Sunday, December 24, 2006

An annual tradition

"May all my enemies go to hell.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel."

- Hilaire Belloc

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Superhero artist Alex Ross (yes, that Alex Ross) for the cover of The Village Voice's gay pride issue:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why I don't read comics anymore part 74328

I could have lived my whole life without seeing this, but since I saw it, you have to see it too.

Spider-Man's penis.

Okay, it's alternate future old man spider-penis, but still...

This panel is from a Dark Knight Returns-rip off (and the reviews say it's nearly a page by page rip off) called Spider-Man: Reign by writer-artist Kaare Andrews, featuring Spider-Man as an old broken down florist. (?!) You can see the first ten pages here, and in just those ten pages, I don't see anything that isn't obvious and tired and ridiculous and lame all at once. The art isn't bad though, but nothing I think worth fussing over.

*sigh* Even if Steve Ditko weren't already an Ayn Randian kook, this would send him over the edge.

Seriously. Spider-Man's penis, folks. What the hell?

Polio Comics

Monday, December 11, 2006


Cat Fancy magazine is fifty years old, while Dog Fancy magazine is only thirty-eight. I wonder what the logic was there. "Okay, we know people like cats, but we're not too sure about these "dogs" I keep hearing about..."

Thursday, December 7, 2006


Part of the fun I get to have here at the library is dealing with the boxes of freshly acquired journals for our new programs, one of which is for veterinary technicians. Idly flipping though a relatively recent issue of Veterinary Medicine, I chanced upon this article about castrating elephants. Yep, castrating elephants. Not something that comes often comes up in the daily itinerary of your average vet, but it's always good to be prepared.

You wouldn't think that there would be much call for this sort of thing, as elephants are prized and endangered, but in some game preserves they are - or were at the time this article took place - overpopulated and running amok. Apparently this was in the early days of elephant castration, where techniques were still being perfected and breakthroughs had yet to be made. And this was made all the more difficult by the fact that an elephant's testicles are inside the abdomen.

The author called a leading authority in elephant castrationology, the only man to-date who had accomplished the task and survived. I mean had the elephant survive.
...he readily agreed to help. He said, enthusiastically, that he had created a new instrument for the task - a three-and-a-half-foot-long écraseur that could remove testicles from deep in the belly of a full-grown elephant - and he was eager to try it out.
After all, if you created a 3.5 foot long elephant castration tool, wouldn't you want to take that bad boy for a spin right away?

So the doctor sterilized his new instrument, wrapped it up, and went to the airport to get on a plane to fly to the operation. Unfortunately, he was challenged by security, who - oddly enough - wanted to know what this four foot long wrapped metal stick was that he wanted to bring on the airplane as part of his carry on luggage:
Dr. Fowler, who was dressed in a field jacket, blue jeans, and work boots, said, "It's for castrating elephants. I'm on my way to Los Angeles to castrate an elephant."

The security officer reacted to this in a completely unreasonable manner...
Gee, I wonder why. I wonder if the elephant also reacted in a completely unreasonable manner.

But all was well, the doctor made it to the operation and the elephant survived, with a severe case of the munchies:
I was relieved to see the elephant roll onto its sternum, arise, and walk over to a pile of hay and start to eat.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I wonder why this never caught on

From the February 1938 issue of Modern Mechanix, via the blog of the same name:

First Star Trek, now this.

A selection from an upcoming manga adaptation of Pride and Prejudice drawn by Tintin Pantoja. (By the way, how awesome is the name "Tintin Pantoja"!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

At least something is working efficiently in Iraq

From the LA Daily News:

Every day it seemed more Iraqis woke up to death threats tossed into their carports. At first the death threats were handwritten, but as kidnappings became a daily occurrence, the kidnappers grew more brazen and organized. The terrorists now issue generic, computerized threats with the organization's name as letterhead. Only the name of the victim is written by hand.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Science proves that Bush supporters are crazy

From the New Haven Advocate:

Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.

Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.


"Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader," Lohse says. "If your world is very mixed up, there's something very comforting about someone telling you, 'This is how it’s going to be.'"


"Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry," the study says.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I don't need your civil war

If you haven't been following the progress of this year's Marvel Comics crossover Civil War (and, really, why should you be?) then this hysterical parody of issue 5 might not make much sense, but read it anyway. I don't read this kind of stuff anymore, but I can't help following superhero news on Die IntërWeb with the same lurid fascination that some people have reading about serial killers or looking at autopsy photos. CW is a big crossover slugfest written by schlockmeister Mark Millar in which all the Marvel superheroes get together for the 139641234th time and settle their differences with fists. The catalyst this time is the Superhuman Registration Act, which requires those with superpowers to register their badassness with the government. The cape crowd divides into two camps: pro-reg led by Iron Man, and anti-reg, led by Captain America. Online complaints abound about Millar's ham-fisted characterization, shoehorning heroes into one camp or another not based upon established personalities but by whom he wants to see fight it out. The ad campaign uses the faux-bumper sticker slogans "I'm with Iron Man" and "I'm with Captain America", prompting a parody (which I wish I could find and post here) ad "I'm with Lincoln" which had me in stitches for days.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Losing your soul, part 2

I'm sure you remember the memorable clip from this post, which featured two Bank of America drones singing an ode to their assimilation of MBNA to the tune of U2's "One". The video is so popular on Die IntërWeb now that even the New York Times is writing about it, noting that humorless lawyers from the Universal Music Publishing Group are now deploying the cease and desist letters. (See this Stereogum blog post - scroll down until you find the comment from "Raul R. Gonzalez, Esq.") The article also quotes the singer, Manhattan banking center manager Ethan Chandler, a Manhattan banking center manager, protesting "A lot of people thought it was fake, but I really do sing!" See, he's a real singer, folks, and he's even got his own album.

Already, there are the inevitable parodies. David Cross has been covering the cover in concert. The first clip is Cross at a comedy club, the second his Cross at a Modest Mouse concert accompanied on guitar by , captured by Angry Citizen before being hassled by security.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Wikipedia comics

Here's an interesting way of distributing Wikipedia's free content in a way I'd never thought of: Wikipedia comics by Greg Williams of the Tampa Tribune. Only four so far but I hope more to come. Also, here's a bonus comic from Ken Jennings' blog.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What does it take?

Check out this leaked memo from The Ministry of Truth:

"Let's be on the lookout for any statements from Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress."

How can there be any sane adult who doubts that Fox news is openly advocating conservative positions and acting as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP? How can people continue to deny the evidence of their senses?

Irony abounds!

Six years ago I saw my first pull tab on a can of soup, and was driven to rant, my sputtering rage at the indolence and laziness of the world forever preserved on Die Interweb.

Since then, pull tabs have become ubiquitous, lulling me into a false sense of security when I should have feared my impending comeuppance.

A few days ago I purchased some delicious looking cans of Walnut Acres organic soup and the giant organa-mall Wild Oats. My larder at the library is well stocked with cans of Chunky, Progresso, etc., all with the pull tabs I started taking for granted years ago. So today at lunch I was eagerly awaiting my black bean and corn soup when I found I couldn't get the can open. No pull tabs! No can opener! The universe gets its revenge - six years in the making! Damn you! *shakes angry fist*

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

What it's like to lose your soul - karaoke style!

one bank on Vimeo

This is a clip of a Bank of America employee celebrating the absorption of MBNA by BoA in 2005. To the tune of "One" by U2. No, I'm not kidding. Watch it all the way through, if you can.

Great, you've made some money. Congrats. But let's not pretend this represents any sort of achievement in "hiiiiger staaandards" or anything else except squeezing more money from Americans, giving them fewer choices, getting them further in debt, and making it harder for the ones in difficult financial circumstances to get out of debt by declaring bankruptcy.

If I ever choose to celebrate the merger of two gigantic banking corporations in song in a non-ironic way, I encourage and require you to shoot me in the face, repeatedly, and after I am dead, dig up my corpse and shoot me in the face again.

We live on a different planet than these people. If you are reading this, I hope you live on my planet, where people and emotions and genuine achievements are more important and more worth singing about than profits and mergers and giant corporations which have more rights than you and I. If you believe that I hope you are living your life that way instead of just muttering something to yourself on the way home from listening to some middle manager sing about how great it was to sell his soul.

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

Lloyd Dobler, we need you more than ever.

What it's like to lose your soul - karaoke style!

This is a clip of a Bank of America employee celebrating the absorption of MBNA by BoA in 2005. To the tune of "One" by U2. No, I'm not kidding. Watch it all the way through, if you can.

Great, you've made some money. Congrats. But let's not pretend this represents any sort of achievement in "hiiiiger staaandards" or anything else except squeezing more money from Americans, giving them fewer choices, getting them further in debt, and making it harder for the ones in difficult financial circumstances to get out of debt by declaring bankruptcy.

If I ever choose to celebrate the merger of two gigantic banking corporations in song in a non-ironic way, I encourage and require you to shoot me in the face, repeatedly, and after I am dead, dig up my corpse and shoot me in the face again.

We live on a different planet than these people. If you are reading this, I hope you live on my planet, where people and emotions and genuine achievements are more important and more worth singing about than profits and mergers and giant corporations which have more rights than you and I. If you believe that I hope you are living your life that way instead of just muttering something to yourself on the way home from listening to some middle manager sing about how great it was to sell his soul.

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

Lloyd Dobler, we need you more than ever.

Vote, stupid!

Thanks to early voting in this state, I voted two weeks ago. If you haven't voted yet, there is still time. Molly Ivins reminds us why it is important:

May I remind you what this election is about? Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, unprecedented presidential powers, unmatched incompetence, unparalleled corruption, unwarranted eavesdropping, Katrina, Enron, Halliburton, global warming, Cheney's secret energy task force, record oil company profits, $3 gasoline, FEMA, the Supreme Court, Diebold, Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004, Terri Schiavo, stem cell research, golden parachutes, shrunken pensions, unavailable and expensive health care, habeas corpus, no weapons of mass destruction, sacrificed soldiers and Iraqi civilians, wasted billions, Taliban resurgence, expiration of the assault weapons ban, North Korea, Iran, intelligent design, swift boat hit squads, and on and on.

This election is about that, but much more -- it's about honor, dignity and comity in this country. It's about the Constitution, which gives us this great nation. Bush ran on a pledge of "restoring honor and integrity" to the White House. Instead, he brought us Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Katherine Harris, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, Richard Pombo, Mark Foley, Dennis Hastert, David Safavian, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Karl Rove and an illegal and immoral war in Iraq. People, it's up to you.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Unpublished Sylvia Plath

Well, here's a treat you don't get everyday. Last month, a student found an unpublished poem by Sylvia Plath in her archives at Indiana University. Written in 1955 while she was a depressed undergrad at Smith College, the sonnet has now been published in the journal Blackbird:


Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,
designing futures where nothing will occur:

Read the rest of it here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Set your Tivo

Linking to the New York Post twice in a row? What's wrong with me? But you'll want to know about this. Assuming they aren't just making shit up again, the Post reports that Bill O'Reilly gets it in the you know where tonight on The Late Show. Of course, the Post spins the whole thing, calling Letterman "Humorless Dave" in the headline and gently massaging O'Reilly with a loofah by calling him "the conservative Fox News powerhouse".

Some highlights:

Letterman: Let me ask you a question -- was there more heinous, more dangerous violence taking place before in Iraq, or is there more heinous, dangerous violence taking place now in Iraq?

O'Reilly: Oh, stop it. Saddam Hussein slaughtered 300,000 to 400,000 people, all right, so knock it off... It isn't so black and white, Dave -- it isn't, 'We're a bad country. Bush is an evil liar.' That's not true.

I didn't say he was an evil liar. You're putting words in my mouth, just the way you put artificial facts in your head!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ken Jennings vs. Evil

Ken Jennings posts a thoughtful critique of the new game show 1 vs. 100, on which he recently appeared. The New York Post prints a short, gossipy item about this with the lurid headline KILL-JOY JENNINGS TRASHES ‘1 VS 100’. While I've never been a cheerleader for what technophiles call the "New Media" (a term that generally makes me roll my eyes) this is example # 345324231097 why the "Old Media" shouldn't be looking down its nose at the New. But to be fair, the Post has never been the standard bearer for journalistic ethics or all that is good and true about the Old. After all, this is the tabloid that was called "a force for evil" by the Columbia Journalism Review.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Colbert Report Green Screen Challenge

Bonnie Rose, the winner of the Colbert Report Green Screen Challenge, provides a firsthand report of beating "George L." and winning the non-contest. Here's the winning entry:

I don't think this entry made it on the air, but I saw it on YouTube and thought it was hysterical:

Monday, October 16, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

On Friday the 13th, all the crazy people come out to play

On Friday, Glenn Greenwald and Alicublog posted takedowns of the latest Wall Street Journal column by Peggy Noonan, that partisan hack and former GOP operative who has managed to pass herself off as a font of wisdom. Noonan cherry picks four recent incidents of dubious import and uses them to "prove" her thesis, such as it is, that the left is as a whole lacks grace and civility and is actively crushing dissent with its powerful control of none of the three branches of government. (The right, of course, is full of grace and love. Unless you are gay or foreign or poor.) While such a sad excuse for an argument can be dismissed with two simple words, Greenwald marshalls plenty of examples while Alicublog's tone is a tad more mocking. Now before you say "Tut, tut, you're just proving her point about civility, stiffling dissent, yadda, yadda, yadda...", if this were a sane public discourse, a third grade argument like Noonan's would be universally mocked and treated with the derision it deserves. It is not an example of grace and civility, it is a thin veneer of imitation civility smeared over an attack of the basest kind, so her fellow ideological travelers can feel good about the contempt they shower upon everyone else and congratulate themselves on how much better they are than those people. "See, Peggy Noonan just proved it. Liberals are scum."


On Saturday, I spent most the day as part of a volunteer trash cleanup turned impromptu hiking caravan at the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area in Hernando County. Had to get up astonishingly early but it was worth it to see a patch of land I otherwise wouldn't have seen. They're open from 8am to 2pm Fridays and Saturdays, which insures only retired people will tramp through your woods. Chinsegut (chin-SEE-gut) was named by the former property owner, Colonel Raymond Robins, for an Inuit word which supposedly means "a place to rediscover lost treasures". I had no idea the Inuit had settled so far south. The part we hiked through included what was left of the old 1850s Bishop homestead: some of a chimney, two brick cisterns, and a pit which I guess was his cess pool. Col. Robins' manor house is still standing on the other side of Route 481 and is the University of South Florida's Chinsegut Hill Conference Center. I didn't get to see that since they weren't about to let a mere student into their mansion on the hill. I didn't bring my camera because, well, when you've seen one tree in Florida, you've pretty much seen them all, and I've found I take terrible pictures. So I'm neither Thoreau nor Ansel Adams, apparently.

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's on

Check out this anti-Bush television ad via Kos. Hope we see a lot of this one on the air.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The shocking ending of this blog will leave you breathless!!

Over at Mister Kitty, a new update to Stupid Comics focusing on the crappy twist endings of Atlas Comics monster stories of the 1950s. Atlas would become Marvel Comics in the 1960s and so fandom has always looked back on this era with admiration while acknowledging its sheer, abundant camp. It's hard not to like the 44 feet and 20 tons of camp that is Fin Fang Foom. There's much that's attractive - big monsters, silly names, great art. But it's also hard not to see that most of this stuff is utter crap. It's amazing that a few years Lee and Kirby and Ditko would be creating genius (albeit campy, overblown genius) while here they're cranking out crappy adventures on the Planet of the Wax Mannequins before they run out for more beer and cigars. It's like Shakespeare writing episodes of According to Jim. He's... "a robot!" Are you fucking kidding me?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Buy me a pony

Via Boing Boing: The Guinness Book of Records people have appointed a new winner for the title of the world's smallest horse. The unimaginatively named Thumbelina, owned by Goose Creek Farms in St. Louis, is a tiny tiny 17 inches tall and weighs only 60 pounds. She comes from a line of miniature horses to begin with, but she's about half the size she should be, which means she's a dwarf miniature horse. Seriously. And she's got her own website, of course, and since it's on the internet, it must be true.

Monday, October 9, 2006

The Day the Music Stumbled Slightly But Soon Regained Its Footing

Okay, so it's not exactly The Day the Music Died, but it's been a bad couple of weeks for music establishments. The iconic NYC punk club CBGB will be closing its doors at the end of the month, capping off a 23 year run with a Patti Smith concert. Begun in 1972 by Hilly Kristal as a club to feature Country, BlueGrass, and Blues music, it quickly became a forum for American punk and punk-influenced bands like The Ramones, Television, Blondie, and the Talking Heads. (If you think this sounds too much like the Wikipedia article on CBGB, that's because I rewrote the crappy intro today.) The good news is that Kristal may reopen in Las Vegas or elsewhere in NYC.

Tower Records is also closing its doors, commencing chain-wide going out of business sales. While I probably shouldn't shed too many tears for Corporate America, Tower always had a hipper reputation than most record stores and was always credited with stocking cooler albums and books and comics. I say reputation because I haven't experienced it very much firsthand (the closest Tower is Atlanta) and the last Tower I was in (somewhere in Los Angeles but I'm not sure which one) reminded me of a decidedly unhip Peaches store. There is a small bit of history lost too: Mark Evanier writes about the Sunset Blvd. Tower where dozens of artists have had their record covers blown up to gigantic size and plaster on the side of the store.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Man wants book about book burning banned during Banned Books Week

From the real life has surpassed satire dept, via Boing Boing.

The Montgomery County Courier reports that a Corone, Texas man named Alton Verm has demanded that his daughter's school district ban Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic novel about a dystopian future where firemen burn books. With impeccable timing, Verm's demand comes during the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week, which is of course entirely coincidental and completely hysterical. As is the case in almost all of these types of complaints, Verm hasn't read the book, of which he says "It's just all kinds of filth".

The Courier notes that "Alton Verm said he doesn't understand how the district can punish students for using bad language, yet require them to read a book with bad language as part of a class." You don't understand it because you are an idiot, Mr. Verm. Just because you read a book where a murder occurs, such as, say, The Bible, doesn't mean that the book is advocating that behavior. That would mean that an anti-book burning work like Fahrenheit 451 is actually advocating book burning by depicting book burning. Surely even you must realize how stupid that idea is.

You are also an idiot because you pulled something like this without having an unlisted phone number that can be found by anyone doing a Yahoo! people search, and it's all I can do not to call you and tell you what an idiot you are. Please note that by writing that down I am not advocating that behavior. You idiot.

During our Banned Books Week commemoration, we showed Truffaut's 1966 film adaptation. I've never particularly cared for it, primarily because the film is so relentlessly French. It is certainly plausible to envision a scenario of the social welfare state gone awry and banning books because they "make people anti-social and unhappy", as in the film. But I've always imagined contemporary book burning as a particularly American phenomenon, one driven by hotblooded redneck religious passion and not affectless European pseudointellectual theorizing. The Alton Verms of the world aren't exactly proving me wrong.

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy is 75 years old today. That's three quarters of a century of cool gadgets, freaky villans, and right-wing propaganda. And don't forget that period in the 60s when Tracy was on the Moon. The Daily Cartoonist is collecting a list of comics page tributes to the famous detective, including ones from Gasoline Alley (right) and Alley Oop (left), two pretty venerable strips themselves.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Merry Marvel Marching Society

Last night on Heroes, after the police detained Hiro, they noted that he didn't have much in his wallet besides an honorary membership to the Merry Marvel Marching Society. Most of the audience missed the joke, of course, but there's no reason they should have caught. So what the heck was the MMMS? It was a company fan club founded in the early days of Marvel Comics, born out of Stan Lee's impish and irresistible used car salesman hucksterism and love of alliteration. You signed up for a dollar - an incredible sum in those days which could buy you a small pile of comics - and got a bunch of precious, precious swag: a membership card, a button, etc. The most bizarre part of the haul was a 33 1/3 rpm record featuring the voices of the legendary Marvel Bullpen: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Flo Steinberg, Sol Brodsky, Artie Simek, Sam Rosen, Chic Stone, Wally Wood, Dick Ayers, Don Heck, Stan Goldberg, and a silent Steve Ditko. You can hear an mp3 of the record here. (Link via Heidi MacDonald)

Stan Lee, an aspiring author who served in the Army in WWII under the designation of "playwright", choreographed the vaudeville skit with Herculean intensity, as recounted by Jack Kirby in an interview with Mark Evanier:

Evanier: That record seems so weird. Was it recorded in the office like it sounds?

Kirby: No, it was in a recording studio. We rehearsed in the office. Stan treated it like he was producing the Academy Awards. He had this script he'd written. He'd written it and rewritten it and rewritten it and as we were recording it, he kept rewriting it. We all went into the office, more people than there was room for. When you weren't rehearsing your part, you had to go out in the hall and wait. No work was done that day on comics. It was all about the record. We rehearsed all morning. We were supposed to go to lunch and then over to the recording studio, which was over on 55th Street or 56th. I forget where it was. But when lunchtime came, Stan said, "No, no, we're not ready," so most of us skipped lunch and stayed there to rehearse more. Then we took cabs over to the recording studio and we were supposed to be in and out in an hour or two but we were there well into the evening. I don't know how many takes we did.

Evanier: On the record, Steve Ditko isn't heard. They say he slipped out the window. I assume he just refused to be part of it.

Kirby: Steve was much smarter than we were about those things.

Evanier: Have you listened to the record lately?

Kirby: No, and if you try and play it for me, you'll be out the window with Ditko.

Sure, this is an intense exercise in nostalgia and it's great to hear the voices of the legendary bullpen and imagine this sort of humorous camaraderie was what actually happened there on a daily basis. As Heidi MacDonald points out, what's striking is that this record, with its thick New Yawk accents and, was put together by "working class folks, working in a dingy midtown office" staffed by "cranky editors and tightfisted businessmen", a sharp contrast to fandom's image of them as "myths carved in granite". What also struck me was how well this record actually worked, and it's often genuinely funny. It's easy to make fun of Stan's blatant hucksterism - and hell, we should make fun of it - but we should also realize how good he was at it and how successful it was. Of course, this isn't anything near what's most important about what Stan and Jack created, but without Stan's silly nicknames and fostering of fandom and cries of "Excelsior!", MC wouldn't have been nearly as successful as it was.

For the 1967 record, there was a musical number. I'm not sure I want to hear the story behind that one...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Xt'Tapalatakettle's Grocery List

An article in the latest issue of Science (and yes, I read it, smart guy) discusses the discovery in Cascaja, Veracruz, Mexico in 1999 of a small (36 x 21 x 13 cm) stone block from the Olmec civilization which they proclaim to be the "oldest writing in the New World". The glyphs are faint and difficult to discern in photographs, so instead of showing you this boring looking rock, you get to look at the cool giant stone head on the right. (Can you say Xt'Tapalatakettle?) The rock was discovered by workmen in a quarry with minor other artifacts - shards of pottery, fragments of figurines, etc. - and kept in the home of a local cultural expert. There is a bit of a dispute about the age of the artifacts as they were not unearthed in the proper archeological manner. Said one smart ass "Once I owned a home near to Lincoln's log cabin, but that proximity didn't date my house to the same period. Likewise, the literally mixed bag of shards kept by village authorities doesn't help at all to date the piece." Log Cabin Guy has a point, though of course the authors are optimistic that the stone is older than any other known piece of writing in the New World. Some are skeptical that it is writing at all, though it is hard not to imagine that this isn't at least some primitive form of it. There are 28 distinct characters and 62 in all forming six or seven meandering lines of text. Nobody's quite sure exactly what this is as it doesn't appear to be directly related to succeeding forms of writing, so the authors have suggested that it was possibly a local script that fell out of use, some form of secret shamanic writing, or a once widely used script that died off.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Text I removed from the Wikipedia entry on the Ratt song "Round and Round"

It offers a catchy melody around a hook-laden riff. The song was masterfully written, performed, and produced, even drawing comparisons to the work of [[the Beatles]] with its flawless execution of post-[[WWII]] [[pop rock]]. To be sure, the song quickly established Ratt as a force to be reckoned with in the realm of [[music]] and stands as an eternal testament to their golden era during the mid-[[1980s]].

The song serves as a definitive manifesto for the ideological trajectory of the band. It's shamleless embrace of [[Absolute idealism|Absolute Idealism]] offers a striking juxtaposition to the popular [[worldview]]s of the day, including [[nihilism]], [[existentialism]], and [[social relativism]].

However, Ratt cannot be neatly catogorized as simple [[Neo Hegelians]]. Their work is rooted in [[Antiphon]]'s rhetoric much more than [[Platonic]] discourse. Even then, Ratt also offered a new take on philosophy that can be ascribed to no one but Ratt, making them true originals.

This also reflected in their music, as their brand of rock was based on influences different than that of their peers. However, they can be seen as helping evolve the musical landscape all their own, again in deep contrast to other artists of their time.

The video conveys Ratt's desire to rebel against the [[ivory tower]] elites who'd usurped control over all matters of popular discourse. Ratt co-opted [[Ronald Reagan]]'s message of restoring power to the people, as opposed to the stuffy pseudo-intellectual liberal academics who'd asserted themselves (along with their blasé [[rhetoric]]) during the [[1960s]] and [[1970s]]. However, Ratt's take on this view is rooted in [[rebellion]] from [[oppression]] and therefore [[anti-authoritarian]]. Though Reagan fought off [[tyranny]] through his [[geopolitical]] policies, his was premised on a restoration of popular [[worldview]] to an older from of idealization ("[[The American Dream]]"). Ratt didn't neccesarily discount the [[archetype]], but they did offer an entirely different take on the concept.

More lame band names

Including suggestions from the peanut gallery. Keep 'em coming!

Anal Cunt

"Let's see, we can't play or write songs worth crap, we aren't clever....I know, let's be offensive dicks!"


Is it some form of compress? A sex game? Both? I don't think we want to know.


The jokes just write themselves with this one.

Limp Bizkit

Even if they weren't named after the disgusting frat boy party game of urban legend, the game is a good metaphor for what it's like to have to listen to them.

Mötley Crüe

The name says "pirate", but the spelling says "idiot".


One T is a common rodent, but two is pure badass.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Don't Tread On Me

From Reuters via mkbscratch:

The lamest band names ever

...that I could think of on the way to work.

Bay City Rollers

Even if they weren't named after rollerskating (and I don't care to do the research to find out), it's still a stupid name.

Def Leppard

Do I really have to explain this one to you?

Frou Frou

You'd think someone at the coffee house would have told Imogen and Guy that their name was really dumb.

Guess Who

They started out with an even dumber name, Chad Allan and the Expressions, but their record company decided to build up a mystique by not actually identifying the band, labeling all the records "Guess Who?", hoping some idiot would think they were The Beatles. Instead the name stuck, and not only is it a stupid marketing gimmick gone awry, it's also far too similar to the name of a far better band. Pretty much a lose lose lose situation.

It's a Beautiful Day

A decent psychedelic 60s band, their biggest hit being the stunning song "White Bird". But their stupid name isn't even a name, it's a phrase. Damn hippies.


There is something to be said for truth in advertising.


What does this name even mean? Queen of the Reich? Is that the message you guys really want to send?


Why only one X, girls? Would more be too gratuitous?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Break open the champagne, it's back

It's back:

The Edvard Munch paintings "The Scream" and "Madonna," which two armed robbers yanked from the wall of a museum here in August 2004, were recovered in relatively good condition during a police operation Thursday afternoon.

No arrests were made and the case remains far from solved, with the police saying little apart from confirming that the pictures were safe. But Norwegians rejoiced in the return of two of their most treasured artworks.

"We're open for champagne tonight to anyone who wants to come by and celebrate," said Knut Forsberg, chairman of Blomqvist Fine Arts, which served as Munch's main gallery while he lived.

A celebration is in order, but when it's done, it's time to do a major overhaul of something in Norway, such as buffing up museum security or stiffening the penalties for Scream stealing. As you probably know, the Scream has been stolen before. A different version (Munch created four) was stolen in 1994. Both thefts occurred during the Olympics. Unless the Norwegians want Scream stealing to become a regular Olympic sport, it's time to take some people out to the fjord, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On accidental juxtapositions

On my daily commute, when I do listen to the radio, I incessantly change the station to avoid commercials and Nickelback songs. Yesterday morning I heard this:

"I'm craving something maddeningly delicious."

/me changes station


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Warning: Stupid people at play

From the Louisville Courier-Journal via This is True:

The water in the fountains and pools in Louisville's Waterfront Park tested about 30 times the healthy limit for bacteria, which city officials blame on homeless people using them to bathe and dirty diapers. Frustrated by their inability to keep people out of the water, David Karem, executive director of the Waterfront Development Corp., had signs put up warning people to keep out due to "high levels of hydrogen". The bacteria has plummeted to safe levels so apparently the pools are healthy, but the state of American scientific education is not. A humorless editorial in the Courier-Journal attacked for "treat[ing] Louisvillians as fools" and suggested he should instead be "simply shooting straight about why waders should keep out." But asking nicely hasn't kept homeless people or crap laden diapers out of the pools. The homeless guy needs a bath, dammit, and in the absence of a solution to the crisis of homelessness, not to mention the problem of parents who let their kids use public pools for toilets, scaring the crap out of people appears to the only way to solve the immediate problem. Stupidity is usually something you can rely upon. After all, as H.L. Menken said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Monday, July 31, 2006

Courtney Love in Spin

* "As the pictures were being taken, I knew they were disgusting, but I thought, in 20 years this is going to be an iconoclastic hysterical moment in rock. I get taken off to Bellevue on a gurney? Come on, Lydia Lunch didn't even get that."

* "Crack! I quit that, it was a bad phase. My problem was, you think they're talking about you on TV? Well, they were talking about me on TV. You think you're being followed? I was being followed? You think your phone's being tapped? My phone was being tapped. It was like crack-plus."

* On Frances Bean: "She's fucking normal. She was preverbal when her dad died. You know, I believe in my heart of hearts if Kurt had stuck around six more months, the shit would have faded, and she would've been verbal. And you just can't off yourself when your kid talks."

* I'm a bigger badass than 50 Cent - and the only gun I've ever held in my hand was the one my husband shot himself with."

* "I think I would've been happier if I'd married Edward [Norton]. I'll regret that to my dying day."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Finally, some accurate news coverage

From The Onion:

Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence

Founding Fathers, Patriots, Mr. T. Honored

NEW YORK—Wikipedia, the online, reader-edited encyclopedia, honored the 750th anniversary of American independence on July 25 with a special featured section on its main page Tuesday.


The commemorative page is one of the most detailed on the site, rivaling entries for Firefly and the Treaty Of Algeron for sheer length. Subheadings include "Origins Of Colonial Discontent," "Some Famous Guys In Wigs And Three-Cornered Hats," and "Christmastime In Gettysburg." It also features detailed maps of the original colonies—including Narnia, the central ice deserts, and Westeros—as well as profiles of famous American historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Special Agent Jack Bauer, and Samuel Adams who is also a defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals.

"On July 25, 1256, delegates gathered at Comerica Park to sign the Declaration Of Independence, which rejected the rule of the British over its 15 coastal North American colonies," reads an excerpt from the entry. "Little did such founding fathers as George Washington, George Jefferson, and ***ERIC IS A FAG*** know that their small, querulous republic would later become the most powerful and prosperous nation in history, the Unified States Of America."


While Wikipedia's "American Inderpendance" page remains available to all site visitors, administrators have suspended additions and further edits to its content due to vandalism.

Monday, July 24, 2006

McSweeney's? McSweeney's!

Another list rejected by McSweeney's. I'd feel bad, but their rejection letters are so polite.

Paintings by Gustav Klimt That Did Not Sell for $135 Million

The Firm Handshake

Portrait of Friedrich Matzek, the Slovenly Bum Who Lives in a Cardboard Box on Schwazenbergplatz in Downtown Baumgarten

Bright Shiny Things

Painting to Adorn a Freshman Girl's Dorm Room Wall

Piss Christ

In other McSweneey's news, I picked up their pair of wacked out Haggis-on-Whey children's books, Giraffes? Giraffes! and Your Disgusting Head. I'll let you know what I think when I get a chance to read them.

What do we do with all these old journals?

Some people think that libraries are or should be repositories of every thing that's ever been published. Not even the Library of Congress can do that and they disabuse you of that notion fairly quickly in library school. Your typical library has to function as a working collection, serving the current needs of its users (students, the general public, whoever) instead of being an archive of out of date material. Even so, I think that too many libraries are too eager to get rid of stuff - when we needed material for a new life science program, we got truckloads (okay, two van loads) of boxes of seventy year old bound volumes of Phytopathology and Plant Disease dumped on us faster than we could say "Please, sir, can we not have any more?"

So what do libraries do when they clean house? Ideally, we try to dump stuff on other libraries, but since everyone's trying to get rid of the same thing, sadly, it usually ends up in the garbage. The guys at Vestal Design rescued a bunch of discarded journals from the garbage bin at the Stanford University medical library and turned it into this festive book bar. I'm tempted to build one of these at my place out of these old thick volumes of Phytopathology. Everyone should have one of these. You can entertain your guests and preserve valuable scientific knowledge for the next generation.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Field trip!

Since I'm now working out in the sticks, I thought I'd see more of what's out here there in the vast rural wasteland east of the city. I've mostly been hitting the outdoor highlights to avoid people, but after a harrowing encounter with a cow out in the wild, I thought my next stop should be a little more indoorsy. So last week I stopped by the Mulberry Phosphate Museum. Small town! Big industry! Informational exhibits! What could go wrong?

Phosphate is a huge industry in Florida, possibly as big as citrus or Disney. According to the Florida Institute for Phosphate Research, the state supplies 75% of the country's phosphate and 25% of the world's. Phosphate is an important fertilizer and does other science-type stuff. I found a book here in the library called The Florida Phosphate Industry by Arch Frederic Blakey. The book jacket warns: "Long before carbon, nitrogen, or oxygen supplies become critically short, the supply of phosphorous will be exhausted. When this happens, Professor Blakey assures us, life will end." That's right, life will end. Thank you Professor Blakey for reminding us to thank God we live in a world of phosphate.

As you might imagine, it isn't all positive. Phosphate mining gouges the land with giant scoops called dragline buckets. It can cause some nasty air and water pollution and even produce deadly radon gas. And, like any industry, the history of Florida phosphate mining is full of incidents like the 1919 miners strike in Mulberry that climaxed in a gunfight between strikers and mine guards whose victims included a two year old child.

But you won't learn any of that at the Mulberry Phosphate Museum. Instead, you'll meet Smiley the Smilodon and have the official line spoonfed to you by an anthropomorphic sabertooth. I realize that modern trends in museum studies have not quite filtered down to Mulberry, but this isn't merely poor scholarship, this is industry propaganda. I don't exaggerate, it was literally bought and paid for by the phosphate industry. One wall is devoted to a vehemently defensive set of "facts" about the industry assuring us that yes, phosphate is safe, and no, they're not going to tear the hell out of Charlotte County (three counties south of Mulberry) like they did this one. What else does the phosphate industry have to tell us?

Phosphate makes happy cows!

Phosphate makes happy food like these products from the sponsors of this exhibit. Go be a good consumer now.

Smiley does science!

Bye Smiley!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Radio, Radio

I've started listening to the radio a lot more (read: at all) to pass the time on my commute, and also to get that hideous mashup of Tommy James' "Draggin' the Line" and Captain Blunt's "Beautiful" that’s nested inside my brain out of my head. While whatever the format or location, the playlists aren't that varied, and none of these songs are anything close to underplayed, these particular ones I've started to hear a lot more often. As in every time I get in the car. Every time. Seriously.

"867-5309" – Tommy Tutone

Just die. Just fucking die, Tommy Tutone.

Okay, this was a cute one hit wonder, but this is getting ridiculous. I'm getting tired of hearing this celebration of anonymous bathroom stall sex or whatever the fuck this thing is about, and I'm tired of hearing it as some sort of upbeat jingle instead of the sad gutter anthem that it actually is. Remember that Alltel commercial with that overly chipper girl celebrating the (federally mandated) fact that you can keep your phone number? "Tee hee, I have the same phone number as the neighborhood whore!"

"I Love Rock and Roll" - Joan Jett

I've never liked this song, and now that I'm hearing it every day, I like it less, and I've started to develop a different reading of this song to compliment my old take of "frivolous rock anthem". Now I’m hardly against age differences, as you might imagine given the large age difference between my parents. Usually, I never give it any thought, and when I do, it's almost always "Hey, whatever makes you happy," whether it's Harold and Maude, Mary Kay and Vili, or Anna Nicole Smith and Methuselah. The object of this song is a teenager ("I saw him dancin' there by the record machine/I knew he must a been about seventeen") and while Jett was only 24 when this song was released, her raspy voice makes her sound much older. Normally, I wouldn’t think anything of that, but here she comes across as a creepy sexual predator and this song seems like a celebration of the hunt for an underage boy toy. Of course I thought this song was creepy even before now, so take this interpretation with a grain of salt.

"The Spirit of Radio" – Rush

Hearing Rush on a classic rock station is no surprise, but it seems I hear this particular one every time I hit that spot on the dial. I'm not complaining, it's infectious ("Invisible airwaves crackle with life!") but a surprising choice given its denunciation of the commercial music industry ("But glittering prizes and endless compromises/Shatter the illusion of integrity"). Why this song, why now? Is it all the protest a disgruntled but impotent Clear Channel DJ can muster? Or do they just look at the playlist and say "Ooo, a song about radio…oh, look, bright shiny things…"?

Friday, July 7, 2006

Not funny enough for McSweeney's? You decide!

A week ago I had a burst of hubris and inspiration and fired off a submission to McSweeney's for their lists section. For a little while, I entertained dreams of drinking overpriced coffee concoctions with the likes of Dave Eggers and John Hodgman, trading witty bon mots and mocking Dave's love of Journey. Alas, my induction to the comedy literati will have to wait, as my submission has been rejected. But their loss, dear reader (and note the lack of the plural, as I know there's only one of you), is your gain! Free comedy gold, exclusively for you!

Rejected Dungeons and Dragons character classes

Key grip
Sex offender
Graduate student
Editorial cartoonist
Morris dancer
This American Life correspondent

Robots for sale!

via Boing Boing

Wu Yulu is a 44 year old farmer from east Beijing. In his spare time he's built a robot army out of junk and spare parts. Well, not so much an army as a small collection of robots to light cigarettes, make tea, and pull a rickshaw very, very slowly. Still, it's more impressive than any of my hobbies. But as hobbies go, this is a dangerous one, as he's nearly blown his head off testing an old battery and he's burned his house down twice. Apparently the firefighting robot is still on the drawing board. This time he's got to sell off his robot army to pay his debts, and he's already sold two, one of them for 30,000 yuan, or 41,415 pesos. So if you act now, you too can have a relatively affordable robot minion.

Friday, June 30, 2006

This just in: Garry Trudeau pisses someone else off!

Obviously, I realize this is the most redundant headline imaginable, as Trudeau has pissed somebody off about twice a week since Doonesbury started in 1970. This one is noteworthy - or at least amusing - because of the particular complaint. Editor & Publisher reports that the Polish American Congress is in an uproar over the innocuous May 14th strip in which a character named Justin Kaminski graduates with a degree in "Remedial Studies". I think this is a one-off or very very minor character, since I don't recognize him and he's not on the cast list. The PAC is annoyed that Kaminski is a Polish name - though as Trudeau points out, the name is carried by Ukrainians and Jews as well - and the character is remarkably stupid, thus a typical Polish stereotype.

The thing that cracks me up about this is that the late, longtime president of the PAC, Edward Moskal, was fond of throwing out anti-Semitic remarks. Case in point: in Rep. Rahm Emanuel's 2002 race for the US House, Moskal supported his opponent, Nancy Kaszak, and accused Emanuel (who is Jewish and was born in Chicago) of divided loyalties, dual citizenship with Israel, and of fighting in the Israeli army "shooting Palestinians". None of the charges were true - Emanuel is not an Israeli citizen and did not serve in the army, though he did volunteer as a civilian rust-proofing brakes - and were widely denounced by nearly everyone, including Kaszak, as anti-Semitic.

Now what the former president of the PAC said while shooting his mouth off doesn't justify any racism on Trudeau's part or in his work, though I think any sane observer wouldn't think the strip is racist. Seriously, do they really think that anyone who depicts a dumb character with a vaguely Polish name is a bigot? Would it have been better if the character had been named Jefferson or Gonzalez? Because after all, Lord knows the only ethnic group that has been stereotyped as stupid is the Poles.

Personally, I think it would have been funny if Trudeau responded to this stupid complaint with a joke about screwing in a light bulb, but I understand that it would be "poor public relations" and "horribly racist".

It's all true!

'What will your obituary say?' at

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Boy I hate that John Hodgman guy

Okay, now this is the last straw. I just read a thoughtful essay about some new comics written by Hodgman for The New York Times, in which he shows not only a sensitivity to the merits and flaws of each individual work, but an awareness of the field of alternative comics, both historically and current. And I'm really sick of this crap. Is there anything this guy can't do?

He's a former professional literary agent for, among others, actor
Bruce Campbell and penned the column "Ask a Former Professional Literary Agent" for McSweeney's. He's been in The Paris Review and on This American Life. He's started The Little Grey Book Lectures with musician Jonathan Coulton. He's the author of a brilliantly funny book, The Areas of My Expertise: An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by Me, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in the Areas of My Expertise, which Include Matters Historical; Matters Literary; Matters Cryptozoological; Hobo Matters; Food, Drink, & Cheese (a Kind of Food); Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels; Haircuts; Utopia; What Will Happen in the Future; and Most Other Subjects; Illustrated with a Reasonable Number of Tables and Figures, and Featuring the Best of "Were You Aware of It?", John Hodgman's Long-Running Newspaper Novelty Column of Strange Facts and Oddities of the Bizarre. It includes, among many other things, the hilarious "700 Hobo Names", which is exactly what it sounds and now appears in visual and audio form. (That's Coulton playing "Big Rock Candy Mountain" in the background.)

And then there's television. He's begun appearing as The Daily Show's "Resident Expert", declaring that he conducts himself "with the irrepressible brio of the pimp" and namedrops Lobot when talking about the Bush administration's Iraq policy. And he's appeared as a stuffy PC in Apple's new Get a Mac ads. But he's so witty and charming in these ads that, as plenty of observers have noted, they are self defeating. Hodgman wins you over, while Justin Long plays the part of the annoying pretentious urban hipster Mac cultist so unwittingly well that you want to strangle him with his own hoodie. (And this from someone who once thought of himself as an annoying pretentious urban hipster Mac cultist!)

Did I mention he also has a blog? You'd probably rather be reading that, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I'm a little behind the curve here, because I didn't even know Moby released a new album last year, much less know about this bizarre video. If you don't know what a key party is, go rent The Ice Storm, though this may be a lot more disturbing. And there are furries. Furries are always disturbing.

Some random thoughts

* I've visited UTC over a dozen times, I'm sure, and never ventured into the cemetery across the street. So I finally decided to do so this weekend, and promptly got soaked to the bone by a sudden rainstorm. It's as if the heavens opened up to tell me "you shall not enter hallowed ground".

* On impulse, leaving work on Friday I checked out Père Goriot. While I haven't finished it yet, I may have a new favorite novelist. I was struck by Balzac's talent at cataloging mundane details in a compelling way and his Dickensian gift for character - an insight into the mundane and a gift for highlighting the grotesque within - with bit more viciousness than Dickens, which of course I immediately took to. If I decide to adopt this as a hobby, I'll have plenty to do: there are a whopping ninety five novels in La Comédie humaine. And with 95 of them that will significantly increase the odds of proving Lucy Liu wrong and serendipitously meeting my soulmate lurking in that section of the bookstore or library. You know, you'd think that spending forty hours a week in a library would also increase the odds of meeting a Balzac-reading, or at least functionally literate, woman, but you'd be wrong.

* For some reason I keep hearing Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died in Your Arms". Not by choice, mind you. I used to think that song was so deep. I'd drive along at night with the window down, the song blaring on the radio, my hair blowing ludicrously in the wind, and think about how deep it was. But you know, I have no idea what the hell that song is about. "Loving by proxy"? What the hell does that even mean?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Steve Benson

The blogosphere is outraged - outraged I tell you! - about this June 5th editorial cartoon by Steve Benson of the Arizona Republic. This isn't the first time the Pulitzer winner has pissed people off. His classic 1997 anti-death penalty cartoon parodied a famous photo of a firefighter carrying a dying one-year old out of the wreckage of the Oklahoma City bombing to point out the irony in executing Timothy McVeigh. Whatever your opinion regarding that execution, this was powerful, provocative stuff, editorial cartooning at its best. And of course, in the ensuing controversy, almost everyone missed the point entirely. Even firefighters complained that they were portrayed as "advocates of death", which any idiot can see that's not what's going on here. Benson rightfully stood his ground and refused to apologize: "I don't apologize to people who don't understand cartooning."

The usual suspects on the right like Michelle are trying to manufacture some outrage and get everyone worked up into a lather. The Republic has already received some 1350 letters on the cartoon. If you look past the righteous outrage in the letters and the blogs, occasionally you'll find a legitimate point. Benson has been accused of rushing to judgment and making accusations before all the facts are in. But I doubt anyone would be so outraged about Benson's supposed pre-judgment if he had not made his point in such a provocative manner.

Editorial cartooning is in danger of becoming a lost art, with too many cartoonists parroting conventional wisdom with tame, inoffensive, obvious "humor". ("Those clowns in Congress did it again. What a bunch of clowns.") Too many editors fear the controversy that a good cartoonist can bring and too many publishers are getting rid of cartoonists because of cost cutting or because they don't like their politics. So it's good to see a cartoonist who isn't afraid to be provocative or to piss people off, and we should encourage people like Benson to keep at it. I don't usually care for Benson's work. To me he's a guy with a relatively low batting average, but when he does score a hit, it goes out of the park.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

This just in....Bush hates gays

A lot of interesting things in the new issue of Rolling Stone. The political story is "The Politics of Fear", about Bush's shameless gay bashing in an attempt to boost his poll numbers and rouse his base of conservative fundies. Now this is nothing new, and everything in the article has been reported piecemeal elsewhere, but it's often instructive to see everything in one place, if only to get a handle on how bad things really are.

It's obvious to everyone that Bush's touting of the anti-gay marriage amendment - a sudden emergency in year six of his presidency - is transparent ploy.
"He's some kind of demagogue without any core values whatsoever...His only dominant value is expediency. He's only doing this because he's losing what core support he had, and anyone with half a brain can see it. He's shameless."

Were those Democratic talking points? A raging Hollywood liberal? No, that was Fred Phelps, right-wing America's prophet of hate, the guy who pickets funerals of people, including straight people, because he hates gays so much. If there's going to be gay bashing, he's got his own bat, and he'll bring an extra one for you. Now if you can't get this guy to show up to your gay bashing party, you're doing something very very wrong. Nobody's falling for this one.
A friend of the family told Newsweek that the president's decision was "purely political. I don't think he gives a shit about it."

Even Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of the Vice President, is pissed off. Welcome aboard. Finally.
"I think one of the reasons you're seeing so much sturm und drang from the conservatives is that they know that they're losing the debate," says Dan Savage, a national political columnist who chronicled his experience as a gay father in The Kid. "The polls on gay people, gay marriage and gay adoption track more and more favorably with every passing year. Republicans want to lock in their bigotry now, while they have what they perceive to be a majority. But you can't have Rosie on The View and Elton John packing Mom and Pop in at Caesars Palace and gay people all over television, and then have these politicians run out there with a straight face and say that 'gay and lesbian relationships are a threat to the family.' We are winning in the culture -- which is why we'll ultimately win the political war."

While I think Savage is essentially correct, I worry about putting too much faith in eventual historic vindication. Most people think history is nothing but progress, technological, cultural, social, a one way arrow pointing towards the future. But things can backslide; battles and rights can be lost. The sad failure of Reconstruction led to a hundred years of Jim Crow. While things eventually improved, I don't think we should wait a hundred years again.

The issue also contains a fascinating portrait of James Brown by Jonathan Lethem, novelist of The Fortress of Solitude. Lethem portrays him as a Greek god, striding through life in a way that seems beyond life, a figure equally capable of casual acts of genius and causal acts of astonishing pettiness. He seems utterly in control of everything while at the same time completely unaware of his surroundings, like an Alzheimer's patient.
For my part as a witness, if I could convey only one thing about James Brown it would be this: James Brown is, like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, a man unstuck in time. He's a time traveler, but unlike the HG Wells-ian variety, he lacks any control over his migrations in time, which also seem to be circumscribed to the period of his own allotted lifespan. Indeed, it may be the case that James Brown is often confused as to what moment in time he occupies at any given moment...James Brown began browsing through the decades ahead -- Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and perhaps even into the Nineties -- and saw, or, more correctly, heard, the future of music. This, if my theory is correct, explains the stubbornly revolutionary cast of his musical efforts from that time on, the way he single-handedly seemed to be trying to impart an epiphany to which only he had easy access, an epiphany to do with rhythm, and with the kinetic possibilities inherent but to that point barely noticed in the R&B and soul music around him...This time-traveler theory would best explain what is hardest to explain about James Brown, especially to younger listeners who live so entirely in a sonic world of James Brown's creation: that he made it all sound this way. That it sounded different before him...We all dwell in the world James Brown saw so completely before we came along into it; James Brown, in turn, hasn't totally joined us here in the future he made...that may be because for him it was essentially occurring to him for the first time, or, rather, that there is no first time: All his moments are one. James Brown, in this view, is always conceiving the idea of being James Brown, as if nobody, including himself, had thought of it until just now. At any given moment James Brown is presently reinventing funk.

He also paints a vivid portrait of the world around Brown, of his hangers on and his band, musicians of astonishing talent who have to show other, lesser bands like the Black Eyed Peas how to play. Yet their talents are frustrated by Brown, afraid to put their full talent on display in case they incur the wrath of Brown's pettiness. They've taken to cutting tracks in the off hours behind Brown's back, which they eagerly play for Lethem, like he's a downed fighter pilot learning the secret workings of the French resistance. At first I thought that the band would suffer repercussions for having their secret sessions become public knowledge, but in the odd, self-centered world of James Brown, he's probably already forgotten he was interviewed by some guy from Rolling Stone, or if he remembers, he'll probably have his valet give him the highlights.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Hot for teacher

Tamara Hoover, an art teacher at Austin High School in Texas, is fighting her dismissal after topless photos taken by her girlfriend were found in a Flickr account. School officials want to revoke her teaching certification, which would prevent her from teaching anywhere in Texas. Hoover is unrepentant, saying (rightfully so) that "I'm an artist and I'm going to participate in the arts". Whatever you think of the wisdom of posting nude pics of yourself on the internet or whether or not such boudoir photography is art, the fact is the human form is a pivotal artistic subject. Sure, nude photography is probably best kept out of a high school classroom, but you can't expect an artist to eschew that subject matter in the rest of her work and life. No doubt some (most?) parents and administrators would prefer a teacher limit themselves to drawing cute kittens. Take a look at the appalling "quick poll" accompanying the CNN news story on Hoover: "Can nude photos be art?" The fact that this is even a matter for debate shows that we have a long way to go before our culture grows up.

Such controversies usually have their root in something petty. Here it started with a dispute over ceramics equipment with another art teacher. Students told this rival teacher about the pictures and she brought them to the attention of administrators. Apparently everyone's time and money is being wasted because some people can't figure out how to share a kiln. Instead of using some dirt to screw over another teacher, this art teacher should have thought about who is going to stand up for her when someone finds some of her work objectionable.