Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Listen To This

Hey look, it's an exclusive new track from Robbie Fulks' new album.

If you don't currently listen to Robbie, you're missing quite a bit. It's what country music is supposed to sound like, and nearly always my go-to rebuttal for people who listen to "everything but country." Because that is stupid position to take, as country music kicks ass. Well, really, dismissing an entire genre is pretty much always stupid. But especially so with one so entwined with the history of our nation and with such a massive, varied, and influential catalogue. Why doesn't anyone ever say they listen to everything but Norwegian Death Metal? That would at least make some sense.

Anyway, listen to it. And if you're a fan of smart-ass takes on music and life in general, I also highly recommend his blog.

Monday, July 29, 2013

...And I'm Back

There's something about driving half-way across this gigantic nation in this day and age that feels like it's just missing something. Sure, the well-maintained intestates undoubtedly move traffic along much faster than in days past, but it seems like all the local color is gone. Especially on the toll roads, in which the only options for gas and food are identical "oases" every 50 or so miles. But even on the more open roads, it seems every exit is just about the same.

As a veteran of numerous minivan trips across the nation, I remember there being a lot more local color, at least in terms of interesting little local restaurants or oddly-themed gas stations and the like. But now you really have to search for those things, if they even exist to be found.

Fortunately, though, on the way back home this past weekend I stopped off to stay with some friends in West Lafayette. I can't say there's a whole lot to recommend West Lafayette (though I was just there for one night), but I can say if you're ever there, you need to go the Triple XXX Family Restaurant (yes, it's written like that, although that really implies it's the 9 family restaurant) (also, don't google it at work. I learned that lesson for you).

Apparently the last surviving Triple XXX Rootbeer stand (hence the odd name), it's now a greasy spoon with some delightfully absurd menu items, all named after Boilermaker legends, or as much as such a thing exists. I had something named after Drew Brees, and while I don't really remember everything in it, it was all covered in gravy. The kind of breakfast that's perfect for a day on the road, since you won't need to eat again at all.

I feel like places like that used to be a lot more widespread, but maybe this just means I'm officially getting old now that I'm starting to think things were better way back when. Either way, I feel like an entire breakfast platter covered in gravy shouldn't be so hard to find...

So the Triple XXX actually refers to alcohol, which I guess isn't as scandalous,
but probably similarly ill-suited as the namesake for a family restaurant

Friday, July 19, 2013

The T-Shirt Turns 100

So apparently the t shirt is now 100 years old. Though I guess they technically mean the short-sleeved t shirt, since technically all shirts are t shirts, aren't they?

I felt the need to note the date, as I've long had a thing for collecting t shirts. Well, not really collecting them, it's more I have a weakness for shirts with amusing, stupid, or amusingly stupid things written on them. Plus, they're just such a great way to broadcast your political views -- take that, global capitalism! Surely my witty communist-themed t shirt will tear asunder your walls of greed!

So in celebration...uh, I guess wear a t shirt today? Though given that it's already late in the afternoon, I'm assuming you're already dressed by now. So...wear one tomorrow? Jesus, I can't make all of your decisions for you...

For instance, this is a humorous shirt I own,
although that is not me wearing it

Thursday, July 18, 2013

And Now For Something Light -- Baseball!

So blah, blah, blah politics, amirite? Seems like this space has devolved into angry rants lately. Which is fine to a point (angry ranting is more-or-less what I do best), but sometimes that shit has to be tempered by the light frivolity that is grown men being paid large sums of money to play a game.

Gizmodo recently published and interesting history of the evolution of baseball equipment that's well worth the read. The funniest thing to me is that it took a long while for gloves to be introduced, and the first man to use one was mocked a fair bit for being so sissy he needed something to protect his hands. Though to be fair, at that time it still counted as an out if you caught the ball on the first hop, so maybe his bullies were somewhat justified.

Even more fascinating, though (and developed in more detail on the Smithsonian's blog) is the history of the ball itself. Originally there were no standards placed on the balls being used, but more interestingly, it was the pitcher's job to supply the ball for the game. This being before widespread automation (or at least automated production of baseballs), the pitchers would have to put the balls together themselves, carefully cutting up leather and sewing it together in just the right way. Often the balls would really only be any good for the first few innings, after which they would become misshapen blobs that would be incredibly difficult to hit, leading to what is commonly referred to as the "dead ball era" and often excluded from discussions about the statistical history of baseball.

Anyway, both of the article linked above contain a bunch more links of their own, which can send you down a rabbit hole of internet links until your afternoon is gone, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you define your life...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Smaller Forms of White Privilege

So as we've seen recently (though we've seen it a thousand times before), white privilege is pretty damn powerful. It's the kind of thing that lets you kill an unarmed Black teenager, and then the resulting trial and media coverage focus on how potentially dangerous the dead kid is rather than how obviously dangerous the deranged dude with the gun who killed a child is. Nice work if you can get it, right?

But typically white privilege operates on a much smaller plane. For instance, shitty comedians often use their white privilege to make racist jokes and then jump on anyone who calls them out for it for "being p.c." (as an aside, is there any greater phrase in the English language? It's one of those really handy markers, because as soon as you hear someone use that phrase, you know you can stop listening to them right then and there, because they are a fucking moron).

Here's a good recent example -- after the now infamous incident in which a Bay Area news station reported the names of the pilots on the crashed Asiana Airlines flight as "Wee Too Low" and "Ho Lee Fuk" among others, Patton Oswalt tweeted out something to the effect of their new PR person would be "Wi So Solly."

Get it? Because Asian people talk funny! Har har!

The funniest thing about it to me is how not only racist, but completely out of touch it makes Patton look, especially for a guy who has a lot of fans who seem to think of him as hip and witty (full confession: I've never found the dude funny). When I saw the tweet, it immediately made me think of one of the all-time great Simpsons episodes, Krusty Gets Kancelled. In the episode, to demonstrate how unfunny and out of touch Krusty has become, they show him doing a bit with fake buck teeth and saying "me so solly," as their example of the ultimate unfunny, hackneyed joke. That episode premiered 20 years ago. 20 years ago people who were actually talented comics were using the "so solly" bit as an example of ridiculous, out-dated, hackneyed material. Just to put that in perspective.

Anyway, David Daley over at Salon called Oswalt out for being a racist idiot (and noted the joke wasn't funny to boot). But instead of say, pausing for a bit to think about how maybe he had just made a racist remark, Oswalt instead began firing back and eventually wrote a long missive on his website about how those P.C. prudes over at Salon just don't get his crazy edgy humor. In it, he mocks the idea that he, esteemed white comedian, could ever be racist in the first place, and that if anyone thinks he is, it's only because they're not smart enough to understand his comedy. He also claims it should be obvious to anyone that the tv station was the brunt of the joke, but I can't really see how that's the case. The only "joke" contained within the original tweet is that Asian people supposedly can't say R's, and I'm not certain how that's a joke on the tv station and not just dredging up an incredibly reductive, racist insult for cheap laughs.

But it's not just that fact that Oswalt can fire off racist tweets and not lose his job or many of his fans. The real power of white privilege is in how indignant he gets to be that anyone would dare call him out on his racism. And that instead of taking the time to reflect about how, yeah, that's a pretty fucking racist joke, he instead turns in into a rant about how anyone who sees racism in it is just spoiling for a fight and is so out of touch with reality they can't recognize his genius.

Kinda like how Trayvon Martin was so out of touch with reality he couldn't recognize that he should just sit still while a crazed gunman chased him down the street...

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Biggest Tribute to Trayvon is Not Forgetting

So George Zimmerman was found not guilty, despite, you know, shooting and killing an unarmed teenager who was doing nothing illegal. Predictably, as such things tend to go in a nation and criminal justice system that both have serious problems with young, Black men, it really seemed as if Trayvon was on trial much more than Zimmerman. After all, if you're going to do a toxicology report after a  murder, it makes a lot more sense to test the victim than the perpetrator, right?

But I'm not going to get into all of that, mainly because a million other people much smarter than I have written much better responses than I can come up with. Like a lot of people, I spent the better part of Sunday in shock, alternating between reading about the trial outcome and just staring off into the distance in a mixture of rage and sadness.

So I don't need to go on about how stand your ground laws are incredibly racialized in outcome (and yes, I'm well aware Zimmerman's defense team did not appeal to syg for their defense, but it's basically the same argument). I'll give you three guesses on who you can murder and claim a stand your ground defense and get away with it, but you'll only need one. Because this is the kind of thing we frankly didn't really even need the research to tell us -- we've known for years that if you want to get away with murder, you should murder a young Black man. This trial was just another sad chapter in a long, long history of Black Americans not receiving justice.

But I think the saddest thing of all is just that -- that Trayvon's death is just another young Black man being murdered. Although it's all the talk right now, this piece by Tim Wise got me thinking about how long it is until everyone else moves on. In the article (well worth your time, by the way), Wise talks about the Bernhard Goetz case from 30 years ago. Goetz famously murdered or wounded 6 young Black men in the subway just because they were young, Black men. And much like in Trayvon's case, the jury accepted that those boys having the audacity to be young and Black in public makes them justifiable targets of paranoid murder.

And yet, how many Americans alive today even remember the Goetz case? Outside of historians, lefty agitators, and people with pretty sharp memories, I'd guess very few. And once the next few national tragedies happen and everyone's attention turns elsewhere, who will remember Trayvon?

This lack of collective memory is important for so many reasons. For one, our schools certainly don't teach us these things -- I had never even heard of Emmit Till until I was a sophomore in college. Forgetting these events is what allows people to continue ridiculous narratives of race no longer being a problem in America, and to paint each of these events as an isolated incident. It's important to remember that Trayvon's murder wouldn't have even been investigated if there hadn't been such a huge public outcry. But there are many, many more like Trayvon who don't end up becoming public causes, and instead are just left dead and their families without any justice or even closure.

So like many across the nation, I'm headed out to a rally tonight to demand justice for Trayvon, and here in Minneapolis, to demand justice for Terrance Franklin, who was murdered by an actual cop instead of a wanna-be cop. And these rallies are important and necessary.

But I can't help shake the best tribute to Trayvon is to not let his memory, or the memory of the many young, Black men slaughtered because of the color of their skin, to die along with them. Maybe if we remember enough of them, we might finally all decide to do something about it...