the comments, but maybe those are too clever for him. I don't know.

But I honestly mean it when I say I don't get the point of this. Are these random insults that rarely if ever have anything to do with the subject at hand supposed to affect me in some way? What am I supposed to come away with from reading highly intelligent stuff like "I can't believe how easy it is to get doctorates in sociology nowadays?" What does that mean? Was it more difficult to get a sociology Ph.D. at some point in time? Did he have some misconceptions about sociology that I inadvertently corrected? Am I supposed to be so ashamed of my field I instantly quit academia forever? These aren't rhetorical questions; if someone can actually understand what these comments are supposed to make me feel, please let me know.

Because again, all they make me feel are pity. Pity that a grown man who's intelligent enough to be in a Ph.D. program at a major university has no better use for his time. Or is not mature enough to understand adults can disagree with each other without needing childish insults. Or that he apparently thinks insulting sociology is both original and something I give a shit about.

But what I think is saddest about these people is that they always seem to think they're the first person to come up with stuff -- You mean to tell me some people don't respect the liberal arts?!? HOLY FUCKING SHIT YOU GUYS! WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THIS BEFORE?!? These people are like that kid in high school who discovers the Beatles and grows a shaggy early-John Lennon mop top and walks around acting like he's the first person to have discovered this crazy underground band out of England. Really? You like the most popular band in the world? How crazy!

Then to push it past sadness to the point of being truly pathetic (in the literal sense of the word, as in inspiring pathos for such a sad, small person) is that they not only express an incredibly common-to-the-point-of-being-cliche viewpoint, they somehow thinks this makes them some awesome rebel, the only one whose not afraid to speak the truth, man. And they clearly think this is accomplishing something, as if a guy (me) who has heard some variation (or these exact words) from roughly several thousand people by this point will, under the weight of his impeccable logic, suddenly collapse and abandon all of my dearly held beliefs, leave my chosen profession, and be emotionally shattered.

(Side note: the insults aren't stinging or even clever, for that matter. And yet, there's so many legitimate reasons to insult me. Make fun of me because my fiance left me. Make fun of me because I'm klutzy and often injure myself doing routine activities. Make fun of me because I'm so broke I've been using shampoo bottles I've collected from hotels over the past year because I can't even afford to buy shampoo. Make fun of me because I've played baseball for years and yet this season I've managed a batting average that make Drew Butera look like a Hall of Famer. Make fun of me because I pretend to be a musician even though I'm talentless and no one wants to hear my music. Hell, I could spend all day listing ways to make fun of me that would actually hurt my feelings, and yet dude's go-to insult is that I'm a sociologist. Weeeeeeaaaaaaaak.)

At this point, I know I've already violated the cardinal rule of dealing with internet trolls by paying attention to whoever this is. While part of this post is to honestly puzzle at what he thinks he's accomplishing, mostly it was just an excuse for me to reminisce about all the insane people that have crossed my path. But now I am going to just ignore him in the vain hope he either finds a hobby or stumbles across an even scarier academic to tilt at windmills against (side note: please don't anyone tell this person about the existence of cultural studies. Because even sociologists make fun of those people).

But given that I can never resist sticking in one more comment, here's my final bit for you, current anonymous cowardly internet stalker:

Please, please find a hobby. Get out of the house and make some friends. Friends who share your interests. Then you can spend time with them and speak like an adult about things you enjoy. It truly is a much more fulfilling way to live your life than spouting random childish insults at people on the internet. I'm flattered by your attention, but now you're just embarrassing the both of us. You do realize that spending time researching what I'm up to in an attempt to insult me is an inherently contradictory and fruitless pursuit, right? Because no matter what you turn up, nothing you find can make me look as sad and useless as someone who spends so much time researching me on the internet. I'm not mad at you; I genuinely feel sorry for you, as something really sad had to happen to you to make you like this. I would suggest some counseling. Seriously. I've used the campus counseling service quite a bit and it's helped me a lot, and I imagine it would do the same for you. Or, failing that, at least take a little time away from the computer. Spend the time you would spend researching your imagined enemies on thinking about yourself; I guarantee you'll come to some realizations that will really help you.

So this is that last I address my anonymous internet adversary. If that past is any indication, he'll probably follow a path very similar to that of Trevor/Tyler: this announcement will be met with some extreme indignation. He'll probably suggest I'm the one who needs counseling (which, hey, true enough) and then make some more comments about my given profession. Then he'll continue to comment on this blog for a few more months before the continued silence finally pushes him to imagine some other holy war he needs to fight and he goes away. All of you faithful readers can help but not responding to his trolling anymore, either.

Because, my anonymous imagined friend, as Mr. Carter puts it so eloquently in the video above, "what you eat don't make me shit." So, please, for both of our sakes, stop trying to make me shit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why Capitalism Is Absurd (Reason No. 7,897,603,194)

Because Jerry Sandusky is writing a book.

Ok, that in and of itself doesn't make capitalism absurd. Anyone can write a book about anything they want. In this case, it's a convicted child rapist writing a book about why he raped children (or probably arguing those kids are liars and he didn't do anything).

Now as the article linked to above notes, he won't get any money, because in most places it's illegal for someone in prison to profit from the story of their crimes, be it in book, movie, t.v. show, or any other form. But there is no law preventing other people from profiting from that story.

Other people like whomever choses to publish this book (I don't believe anyone has agreed to yet, but someone will). Because in capitalism, there is no room for morals. Sure, there may be a capitalist or two who are somewhat moral, but they'll be quickly crushed by their amoral counterparts. Because as they'll be happy to constantly tell you, the capitalists' only duty is to increase profits. Causing trillions of dollars in environmental damage? Too bad! Sexual assault and forced abortions in your factories? Cost of doing business. Firing workers when you're making record profits? Not my problem!

Now you can add to that list "giving a convicted child rapist a platform to publicly denigrate his multiple victims."

You or I, as rational human beings with some semblance of empathy, might think "hey, this guy had a criminal trial to tell his side of the story. Why does he need a whole book to do it again? Didn't the multiple victim testimonies and piles of damning evidence pretty much seal the case?"

But you would only ask that because you're not very good at capitalism. If you knew capitalism, you'd know people love to gawk at a train wreck, so there's lots of money to be made by publishing that train wreck's memoirs (ok, shitty metaphor, but you get the point). Who cares if the whole enterprise is horribly morally indefensible? There's money to be made!

Friday, August 10, 2012

This Things I Believe About Turning 30

So tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the day I was forcefully expelled from my mother's womb. And though I recognize there's nothing inherently more meaningful about turning 30 than there is any other age, and that the only reason this particular birthday is assigned so much importance is because of our base 10 counting system, it's clearly taken on some significance in our culture. And if there's one thing I've advocated my entire life, it's to always fit in at all costs. As such, I intend to make a big deal out of my 30th birthday.

Anyway, as I understand it, a lot of people make life goals and shit and come up with these big lists of things they want to do by the time they turn 30. The lists are usually pretty boring and are generally dominated by the same few generic major life events: get a good job in my chosen field, marry someone, squeeze out X number of kids, complete a difficult but achievable athletic goal (like running a marathon), do something wacky and semi-memorable (like trying to break the local Mexican restaurant's taco-eating record), and then some really vague pronouncements about finding happiness and fulfillment and, again, more boring shit like that.

I'm not really much of one for planning ahead or making goals, so I never came up with such a list. Since such a list would not only be boring but also impossible for me to complete now that 30 is upon me, I've decided to go the other way and compile a list of notable things I have not done/experienced/completed before turning 30, many (though by no means all) of which I'm actually fairly proud of and would have included on my Not To Do Before Turning 30 list, had I the foresight to make one.

Things I Have Not Done Even Though I'm Now 30:
  1. Gotten married
  2. Eaten foie gras
  3. Punched a goat (Update: Since I conceived of this list, this happened. Well, not so much a punch as more of an open-hand slap. But don't worry, it was completely in self defense. Long story.)
  4. Had nude photos surface on the internet
  5. Ran a marathon. Seriously, those things are stupid. Fuck marathons.
  6. Won an Olympic medal
  7. Been to either of our neighboring nations
  8. Changed a diaper (I'm strangely very proud of this one)
  9. Lived outside the midwest
  10. Climbed any mountains
  11. Had a job that paid more than $20,000/year
  12. Failed to complete an eating challenge (Edit: I was reminded I once lost the Nookie challenge. Must have blocked it out of my mind. My bad. Though to be fair, I had completed it successfully twice before I finally failed, so that's got to be worth something)
  13. Had a child (that I know of)
  14. Seen every episode of the Simpsons ever made (at one point in my life I'm sure this was a goal, though to be fair, had the show maintained that level of quality, I'm sure I would have)
  15. Ever been in debt

But, ok, this being my space for rambling and self-absorbtion, here's some stuff I have done/experienced/completed before 30 most of which I'm somewhat proud of. The list would be a lot longer if I spent some time thinking about it, but I'm just adding it this morning before publishing, so it will be even more scattershot than the previous list.

Things I Have Done Before 30:
  1. Been to jail
  2. Got a job without actually finishing my degree
  3. Various fun celebrity stories (top 3 -- got to interview Harvey Pekar, took Jello Biafra record shopping, had dinner with Chuck D)
  4. Helped establish a still-running alternative theater and newspaper at my undergrad
  5. Won some awards for reasons beyond simply being a participant (two favorites -- human rights leadership award from my undergrad and best grad instructor award from my department)
  6. Been to Iraq multiple times (without a gun, because I'm not a sissy)
  7. Have been paid to perform music and/or act on multiple occasions, thereby technically making me both a professional musician and professional actor
  8. Adopted the world's most awesome dog
  9. Learned how to play a dozen instruments
  10. Lots of other stuff I'm sure...damn, this is a much harder list to complete, so I'll just end it there.
So that's about it. I'm getting old, I've done some stuff, I haven't done some other stuff, I'm completely indistinguishable from the rest of humanity as yet another warm body slowly trudging on the inexorable march toward death. So...uh...happy birthday to me?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Only Olympics Coverage Worth Watching

My pardons if this video is taken down sometime soon (the IOC doesn't seem to have too much of a sense of humor about itself), but I had to share this video from Francis Higgins, someone who is part of something called Hardy Bucks, which is apparently an Irish comedy program.

But what really matters is the very astute commentary Mr. Higgins gives on the sailing finals. For all of you like me who have had the experience of watching an Olympic event and not having the foggiest clue of what's going on or what these people are even trying to do, this should ring pretty true. If you're one of the 5 people alive who actually understands the point of sailing races, then...well, there's still naughty words. And those are usually funny.

Anyway, enjoy.

Friday, August 03, 2012

It's Friday. I've Got Nothing Interesting To Say.

It's Friday and I've been writing all week, and I have nothing left to say. Not that I usually have anything to say, but less than usual I guess. So here's a video by some guy named Smart Guy Chevelle (yeah, I've never heard of him either), but he somehow got Purple Jesus in his video:

Though if you're going to talk songs featuring Minnesota athletes, you will never be able to top the Nick Punto song (though sadly, like the whomever made the video, I must acknowledge LNP is no longer a Twinkie. But with their atrocious middle infield options, let's all hope he is again next year):

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

"Go, Passer-By, And Tell The World That We Perished In The Cause, Faithful To Our Orders."

Today is the day set aside in Poland to remember the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

For those of you not familiar with it, the Warsaw uprising was a two-month plus underground resistance movement against the Nazis during WWII. With Soviet troops advancing on the Eastern front and American troops far away on the Western front, Poles formed an underground government with it's own armed forces, the Home Army.

With few resources and having already endured 5 years of Fascist occupation, thousands of Poles attempted to liberate the city against a vastly superior (in terms of armaments and supplies) German army. While it was ultimately unsuccessful, leaving over 15,000 dead and another roughly 15,000 imprisoned, it is a stirring example of the power of the human spirit and the desire for freedom. And probably some other cliches that fail to capture the magnitude of what happened.

It's traditionally marked by a minute of silence, so think about taking a minute of your day to remember the uprising or to ponder the many similar uprisings against corrupt dictatorships currently going on throughout the world right now.