Saturday, December 20, 2008

Elf dung

Blogging will continue to be light as long as the global economic apocalypse continues. In fact, consider me on strike. Me and Santa.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Letters exchanged between Giorgio Agamben and Hannah Arendt. Who knew?

Got it here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On Enmity

Let's talk about Al-Qaeda. According to the Washington Post, some faction or other within Al-Qaeda is now endorsing John McCain:

Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market's downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America's economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.

And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.

"Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the "failing march of his predecessor," President Bush.

This is sure to get people on the left smiling, though it should be noted that Hamas endorsed Obama not that long ago. Great.

It's interesting to look at the way our country deals with statements uttered by "terrorists." During an election, the Right is happy to believe Hamas when it says it wants Obama to win. During an election, the Left is happy to believe that Al-Qaeda means what it says when it endorses McCain. But credencing either of these statements is an act of bad faith on the part of politicians and the talking heads. Neither puts faith in the statements of "terrorists" because, according to the logic of absolute enmity, terrorists are not capable of speaking the truth. It is for this reason that nobody pays any attention when Bin Laden releases a video; as an absolute enemy, what he says cannot be trusted.

Enmity is a concept without content -- or rather, it is a category that must be perpetually constituted according to local and temporary needs. If Bin Laden says that he wants the US out of Israel, it is regarded as a ploy for some greater, more sinister purpose, be it Islamo-fascist theocracy or total war. Yet, if a "terrorist" admits under duress at Guantanamo that he or she planned an attack or engaged in terroristic activity, that's another story. Because such statements fulfill local and temporary political functions, the terrorist may speak a "truth" that is otherwise inconceivable. The same goes for the current elections; Hamas or Al-Qaeda is allowed to demonstrate a preference for one or another candidate in a foreign, democratic election if such statements fulfill the needs of our domestic political environment.

The point here is that the war on terror, in a historically novel way, abrogates the basic conditions of veracity that make politics a meaningful category of human discourse. If the possibility of a "terrorist" uttering a true statement is permanently witheld, there is no real enemy to fight at all--there is only our mirror image of who we are as a people. We are damned to perpetually dream up our own worst enemy--and fight ourselves to the death.

GOP terrified of the "real" America

OK, this is the last post of a Brave New Film video, but I think this one about ACORN is simple and to the point. This is maybe the one theme that I think the GOP has been able to push on the media and win on. That isn't to say that it will make a huge difference in the election outcome necessarily, but it does enable the GOP to peremptorily change the legitimacy of an Obama presidency, as well as poison the post-election political environment. At the same time, I can't quite understand why this story of all stories has found traction in the media. It has some sort alchemy to it suggests that McCain isn't dead quite yet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

make it end

I've been really on edge this last week as McCain's campaign has gone nuclear. I don't always love the films that Brave New Films makes, but this one McCain's "Politics of Hate" is pretty good. My only quibble is that watching one might get the sense that McCain's incitements to violence have garnered serious media coverage, which, obvious, they haven't. Check it out:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Escape Hatch

Should all the polls be wrong, or the election be stolen (again), or a serious campaign meltdown of catastrophic proportions occur . . .

there's always Plan B:

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's hard to say whether or not McCain will be able to put out the fire he has started, but there's some evidence that his own people are turning on him for his effort to incite a mob.

Frank Schaeffer, a Republican and long-time McCain supporter, writing in the Baltimore Sun says:

John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Get more Gitmo

According to the ACLU, the US military attempted to set up Gitmo-style torture sites within the borders of the United States at military brigs in Virginia and South Carolina. Not that borders change things ethically, but on a purely legal level, the governmental effort to set up a "law-free" space within US sovereign territory should strike fear into your heart.

But then again, what's new?

Douche bag

Let the record show that McCain continues to be a douche bag.

I can't tell whether the rhetoric that casts Obama as a terrorist is actually effective in branding Obama--that is, in making people truly believe that he is a terrorist--or whether it's just a rhetoric through which disenchanted Republicans can vent their frustration (or whether these things are seperable at all). But, judging by the nature of the mobs that McCain is rousing at his rallies, I'm inclined to believe that McCain is actually branding Obama for a certain segment of the population (as several videos shot at his rallies show).

When you have trained your constituency to believe that the opponent is a terrorist, as many of McCain's supporters apparently believe, you become personally responsible for the actions taken by your constituents. By pushing this Ayers nonsense in a moment of economic crisis when people already have nothing to lose, McCain is doing something unfathomably irresponsible--like pouring gasoline on a fire. It's a lynch mob in the making. If anything happens to Obama between now and inauguration day, it's on John McCain's head.

Douche bag.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Russian roulette

I really haven't had much to say about the election, mostly because I have been so hopelessly hooked on the strategic aspects of the race. But as the race turns into the last month, and the McCain camp is starting to spin out of control, I am gripped by a sense of worry--not about the election, but about the bigger picture. The new round of smears goes way beyond the pale. Here's TPM on McCain's behavior today:

So we have McCain today getting his crowd riled up asking who Barack Obama is and then apparently giving a wink and a nod when one member of the crowd screams out "terrorist."

And later we have Sarah Palin with the same mob racket, getting members of the crowd to yell out "kill him", though it's not clear whether the call for murder was for Bill Ayers or Barack Obama. It didn't seem to matter.

These are dangerous and sick people, McCain and Palin. Whatever it takes. Stop at nothing.

"Kill him," someone yelled. Allow yourself to imagine it for just a moment. If that were to happen between now and election day, it is hard to imagine the backlash. And who would we blame if such a tragedy were to occur? Well, McCain for starters. And then his party as a whole. And then the media and every one of McCain's supporters that acted as a megaphone for what is clearly an inflammatory and racially tinged rhetoric. And the entire poltical process wouldn't come off unscathed, either. And what would happen to the country in such a scenario? I can imagine that the LA riots of '92 would look tiny in comparison to the riots that would ensue. Given the economic meltdown, wouldn't such a situation amount to a total collapse of American society?

Measure your words, John McCain: you're playing with fire.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Electoral Judo

Needless to say, blogging will continue to be super slow as I read for my exams and obsessively read about the election. In the meantime, give yourself a little break and take out your election angst on the other party: Kung Fu Election. Enjoy.

Thanks to Hannah for this.

Monday, September 8, 2008

May or may not be edible

In the search for the perfect wedding cake, Kendra came across Cake Wrecks, a blog for when professional cakes horribly, hilariously wrong (or right).

My favorites:

Tom Selleck cake
Babies riding carrots

Dead clown cake (or: The only good clown is a dead clown . . . cake)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

tally man

Why not? Harry Belfonte vs. Animal in a drum duel.


Ed Shaughnessy vs Buddy Rich on Johnny Carson

Via Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Oh, Harper's Weekly, you never let me down.

Penguin Nils Olav, the Norwegian King's Guard mascot since 1972, was knighted in front of a crowd of several hundred people and 130 guardsmen. Nils, who shat himself during the ceremony, was, read the proclamation from King Harald the Fifth, "in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood."
This is about where I lose the ability to distinguish really high quality social theater from reality. BBC's got the video.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Message is the Medium

Sweet Jesus: The Boston Globe has wordled the campaign messages of Obama and McCain. The result? Crooks and Liars says, "It should come as no surprise that John McCain’s message is overwhelmingly about Obama and overwhelmingly negative. Seriously, just compare the top 4 words on each; it tells you all you need to know about this election."

It's almost as beautiful as the wordles I did of Ulysses and Paradise Lost. Almost.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Looking Under Kafka's Matress

Harper's Weekly brings my attention to this very important piece of literary news: after decades of neglect, Kafka's porn collection is seeing the light of day.

A stash of explicit pornography to which Franz Kafka subscribed has emerged for the first time after being studiously ignored by scholars anxious to preserve the iconic writer's saintly image.

Having stumbled by chance across copies in the British Library in London and the Bodleian in Oxford while doing unrelated research, James Hawes, the academic and Kafka expert, reveals some of this erotic material in Excavating Kafka, to be published this month. His book seeks to explode important myths surrounding the literary icon, a "quasi-saintly" image which hardly fits with the dark and shocking pictures contained in these banned journals.

Their additional significance is that the publisher, Dr Franz Blei, was also the man who first published Kafka in 1908 - a series of miniature stories later gathered in his book Meditation.

Hawes, an Oxford graduate and university lecturer, emphasises his total admiration for the literary Kafkaesque genius who wrote brooding classics such as The Metamorphosis, The Castle and The Trial, and argues that these discoveries merely show Kafka as more human than the popular image. He believes that "suppressing" them detracts from sensible assessment of his work, and has even led to nonsensical evaluation.

Even today, the pornography would be "on the top shelf", Dr Hawes said, noting that his American publisher did not want him to publish it at first. "These are not naughty postcards from the beach. They are undoubtedly porn, pure and simple. Some of it is quite dark, with animals committing fellatio and girl-on-girl action... It's quite unpleasant."

Now, there are several things funny about this. First, consider the fact that Kafka's stash of dirty magazines has apparently been housed at Cambridge and Oxford for years. Second, consider the fact that Hawes feels his Kafka expertise qualifies him to deem the collection "top shelf." His authority, you understand, is vast.

But on a more serious note, I have to look down at this kind of literary scholarship. Porn? Really? In my most generous academic posture, I could maybe imagine some kind of scholarship coming out of this that shows the influence of pornography and modernist spectacle on Kafka's work. Similar work has been done on the topic of Kafka and his passion Jewish theater, so there's no reason why the topic of pornography couldn't be equally illuminating. But if this article is any indication of how this archive will be used, we can assume that it will contribute to an evolving biography that casts Kafka less and less in the role of idyllic mystic.

Of course, we hardly need Kafka's centerfolds to make this biography. Kafka is one of the writers about whom book upon book is written, it seems, because the fiction is so good and yet resistant to the kind of exegetical proliferation that we find in other modernist texts. What results is a fetishization of Kafka--and, here, a fetishization of his fetishes.

The case against Kafka's saintliness seems to gather steam every few years. Fingers are pointed at Max Brod, whose editorial efforts (which saved Kafka from oblivion) seem to stack the chips in favor of a mystical Kafka. Yet, we hardly need to look under Kafka's matress in order to rewrite the story Brod wrote. Indeed, if anything, the idea that Brod proferred such a saintly figure is somewhat absurd, recent polemics aside. Brod famously argued that The Castle is an allegory about divine grace, and that The Trial is an allegory of divine justice. Kafka's first English translators, Edwin and Willa Muir, helped spread this version of Kafka by how they framed their translations between 1930 and 1938. However, by the end of WWII, theological readings of Kafka ceased to hold sway. Here's Muir on Kafka as a theologian:

  • In his 1930 preface to The Castle, Muir argued that The Castle and The Trial are best defined as “metaphysical or theological novels.” Muir recommended that readers think of The Castle “as a sort of modern Pilgrim’s Progress … [as] a religious allegory.” Muir reasserts this in various forms in both 1933 and 1934.
  • By his 1938 introduction to America, Muir seems less concerned with religion than he does with Kafka’s depiction of “the human situation.”
  • Four years after the conclusion of the war, he completely revised his earlier reading of Kafka, arguing that The Castle and The Trial “are not allegories. The truths they bring out are surprising or startling, not conventional and expected, as the truths of allegory tend to be. They are more like serious fantasies.”
In other words, it is not Kafka's pornography that mandates a rewriting of Kafka's biography; it was WWII, the atomic bomb, the concentration camp, and the totalitarian nightmare. The end of modernism with WWII brought home the untheological nature of Kafka to even those figures, like Muir, who most staunchly advocated for such a biography. And he didn't even need porn to get there.

Friday, August 8, 2008

George Lucas must be stopped

A random search about upcoming 3D films yielded this terrible piece of news:

Star Wars: George Lucas has announced plans to remaster all of the Star Wars films in 3D. When this might actually happen is anyones guess.
More here.

cartographic imaginary

My favorite pedant and local-historian, Mitch Fraas, has started a new blog about Durham. It's what you might call a specialized blog. He's specializing in maps of Durham. [And they said it could be done!]

Hold on to your butt, Strange Maps. You've got competition.

Word of the day

vexillology \vek-sil-AHL-uh-jee\, noun: The study of flags.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Organized Crime?

Wal-mart is propagandizing for McCain:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

200,000 people showed up in Berlin today to hear Obama dish it out. Apparently his speech was preceded by reggae a concert.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Somehow On

Some of Beckett's prose is being performed on stage this week in New York. I don't live in NYC, but if I did, I'd be there for at least two performance.

And maybe, just maybe they'll think to throw in that bit about laughter from Watt.

Do you have diesel on tap?

I've been badly slacking on the blog front. Damn grad school. Anyhow, the internet is still alive and well, apparently, so here's a nice little video of Naomi Klein on Faux News talking about disaster capitalism.

By the way, apparently Fox News has a show that takes place in a bar? What a truly vapid idea. And whose idea was it to invite this well-informed, articulate, anti-capitalist intellectual into happy hour?

From The Opinion Mill

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday morning music videos

Les Savy Fav's "What Would Wolves Do?"

Santogold's "L.E.S. Artistes"

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I finally got around to taking pictures of our garden and uploading them to shutterfly. Here's the link.

And here's a shot of this week's non-tomato harvest:

*Update: OK, I've been seriously disenchanted with shutterfly. It's just not very easy to use. Flickr is about a thousand times better, by which I mean that it's faster to use. Here's a link to the same garden photos at Flickr.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Record keeping

It's totally weird to me to see the Obama/McCain campaign playing out like Kerry/Bush. It's not just that McCain is flagrant flip-flopper and will be called out as such during the election, but he's also an absentee Congressman. According to Think Progress, "McCain now ranks as the #1 most absent senator of the 110th Congress, having missed 61.8 percent of the votes." Chalk up another Bush/Kerry dynamic in reverse for 2008. And the best part? He has no fucking idea.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bushie

Check this out. Here's still-President Bush giving a totally innocuous speech at Monticello yesterday. What's really great about this 9-minute speech is that protesters in the crowd seriously interrupted it. About once a minute you can hear people yelling things like "War criminal" and "He brought fascism to these shores." Check it out:

Just imagine if every single one of Bush's speeches went like this. Amazing.

Holler Back

I don't know why I find making wordles so fun, but I do. Two more in response to Gerry's great Wes Anderson wordles:

Apocalypse Now and Proust's Swann's Way:


Here's a link, also, to all my wordles so far.

Friday, July 4, 2008

word clouds

Here's a Wordle of Joyce's Ulysses. Thanks Gerry.

And, for good measure, a little Paradise Lost:

The mindless menance of violence in America

RFK, in 1968, on senseless violence.

Happy Independence Day.

Via Crooks and Liars.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Gitmo goodness

Gitmo news fron the NYT:

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that allegations against an ethnic Chinese man held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims, according to the decision released Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its allegations against a detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.

The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a Lewis Carroll character: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”

“This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true,” said the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
But wait for it. Here's the punchline of the story:
American officials have said that they cannot return Mr. Parhat and 16 other Uighur detainees at Guantánamo to China for fear of mistreatment.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Pam Lach brings us another sweet, sweet re-cut trailer.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"I'm dying!"

"You're not dying, you just can't think of anything good to do."

A Ferris Bueller trailer re-cut and set to the music from Requiem for a Dream. Apart from being slightly too long, this is about as close to perfection as anything on Youtube.

Via Cynical-C.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OK, so I linked below to Nader's less than enthusiastic appraisal on Obama, so I figure that I should even the score and post something as unflattering about McCunt McCain.

So here's an interview on MSNBC with General Wesley Clark on why, contrary to public opinion, McCain does not have the foreign policy credentials he claims to have.

Both via Pandagon.

Nader on Obama

Barack Obama: "The Corporate Candidate"? So says Ralph Nader on Democracy Now!

Barack Obama really now has to be examined very carefully. He has worn out the word “change.” We now want to know what change is involved. And it’s quite clear that he is a corporate candidate from A to Z. In his voting record, he voted against reform of the Mining Act of 1872, which gives away our hard rock minerals. He voted for a terrible class-action restriction law that the corporations wanted him to vote for. He, in many ways, has disappointed people who had greater hopes for him. He’s voted for reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. He refuses to even discuss—he’s vigorously against impeachment of Bush and Cheney. He won’t even support his colleague Senator Russ Feingold motion to censure the Bush administration for systemic repeated illegal wiretaps. He—you know, he’s letting the corporate-dominated city of Washington, the corporations who actually rule us now in Washington, determine his agenda. And that does not augur well.
It is regrettably true that Obama opposes impeachment, but to imply that he is pro-Patriot Act is misleading, even if he did vote for its reauthorization.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This is what Democracy looks like?

As blogged the other day, in response to a question about the lack of public will for the Iraq war, Big Dick Cheney caustically responded, "So?" At a White House press briefing back in March, Dana Perino explained it:

“So is the vice president saying it really doesn’t matter what the American public thinks about the war?”

“No, I don’t think that’s what he’s saying,” Perino responded. But later, she echoed Cheney, saying that the 2004 presidential election was the last time American public opinion on the war really mattered:

HELEN THOMAS: The American people are being asked to die and pay for this. And you’re saying they have no say in this war?

PERINO: No, I didn’t say that Helen. But Helen, this president was elected…

THOMAS: But it amounts to it. You’re saying we have no input at all.

PERINO: You had input. The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up.

So sit back and shut up, America. You don't like this war? Well I guess you should have thought about that four years ago when you re-elected George Bush. It's his turn to say what goes. And he says the war goes on. Too bad.

Via an old post at Think Progress.

Suck on that, Taser Inc.

Good news on the taser front--for once:

A San Jose, California, jury yesterday said Taser had failed to warn police in Salinas, California, that prolonged exposure to electric shock from the device could cause a risk of cardiac arrest. The jury awarded $1 million in compensatory damages and $5.2 million in punitive damages to the estate of Robert Heston, 40, and his parents. The jury cleared the police officers of any liability.

...``I think Taser’s going to have to rethink its litigation strategy and its warning policies,’’ Burton said. The jury awarded $5 million in punitive damages to Heston’s parents and $200,000 in punitives to his estate.

Heston died on Feb. 20, 2005, after his father had called Salinas police because his son was ``acting strangely,’’ and seemed to be on drugs, according to the lawsuit complaint. Salinas police shot Heston multiple times with the stun-gun, continuing to discharge their Tasers into him until he stopped moving, the lawsuit claims.

Heston went into cardiac arrest and died, his family said.

Maybe NYC will rethink it's fire-away taser policy.

Via Pandagon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tasers take Manhattan

KDS passes a link from the NYT. What do you do when you realize that your city's cops are shooting too many people? Give them tasers and tell 'em to fire away. Remember, tasers don't kill people (except sometimes).

Police recruits and veteran officers could benefit from more frequent firearms training and a wider use of Taser stun guns, according to a study of the New York Police Department’s shooting habits released on Monday.

The study, by the RAND Corporation, was commissioned in January 2007, about seven weeks after a Queens man, Sean Bell, died in a hail of 50 police bullets. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at the time that questions about the department’s effectiveness and training required an independent review.

RAND researchers raised the phenomenon of “reflexive shooting,” or contagious shooting, in which one officer’s gunshots spur a fusillade of bullets by others in the area.

Though they could not say whether the phenomenon occurred more often than in the past, they recommended that the department add “reflexive shooting scenarios that include a stimulus or the sound of gunfire, to sensitize officers to cues that may not be reliable, and to teach them that such cues may generate unwanted responses.”

What a dick

The novelist V S Naipaul has damned the achievements of his literary contemporaries by declaring that there are "no more great writers".

Naipaul, 75, who won the Booker in 1971 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, is said to have called this year's Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival "unimportant and meaningless".

He made his outspoken comments while at a launch of a new magazine at the Wallace Collection, in London. "Publishing has gone down in quality so much in recent years and the problem is that there is no literary life any more because there are quite simply no more great writers," he said.

He added that he had also noticed the people who go to Hay were "incredibly ugly". A spokeswoman from the festival said that Naipaul had not made an appearance at Hay in any official capacity.

From The Independent, Via Harpers

Monday, June 9, 2008

What a disgrace

Via Democracy Now!, more pathetic news from Gitmo:

Lawyer: Gitmo Interrogators Told to Trash Notes

The Pentagon urged interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify about potentially harsh treatment of detainees, a military defense lawyer said Sunday.

The lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were included in an operations manual shown to him by prosecutors and suggest the U.S. deliberately thwarted evidence that could help terror suspects defend themselves at trial.

Kuebler said the apparent destruction of evidence prevents him from challenging the reliability of any alleged confessions. He said he will use the document to seek a dismissal of charges against Khadr.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said he was reviewing the matter Sunday evening.

The "standard operating procedures" manual that contained the purported instructions was made available to Kuebler last week as part of a pretrial review of potential evidence, the Navy lawyer said.

By the way, Omar Khadr has been in US custody since he was fifteen years old.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Change in Cuba?

A killer link from my co-conspirator, KDS. Maybe this is why the US is mobilizing its long-inoperative Latin American naval fleet:

Cubans to get free sex changes

The Cuban Government has approved 28 sex-change operations and says it will perform them free of charge.

Cuba's sex education centre is run by President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela Castro and for many years she has pressed the Government to offer free sex-change treatment for transsexuals.

The health ministry has decided it is time to oblige.

Ms Castro says a Cuban team has been training with Belgian surgeons to prepare for the operations.

The decision marks a contrast with previous official policy on gender issues.

According to Ms Castro, a sex-change operation did take place in Cuba in 1988, but she says there was so much opposition to it that the health ministry cancelled plans to do others.

Via ABC News.

Another crazy link from A. Mitchel:

Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

vaya pues

Former Sandinista Foreign Minister, Miguel d'Escoto, was elected president of the UN General Assembly yesterday. The power of the Latin American scourge continues to grow.

Worry not, gentle reader: the US is re-establishing a Naval fleet to oversee activity in the Caribbean and Central and South America for the first time since the 1950s.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Christly Couture

Sweet Jesus: abstinence pants!

Yes, I said "abstinence pants." Kmart in-house designer Piper & Blue has jazzed up this year's summer collection with a pair of sweatpants for teen girls that say "True Love Waits" in your choice of colored bubble letters. No, there is no corresponding set for boys.
Via Mother Jones, and the devilish lady herself, KDS.

the antagonistic character of capitalist accumulation - Watch more free videos

Don't worry: he got tazered when it was all said and done. (Plus, it may or may not be staged)

Message to World: Prioritize

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Researchers at the University of Munich have created new environmentally friendly bombs." That's such a relief, isn't it? Now we just need to manufacture reusable bullets, biodegradable cluster bombs, and pesticide free land mines and we'll be good to go.


Dick Cheney thinks you are stupid, myopic, and self-centered. Don't bother to have an opinion on anything important, because he's not listening. That's the CIA's job.

"On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success," Cheney told ABC News' Martha Raddatz during an exclusive interview in Oman.

When asked how that assessment comports with recent polls that show about two-thirds of Americans say the fight in Iraq is not worth it, Cheney replied, "So?"

"You don't care what the American people think?" Raddatz asked the vice president.

"You can't be blown off course by polls," said Cheney.
The day before yesterday, Cheney tried to backtrack by claiming that when he said "So?" he was confused because he didn't think Raddatz had asked him a question. Either way, he's still not listening.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


So, I've been slowly wading into my year-long reading period for the exams I am taking next April. Thus far I've been focusing on modernist novels to come out of the countries that formerly comprised Austro-Hungary -- Kafka, Sandor Marai, Joseph Roth, Jaroslav Hasek, Karel Capek, etc. Today I finished a book that I though was really exceptional, Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles. Part Borges, part magical realism, this book is absolutely luminous. It's one of those rare books that makes you see the world anew. Schulz very deliberately sets out to defamiliarize the everyday, and is successful to a degree far surpassing the expectations. I feel that now having read it, I would almost be justified in doing nothing else for the rest of the year but re-reading this one work.

And one more thing: if it makes a difference, Schulz's life is fascinating, not least of all because he was shot in the head by a Gestapo officer in 1942.

its war, war, and the environment. get used to it.

Highlights from the Harper's Weekly (with links!):

Monday, June 2, 2008

From Kendra, my resident snack expert, comes this gem:

Designer of Pringles carton buried in crisp tube

The designer of the Pringles crisp tube has died – and had his remains buried in one of the containers.

Dr Fredric J. Baur, who was 89, had told his family to ensure his final resting place was the inside of one of his most famous creations.

They honoured his request by having his ashes buried in a Pringles tube – and a m

ore conventional urn for the overflow – at Arlington Memorial Gardens in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Another choice link from our resident Titanic aficionado, A. Mitchel Fraas:

The man who located the wreck of the Titanic has revealed that the discovery was a cover story to camouflage the real mission of inspecting the wrecks of two Cold War nuclear submarines.

When Bob Ballard led a team that pinpointed the wreckage of the liner in 1985 he had already completed his main task of finding out what happened to USS Thresher and USS Scorpion.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The ACLU blog has a nice image up today of what a redacted CIA document on torture looks like.

It's here on the left.

As you can see, a redacted CIA document shares many qualities with a black hole. In addition to being almost entirely black, it is also a vaccuum. In this case, it's a vacuum of your human and civil rights. (And possibly of the souls of the redactors)

Fun, isn't it?

You can read more about this document and CIA's lack of candor about their torture techniques at the ACLU blog here.

Via BoingBoing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Free! is giving away FREE bumper stickers that look like this:

One per person, unless you want to make a donation.

More evidence of an imminent attack on Iran?

From today's Democracy Now! headlines:

The Asia Times is reporting a former assistant secretary of state is claiming the Bush administration is planning an air strike against Iran within the next two months. The anonymous official said the US attack would target the headquarters of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds force. Last week, the Bush administration denied an Israeli news report that President Bush plans to attack Iran before the end of his term.
Here's a link to the Asia Times piece.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Do they have a flag?

You may have missed it, but earlier this week the UNASUR, The Union of South American Nations, signed their Constitutive Treaty, officially establishing the organization. This is good news for Latin America. It means greater cooperation in terms of trade, the movement of citizens between nations, and infrastructure. And it's about time.

But the best news of all of this is that they've got a totally sweet flag.

Pill poppin' good time

A Mitchel Fraas passes along a killer link to images of old pharmaceutical ads.

Here are few highlights: Bayer Heroin, Eli Lilly Cannabis Extract, Compazine: for better management of mentally defective children, Deaner: for increased daytime energy and attentiveness at lectures, and Ritalin's best slogan, "get things moving with Ritalin."

Pictured here is Mitch's favorite.

It makes me wonder how much the pharmaceutical industry has really changed.

And here's a non-medical add for "light, bright, cheery" detention windows. I guess somebody's got to market prison pars.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fish gets it right?

Once again, Stanely Fish is on his soap box. His beef: after naming an Republican fund-raiser with no academic experience its president earlier this year, the University of Colorado has announced plans to redress its politically lopsided culture by appointing an endowed chair of Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy.

And for once, Fish gets it right: "Wrong on all counts." He argues that the political commitments of faculty do not and should not translate into political biased scholarship. Here's his take:

Even in courses where the materials are politically and ideologically charged, the questions that arise are academic, not political. A classroom discussion of Herbert Marcuse and Leo Strauss, for example, does not (or at least should not) have the goal of determining whether the socialist or the conservative philosopher is right about how the body politic should be organized. Rather, the (academic) goal would be to describe the positions of the two theorists, compare them, note their place in the history of political thought, trace the influences that produced them and chart their own influence on subsequent thinkers in the tradition. And a discussion of this kind could be led and guided by an instructor of any political persuasion whatsoever, and it would make no difference given that the point of the exercise was not to decide a political question but to analyze it.
. . .

If the reason for funding a chair in conservative thought and policy is to correct a political imbalance, it is not a reason any university should take seriously until there is more than anecdotal evidence that ballot-box performance tracks classroom performance. And even if it were to turn out that ballot-box performance did in fact track classroom performance, the proper remedy would be not to even out the partisan numbers, but to remind faculty members of whatever political stripe of the distinction (on which the whole rationale for higher educations rests) between political questions and academic questions.
Fish no doubt could be--and is--accused of being an idealist on this issue. Do professor attempt to indoctrinate their students? Maybe. But maybe not. In my experience, professors that have attempted to enforce their political prerogatives are not well received by students. When politics have overtly entered my classes (I speak as a teacher and a student here), it has rarely been in order to crush the positions of a certain segment of the political spectrum. Good academic rigor entails debate and openness to contrary perspectives, not conformism. And it's not just a matter of how it should work; I believe that this is actually how politics operate in the class room. My feeling is that the right's hand wringing over the left-leaning politics of the academy is founded on a underestimation of the intellectual acumen of college students. The right worries that students will be "indoctrinated," almost as if students are being brainwashed, but this is not the case. College students are by in large set in the political commitments and able to adjudicate the claims of contrary perspectives. If you took the right at its word, you'd get the impression that college is an ideological machine that produces certain kinds of political agents. It's just not true.

My advice to those who would push their political perspectives on students: teach preschool. That is where life-long values are formed and where minds are most receptive to such revolutionary practices as communalism and diversity.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How many times do we have to say it before it becomes true?

Accroding to the Associated Press, a former Guantanamo detainee testified before the House yesterday, where he alleged wide scale abuses constituting torture. While incarcerated in Afghanistan in 2002,

"U.S. interrogators subjected him to beatings, electrical shocks and, on one occasion, a technique he said was referred to as 'water treatment.' He said his head was held under water in a bucket while he was punched in the stomach, forcing him to inhale. On another occasion, he was hung by his arms for five days, he said."
In addition to this, Kurnaz claims that while at Guantanamo, he was "subject to repeated beatings at Guantanamo, as well as forced medication and sexual and religious abuse."

According to, "State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated official U.S. denials of torture by American interrogators."

"I can't put it any more plainly than the president of the United States has put it, and he says the United States does not torture," McCormack said.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Apparently I missed this very intriguing item in the Harper's Weekly:

Curators at the Museum of Modern Art pulled the incubator plug on a tiny coat made of living mouse stem cells after it grew too fast ...
Excuse me. Come again. A tiny what, made of what?

That's right: a tiny coat made of mouse stem cells. What's so odd about that. Perfectly normal. The only thing abnormal was that the thing was growing, a curator panicked, and now this living coat is no more. The NYT reports:

One of the strangest exhibits at the opening of “Design and the Elastic Mind,” the very strange show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that explores the territory where design meets science, was a teeny coat made out of living mouse stem cells. The “victimless leather” was kept alive in an incubator with nutrients, unsettlingly alive. Until recently, that is.

Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the museum, had to kill the coat. “It was growing too much,” she said in an interview from a conference in Belgrade. The cells were multiplying so fast that the incubator was beginning to clog. Also, a sleeve was falling off. So after checking with the coat’s creators, a group known as SymbioticA, at the School of Anatomy & Human Biology at the University of Western Australia in Perth, she had the nutrients to the cells stopped.
It's just weird. Via Kendra, who loves all things teeny.

It aint kosher

Disheartening news from Democracy Now!:

Hundreds Protest Iowa Immigration Raid

In Waterloo, Iowa, hundreds of people marched on Sunday to protest last week’s immigration raid at the Agriprocessers kosher meatpacking plant. Immigration agents detained nearly 400 immigrant workers in what has been described as the largest single immigration raid in US history. The raid resulted in more than ten percent of the town of Postville, Iowa being locked up. On the day after the raid, half of the school system’s 600 students were absent, including 90 percent of Latino children, because their parents were arrested or in hiding. Many of the workers have been held at a fairgrounds usually used for exhibiting cattle. No charges have been filed against the owners of the meatpacking plant, Agriprocessors.

More on the raid here, which points out that under the Bush administration, legal action has rarely been taken against corporations that employ illegal immigrants, though, obviously, the undocumented must be held to account.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rainbow man

The LA Times reports on the dark side of rainbow man, the notorious sports fan who donned a rainbow wig and "Jesus" shirt through the 1970s and 1980s--now serving a life bid and hopelessly imprisoned by a his delusions of Apocalypse:

the fanatic who was always there, Stewart says, really was no fan at all.

"I despised sports," he says.

Stewart is 63 now, no longer wears an Afro or any other type of hairpiece to mask his baldness and last attended a sporting event about 20 years ago.

Serving three life sentences for hostage-taking, he has been imprisoned since 1992. The punishment was the result of a bizarre incident in which an armed Stewart locked himself in a hotel room near Los Angeles International Airport and kicked off an 8 1/2 -hour standoff with police, demanding a three-hour, televised news conference to air his views. Earlier, he had driven two day laborers to the hotel, both of whom escaped, and encountered a frightened housekeeper who locked herself in a bathroom.
. . .
Stewart says his "final presentation" in 1992 was mistimed -- the end of the world was nigh, he believed -- but otherwise does not regret his actions.

"It was a crime to prevent a greater harm," he says, explaining that it was his duty to warn the world of the coming Apocalypse. "If somebody's standing in the way of me going into a burning building, I'm going to knock them on their butt."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Your Ma

We all know that Republicans are anti-women (and anti-working class, and anti-peace, and anti- just about everything else that is good), but I didn't know that they are also anti-mother. It's true: the Republicans have opened a new front in the war by declaring their opposition to mothers and their special day.

Republicans Vote Against Moms; No Word Yet on Puppies, Kittens

It was already shaping up to be a difficult year for congressional Republicans. Now, on the cusp of Mother's Day, comes this: A majority of the House GOP has voted against motherhood.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House had just voted, 412 to 0, to pass H. Res. 1113, "Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day," when Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), rose in protest.

"Mr. Speaker, I move to reconsider the vote," he announced.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who has two young daughters, moved to table Tiahrt's request, setting up a revote. This time, 178 Republicans cast their votes against mothers.

What a bunch of jerks. If you ask me, it bespeaks a deep and decidedly pathological Oedipal complex. Via Late Reviews.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Highlights from The Harper's Weekly:

  • At a town hall meeting in Iowa, a Baptist minister asked John McCain if he had called his wife, Cindy, "a cunt" in 1992. McCain did not answer. (and the video)
  • After Hillary Clinton proposed that she and Barack Obama compete in a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate, Fox News broadcast an image of Abraham Lincoln facing off against ex-slave Frederick Douglass instead of 1860 Democratic presidential nominee Stephen A. Douglas. Idiots.
  • Albert Hofmann, the man credited with making life a little groovier by inventing LSD, has died.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More things to look at instead of writing papers

Jay Reatard punches some dude in the head. Apparently the crowd wasn't too happy about it.

Gabo Brown and Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo get down. With puppets!

You're welcome.

Tough guy

Kurt Cobain getting punched.

Scrawny rock 'n rollers should not pick on bouncers. That's the first rule of rock n' roll. But I think the first rule of bouncing is not to punch the talent.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Diacritical Mark of the Beast

Randomly from Wiki, an entry on the "heavy metal umlaut":

The heavy metal umlaut, or "rock dots", is an umlaut over letters in the name of a heavy metal band, such as Mötley Crüe or Motörhead. The use of umlauts and other diacritics with a blackletter style typeface is a form of foreign branding intended to give a band's logo a Teutonic quality. It is a form of marketing that evokes stereotypes of boldness and strength commonly attributed to peoples such as the Vikings; author Reebee Garofalo has attributed its use to a desire for a "Gothic horror" feel.[1] The heavy metal umlaut is never referred to by the term diaeresis in this usage, nor is it generally intended to affect the pronunciation of the band's name.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

better than a coffee table

Furniture you can play. :)

Monday, March 17, 2008


As some of you know, last year I browbeat most of my friends of into donating to a charitable cause in which I am heavily invested. For the last couple of years, I have been raising money to help send my former host sister in rural Nicaragua to high school. This year, Iveth is set to graduate -- an AMAZING feat considering the odds a woman of her means faces -- and I am determined not only to assist her in her final year of secondary school, but also to begin raising funds for her younger sister, Joselin. Last year the department came together and raised around $450; this year I'm hoping to raise $880.

If you are interested in helping or learning more about this project, please visit my website to read about Iveth and Joselin's story:

Please consider donating. Schooling in Nicaragua is free; we are merely trying to raising the funds they need to cover transportation costs -- about $1.75 a day per student. A donation of $10 sends Iveth or Joselin to school for more than a week. If you are willing, please pass this link around to your friends and family, post it to your social networking profiles, and publish it on your blogs. This is an eminently worth cause.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kendra passes along word that a remake is in the work for one of our favorite horror films, Rosemary's Baby

"Rosemary's Baby" is in for a rebirth.

Paramount is in negotiations with horror shingle Platinum Dunes to bring back the classic for a new generation of moviegoers.

Partners Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller will produce the remake. Adam Fields ("Donnie Darko"), who brought the project to Platinum Dunes, will also produce.
Michael Bay is not a name I am familiar with, but his IMDB page says that he is currently in pre-production of remakes of The Birds, Friday the Thirteenth, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Apparently he only remakes old horror movies. Of course there is always danger with any remake of anything, but especially in horror movies like Rosemary's Baby, a good part of the horror comes from the subtlety of the direction, the lack of special effects, and the simplicity of the story. I don't know that this movie could be remade now--at least not without totally destroying the aesthetic. Let hope that Adam Fields can exert some Darko-esque discretion and not ruin this film.

Here's the original trailer:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The End is Near

Gnomes are on the loose in Argentina.

'Creepy gnome' terrorising Argentinian town - video

Residents of a small town in Argentina have been spooked after several sightings of bizarre-looking figure that was captured on video in the middle of the night.

Locals claim the 'creepy gnome' stalks the streets at night. The little 'person' who wears a pointy hat has a distinctive sideways walk was caught on video last week by youngsters who claim to have been terrified.

And, of course, there's video:

This does not bode well for St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Jared Massey, who was tasered in Utah during a routine traffic stop in September, has been awarded $40,000 in damages, according to the Associated Press. This after the cop car dash camera showed him shocked twice before being told he was under arrest.

The crazies are not going to be happy about this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Myths of Torture

Given that President Bush just vetoed legislation that would prevent the CIA from using torture techniques on detainees--people who have who have suddenly found themselves under the jurisdiction of no legal structure whatsoever and thus vulnerable to any and every caprice of their captors--it bears repeating that torture does not work.

It takes about two minutes to understand why torture does not work as a form of information extraction, and why the justifications for it are always falsely premised.

I submit the following.

Via BoingBoing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


BoingBoing has a nice link to a page by a fellow named Sean Ragan who had graphed all the possibile choices in the classic 1979 Choose Your Own Adventure novel, The Mystery of Chimney Rock.

Recently I was thinking about writing a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book, trying to achieve an effect for a more mature audience. That project is still bubbling on the back burner. In the planning process, however, I decided to analyze my favorite CYOA book from my childhood to see what its structure was like. This graph is the result.
Kendra and I went through a spell last year (call it a phase) when we were deeply immersed in a couple of Choose Your Own Adventure books. For the first time in my life, I actually read every page of one of these books and followed every possible route. And I have to say, there is an art to plotting the choices. Good books have clear, good outcomes--a scenario in which you "win." Good books also tend to give you more than the simple either/or choice; some allow you to choose between three options, and one book we read had an ending that also had a choice with it (?). But probably the best choice we were given in our entire reading experience (and I say "we" because Kendra and I were team-reading these bad boys) was in Your Code Name is Jonah; here we were given the option of continuing to be a CIA operative working for the White House OR to resign in protest and go to "marine biology school." Priceless. I can see how over-thinking the plotting of choices could mar the simple nature of the CYOA books, but I applaud Sean Ragan for getting down to business with it anyway.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


George W. Bush has spent one third of his presidency on vacation. The Washington Post reports:

According to the meticulous records kept by CBS Radio White House correspondent Mark Knoller, Bush on Monday lodged his 879th day spent in whole or in part at Camp David or his sprawling estate in Crawford, Tex.
I guess we all out to be glad that he doesn't work more. One-third less Bush is one-third less Bush. I'm not complaining.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Chomsky vs. Buckley

Chomsky was handsome devil in 1969. Tell me honestly, do you prefer a young Chomsky or an old one?

Via Cynical-C.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Grey Market Go! Team

Check out this sweet Russian rip off a Go! Team song.

First the original Go! Team song, "Junior Kickstart" (with sweet Ms. Pakman video), then the Russian ad for Google Mail. This was a straight up heist!

Don't pretend you're too good

My favorite line: "I'm not like other people. I can't stand pain. It hurts me."

Via BoingBoing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Celebration (and Documentation) of the Everyday

It sounds pretty sinister, but also kind of wonderful.

Mass-Observation was a United Kingdom social research organisation founded in 1937. Their work ended in the mid 1950s but was revived in 1981. ....

Mass-Observation aimed to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of around 500 untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires. They also paid investigators to anonymously record people's conversation and behaviour at work, on the street and at various public occasions including public meetings and sporting and religious events.

Here's the lead to a New Yorker profile on Mass Observation from 2006:

On January 30, 1937, a letter to the New Statesman and Nation announced that Darwin, Marx, and Freud had a successor—or, more accurately, successors. “Mass-Observation develops out of anthropology, psychology, and the sciences which study man,” the letter read, “but it plans to work with a mass of observers.” The movement already had fifty volunteers, and it aspired to have five thousand, ready to study such aspects of contemporary life as:

Behaviour of people at war memorials.
Shouts and gestures of motorists.
The aspidistra cult.
Anthropology of football pools.
Bathroom behaviour.
Beards, armpits, eyebrows.
Distribution, diffusion and significance of the dirty joke.
Funerals and undertakers.
Female taboos about eating.
The private lives of midwives.

The data collected would enable the organizers to plot “weather-maps of public feeling.” As a matter of principle, Mass-Observers did not distinguish themselves from the people they studied. They intended merely to expose facts “in simple terms to all observers, so that their environment may be understood, and thus constantly transformed.”

Squid Recruitment Dynamics

From our man in the trenches, A. Mitchell, comes a link to be reckoned with: The Worst Book Titles of the Year. I feel that I am not infrequently treated to truly strange books, but Cheese Problems Solved has got to far weirder than anything I am likely to see on a syllabus anytime soon.

Fortunately for us, democracy is not dead in superlative-book awards. You can help decide which book sports the absolute worst title. But as always, "worst" should be written "best slash worst slash best again," since we are looking for the best worst-title, which in itself is a mark of excellence.


I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen
How to Write a How to Write Book
Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues
Cheese Problems Solved
If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

Horace Bent, The Bookseller diarist and custodian of the Diagram Prize, said: "I confess: I have been anxious that as publishing becomes ever more corporate, the trade’s quirky charms are being squeezed out. Lists are pruned, targets are set, authors are culled. But happily my fears have been proved unfounded: oddity lives on. Your submissions for the 2007 Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year were as rich and varied as ever. Drawing up the six-strong shortlist was a fraught and wildly controversial process.

"I must pay homage to those books that narrowly missed out on a shortlist place. These were, in no particular order: Drawing and Painting the Undead; Stafford Pageant: The Exciting Innovative Years 1901–1952; and Tiles of the Unexpected: A Study of Six Miles of Geometric Tile Patterns on the London Underground. All sound like they are positively thrilling reads, and I do hope that the authors will try again next year. Honourable mention should also go to two titles that were ruled out because they were published too long ago: an unlikely-sounding HR manual called Squid Recruitment Dynamics, and the fascinating anthropological tome Glory Remembered: Wooden Headgear of Alaska Sea Hunters.