Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Picture of the Day

If only the world were this rational.

From Fuck Yeah, Protest!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Visuals Optional

I'm off to the British Association of Modernist Studies conference tomorrow, and since it's been awhile since I put up a Wordle, here's a visual of the paper I'll be giving, which is on D. H. Lawrence and the "flux of human character."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Diaper chase scene

Another tasty slice from the ACBs recent release, Stona Rosa.  This song is entitled "Street Fighter II," and with The Pitch I'll designate it mostly safe for work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Robots may be able to help you.

From the NYT, letters to Michelle Obama:

Dear Michelle Obama,
Hi, we are 10 and 9 years old. We live in Boston. We hope you send letters back to us.
I think that you should shut down cigarette and liquor companies and try to keep drugs off the streets. Robots may be able to help you. We all appreciate your hard work to make America better.
— AIDAN SHEILL-LOOMIS, age 9, and NICOLAS ALLEN, age 10, Boston
From K., who's always recommending robots.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


"Blitzkrieg Bop," vocal track only!  Via Cynical-C


Monday, November 15, 2010

You did me business ethics propsal for me

Hired guns in higher ed.  The Chronicle's got the confessions of professional writer of essays for the underprepared, unequipped and lazy.

I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.
You've never heard of me, but there's a good chance that you've read some of my work. I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists.
I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I've worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments. 
Stunning.  Not surprising, exactly, but interesting to learn about the business of cheating.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Follow through

More of the hot stuff from The ACBs.

Can't wait for the album.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Culture, on a long leash

I tend to consider the equation of modern art and modern weaponry as hyperbolic and hortatory.  But, maybe I shouldn't.

Modern art was CIA 'weapon'
Revealed: how the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and de Kooning in a cultural Cold War
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agencyused American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art - President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: "If that's art, then I'm a Hottentot." As for the artists themselves, many were ex- com- munists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.
Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
Via my lady in the trenches, K. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Paris-based street artist, JR, is awarded the 2011 TED Prize.

Known only as JR, the anonymous artist has installed enormous black and white photos in slums around Paris, along the separation wall between Israeli and Palestinian lands, and across Brazil's favelas.

"JR's mind-blowing creations have inspired people to see art where they wouldn't expect it and create it when they didn't know they could," Amy Novogratz, the TED prize director, said in a message posted online. [...]

Organisers say JR will use the prize to develop an ambitious new work that will involve the whole world, and due to be announced at next year's conference in Long Beach, California.

More great pictures at both links above.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Penguins, poop and primates

It seems very early for top ten lists, but what the hell. Wired's got your top ten fossil finds of the year.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Paul Baribeau has his newest album up for free download.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.


A Visual History of the US Presidency.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

hump day punk rock

A couple of punk rock news links:

- Steal this street sign: New York City is practically daring you to steal the "Joey Ramone Place" street sign at the corner of East 2nd Street and the Bowery in the East Village. $100 cash money to anyone who can secure one for me.

- Citizens Re-United: Ted Leo, straight off of a totally unremarkable album with the Pharmacists, is set to reunite with his former hardcore band, Citizens United.

- Marketing opportunity: It may be old news to some, but the 100 Club in London, early home to The Class and the Sex Pistols, is slated to close at the end of 2010. Maybe they can license their name to Urban Outfitters.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Since 2004, the Houston Police Department alone has used its Tasers 2,500 times. In California, there have been 55 reported deaths from Tasers; in Florida, 52.
CBS investigates the rise of taser use (and deaths) across the country.  It's astounding that taser manufacturers still refuse to acknowledge the lethal nature of the weapons they produce.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Settling old scores

I was always told as a kid that you could send anything--ANYTHING--through the mail as long as you had sufficient postage. Is it true? Well, kind of. The folks at Improbable Research made an experiment of it.

Here's the set up:
Having long been genuine admirers of the United States Postal Service (USPS), which gives amazingly reliable service especially compared with many other countries, our team of investigators decided to test the delivery limits of this immense system. We knew that an item, say, a saucepan, normally would be in a package because of USPS concerns of entanglement in their automated machinery. But what if the item were not wrapped? How patient are postal employees? How honest? How sentimental? In short, how eccentric a behavior on the part of the sender would still result in successful mail delivery?
They sent a long list of odd items through the mail, and they're all worth reading, but here are my favorites:
Ski. A large amount of postage was affixed to a card that was attached to the ski. The ski was slipped into a bin of postage that was being loaded into a truck behind a station (a collaborating staff member created a verbal disturbance up the street to momentarily distract postal workers' attention). Notice of postage due received, 11 days. Upon pickup at the station, the clerk and supervisor consulted a book of postage regulations together for 2 minutes and 40 seconds before deciding on additional postage fee to assess. Clerk asked if mailing specialist knew how this had been mailed; our recipient said she did not know. Clerk also noted that mail must be wrapped.

Never-opened small bottle of spring water. We observed the street corner box surreptitiously the following day upon mail collection. After puzzling briefly over this item, the postal carrier removed the mailing label and drank the contents of the bottle over the course of a few blocks as he worked his route.

Deer tibia. Our mailing specialist received many strange looks from both postal clerks and members of the public in line when he picked it up at the station, 9 days. The clerk put on rubber gloves before handling the bone, inquired if our researcher were a "cultist," and commented that mail must be wrapped.
The results: 64% of the unwieldy, disgusting, valuable and suspicious items they sent were delivered. My own experiments to commence next week.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Nina Simone makes every day better. That's a fact.


Heads up: high fructose corn syrup has a new name, "corn sugar." It's still terrible for you.

Be Professional

Tasty treat of the day: a new video and song from my pals, the ACBs.

Do yourself a favor and download the track for free here:

Friday, September 10, 2010

As much as statistical analyses of American political attitudes (and there's nothing more depressing than the graphs in this story), I take solace in knowing that Americans actually aren't as confused about wealth as I sometimes imagine:

A new Gallup poll shows the majority of Americans favor letting the Bush era tax cuts to expire for the wealthy. While 37% support keeping the tax cuts for all Americans, 44% want them extended only for those making less than $250,000 and 15% think they should expire for all taxpayers.
Here's the take away from Gallup:
Gallup has typically found Americans unsympathetic to the argument that upper-income Americans are overtaxed. They generally believe upper-income Americans pay too little in taxes and favor higher taxes on wealthy Americans as a means to fund government programs, such as Social Security.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Word of the Day

A perfectly self-conscious word: floccinaucinihilipilification.

Definition: the act of considering something to be worthless.

Here's the pronunciation. It's a tricky one.

Good luck using it in a sentence.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Filthy Lucre

I'm hoping this will be everything that Capitalism: A Love Story wasn't. And judging by Charles Ferguson's last, No End in Sight, it will. Opens in NYC October 8.

Rahms away

After the election in November, Obama is going to need to shake up his administration by bringing in some new blood. Apart from replacing Gibbs, who I have always felt was a bad press secretary, Obama might think about changing more substantial positions within his staff. Today's announcement by Chicago mayor Richard Daley that he will not seek reelection, might be a good thing. Would anybody on the left really miss Rahm? Replacing a chief of staff constitutes a major change that can revitalize an administration, and it is something that happens regularly. Bush had two chiefs of staff, and Clinton had two in each of his two terms. Maybe it's time for Rahm to pull the trigger on his long desired mayoral bid.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Lorax

Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh!

Kookaburra has had a rough year. First, the beloved bird's name was dragged through the dirt in the trial against Men at Work. Now, they're trying to un-gay him. Poor Kookaburra.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Imaginary Grievances

Much as I still bare a grudge against Christopher Hitchens, it will be a sad day when cancer gets him because on that day we will lose a very strong and articulate voice -- a wrong voice from time to time, to be sure, but one that has the capacity to sum it all up in captivating and satisfying ways. As, for example, in his exegesis of Glenn Beck:

In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention.

Concerns of this kind are not confined to the Tea Party belt. Late professors Arthur Schlesinger and Samuel Huntington both published books expressing misgivings about, respectively,multiculturalism and rapid demographic change. But these were phrased so carefully as almost to avoid starting the argument they flirted with. More recently, almost every European country has seen the emergence of populist parties that call upon nativism and give vent to the idea that the majority population now feels itself unwelcome in its own country. The ugliness of Islamic fundamentalism in particular has given energy and direction to such movements. It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon. Quite a lot will depend on what kind of politicians emerge to put themselves at the head of it. Saturday's rally was quite largely confined to expressions of pathos and insecurity, voiced in a sickly and pious tone. The emotions that underlay it, however, may not be uttered that way indefinitely.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Everything is always for sale

Awesome ebay auction that I randomly stumbled upon:

About a decade ago a local public library
switched from the old library card catalog file system of looking up where to find books in the library, to a computer system of doing so. Instead of throwing out all the old cards the head librarian saved a few and sent them to the author who wrote the book listed on it, asking the author to autograph the card and send it back to the library so they could sell the cards as a fundraiser.

Most authors didn't respond.

Kurt Vonnegut did.
I'm not certain that Vonnegut would approve of the price tag, but it's a cool item nonetheless.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whose Street?

Albuquerque PD always up to no good:

A man who was shocked with a Taser at least six times by Albuquerque police will receive $275,000 in a settlement with the city.

The city settled the lawsuit filed by Andres Arellanes after a review found the two officers involved lied to a grand jury.

The Albuquerque Journal also reported that a federal judge ordered the officers' personnel files be opened because of numerous complaints against them.

The two officers are no longer with the department. They had claimed that Arellanes grabbed a police horse and was combative.

Arellanes claimed the officers demanded that he produce identification and grabbed his wallet, began interrogating him and calling him derogatory names. He says they threw him in the back of a police car and shocked him repeatedly.
Via Kendra.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The lamestream media is no longer a cornerstone of democracy in America."
Guess who? A certain half-term governor, of course. Utter lunacy.

How about a little balance, then, from a well known liberal provocateur:

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Wientzen Code

I Write Like analyzes your prose and tells you which author you write most like. I plugged in the entirety of an article that I'm writing on Rebecca West and physiology, and this is what I got:

I write like
Dan Brown

I wouldn't take it personally, but I somehow don't think that academic journals are quite looking for Dan Brown-like work. But maybe I'm wrong.

Quote of the Day

Responding to John Boehner's totally non-sensical suggestion that there be "a moratorium on new federal regulations," Steve Benen has the quote of the day:
"I'll just put it this way: if you love lead paint from China, you'll love the Republican deregulation agenda."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beavis and Butthead: MTV Super-ego

I'm old enough to remember a time when Beavis and Butt-head was considered the most scandalous thing on air:

In October 1993 a two-year-old Ohio girl was killed in a fire lit by her five-year-old brother. The children's mother said that her son was inspired by the pyromaniac proclivities of Beavis and Butt-head. This real life event sparked the ire of media watchdog groups, who claimed that there was a direct link between the television show and the violent act of this impressionable child. One psychiatrist proclaimed Beavis an Butt-head a "Sesame Street for psychopaths."
Psychopaths! Really! Looking back from 2010 it's hard to imagine how something as tame as Beavis and Butt-head could compete with, say, The Family Guy or even South Park. So it's a little weird that MTV is bringing it back. So I submit to you, what are Beavis and Butt-head going to do? It's not like they can watch music videos. MTV ceased to be a music channel long ago. Would new viewers even know what to make of music video commentary? It could actually be awesome if MTV allowed them to watch other MTV shows; they could be like MTV's superego, blasting the vapidness of shows like The Hills and Jersey Shore. That actually might be worth watching.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

tastes like?

When I was an intern at Equal Exchange way back when, I met their quality control person whose only job was to taste coffee. Apparently becoming a real, profession coffee connoisseur involves a lot more than just really liking coffee. At that time, the quality control person had undergone a two or three year apprenticeship with some coffee guru, who taught her to nuances of coffee tones and flavors -- much like becoming a sommelier. Cool job, right? Well, doing this kind of work actually requires something more than just an aesthetic sensibility and experience; it requires a natural aptitude to taste flavors with a greater intensity than most people. They're called supertasters. And it's not all wine and coffee for supertasters. Supertasters tend not to like some very common foods because, well, they don't taste very good if you have an acute palette. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, grapefruit juice, green tea, spinach, soy, carbonation, chili peppers, tonic water, olives -- all of these things are commonly inedible to supertasters. They just can't help it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pura Masa

Eventually I'm going to do some posts on bread and bread-baking, specifically a bit about why it's important and how it has changed (us) over time. But not yet.

But I did see an article at Wired today, commemorating the hundred-year anniversary of the first fully automated bread factory in the US, and I thought it was interesting:
1910: Ward Baking Company puts a fully automated bread factory into operation. The mechanized factory in Chicago churns out hundreds of perfect loaves a day, untouched by human hands.
Though the author claims in the lead that automated bread was not "the greatest thing since sliced bread," the article goes on to extol the contribution of industry to the mechanization of craft labor because it eliminated germs. Only the nerds at Wired could possibly look at the automation of bread production in 1910 and think, "Wow. How great." As if scientific management and the destruction of craft labor were good things.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

the big bite

Introducing, L. melvillei, a newly described sperm whale named to honor Herman Melville. Even more bellicose than Moby Dick, L. melvillei was a hyper-carnivorous eater of other whales:

Klaas Post, honorary curator of fossil mammals at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and his colleagues were traveling through a stretch of desert about 50 kilometers southwest of Ica, Peru, in 2008 when they spotted what at first looked like elephant tusks. But they turned out to be teeth from an even less-likely animal: a giant sperm whale.

Perhaps the discovery shouldn’t be a complete surprise. Fossils of the great shark, Carcharocles megalodon, have been found in the same region. Both animals would have lived about 12 million to 13 million years ago during the Miocene. And like megalodon (at 20 meters long, thought to be one of the biggest fish to have ever roamed the sea), L. melvillei is breaking a few records of its own. With jaws more than 5 meters wide, it had the biggest bite of any mammal to have ever lived.

But L. melvillei was quite different from modern sperm whales (hence scientists gave it a new genus name). Today, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) have fairly small lower teeth and almost no teeth on the upper jaw. They primarily eat squid, which they pull in via suction. But L. melvillei had teeth as large as 12 centimeters wide and 36 centimeters long on both its upper and lower jaw, which would have afforded it a much different tactic for hunting: According to the paper published today in Nature, the researchers suspect that the aggressive whale grabbed prey with its teeth, living off of smaller baleen whales (whales with comb-like dental plates instead of teeth, such as the humpback).

Your Meat is Alive

This should make you not want to eat fish ever again: skinned and gutted dog fish wriggling around.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Aggressive Bed Postures

Not from The Onion:

Police Tasered an 86-year-old disabled grandma in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she couldn't breathe, after her grandson called 911 seeking medical assistance, the woman and her grandson claim in Oklahoma City Federal Court. Though the grandson said, "Don't Taze my granny!" an El Reno police officer told another cop to "Taser her!" and wrote in his police report that he did so because the old woman "took a more aggressive posture in her bed," according to the complaint.
Via Kendra, who puts up with my bed postures.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's the Matter with Kansas?

My dear Kansas has such nasty problems, between the immigrant-hating Kobach, the town-destorying tornados, and--well--it's pretty miserable politics. But sometimes the Crazy, when it gets really crazy, almost makes it worthwhile.

Case in point, the gay-, America-, everything-hating Westborro Baptist Church, most famous for demonstrating with non-sequitur signs at the funerals for dead US soldiers. You remember these guys, right? These people are so odious, so thoroughly beyond the pale of any semblance of theological coherence, that they actually manage to be funny sometimes. When your theology centers around hating gay people and condemning everyone everywhere that they are going to hell, it's pretty hard not to seem self-satirical.

And this brings me to the cultural artifact of the week: the granddaughter of the Church's founder/cult leader is apparently a gifted videographer. And the WBC seems to think that the best way to spread their enlightened message is through parody videos. Really the headline of this blogpost at Kansas City's Pitch Weekly speaks for itself: "Westboro Baptist Church has dropped another Lady Gaga joint, yo."

It's hard to imagine that the WBC spends its time with this kind of stuff. Really, it's just odd.

Via my man in the thick of it all, J. Barry.

And while I'm on the topic, there's a great documentary about the WBC, which you can watch online here.


I don't know what it is--maybe I've been reading too much D. H. Lawrence lately--but somehow watching the raw, spontaneous emotion of people reacting to Landon Donovan's World Cup goal is almost better than watching the goal itself:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Two things to know about seahorses:

One: They are thought to be the only species in the world to reproduce through "male pregnancy." (And it's an amazing sight.)

Two: They are endangered. From Wired. Yet another reason to strengthen CITES and the other international treaties on fishing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Bloomsday

"...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses, 1954.

Thanks, GC. HuffPo has pictures of Bloomsday being celebrated around the world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Think Progress has a post up today entitled, "After making ‘American English’ the official language of Texas, GOP recruits Latinos in Spanish." Here's the video featured as part of Texas' new Youtube campaign, "Soy Tejano Republicano(a)."

Now, there are three interesting things about this video. First, judging from the cast of the video, the number of Tejano Republicans is very, very small. Couldn't they have hired actors? One of the featured speakers is clearly not a native Spanish speaker. Given that the point of this video is to attract a wider Hispanic base, one would think that the creators would have preferred to show the breadth of Tejano Republicans by featuring -- well, Tejano Republicans.

The second thing that struck me about this was the way in which these Tejano Republicans talk about "America." As Spanish speakers know, "America" refers to the Americas generally, not to the United States, which is Los Estados Unidos. "Americans" are "Estado Unidenses," not "Americanos." In other words, when you say "Americanos" in Spanish, you may very well be speaking about Mexicans or North Americans genreally. And so it somewhat interesting to note that at least one of the Tejano Republicans featured here (about 20 seconds in) talks about "American" opportunity:

"Soy Republicana porque creo en la oportunidad equitativa para todos los Americanos."

In other words, this is hedging: Republicans stand for equal economic opportunity for all "Americans," but American here means something broader than United States citizens. The sentence could have read "Soy Republicana porque creo en la oportunidad equitativa para todos los Estado Unidenses," but it does not. And why? Because in order to cast itself as pro-Hispanic, the Republican party has to do some serious backbends.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ecological vegetarianism, again.

The authors suggest that eating less red meat and/or dairy products may be a more effective way for concerned citizens to lower their food-related climate impacts. They estimate that shifting to an entirely local diet would reduce the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as driving 1,000 miles, while changing only one day per week's meat and dairy-based calories to chicken, fish, or vegetables would have about the same impact. Shifting entirely from an average American diet to a vegetable-based one would reduce the same emissions as 8,000 miles driven per year.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

build it and they will come

Mega-projects of the future. Via BB.


Be sly: Donald Duck did double-duty as a propagandist during WWII.

From MoJo's collection of VD-related propaganda of WWII, "Enemy in Your Pants."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Visions of a Saner World

Time-lapse of rush-hour in Utrecht, where 1/3 of residents commute via bicycle. 100% awesome.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dissertation research

Clearly if I am to write a second dissertation chapter, I'll need to investigate what the first one was all about. And the easiest way to do that is clearly by looking at the damn thing as a Wordle.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

At Lang Last

The archives at the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires is suddenly yielding the treasures of long-thought-lost films, including an additional 25 minutes of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Can't wait to see The Complete Metropolis.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

black gold

The NYT has an article up about Kopi Luwak, coffee beans that have been eaten, digested, and evacuated by civets. I predict several things. First, we will see a profusion of super specialty coffee companies that charge huge amounts of money for this. Second, they'll mostly be bogus. Third, I will seek them out anyways. Fourth, as per Mitchell & Webb, we can expect that the Asian Palm Civet will face few threats of extinction anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Could've been famous

In 1945, Walt Disney signed Aldous Huxley to write a screenplay for "Alice and the Mysterious Mr. Carroll": a combination live-action and animated incorporation of "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" with the biography of Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). Dodgson, a beleaguered Oxford lecturer known as the Dodo, has already written "Alice in Wonderland" under the name Lewis Carroll. He and Alice take refuge in Wonderland from Alice’s cruel governess and Dodgson’s Tory vice-chancellor. These villains, who disapprove of "nonsense books," must never learn that Dodgson and Carroll are the same person, lest Dodgson be barred from a coveted university librarianship. A series of fantastic adventures culminates with the resolution of the Carroll-Dodgson identity through a deus-ex-machina appearance by Queen Victoria. "It was so literary I could understand only every third word," Disney said of Huxley’s script, which he didn’t end up using for his adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland" (1951).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Welcome to Earth

Welcome, element #117. We hope you enjoyed your brief stay and that you do return.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Not good:

A federal appeals court says three Seattle police officers did not employ excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a visibly pregnant woman for refusing to sign a speeding ticket.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


The NYT has an article up about the Obama administration's ever more complicated position regarding the legal problems they inherited from the Bush administration regarding terrorists and Guantanamo Bay.

And it occurs to me that the problems of Gitmo are a perfect image of the forthcoming problems that the Republicans are going to have in repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The politicians may think getting rid of it--whether Guantanamo or health care--is a top priority. They may think it's a moral duty. And they may think that's what they were elected to do. But ultimately by the time they inherit the policy, they find that easy answers aren't forthcoming.

I for one think that Gitmo should be closed, and I do hope that Obama will find a way to do it, but in a way I think the Affordable Care Act is going to be even harder to shut down.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The best nation in the world: donation!

Given that Kendra and I are currently seeking donations to send our good Nicaraguan friends Iveth and Joselin to school for another year, it might be counterproductive to stump for another cause, but Rush Limbaugh might not leave the country without our help.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What do you call that kind of roll?

Director of the recent Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove, helped bust an L.A. sushi restaurant for selling endangered Sei whale meat to customers. And, surprisingly, "illegally selling an endangered species product" is only a misdemeanor.

If you haven't seen The Cove yet, do so. It can be hard to watch in some parts, but it's very well done and a real eye-opener.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Plant a seed for you and me.


My favorite part about this video is the idea not that the seeds will produce bountiful gardens, but that in the economic apocalypse they will be the most valuable currency. Fuck skills. Capitalism dies hard.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bearded Brains

Let it be known that Victorian philosopher's had the best facial hair in the history of thought (pace Nietzsche):

From Wired: "Feds Move to Break Voting-Machine Monopoly." Apparently this is simply a matter of commercial monopoly, not a question of influencing elections. But I'm sure that this will be fodder for some right-wing radio host somewhere. Don't you get it? Obama is trying is conspiring with the Feds to stay president for life?


Glenn Beck, salt of the earth, thinks that the words "social justice" secretly mean "Nazism." Somehow this seems to stretch an already fraught logic. I'm starting worry that some large part of our country has fallen into a kind of crypto-mania. There's nothing too surprising to me in 9/11 Truth conspiracies; events like that (think JFK's assassination) are prone to conspiratorial thinking. And even Birtherism seems to me somehow intelligible as a paranoid kickback against the seismic shock that the election of Obama must have seemed for some. But those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Consider the recent "controversy" over the crypto-Islamism of the Missile Defense Agency logo. Clearly a conspiracy. And then there's global domination conspiracy theories that deal with any anxiety around national sovereignty, but especially those that cohere around global warming and cap-and-trade. The idea is, of course, that there is a global conspiracy to reduce America's prominence in the world by manufacturing data about the climate, which can only be solved by international forces. It's another Beck-ian cryptogram: global warming = slavery. And then there's the "liberal plantation," which basically says that black people tend to be liberal because they're lazy and want to be on welfare. And of course, there are smaller conspiracies, too, like the idea that Obama "sold" a judgeship for votes on health-care. You get the idea. This has become so much a part of our current cultural fabric that I've even seen it verge into non-political arenas. Have you heard that Peyton Manning deliberately threw the Super Bowl because, you know, he loves New Orleans?

I'm not certain what to make of all of this. I'm not totally convinced that this is unique to our moment, but it does seem like it. I think that there's probably some good cultural studies work to be done here to understand not just why people are drawn to conspiracy theories but why they seem necessary to certain times and places and what kind of long-term impacts they have on a culture. If these things deeply impress the minds of their adherents, it seems likely that scientific rationality has a rough road ahead in America. (Sorry Darwin.) My guess would be that these things are more temporary, fueled by topical cultural desires and the rapid loss of a demographic's symbolic ground. But, again, who's to say?

I would be curious to know what other conspiracies we can come up with.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


In honor of tonight's Oscars, a film that was nominated for best short animation a few years back, "The Myterious Explorations of Jasper Morello."

This, like all good things, comes via Kendra.

Friday, March 5, 2010

We're killing each other by sleeping in

When I wasn't looking, Blake Schwarzenbach, the former front man of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil, formed and dissolved a band called Thorns of Life. Here's a video of Blake playing some songs solo:

My First Time/Vivid Green (Blake Schwarzenbach - Bar Matchless)

Thorns Of Life | MySpace Music Videos

Apparently Thorns of Life yielded no studio recordings, but Blake is now working with a couple of people in a band called forgetters (lower case "f"). I'll be eagerly looking forward to hearing something from this project.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To all my homies in the academy:

If ever you are in the enviable position of teaching the concept of "reification" to undergrads, might I suggest you teach them about the comodification of punk rock?

It's old story that gets daily older and less self-consciously ironic. Suffice it to say, not a year goes by when I don't feel like someone somewhere in the world is deliberately trying to make it seem like punk was never anything more than Hot Topic to begin with.

And then this happened:

In January 2010 Converse will release several shoes dedicated to The Clash. Most notably is the Converse London Calling shoes which celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the album. There will also be a pair of Converse Shoes that look like a jacket with buttons and Chuck Taylors with The Clash logos.

I don't even see that this could be potentially lucrative. It's just weird -- as I say, like someone is doing all of this on purpose, for ideological reasons rather than the profit motive.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We're all screwed!

The Washington Post has a piece up about the food industry's efforts to remove BPA--the nasty, cancer-causing plastics recently removed from Nalgene and Sigg water bottles--from canned foods. Upon reading an article on BPA in canned tomatoes, I decided to stop buying them altogether. But it looks like the food industry has a much bigger problem on its hands: it just can't figure out where the BPA is coming from?

Major U.S. foodmakers are quietly investigating how to rid their containers of Bisphenol A, a chemical under scrutiny by federal regulators concerned about links to a range of health problems, including reproductive disorders and cancer.

But they are discovering how complicated it is to remove the chemical, which is in the epoxy linings of nearly every metal can on supermarket shelves and leaches into foods such as soup, liquid baby formula and soda. It is a goal that is taking years to reach, costing millions and proving surprisingly elusive.[...]

"What we're hearing is, the stuff is just omnipresent."

Only spray-on glass can save us now.

april hates u, makes lilacs, u no can has.

LOLcat meets "The Wasteland." And, as often, I wonder whether to dance or despair. God bless the internet.


Whoever has been Googling "bitter knife-wielding children," you've got the wrong blog.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Note to my future students:

If ever you apply to a university that allows you to supply a Youtube supplemental video as part of your application package, make sure it implies that you will spend your time in college more or less going to class and being a good member of the academic community--not just throwing raves on campus.

You're welcome.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dead Prez

My favorite thing on the entire internet. Happy Presidents' Day:

Grover is our president now.

It is international Grover Appreciation Day. Why not?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Put it on my Christmas list

I need this:

If you’ve ever experienced composting in action, you may know that things can get pretty hot when microbes meet organic material. So what if there was a way to capture all that heat and use it to warm up a cozy little space? Tokyo based architects Bakoko have come up with a circular pod-shaped teahouse that does just that by harnessing temperatures in excess of 120°F that are generated by compost. The designers are taking a simple, biological process and turning it into a viable (and free) way to heat small public spaces like the traditional garden teahouses found all throughout Japan.

Up up, down down, left right, left right, BA BA, START!

After trashing video games the other day, I learned a little bit about the collector's world of console video games. Apparently there's some serious money in ultra-rare video games. Here are the top 10 most desirable games, including the holy grail, the Nintendo World Championship Gold Edition, only 26 of which were ever produced.

Paper trail

The right-wing is clamoring to elaborate a set of principles that will guide it to electoral victory in 2012. And in good, palingenetic fashion, each casts itself as a founding document of a new movement. Behold the right-wing intellectuals’ “Mount Vernon Statement,” the Tea Party’s “the Contract From America,” and Gingrich’s “new Contract With America." Just like the Constitution, only nobody agrees on any of them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Video Games: A Personal Hell

As someone who played endless hours of video games a kid, I have grown up to be someone who wishes I hadn't. No offense to people who like games, but it's just not my idea of fun anymore, especially in social settings (damn the Wii).

But I did get a little excited during when, during the Super Bowl, I saw an ad for a video game based on Dante's Inferno. Not that I really want to play it, or that I expect it satisfy my literary expectations. But, from my nerdy PhD standpoint, it seems cool nonetheless.

So I was a little disappointed by the NYT review of it:

It should be clear by now that the story in the game has almost nothing to do with the story of the poem. There is no reason this game could not be set in any of the hundreds or thousands of generic hells that have hosted video games over the years. What Electronic Arts has done, quite transparently, is appropriate Dante’s brand to use as a light marketing skin on top of the God of War clone the company so clearly wanted to make.

And so images of Virgil spout lines from the poem at you once in a while, and Dante’s ranged weapon appears as crosses of light, but there is no heavy religious imagery and never any real sense of horror or torment. There are, however, a lot of bare female breasts. There is even a giant Cleopatra demon who spurts knife-wielding unbaptized children out of her nipples.

I can't tell whether to be disappointed that the game takes little more than its name from Dante, or to be excited that it features Cleopatra shooting "knife-wielding unbaptized children out of her nipples."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chelsea Hotel No. 2

Paul Baribeau covering Leonard Cohen. Beautiful.

Paul Baribeau - Chelsea Hotel No. 2 from If You Make It on Vimeo.

the race card

The NAACP scorecard came out today, and it doesn't look good for the Republicans:

– All Senate Republicans got an F but two (Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Maine — they got C’s)

– All Senate Democrats and Independents got A’s, B’s or Incompletes

– Senator Arlen Specter, R-to-D-Penn., got a B

– All House Republicans but 6 got an F — 5 of those 6 got D’s — 1 got a C: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

– House Republicans scored the lowest of an sub group.

– All BUT 23 House Democrats got A’s, B’s or Incompletes

– All Congressman who scored a 100% were Democrats

– Of the CBC Members ALL but 2 got A’s, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., who is moderating his stances in prep for a gubernatorial run, got a B.

Of course, this both matters and doesn't matter. It matters because the votes that these lawmakers cast have real effects. It's shameful to get an F on the question of civil rights. But in terms of "politics," these scorecards don't matter in the least. The democrats are not capable of introducing this kind of information into their narrative. This will pass the Republicans by. They will go on as always with their D's and F's and still probably get a sizable vote from minorities.

Thank goodness for laws

Men At Work, the awesome 80s band from Australia, has been found guilty of plagiarizing "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree." I'm not kidding.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Men at Work’s No.1 hit Down Under reproduced a “substantial part” of the children’s folk tune Kookaburra Sits In the Old Gum Tree , infringing copyright in the song, a Federal Court judge found today…Larrikin Music, which owns the copyright to the song Kookaburra , is now entitled to recover damages – potentially a huge sum – from band members and their record company….Larrikin alleged that the band’s famous flute riff came from the children’s tune, written in 1934 by school teacher Marion Sinclair.
Via The Daily Swarm, who includes videos.

I find the similarity to be pretty minimal, a couple notes at best. In fact, there's really no need for a flute in this song at all. It's not like they ripped off the chorus.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Autopsy results released this morning in the death of Memphis musician Jay Reatard reveal that he died from “cocaine toxicity, and that alcohol was a contributing factor in his death,” according to Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. Karen E. Chancellor.
This doesn't exactly surprise me, but it doesn't really make me feel great either.

Via The Daily Swarm.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Word of the Day

vagazzle: look it up. (Or don't, because it's depressing.)

Bonzo Goes to Hawaii

Oh, the perils of deification: Ronald Reagan could not pass the new Republican purity tests.

Republicans love hallowing Ronald Reagan’s name. Too bad they know so little about the guy.

Last week in Hawaii, the Republican National Committee almost passed a resolution named after the Gipper. “Whereas President Ronald Reagan believed that the Republican Party should support and espouse conservative principles and public policies,” it declared, only candidates who complied with eight of 10 “Reaganite” principles would be eligible for party funds.

And what were those principles, exactly? No. 1—according to the resolution—was “smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes.” Let’s take those from the top. Smaller government: Federal employment grew by 61,000 during Reagan’s presidency—in part because Reagan created a whole new cabinet department, the department of veterans affairs. (Under Bill Clinton, by contrast, federal employment dropped by 373,000). Smaller deficits and debt: Both nearly tripled on Reagan’s watch. Lower taxes: Although Reagan muscled through a major tax cut in 1981, he followed up by raising taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986. In 1983, in fact, he not only raised payroll taxes; he raised them to pay for Social Security and Medicare. Let’s put this in language today’s tea-baggers can understand: Reagan raised taxes to pay for government-run health care.

Then there’s plank number five: Reaganite candidates must “oppos[e] amnesty for illegal immigrants.” Really? Because if you look up the word “amnesty” in Black’s Law Dictionary, you’ll find a reference to the 1986 bill that Reagan signed, which ended up granting amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants.

Let's not pretend that the Party doesn't already know this. The point isn't what Reagan did then but what he can do now.

Via HuffPo.

body consciousness

You say a person is warm and likable, as opposed to cold and standoffish? In one recent study at Yale, researchers divided 41 college students into two groups and casually asked the members of Group A to hold a cup of hot coffee, those in Group B to hold iced coffee. The students were then ushered into a testing room and asked to evaluate the personality of an imaginary individual based on a packet of information.

Students who had recently been cradling the warm beverage were far likelier to judge the fictitious character as warm and friendly than were those who had held the iced coffee.

More on embodied cognition and the way our body "thinks."

Conclusion: write a "weighty" dissertation.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Roger Ebert calls it for Charlie Kaufman:

"Synecdoche, New York" is the best film of the decade. It intends no less than to evoke the strategies we use to live our lives. After beginning my first viewing in confusion, I began to glimpse its purpose and by the end was eager to see it again, then once again, and I am not finished. Charlie Kaufman understands how I live my life, and I suppose his own, and I suspect most of us. Faced with the bewildering demands of time, space, emotion, morality, lust, greed, hope, dreams, dreads and faiths, we build compartments in our minds. It is a way of seeming sane.
A controversial choice, to be sure. Even I, who withstood many upbraidings and accusations of snobbishness after defending the film, wouldn't have put it at number one. Nevertheless, Ebert makes me want to see it again, though it seems likely that I'll have a hard time finding anyone to watch it with me.

This and his other top moves of the naughties here. Many questionable choices here (Almost Famous? Crash?? Good god.)