Monday, December 31, 2007

Admittedly, this year's New Year's Party got a bit out of hand...

(Sadly, he broke his resolution not to stab any lions.)


Happy New Year's everybody!
(Incidentally, don't ever watch this movie. It's terrible.)


Sunday, December 30, 2007

David Bowie - Life On Mars?

Well, this film is not a saddening bore. Just great really.


Advert for Grad Student Madness:

Man on street: Female cuckolds and Gothic architecture? What the hell do these things have to do with each other?

Announcer: We do randomness daily. We have very short attention spans. Grad Student Madness.


Having finally figured out Technorati, I am enjoying finally seeing who links here. For the most part, we're a lonely outpost in the blog-bog, which is okay with me.

Holly will be proud to know that a snowboarding blog linked to one of her Graz reports that mentioned the weather there.

We do not actually endorse Custom Business Cards. Although, if the money's right...

Discourse net disagreed with most of my post on collective shame, which is okay. I see their point.

State of Oklahoma news liked my post about the racist chanson de geste The Turner Diaries. Nice to hear.

I'm also in a "blog newspaper", which is cool, although I wish they'd make me the ombudsman.

I will admit that I find it a bit strange when people say they strongly agree or strongly disagree with something I've written. I tend to write "essays" in the sense of exploring ideas. This doesn't always produce anything interesting, but it's how I get my brain moving on cold winter days. In general though, I'd say that I don't really agree or disagree with most of my own posts. I don't really see them as positions to agree or disagree with. They're just ideas that I find interesting. I know that might sound like a cop out. But, really, I'm trying to overcome the tendency in blog-writing to try to broadcast simple points in as clear a fashion as possible. Besides, like old Walt once said, I contain fucking multitudes, man.


Stone Love: The Gothic style

The Gothic style takes elements that were already developed in Romanesque architecture: the flying buttress, ribbed vaults, the pointed arch: and combines them into an innovative integral whole with its own unique aesthetic effect. Gothic architecture is lucid, light, soaring, and bright. The space is opened to the flow of light, lattices and spires stretch heavenward; the effect is transcendent, the church made supraliminal.

When we step outside of the Gothic cathedral, the architectural marvels that give the illusion of lightly floating concrete branches suspended in space within the cathedral are revealed as marvels of human intellect. The emotional effect of the interior is balanced by the intellectual appeal of the exterior; the building gives away its tricks. Nikolaus Pevsner writes: “Like a Bach fugue, a Gothic cathedral demands all of our emotional and intellectual powers. Now we find ourselves lost in the mystical ruby and azure glow of translucent stained glass, and now called back to alert attention by the precise course of think yet adequately strong lines.”

The Gothic style is born with the consecration of the new choir of St. Denis Abbey near Paris in 1144. Constructed at the behest of the Abbot Suger, the architect of the Saint Denis choir is anonymous, in keeping with the anonymity of the medieval craftsman. Nevertheless, he had accomplished something revolutionary: in four short years (1140-1144) he had created a new aesthetic style. The radiating chapels of Saint Denis have no side walls or walls between them and now encircle the ambulatory (the aisle around the apse). The apse is bathed in light, as if in a greenhouse. This is appropriate: unlike the Romanesque, which seems an unmodifiable organic whole, the Gothic cathedral is never complete, always able to branch further upwards.



"I'm a trisexual. I'll try anything once."

If I really do learn something new every day, one day of the week I learn something new from Savage Love. This week, Dan Savage received a letter from a young woman who was tickled pink to discover that she is a "cuckquean".

"Cuckquean" is not a neologism and it was not the coinage of nineteenth-century psychoanalysis, like so many other fetishes. In fact, cuckold and cuckquean are sixteenth-century terms. A cuckold, traditionally, is a man who has been "given horns" by his wife- that is, it is well-known, especially by him, that his wife takes other lovers. A cuckold is a dupe of some sort. He is considered sexually "inadequate", unable to fully "please" his wife; although given the fact that females are sexually superior to males in most physiological terms, it's hard to imagine what that could mean in actuality. At any rate, a cuckquean is simply a female cuckold. Susie Bright has used the term for women who are unhappily married to closeted gay men. Again, in classical terminology, this is supposed to be a source of shame.

In the fetish taxonomy, a cuckold is a submissive husband who takes pleasure in the fact that his wife takes other lovers with the "humiliation" of this being part of their sex life. There is an aspect of female dominance to all of this, and I believe it's understood that cuckolds don't take their own lovers. Even more confusing is the fact that so much cuckold literature stresses the husband's knowledge that, as the Urban Dictionary memorably puts it, "his wife's pussy is her solely property". But, as joint custody of bodily organs is still impossible, it's hard to figure what this could mean either. At any rate, in the fetish taxonomy, a cuckquean would be a woman who is sexually aroused by her mate taking other lovers, but who does not do so herself.

In the letter to Savage Love, it wasn't clear to me that the young woman was a cuckquean anyway. It seems that people are very quick to classify themselves and experience classification as a sort of relief. Well, at least, now I know what support group to join! However, the woman simply said that she was turned on by watching her boyfriend have sex with other women. I'm not sure why that requires humiliation, a new sexual identity, coming out as a cuckquean, and all the rest of it. I'd assume that most people would be turned on watching their partner have sex with another person.

Okay, I realize that this is not exactly a majority opinion. And, admittedly, I am polymorphously perverse and neither jealous or submissive; but it seems to me that watching your mate fuck another person is just objectively "hot", if only because you can see a number of things that you can't while having sex with them yourself. I'm not sure it has anything to do with humiliation or sexual identity; it's just really sexy. In the case of cuckolds, I'd imagine that it might have more to do with bisexuality than any of them would like to admit; but then again, I've read too much Jung, so I think everyone is bisexual (or an alchemist!). But, aside from scat, pedophilia, and necrophilia, most "fetishes" just strike me as activities that are objectively arousing, and I don't really understand the need to fit ourselves into these narrow little boxes of "sexual identity" in order to control them. I would imagine that if people were more geared towards their own sexual arousal, and less geared towards patrolling the waters of sex and partnership, this would be a given.

So, this week I learned the term "cuckquean", another term in the sprawling glossary of sexual . I am endlessly amazed at the modern sexual taxonomy: every possible dirty thought that one might have has been discovered, classified, labelled, ritualized, and made constituent of somebody's identity, if not the subject of a support group or political action committee. One suspects that this glossomania is supposed to neutralize the irrational and chaotic nature of sexuality and the subconscious. If we can classify it, we can control it. It's interesting that the taxonomic urge actually comes from the fetishists and is not imposed from outside: we all want to belong to a genus of some sort.

But, in some ways, this depresses me too. I'd imagine it is akin to the sadness some felt when the last corners of the globe were charted and mapped. There are no uncharted realms of the subconscious. Where does one hide when every spot has surveillance?

Once upon a time, the fetish taxonomy was the work of the psychological/medical establishment. There the objective often really was control, and the state sometimes relied on the "expert opinion" of psychologists to justify police actions against homosexuals and other "sexual inverts". Some historians have argued that sexual activities have always existed, but that sexual identity as we understand it is the creation of the state. For example, there were always homosexual acts, but no homosexual beings until the nineteenth century and the Enlightenment.

This is profoundly ahistorical though and ignores a wealth of information about how people have always classified themselves based on their sexual tastes and peccadilloes. Humans are social animals and prefer to group off into ridiculously narrow interests. One could, of course, see the ongoing need to explain ourselves in taxonomic means as proof of the internalization of control- psychoanalysis is dead, but we can't kill the psychoanalyst within. However, I suspect that it predates the state, the medical establishment, and any other sort of external control.

Humans seem to have an enduring need to explain themselves, and to put their often-irrational and meaningless behavior within some sort of vast integrity. I think we've always seen people fashioning self-narratives along a basic formula of "I behave this way because I am a _____". In one century, it might be, "I behave this way because I am one of the spiritual elect", or "I behave this way because I am a Jansenist". In another, "I behave this way because I am an Italian!", or "I behave this way because I am a Euro-Caucasian". Aside from some pockets of ethnicity, religion and nationality have lost all of their explanatory potential, and psychology rushes in to fill the void. "I behave this way because I am a moderately autistic, bisexual, submissive cuckold with OCD!"

Of course, it's not possible to step into the same sexual stream twice. Our behavior is fluid and changing and chaotic, and constantly makes jail-breaks from the sorry narratives that we try to trap it inside. Most "identities" don't really work and perhaps one of the benefits of living when we do is that we can try on identities and abandon them willy-nilly. It would be boring to wear the same pair of pants every day. And all we have to lose is our sense of stability.

In the end, I can't top Margaret Cho on this one. Of her own sexual chaos, she says: "And I went through this whole thing, you know. I was like: Am I gay? Am I straight? And I realized I'm just slutty.

Where's my parade?"



Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien

Over at the Tenured Radical blog, there is a discussion about objectivity in blogging and historiography. It stems from an ongoing controversy that is, frankly, too boring to mention. Actually, I'm also probably less interested in the objectivity of bloggers than I am in the objectivity of ham radio enthusiasts!

However, the issue of objectivity in writing actually is of interest. It's obviously something that we history scholars strive for and I'm no different in that regard. I like to think that my dissertation topic is so far from my own personal frame of reference that I'm afforded some objectivity by virtue of its strangeness. I'm dealing with French romantic missionaries to the Near East in the early 1800s. I'd like to think that I don't have very strong opinions on French Restoration-era Catholicism, or at least none that will color my interpretations.

On the other hand, since I'm not much of a relativist, I do believe that being a human gives me a common frame-of-reference with all possible historical subjects. I mean, I'm not studying the mating patterns of Brazilian aquatic centipedes here: on some level we understand human behavior, and so we have opinions on that behavior. Pure objectivity might be something akin to sociopathy- a complete alien lack of empathy or connection.

Tenured Radical:
For the non-historians who are readers here, I would also like to note that, among the Sisters and Brothers of the Past, objectivity is no simple thing and it is not a word we normally use as a curse, or to define political battles. It is, in fact, a major source of disagreement between some conservative historians and -- let's just say "others," to avoid polarizing - whether it is either possible or desirable to present only "the facts" and let the reader decide "truth" for him or herself. Facts without narrative are either dull and unreadable or unintelligible; and narrative, as Hayden White and others have argued, is inevitable drawn from a set of readily interpretable story lines: comedy, tragedy, romance and heroism.

These thoughts on objectivity draw on a useful and vibrant discussion among historians over a decade ago, and in my own department, triggered by the publication of Peter Novick's very intelligent and controversial book, That Noble Dream. Novick, who could generously be described as a centrist (and who I perceive as more conservative in his views than not, particularly in his views of social history and cultural history) came to the conclusion that objectivity wasn't something one could "have," but only something one could aspire to.

History is not a science, as much as it would like to be. And the real aspiration to objectivity comes from an era in which it was more widely believed that history would one day become a science. Historians (or social scientists) would make enough charts and discover enough laws of human behavior that doing history would be akin to computer modelling. I suspect one can be fairly objective about the sort of social history that involves things like figuring out how much coal a particular mine yielded by year through the 1860s. It's hard to be swayed by one's emotions there.

Of course, if there were actual laws of human behavior, we could predict future human behavior, and we can't. And history never really became an empirical science. We are of the humanities, thank god. We are the people who get to study those thorny, brackish, sticky questions of human existence that can't yet be chemically-programmed or scientifically quantified. We should be grateful.

I think that some sort of personal biases will creep into any interpretation we make of other peoples' behavior, but as I don't particularly want to be a scientist, this doesn't bother me. Even when I think of some distant event- say, the martyrdom of Thomas Beckett in 1170- it's nearly impossible to treat in a clinical way because, on some level, I have an opinion about an imperious ruler killing a troublemaker over a religious question.

I do think objectivity is worth striving for, if only because I've seen some lousy history written by people who seemingly see themselves as advocates or social workers for the dead. They're trying to give voice to the marginalized and voiceless, who would probably be grateful, if they weren't dead. I don't personally believe that history needs to help anyone, or make the world a better place in any way, or further any political causes. I don't think scholarship is moral or even political work. I just think it needs to be accurate and interesting. Of course, on the other hand, I don't think that pure objectivity is possible for anyone aside from sociopaths and extreme relativists...

So, I guess I'd agree with Novick.



We're back from the cottage. I hope everyone is having a loverly holiday seasoning.

Do any of you have New Years' resolutions? I am resolving to be much more Type A about my dissertation in the coming year. I think I'll have to just to get through the thing. It won't be easy: I've never been Type A about anything in my life.

Et toi?


Higher Ed + Sports

.... + Communism.

The Chinese government has organized classes to teach the 20 approved cheers for the upcoming Olympic Games, as well as instill good spectatorship skills. Another too short, intriguing article from the BBC.


Monday, December 24, 2007


I know it's not nice to smirk at hypocrits, but... well, I'm doing it. From Wired's 2007 Foot-in-Mouth Awards:

James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, talked his way into retirement by telling a London newspaper that he feared for Africa because black people aren't as smart as whites.

Watson told The Sunday Times he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says, not really."

Watson subsequently resigned his position. After he published his sequenced genome online later in the year, Nobel Prize winner Watson was found to have 16 times more genes of black origin than a typical white European.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

winter wonderland@radiohead webcast

I don't know that the phrase "Christmas cheer" is the first thing to come to mind when you think of Radiohead. Actually, it's probably the last thing that comes to mind. But here's their somewhat bizarre cover of Winter Wonderland.


There 'aint no Sanity Clause!: Christmas Rock Songs, Part 1

If you're a rock band, recording a Christmas song makes good sense. If it's any good, chances are it'll be played on the radio for years to come, ensuring your band royalties into your golden years. Here are some of the classic, and not-so-classic rock'n'roll Christmas songs. Click the links to watch videos for the songs.

First off though, let's get my least favorite 50s out of the way...

Eartha Kitt: "Santa Baby". Nothing says Christmas like a little mercenary cockteasing. This song is nowhere near as sexy or clever as anyone who covers it thinks it is. Yes, I love kitsch too, but this joke falls flat after the first few lines.

Now, the Christmas Rock Songs of the 50s and 60s and 70s.

Brenda Lee: "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". I'm not fond of this Christmas song at all, well unless we understand "rockin" as a euphymism for screwing under the Christmas tree, in which case I'm very fond of it.

The Kinks: "Father Christmas". I love the Kinks anyway, and a song about poor kids beating up Santa and taking the rich kids' toys from him is right up my alley thematically. So, it's hard to beat Father Christmas.

Elvis Presley: "Blue Christmas". If you're spending Christmas on a hotel bed with a bottle of Jack Daniel's in one hand and a pistol in the other, you want to be listening to Elvis's Blue Christmas. Or Porky Pig's Blue Christmas. Either one really.

Chuck Berry: "Run, Rudolph, Run". You know, for someone who played such a large role in creating rock'n'roll music, Chuck Berry's songs all tend to sound alike. If you've never heard Run, Rudolph, Run, you can still probably guess its chord progression. And yet, it's still a good rock song about Christmas. So, there you go.

The Enchanters: "Mambo Santa Mambo". Santa goes to Mexico and learns to do the Mambo. Oh, and why the hell not? If they played Mambo Santa Mambo every year, we'd probably hear a lot less bitching about Mexican immigrants. Well, at least from elves...

The Beach Boys: "Little Saint Nick". Likely written during one of Brian Wilson's manic periods, this song is a fun take on Santa as a gearhead. The Beach Boys are a guilty pleasure of mine anyway, and I have to hear this one at least once each Christmas.

Wild Man Fischer: "I'm a Christmas Tree". Frank Zappa discovery Larry "Wild Man" Fischer sounds drunk and psychotic here, which pretty much fits in with many of our own holiday seasons. I can't find a clip of this one. Be grateful.

James Brown: "Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto". James Brown's Funky Christmas Record isn't particularly memorable, aside from Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto, a great soul take on Christmas equality.

Stevie Wonder: "Someday at Christmas". Sort of depressing for Christmas, this Stevie Wonder classic pleas for a future Christmastime in which men don't kill each other with bombs, oppress each other, or starve to death. Sorry, sucker- not this year!

John Lennon: "Happy Christmas (War is Over)". Basically the same message, delivered in that irritating sanctimoniousness that John and Yoko once specialized in. Happy Christmas is still a good song, in very small doses. More than that, and I start rooting for more war.

AKIM and Teddy Vann: "Santa Claus is a Black Man". I already know my bigoted relatives' punchline here: "That's why he only works one day a year!" But this classic soul power take on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is a lot more clever than any of my relatives. One of the all-time great Christmas rock songs, even with the child vocals!

The Jackson 5: "Up on the Rooftop". Listening to the Jackson 5 Christmas Album is like mainlining Christmas cheer anyway. But their take on Up on the Roof Top is more fun than any I've ever heard. Try not to think about what Michael Jackson might want to get this Christmas.

Darlene Love: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)". It's a bit strange listening to this album today, seeing as how Phil Spector is most likely grateful this year for having gotten away with murder. It's hard to deny though that Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) is one of the great Christmas rock songs, if not the best ever. It's my favorite, for those who were wondering.
Merry Christmas, everyone!


Santa Claus, the Sultan of Slumdom: Christmas Rock Songs Part 2.

Now, let's take a look at more recent Christmas rock songs. The genre never really died. But it's gotten a bit more cynical and crabby in recent years. Also, note how many of these came out in the 80s. All the cheesy benefit albums pretty much ensured that. So, first, let's have...

My least Favorite Christmas Rock Song of the 80s:
Various Artists: "Do They Know it's Christmas?" No, they probably don't, nor do they likely give a shit, as we're singing aboutAfrican countries that aren't Christian for the most part. This song is just so self-important, pious, and self-importantly urgent that I want to punch myself in the face whenever I hear it.

Okay, now that that's over...
Christmas Rock Songs of the Late 70s, 80s, 90s, and this Stupid Decade

Run DMC: "Christmas in Hollis". Most of the tracks on A Very Special Christmas are really uninspired. Let's skip U2's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" for example. Run DMC had the crazy idea to actually write a Christmas song for the album and the result was the extremely entertaining "Christmas in Hollis" Queens, where Mom is making chicken and collard greens.

The Sonics "Don't Believe in Christmas": The Sonics are one of the greatest bands to ever come out of the Pacific Midwest anyway, and this song is a treat for anyone who is getting tired of Christmas ads, programming, and other hokum. Well, or anyone who also didn't get anything last year.

Roy Wood and Wizzard: "I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday" Roy Wood was one of those musical prodigies in elaborate makeup who were somewhat common in the 70s. Wizzard actually looked like they wished it could be Halloween everyday. Anyway, I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday is a great song that recalls Phil Spector's best work. Wood wrote a number of really good songs, but this one is now getting its due via a number of remakes. Let the bells ring out for Christmas.

The Waitresses: "Christmas Wrapping". A lot of people really love this 80s new wave Christmas song. I'm not one of them. I just can't get into the flat, lousy vocals. Bah humbug.

The Ramones: "Merry Christmas Baby (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)". The secret to the Ramones is that if you play Beach Boys songs twice as fast they sound like Ramones songs. Most people miss the retro rock'n'roll aspect of the band and focus on the "punk" thing. Here's an original rock song that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Phil Spector's Christmas album. I wish they'd play Merry Christmas Baby (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight) on the radio every year.

David Bowie and Bing Crosby: "Little Drummer Boy". When David Bowie shows up at Bing Crosby's house, he's lucky he doesn't get shot. This video is extremely awkward and kitschy, and naturally I love it.

Mariah Carey: "All I Want for Christmas is You". You know that I have a thing for divas, and I root for Mariah Carey, even though her music generally isn't my thing. Here's an exception. This is a great song and video that I enjoy hearing every year in malls and grocery stores. Best of all, Mariah Carey doesn't ululate in this song nearly as much as her other material.

Wham! "Last Christmas". Probably my favorite Christmas song from the 80s, this one is good enough that I sing it every year when it comes on the radio. For those scoring at home, my favorite 80s Christmas song is Last Christmas, my favorite 90s Christmas song is "All I Want for Christmas", and my favorite from this decade, so far, is by the Killers. Oh and here's a really weird Karaoke version that inexplicably combines Last Christmas and jellyfish.

The Pogues and Kristy MacColl: "Fairytale of New York". A really close second for best Christmas song of the 80s, this Pogues tale of failed dreams and Christmas in the drunk tank is probably the only Christmas song with the lyrics "You scumbag, you maggot You cheap lousy faggot Happy christmas your arse I pray God its our last" that can still choke you up.

Madonna: "Santa Baby". Speaking of divas, we've also established that I love Madonna. So it almost feels blasphemous to say that I can't stand this remake of Santa Baby. It's a painfully obvious choice for Madonna and the execution is totally unimaginative.

Fear: "Fuck Christmas". You can do uninspired the other way too. A punk band singing "Fuck Christmas" isn't exactly shocking. I'm going to skip most of the punk Christmas songs which all work on the same misconception that punks + bitching about Christmas = funny.

The Vandals: "Oi to the World". Again, a punk band doing anti-Christmas songs isn't really that clever, but a punk band doing an entire Christmas album of originals like: "Christmas Time for my Penis", "A Gun for Christmas", and "My First Christmas as a Woman"? Well, that's wit!

Eric Idle: "Fuck Christmas". Leave it to Eric Idle to show Fear how to do exactly the same joke and make it clever and funny. Okay, fine, fuck Christmas.

Weird Al Yankovic: "Christmas at Ground Zero". I apparently offended a couple at a Christmas party (who, incidentally, are assholes anyway) by playing this song. They didn't get that the song isn't about 9/11, it's about nuclear war, which is much more seasonal. Ah, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. It's not really Christmas until I hear Christmas at Ground Zero.

Jingle Cats: "White Christmas". Claire loves this goofy song of cats edited to sound like they're singing Christmas songs. It's an issue in our marriage that we're currently working through.

The Killers: "Don't Shoot Me Santa". Leave it to the Killers to combine Spaghetti Westerns, Christmas songs, 80s romanticism, and pathos into a multi-part song that still manages to be the best Christmas chestnut in years.

Merry Christmas Everybody!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Peace on earth!" he ejaculated.

Today was Global Orgasm Day. People all over the world tried to achieve orgasm at the same time for world peace. The idea was to, ahem, "effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible instantaneous surge of human biological, mental and spiritual energy." (That's probably the most pseudo-scientific pickup line I've ever heard!) Apparently, this all happened about sixteen hours ago. Did you feel it?


+10 Vorpal Grammar

From an article about historical celebrations of winter solstice:

People were sacrificed, but later they were replaced with goats.


And if you ever have to go to school, remember how they messed up this old fool...

Never heard of anyone trying this one before... An associate professor of information systems at Tidewater Community College has been sentenced to 8 and a half years in jail for hiring two men to murder another TCC professor who filed a sexual harassment claim against him. Jay Glosser, 54, offered the men $3,000-4,000 to get Kimberly Perez to retract the complaint, or $10,000 to "take her out". On the bright side, it's apparently not hard to hook up in prison.



As expected, Tom "Boom Boom" Tancredo has dropped out of the Presidential race to become a gun-for-hire on the American frontier. Jesse Walker posted this truly awesome bit on the Reason blog:

"Tom Tancredo has dropped out of the presidential race. He will be replaced by Montezuma Aztlán Calderón, an undocumented worker from Oaxaca who will denounce the Brown Peril for just $3 an hour plus room and board."

Well played, Sir. Well played.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas from Winston and Rudy

For Claire, who is a big fan of Winston.


O ado please shop!

Every few years or so a story will pop up in the news about a group of students at some prestigious university who are industriously making their own pornography. Feathers will be ruffled, panties will be knotted, and people will ask if Ivy U. should be allowing it's students free rein to shoot smut on school property. Many editorials will be written on this topic; sadly, none will be entitled The Ivory Tower Becomes Red and Engorged.

What these people forget, of course, is that no university gives its official imprimatur to porn production; they just can't do much to stop it in an age in which everyone has a camera of some sort and a certain percentage of 20 year old kids dream of becoming porn stars. A university that could prevent sexual experimentation in all of its dorms, buildings, Greek houses, and tailgate parties would be more like a reform school and less like a university. Smut happens.

To be honest, I'm a libertarian on this issue. I really wouldn't care if a university was funding pornography so long as there was an open discussion about it. What's interesting to me though is that there are a lot of really lousy professional movies that are shot on university campuses with official imprimatur and profit-making and not a peep of complaint. In fact, I suspect that the profitability of renting out campus space to film crews is what prevents people from taking offense. Well, okay, our old State U. was rented to shoot "National Lampoon's Fartin' Fraternity"; but at least they did it for the money.

Campus sex comedies are likely the majority of what's shot on campus. After the classic Animal House, there were a slew of far-lesser films made about fraternity brothers, boobs, booze, and their boners. To say that the movies lack any artistic merit is stating the obvious; however it's strange to think how many of the films are essentially opposed to the goals that most universities set for their students. Not only do they inevitably make the case that students who study are schmucks because, after all, cheating is much easier; they also tend to be weirdly retrograde in their politics. The young women are childlike sluts, minorities are totally hysterical, but not as funny as overweight people, etc. etc. etc. It's like listening to an unfunny Uncle crack lame jokes all night.

When you stop seeing universities as a business and understand them as cultural institutions (which is what they actually are) this phenomenon becomes even stranger. Imagine if churches- another venerable cultural institution- were rented out to film crews shooting: "American Pie 8: Naked Church Sluts". It's hard to argue that universities are still shining cultural beacons, with their money pit boozy gladiatorial arenas, and hipster junior faculty offering courses on the Semiotics of The Sopranos; but it's fascinating to me how widely understood it seems to be that it's somehow completely naive and ridiculous to think of the university in the way it's always been understood. Why would any of those people who gnash their teeth at student-produced porn have a problem with Fartin' Fraternity anyway? There we know that the university doesn't condone it; they're just in it for the money. And that's what academia is all about.

I thought about all of this while watching American Pie Presents: Beta House: a film entirely about douchebags, clearly targeted at douchebags, and judging by the commentary track, apparently written and directed by douchebags. It's been a source of comedy in our household ever since this summer when the film was shooting on the campus of McMaster University, where I was studying, and the University of Toronto, where I was also studying. We talked about picketing the set with signs reading "Stop Making Bad Movies!!" For some reason, I thought it would be fun to rent the film and see if it was as bad as Claire and I had imagined.

It was far worse. I remembered how stupid these films are, which doesn't really bother me. After all, I own movies like Basket Case. But, somehow, I'd forgotten how the average frat-bag actually views women: that weird combination of simmering annoyance, hostility, and sexual need all feeding off each other. I remember the original American Pie as having intelligent and endearing female characters; this one has no female who I would recognize as exhibiting human traits. They're all constantly horny and sexually submissive, while showing no flicker of active intelligence. Necessarily, they have far less dialogue than the males. Aside from always being wet and ready for sex, they don't seem to have any interests of their own at all; they're constantly waiting to find out how they can better support their frat boyfriends. I can't remember a single character trait for one lead female; the other one won't take off her underpants so the frat boys fear that she has a dick.

I turned the thing off when we got to the arch-enemy frat, the Geeks. I enjoyed the geek jokes, but the main shtick was that all of the geeks have "super hot" girlfriends. Why, you might ask? As we're informed by a narrator, it's because geek boys are now getting rich and so college girls now try to "nest" with them. If you were wondering why so many young females go to university at all, since they're so dumb and horny- it's to find a man to support them. I gave up watching at this point. I just couldn't make myself watch this thing. I'll never know if the girl has a dick.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not terribly concerned that universities rent their campuses to film companies making shitty movies; I'm basically libertarian about that as well. Let them make their money. But it's interesting to me that bringing in funds that will, theoretically, go to nobler pursuits tends to justify a masive amount of cheap hucksterism.* Signing kids up for free credit cards at the bookstores, stadium box seats for local millionaires, advertising across the campus, etc. etc. etc. It's fascinating that people wring their hands worrying over the sexual experimentation of university students and the subversive politics of university instructors, while largely accepting the whoring of fundraising university admins.

* One example: my own university just got a gift from a Starbucks CEO to build a student lounge (after having put a few Starbucks on campus) and issued an official university press release describing the lounge as "a warm, wood-paneled room where people can engage in spirited conversation and collaborate; not unlike the ubiquitous Starbucks." Barf.


Take a look at the Lawman...

Now for part three of my ongoing adventures in Canadian immigration. I'm giving so much information on this topic because the number one questions I get asked about Canada by my American friends is, "How does one become a Canadian anyway?" My main point is that it's actually pretty easy, but you want to know what you're doing.

Today's Topic: Fingerprints

You've seen this done in a million movies where criminals get taken downtown. It's actually harder than it looks to get fingerprinted. I drove the guy nuts due to my inability to get fingerprinted well. More about that later.

(Incidentally, since I'm on this Bowie kick, that mugshot is of the thin white Duke getting booked back in the 70s.)

Most countries do a criminal background check of people who are immigrating. I'm not sure if Claire would get checked to move to EU countries, as she's a citizen of the commonwealth, although I'll have to check. But anyone moving to Canada has to show that they've never been convicted of a felony. They don't care about misdemeanors and minor traffic violations, and they might actually allow people with felonies. Everyone has to get run past the boys in the crime lab though.

If you're an American, your fingerprints have to be given to the RCMP, the FBI, and the police departments in every state that you've ever lived in. They run them through their computers and contact Canadian immigration. Obviously, you can't take your own fingerprints, so you have to go to an office that is licenced to take fingerprints. Look this up- it's much easier than driving around to all those different police stations. It's also fairly cheap: $65 Canadian in my case for all of the fingerprints.

Okay, so we all know that I'm a bit absentminded, and I was dealing with a guy who was very nice, but who had as little sense of humor as Hank Hill. The first thing I did was to approach the table and put down my stack of paperwork... on top of the ink slab! You don't want to do this: it is covered with ink. He was not happy with me.

After he rolled more ink on the ink slab, he took my prints. Again, this is not as easy as it looks in the movies. The person taking the prints has to guide your fingers through the process. You are not supposed to press down in any way or do anything to move your fingers on your own because it screws up the print. It's very hard not to do that and I, apparently, kept pressing down with my fingers. He was not happy with me.

Finally, he suggested that I stare out the window and ignore what he was doing. This worked much better for the prints, but not so well for my body position. He kept having to tell me to stand in different spots. Fingerprinting is a lot like dancing and I'm not the best partner for that. Also imagine what it's like to dance with Hank Hill. He was not happy with me.

After some time, we had two sets of prints each for the three places I was sending them to. I cleaned my hands with a baby wipe. The prints were given to us in an envelope and Claire and I went home. As we drove through the cold, grey morning, I thought to myself that, even if the weather is lousy, we're going to remember this process and these months for the rest of our marriage. It is a strange experience being quantified by a state, and for as uncomfortable and awkward as it can be, it's a bit like having a clean slate as well.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Television kills telephony in brothers' broil.

It's now official- one out of every two people on earth is annoying the piss out of me in public places.


Today's English & French

My current pleasure reading is Naked Lunch, which I somehow never got around to reading, although I've read a good number of Burroughs's works. I'm most surprised at how funny the book is: it's like a thoroughly disgusting Catskills routine; I almost expect the last line to be, "And then Dr. Benway replied, 'The Aristocrats!'"

There's also a great deal about control here, an ongoing Burroughs theme. There's a great passage about bureaucracy as the cancer that grows in democracies, which stands out as an enduring theme in his books. I'll quote it, if I remember.

Anyway, in honor of Burroughs's endlessly inventive use of language, I'm going to use a passage from the book for today's English and French lesson:

"Slunk traffikers tail a pregnant cow to her labor. The farmer declares a couvade, rolls screaming in bullshit. The veterinarian wrestles with a cow skeleton. The traffickers machinegun each other, dodging through the machinery and silos, haylofts and mangers of a vast red barn. The calf is born. The forces of death melt in morning. Farm boy kneels reverently- his throat pulses in the rising sun."
Naked Lunch, p.126

Couvade: Sympathetic pregnancy. A practice in certain cultures in which the husband of a woman in labor takes to his bed as though he were bearing the child. It comes from a medieval Basque custom in which the father would take to bed, complain of labor pains, and be accorded the same treatment as the mother during pregnancy.

Now the French term that it comes from...

Couver : To hatch.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Graz Update: Something Happened Edition

Greetings from south central Austria, where the the weather has finally opted for winter. It snowed a little, which wasn't a big deal, but then it got cold. We haven't seen much above zero (°C, that is) for a week now, and several below most nights. Brr. (Hard to complain, given what some US folks are seeing. But it's still cold, especially for those of us who recently lived in the Southwest!)

Turns out our apartment is utterly air-tight, which means that in this cold weather, with the windows closed, the windows get really steamy. Especially if we cook or do laundry or breathe.... which we do. We've been running the heater more to dry the place out, than to heat it. Mold is clearly one of the unexpected problems of really well-sealed windows and doors! The cat is the only one happy about this interior condensation business, she'd get all of her water intake by licking the windows, if she could.

First, the exciting thing mentioned in the subject line:

A winning beer cap is something we don't see everyday,which is probably for the best.

Because if we did see that every day, our apartment would be full of these:

Which isn't bad, but it's a small apartment. We only have room for one case of beer at a time, really. Even if it's free. We would get really strong lugging 20 bottles of beer across the street, though. A case is 20 bottles, rather than 12. Have we ever talked about the different bulk packaging quantities here, versus the US? For instance, eggs come in packages of 6 and 10. Beer comes in 4, 6, and 20. (And, naturally, 1.) Small breads are sold in quantities of 1, 3, or 10, and large breads are sold by weight, which usually works out to 1/2 or 1/4 of the full size loaf. It's very rare for anyone to actually buy an entire 5 kilo loaf of bread!. (Technically, ALL bread is sold by weight, but they've worked it all out so you can buy Semmel without having to get each one weighed.) Foods bought by weight are generally decagrams or kilos, unless it's liters. Like... beans. Except not coffee beans, those are by the gram. And, fresh sheep cheese from the Turkish market is sold piecewise. Mmm. Fresh sheep cheese. Selling things by the dozen isn't really a thing here.

This is the Weihnachtsfest Tram. It's a miniature train, half the height and half the price of the regular tram, and goes between the holiday market sites. Of course, the regular tram does that, too. This one is definitely cuter, and probably serves the valuable purpose of clearing the sidewalks on a regular basis. Otherwise, the loitering would be totally out of control. We were trying to get a picture of the *front* of it, because it's got a Knight Rider style flashing LED display on the front, for no reason we could figure out, but it would have run us over if we'd stood in place to get the picture. Oh well. Can't stop the trains...

Here are some pictures of one of the Fest markets:

Of the 14 booths pictured here, 6 are Glühwein (a hot, spiced wine concoction that we're afraid to try), 5 are confections, and the remaining 3 are crafts. It seems possible that some people spend so much time hanging around the Markt drinking wine that they actually forget to do their holiday shopping.

This is about half the booths at this market, and there are 8 markets in Graz. The Glühwein :: Sugar :: Decorative Objects ratios seem pretty consistent. Interesting to note, there are NOT a bunch of disposable beverage containers piling up downtown. The stands are all using ceramic mugs to serve drinks--you can see them on the tables in the last picture. Customers can either pay to keep it, and reuse it, or they can give it back and get their deposit money returned.
We saw a couple of movies this week (in German),Beowulf in 3D and Golden Compass in.. uh... flat. In case you felt sticker shock last time you went to the theater to see a movie, you'll feel better to know that 2 adults seeing a full-price evening show costs €17 here, which at the current exchange rate is about US$24.50. Which, by the way, tends to make a person very sensitive to nearby theater patrons who insist on talking during the whole film. The next film we see, probably Sweeney Todd, will be at the English theater. It costs just as much, but there are never any other people in it. The last show we saw there didn't have any ads or previews before, because we showed up right at show time, and they weren't expecting anyone. There weren't any other patrons, and they were probably not going to show it at all.
What's going on in your neck of the woods?
Holly & Greg


€3 Hippo-Camp Cushion

Definitely more of an accent pattern, not suitable for wallpaper.

Unless, you know, it was scratch-and-sniff.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch

"Troubled Amy Winehouse Arrested."

I think we're now obligated to use the adjective "troubled" every time we write anything about Amy Winehouse. "Troubled Amy Winehouse Releases New Single", "Troubled Amy Winehouse Loses her Car Keys", etc. etc. She can't really complain about it. She told us she was troubled.

Yeah, well so were Iggy and Mick and Bowie at one time. That's not what matters years after the fact; what we care about is that they made some great music. The rest is interesting trivia. (I do think that Jagger fucking Bowie was as historically significant an event as the first A-bomb explosion. But that's just me.)

And the music is what surprises me about Amy Winehouse. After a decade of hearing about the drug habits of the rich and talentless, it's a shock to find out that the "troubled" pop singer is actually making really goddamn good music. Wait! You mean, all this time, instead of listening to tin-voiced, overdubbed, plastic, pop-tart junkies singing other people's songs on the radio we could have been listening to a junkie with some real talent singing her own material? And recording the sort of music that sounds like the missing link between the Shangri-Las and Erykah Badu? Holy Moses!

Anyway, I think she's got real lasting diva potential, provided she doesn't kill herself.

Here's what I mean:
You know I'm no Good
Love is a Losing Game
Back to Black
F*** Me Pumps
What is it About Men?
Some Unholy War
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?



I suspect that Claire will like this picture.

War on Christmas News:

Woman Arrested for Groping Mall Santa

Police Hunt for "Rogue Santa Elf" who sent Obscene Letters to Kids

Drug Dealers Open Fire on Helicopter Bringing Santa to Children's Party

Santa Impersonator Robs Auto Parts Store


TPMtv: Obama - Now the Fun Begins

Satire. But not by much.


You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I'll bet he was glad to get rid of it.

Meanwhile, on the Mike Huckabee front, David Corn quotes this really weird Huckabee passage from his book Kids Who Kill:

It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations—from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.
Andrew Sullivan states the obvious here: that passage is completely insane. What public institution has ever supported necrophilia? In what world is it publicly supported? And pedophilia? What in the world could he be talking about? What's even more disturbing is the sense you get that the surge of support for Huckabee comes from strange, repressed, uneducated people whose imaginations rival the Marquis de Sade and who think that Huckabee really understands them. He's one of them, protecting society from necrophilia and state mandated pedophilia.

I should make it clear that, while I mock right-wingers quite a lot here, it's with as much pathos as anything else I make fun of. It's downright depressing to watch American conservatism sink into this pathetic morass of anti-intellectualism and irrationality. It reminds me of what happened to "the left" in the 70s, when every other book talks about how we'll "finally be free" when we destroy the family or stop having heterosexual sex. There's an unwillingness to compromise with anything, least of all logic or rationality, in the quest for ideological purity at work here that reminds me of an encounter movement. Connect with your inner Huckabee!

My friend David, who actually is a radical and probably an anarchist, believes that everyone is a conservative in some area of their lives. For him, it's religion. For me, I would say it should be clear by now that my views on education are extremely "traditional', if not basically conservative. Moreover, I feel the decline in the arts and culture over the last three decades like a melodramatic, ridiculous psychic wound, the same way some people bleed over Christ's crucifixion. I imagine that I would have been a dandy 100 years ago, and am probably approaching one now.

On the other hand, unlike many cultural conservatives, I actually like culture. A good film or record still excites me, although they seem to be relatively scarce these days. I love the strange and exotic, and I feel the cold grip of nostalgia tightening like a noose whenever I read cultural conservatives like Roger Kimball. Unlike them, I admire much of the writing and music of the 60s, that dreaded decade, and would much rather listen to Allen Ginsberg masturbating over William Blake than Allan Bloom grousing about how nothing has ever been the same as Plato. Unlike them, I believe that Western culture would have been impossible without homosexuality or drug abuse. Most importantly, unlike cultural conservatives like Philip Rieff, I fully expect a cultural renaissance to occur in my lifetime.

Moreover, I recognize that the political left and the political right are both right about some things and wrong about many others. I don't think the left has ever figured out a solution to the problem of widespread poverty; but at least they recognize it as a social problem. I don't think the right has ever understood why cultural standards have declined; but at least they recognize cultural problems. When it comes to terrorism, the left makes me uncomfortable with their weird inability to recognize the existence of psychopathology, while the right makes me uncomfortable with their righteous crusader mentality. In many areas, I'd guess most political movements are about 25% right, and 75% wrong. But they balance each other out through an open conversation, whether or not such a thing exists any longer.

I think what bothers me about Mike Huckabee is that I'd like to see a viable conservatism continue to exist in this country, in balance with a viable liberalism. My idea of "conservatism" might be closer to Edmund Burke than George Will, but I recognize the value of ideas like restraint, preservation, and a basic humility about what we, as human beings, can achieve on earth. I think of these ideas as conservative ones.

But Mike Huckabee reflects none of these values whatsoever. And there's something disconcerting about the fact that "conservatives" in America keep selecting people like George Bush or Rudy Guiliani who exhibit no restraint, humility, or sober-mindedness. Huckabee appeals to a sort of Christian nationalism that would have repulsed Burke, a willingness to justify any means so long as "good Christian men" are the ends. That's not saying he believes in this; but I think his supporters do, and in that sense, they believe he "gets" them.

Don't get me wrong: I think Mike Huckabee will lose. But I'd much rather see the Republicans run someone like John McCain or Ron Paul, who appear to have decency and a modicum of intelligence, than their religious icon du jour.


Royalty, squat!

Good design is like a good novel for me: a good designer or novelist can take the least noticeable things in daily life and vivify them so that you can't forget them. Case in point: these Sukie Cushions are colorful and cool, and to be honest, that's the last words I would generally use to describe something as quotidian as a cushion. But, there you have it. I like 'em.
They also come out to $89 Canadian, so they'll look a lot nicer in someone else's house than mine.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Every chance that I take, I take it on the road

Here's a picture of a vintage Bombadier B-12 snowmobile taken in 1951 or 1952.

Joseph-Armand Bombardier was a Quebecois mechanic who built his first practical snowmobile in 1937, having designed a revolutionary drive system that could handle snowy, icy, or swampy conditions. The Bombardier snowmobiles could take several people for long distances and were used throughout Quebec to deliver mail, transport school children, and to fill other basic needs. After Quebec made it law that all roads had to be quickly cleared of snow, Bombardier diversified and built snowmobiles for mining and forestry use. In the late 50s, Bombadier developed the lightweight model the Ski-Doo, which was very popular, and his company L'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée became a leader in lightweight personal snowmobiles. He died in 1964.

His successors diversified the company greatly. Bombardier still makes snowmobiles, as well as jet aircraft, subway cars, light rail trains, and until recent years was a major defense contractor. There is also a Bombardier Museum in Valcourt, Quebec. Incidentally, a working Bombardier B-12 can be seen in the David Cronenberg's film of Naked Lunch, which is set in the 1950s. Cronenberg said that he always wanted to put the Bombardier in a film because he considers the vehicle to be a Canadian classic.


Have you have been an un-American? / Just you and your idol singing falsetto

Here we see Abe Vigoda-impersonator Joseph Vento of Gino's Steaks and Unsolicitated Opinions in Philadelphia, with the sign he's currently fighting the city for the right to display in his store. Some people say it makes them feel uncomfortable; others say it keeps the line moving; others ask if it's a bit dopey to assume that people who can't speak English can read English; and others just ask what is up with those damned quotation marks?

I tend to believe that store owners should be permitted to put up whatever idiotic signs they want to, and I should be permitted to skip out on eating at their restaurants because of the idiotic signs they put up. I can't imagine there's a serious legal issue here really, especially as he's a private business owner and he's not denying service to anyone.

To be honest, what really bugs me about this sign isn't the juxtaposition of the eagle and flag with a chauvanistic Archie Bunkerism; it's the bizarre quotation marks. Again, people, if you want to tell someone else to speak English, there's no reason to say, When Ordering "Speak English". It gives the impression that you are either: being ironic, or that this is some sort of secret code. "Speak English"- wink, wink, nudge nudge. (I really mean "we sell drugs!")

I will not point out the obvious irony in the guy degrading the English language in his campaign to protect the English language. Okay, yes I will.


Rick Mercer meets Mike Huckabee

Here's Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee sharing his knowledge about America's largest trading partner.


Say, why don't you drill a hole in yourself and let the sap run out?

The Toronto Star reports that Canadian satirists are positively drooling at the possibility that Americans might actually elect Mike Huckabee, a man who comedian Rick Mercer tricked a few years ago into making a televised appeal to save Canada's "National Igloo", which he convinced Huckabee is where the Canadian Parliament meets. In Huckabee's defense, if God had wanted him to know anything about Canada, he would have put it in the Bible.


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back...

The tiki-god of mind-numbing computer use and the oversimplification of interaction makes a compelling argument for education, literacy, curiosity... pointing out that all the neat stuff in recent memory emerged from science, math, and engineering, and not, say, txting during class.

Click here to read Bill Gates' recent editorial on why and how "reading lots of books" (among other expansionist activities) is important even if you're not some kind of fancy-pants intellectual...

(I am actually wondering if there hasn't been ANY artistic, cultural, or social development of note in recent memory, but that's a different conversation.)


Thursday, December 13, 2007

She was a Beauty in a Cage

The Muslim Canadian Congress has called for the "strictest punishment available" for a Muslim father in Mississauga, Otario, who strangled his own 16-year old daughter to death, possibly for refusing to wear the hijab.

Mississauga is only a few towns over from Claire and me, but this tragedy seems like it took place in an entirely other world. How do you possibly understand someone who would do such a thing? The Globe and Mail tries pointing out that all parents get frustrated with their rebelious kids and that it's harder for religious parents. Um, sure. Salon's Broadsheet blog warns against proscribing the hijab, which is only "potentially oppressive", as opposed to being actually oppressive, a bit of a bizarre argument, frankly. (Also, one might expect feminists to take a harder line on patriarchy?) Can-CAIR has argued that all cultures have the problem of domestic violence. Sure, but patriarchal religious communities are notoriously bad at dealing with the problem and often serve to reinforce it. See also: Molestation.

It's a bit like the Stanford Prison Experiment, isn't it? Patriarchal religions (basically all of them) tell a group of people that they are in charge of another group of people, by virtue of their aged willies. Ideally, those patriarchs will be kind and enlightened. But, if they're not, it's a perfect recipe for disaster. Maybe the killing had nothing to do with the hijab. I'd be surprised if it didn't have everything to do with patriarchy.


Look at those Cavemen go!

The race to nominate candidates for the Presidency has entered its 45th month of heavy fighting and there is still no end in sight. Americans overwhelmingly want an end to the occupation of places like Iowa and I personally have begun a hunger strike.

The Republican field is wide-open at this point: they could select any number of candidates that Republicans don't much want to vote for.

Mike Huckabee is doing very well right now... all thanks to Jesus. He says God wants him to do well in the polls. He tells his supporters that it's time to take America back for Jesus. At some point, I expect him to argue that we should give up on elections altogether and hire soothsayers to stare at sheep's intestines for half an hour and tell the rest of us who God wants for President.

Rudy Guiliani is also doing well, although one shouldn't expect him to share power with God, or anyone else, if he gets elected. And why not vote for Guiliani? We're already considering whether America is ready for its first black President, woman President, or Mormon President; why not its first batshit insane President? Nah, I'm just kidding; about 30% of our Presidents have been insane.

Aside from character, honesty, intelligence, charisma, or any idea of what the hell he's doing, Guiliani is well prepared for the Presidency. I think most of his supporters know that Rudy's a lousy candidate and don't really care; he appeals most to that authoritarian mindset that believes every problem in the world can be solved through "toughness". We need to get tough on terrorism, tough on crime, tough on poverty, tough on immigrants, tough on illiteracy, etc. etc. The hope is that you elect someone like "El Duce" Guiliani, whose only real belief is that he personally should be given as much power as possible, give him as much power as possible, and he will eventually crush the people you hate- it's the pit bull method of selecting a leader. It doesn't have a very high success rate throughout history.

Animatronic candidate Mitt Romney is doing better after recently making an inspiring speech at the Reagan Library (one has to love modesty in a candidate) in which he insisted that America's people of faith need to come together for the good of the country. Atheists can fuck off though. According to Romney, we non-believers can go back to our own country and leave America to the people of faith who speak English. Our own country being France, of course. Romney also vows that, if elected, he will one day become a real, live boy.

Tom "Rambo" Tancredo isn't doing very well, all thanks to gutless voters who just don't have the stones to pick him. He has challenged his Republican competitors to prove that they're serious about preserving America by strangling a Mexican with their bare hands. If he loses, Tancredo vows to live off the land, drinking the blood of stray sheep, and personally tracking down and killing all the surviving members of Menudo.

Ron Paul is still well-liked by us wackos who admire his strong convictions and support for individual liberty. It's hard to agree with him on everything (an anti-abortion libertarian?); but you have to admire the fact that he absolutely refuses to pander to voters. And that he isn't entirely sure who Tom Cruise is. According to the news media, Paul's unwillingness to pander to voters and dumb down his message have doomed his campaign. Basically, voters want a candidate who is more like Santa Claus.

Apparently, the most "electable" candidate in the Republican field is John McCain, who I personally like quite a bit. But, the fact that McCain could win in a general election isn't enough for Republicans who fear that, if elected, McCain wouldn't do enough to save the country from Spanish. There's something increasingly quixotic about American politics- why win elections if the price of winning is nuance? And whatever happened to those Republicans of the good old days with their starry-eyed idealistic belief in seizing power at all costs?

As for the Democrats, many of them are terrified that they might actually win this election and have vowed to do everything they can to prevent that from happening... including nominating Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton's lead is quickly evaporating and she's been acting like some Scarecrow just threw a bucket of water on her. Her husband, the fat Elvis, is brainstorming winning strategies. Her people are sending out emails claiming that Barack Obama is a sleeper Muslim intent on overthrowing the country. Her campaign managers are claiming that Obama needs to come clean on the teenage pot-smoking that he wrote about in his autobiography. She's pulling up papers he wrote in grade school to criticize the poor grammar. Next will come the "shocking revelation" that Obama once farted in an elevator and tried to play it off like he didn't.

A note to the Clinton people: the indignant, power-hungry, imperious elitist with an entitlement-complex persona will not play well in the Midwest. Also, there's something insulting about the assumption that Americans are so small-minded that they can't forgive a candidate who has admitted, with great candor, that he used drugs as a young man. Not to mention the weird assumption that we're all stupid enough to fall for the old "I didn't know that my people were spreading rumors and lies; why, I'll fire them right away!" routine. It's this disingenuous power-lust that most annoys people about Hillary Clinton; she's like Tracy Flick grown up. You get the feeling that, if you don't care for her convictions, well she's got others you might like. And after eight years of a President who seems convinced that he knows better than the rest of the country, we don't need more Nixonian arrogance and dirty tricks.

John Edwards is apparently very "electable" in a general election; no doubt, there is some pundit on television right now asking, "will Americans be able to overlook the fact that Edwards gets haircuts?" If Obama gets the nod, Edwards should be his running mate. If Hillary gets the nod, Edwards will probably have to go into hiding. For some reason, Edwards seems to really hate her. Don't look now, but I think somebody got turned down for a date...

Barack Obama, meanwhile, is like some sort of shaolin warrior: he knocks out his opponents while retaining an eerie zen-like composure. Watching him derail the Clinton campaign through the ancient Oprah-technique has been worth the price of admission. One does fear that Obama might be a bit too high-minded to battle the Republicans though. You get the feeling that Obama would stop at... well, most things in his quest to become President. On the other hand, never underestimate a man with Oprah on his side. A woman who can convince Americans to read books is not to be trifled with. Hopefully, Obama will not be required to pick Dr. Phil as his running mate. And no scented candles in the Oval Office!

Obama and Clinton are both decent candidates, but I can't be the only one who's gotten sick of hearing pundits ask idiotic questions about America's "readiness" to elect them. "Are Americans ready for a black President? Are they ready to elect a woman? Are they ready for indoor electricity??" Ugh. I like to think that Americans aren't entirely stupid.

Camille Paglia recently touched on another good reason to vote for Obama: "Michelle Obama would be the most graceful, stylish first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy." Imagine Bill Clinton hosting White House formal events! Yeesh! Actually, I'd like to see it made a law that Michelle Obama is First Lady no matter who gets elected. And I've finally understood the appeal of Camille Paglia (who is seemingly hated by 95% of the readers of Salon): she's a gay man trapped in the body of a lesbian. As a gay man trapped in the body of a... well, a "free agent", I have to agree with her.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kant Attack Ad

You've probably seen this one already, but I'm sharing it here because I think the voters have a right to know.


Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?

Misinformation creates its own constituency. On a blog entitled "Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk", a Philosophy professor wonders why his students keep bringing up "Iraq's attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11" in their essays...

"The thing that upsets me most here is that the the students don't just believe that that Iraq was behind 9/11. This is a big fact in their minds, that leaps out at them, whenever they think about the state of the world."

Of course, Iraq also destroyed the Roman Empire, so...


Time: The pressant

Leave it to Margaret Soltan to put into words something I've been dancing around here for months, if not years, because I couldn't find the right words for it. Here she writes about Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize speech, in which Lessing expresses sadness at the decline of book reading in the Internet Age:

"She’s not really upset about this or that particular change in technology — she recalls, rightly, the novelty in its time of printing, and the anxieties about it expressed then. What’s upsetting her is the erosion of our capacity for interior, private, experience –the shrinking of that pure space within us which is our consciousness alone — nothing else, no one else’s. It’s the sickness unto death of our once-vital consort with our particular memories, our charged moments, our thoughts, fantasies, dreams, and associations, our peculiar insights and emotions, that Lessing laments in the speech. For only out of this purity do we create literature."

I'd suggest reading both Lessing's masterful speech and Soltan's wise and erudite notes on it. I have little to add.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't wanna stay alive when you're 25

Another alienated boy has shot a bunch of people who will either never be the same again, or never be again. Actually, two alienated boys have done this recently: one in a mall and the other in a church. Both of them were in their mid 20s, a state of life that's a hormonal miasma approaching madness.

In the case of the church shooter, he probably was approaching madness. He had been kicked out of his youth missionary group for his strange behavior, including hearing voices. Maybe it's because I'm married to a social worker, but I really wish church youth groups did a better job of helping these kids than telling them to get lost. He was at the prime age to develop schizo-affective disorder, but apparently had rejected counselling. In general, these problems are never understood or dealt with very well.

The mall shooter was more typical for these sorts of massacres: mid twenties, isolated, alone, and a "loser" by most modern standards. It's a lot easier to be a loser these days; the whole globe is filled with them now. Globalization seems to increase the winners one-by-one and the losers exponentially. It's probably not a lot different being a lonely young male loser in the Midwest or in the Mideast- the suicide bomber and the mall shooter are both hormonally fucked-up boys who want to go out in a blaze of glory. Both of them are tragically, pathetically lost. The Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange, unlike the movie, ends with the main character, a young thug, mellowing out and settling down as he reaches middle-age. I often wonder what would happen to these violent young men if they could be sent on a vacation until they turn thirty. Would the Columbine shooters have had 401 Ks, or gone into human resources at some company? Who knows? God, what a waste...

I'm also starting to wonder why, if our angry young men find it so easy to walk into public places and kill so many random people, the radical-Islamo-fascist-terrorists, who are supposedly lurking behind every bush, never seem to do the same. I used to think it was because of "heightened security", but Mall shootings and flying planes into buildings both share the psychotic power of the random act. Neither of them makes any logical sense, and so neither of them can be very well prepared for. There's nothing much stopping the bogeymen-of-evil from doing these sorts of things across America. Yet they haven't been.

Which either means that racial profiling has been very successful- something I seriously doubt given the collective intelligence of the racial profilers- or the "war on terror" of the last six years has been a massive overreaction. I guess we'll see which is the case.


Why a four-year-old child could understand this... Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head or tail of it.

More fun with immigration...

I'm working my way through the stack of residency forms today, among several other things. To apply for residency in Canada, you need to complete a lot of paperwork, get an immigration physical ($195 Canadian), get fingerprinted so the police can do a background check, and have a "sponsor" in Canada so they know you're not going to be roaming the streets looking for work.

Here are some of the things they ask, which I'm assuming are barriers to immigrating to Canada.

Have you ever:
* been detained or put in jail?
* been refused admission to, or ordered to leave, Canada or any other country?
* been convicted of, or are you currently charged with, on trial for, or party to a crime or offence or subject of any criminal proceedings in any country?
* had any serious disease or physical or mental disorder?

(And my two favorites...)
* been involved in an act of genocide, a war crime, or in the commission of a crime against humanity.
* used, planned or advocated the use of armed struggle or violence to reach political, religious, or social objectives? (Well, I am American, so...)

Anyway, at the bottom, it says: "If your answer to any of these questions is YES, please provide details below." I'm wondering how many people admit to having committed an act of genocide and then try to explain it in the box. "Okay, it's a funny story actually..."


Monday, December 10, 2007

Idiot love will spark the fusion

Fox really stiffed Mike Judge on the release of his film Idiocracy, most likely because it satirized their target audience, but they are now getting behind the marketing of Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator. No, it's not a joke. It's got electrolytes. Of course, in the film, it was junk like this that progressively dumbed down the human race; we can assume that Fox already has "Ow! My balls!" in production.


Her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!

Here's a brief story on Democrats and their issues with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Clinton is still in the lead, although the stories about her lead are getting to be ridiculous. About a month ago, her lead was over twenty points, and we were told that it was "solid". It has dropped ever since. Last week I read a news source that said she had a "solid" six point lead that would be "hard to beat". The most recent poll I've seen put her lead over Obama at two points. I'm sure these are a solid two points.

Clinton is dropping like a stone, in other words, while Obama is slowly rising. The Democrats that I've met who support Hillary Clinton have always sounded to me like they saw it as a rather unpleasant duty: they don't exactly like her, but they don't think Obama can win the election. Obama supporters, on the other hand, actually seem excited about the possibility of him becoming President. They remind me of Ron Paul supporters. More importantly, independents and discontented Republicans are more interested in him than her. One gets the feeling that she's the candidate that people think they're supposed to vote for and he's the one that they actually want to vote for.

And liberals have to get over the idea that Americans are either liberal or racist. I've met a few closet racists in my time; but I've met many more whites who feel trapped in the perception that they are de facto closet racists and who hunger for an opportunity to express their belief in racial equality in some way that doesn't make them appear condescending, arrogant, or phony. I think the race issue will work to Obama's advantage.

Obama's negatives don't adhere to him in the same way either; they're things like whether or not whites will vote for him, or if he is experienced or electable. These will fade with time. By contrast, Clinton's negatives are character issues. People see her as fundamentally dishonest or mean-spirited. She has to prove that she's not really as bad as people think she is, while Obama has to basically convince voters that it's okay to vote for him.

People see Obama as "style over substance". I don't think they realize that such is the Presidency. One thing I realized during Reagan's Presidency was that the image a President projects is more important than anything else about them. Clinton comes across as responsible and intelligent, but also arrogant and entitled. Like a class monitor. As if she thinks people should vote for her because she's their better. Obama comes off as responsible and intelligent as well; but he seems more enamored with the electorate than she does. You get the sense that he wants their votes and she deserves their votes: I think that's the difference. Obama appears to be in love with America and the promise of America in a way that reminds one of Reagan. I see the appeal there: he would be good for the psychological health of the country.