Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What All the Fuss Is About

Last night, I watched the first five episodes of Lost, and was pleasantly, but inconveniently surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Inconveniently, that is, because I will now have to go and watch every episode of it and may have to make sure I have working TV reception to watch new episodes. Dammit.

The show is very much character driven, which is always something I enjoy when done well, and there is a good balance of characters you can't help but like, characters you can't help but hate, and characters you can't help but feel ambivalent towards. Especially noteworthy among the cast are a lovable fat white guy who calls everyone "dude," a black guy who has just (a few days before the first episode) met his estranged son (whom he calls "man"), an sexy Iraqi technology expert*, and an older bald guy who reminds me of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper after all the stress and pies have caught up with him.

The first five episodes exposited the situation and principle cast well. The writing deals with issues like sexual and racial tension with a downright incredible amount of grace for a mainstream show.

*For a couple minutes in the first episode, I, with shameful amounts of wrongness, pegged him for Hispanic, but felt redeemed for recognizing that he distinctly wasn't Iraqi either, but rather of South Asian descent.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bass Instincts

For me, this has been a week of falling in love again with music, and especially with the electric bass as an instrument. Too often in the recent past, I put bass playing on the back burner in favor of guitar playing. But this is changing thanks to several things and people, which have inspired in me newfound passion for my old instrument. Here they are in order of coming to my attention over the week, in narrative form (and with a number of links included):

On tuesday night, I was stopping at the local food co-op for something to eat after practice with Whiskey Galöre, the band in which I am playing bass these days and which started me on the serious revitalization of my practice. On my way back to my car thereafter, I saw a flier for a show happening the next night at WWU's Underground Coffeehouse featuring Taarka, the "seismic gypsy hypno-jazz" quartet who are mainstays of assorted Seattle art festivals and other similar events, as well as playing many more real shows (which I had not yet myself attended).

I have seen Taarka play with several bassists before, none of which have disappointed. But when I saw them wednesday night, I was blown away. Doing the greater share of this blowing was the bassist playing with them that night, Damian Erskine. Here surely is a god among bassists. The six strings of his instrument are merely appendages of his cunning hands and mind. Suffice is to say, I want to have his bass babies.

The next day, after enjoying the recordings on Damian's site, and doing a fair bit of practicing myself, I did some thinking about the fact that when I get some disposable cash, I need to invest in new amplification for my bass rig, specifically a couple of smaller speakers do complement the booming thuds of my single 18-inch speaker. But, I was quickly distracted and lulled into long, lustful stares at several ridiculously exotic instruments (seen here and here). I shall certainly have one of these, next time I have five or six thousand dollars lying around.

So there it is, and now I take on the playing of my instrument with an enthusiasm I have not known for a long while. Good days to be.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Quick post while I try and think of something better to write about. A brief anecdote and an odd ponderance.

First, the story: The other night, I was in the car with several people, and the radio was on. The station playing was Vancouver, BC's The Fox, a rock station more or less equivalent to KISW in Seattle (except with much less irritating DJs and, as you'll see, a bit better music sometimes). The song playing when the station turned on was both familliar and awesome, but I wasn't sure what it was. I first proposed that it was "Who Was In My Room Last Night" by The Butthole Surfers (which I had not and have not heard in years), an assertion backed up my room mate, who said that it sounded very Butthole Surfers-esque. As it turns out, the song was "Jesus Built My Hotrod" by Ministry, which just so happens to have a guest performance by Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes. Funny! Sort of!

Now, the odd thought: If I think Rosie the Riveter is hot, does that make me a good feminist or a bad one?


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Thursday, May 18, 2006


This article has come to my attention, presenting examples of real estate developers in Seattle getting considerable tax breaks for making "affordable" apartments available. The catch: "affordable" rent is defined as starting around $900 for a one-bedroom. It makes me question such homesickness I have for my hometown, especially when up in Bellingham I am able to find a four-bedroom house on a 1/2 acre property for $1250 a month.

But much more important than all that, the article mentions one such new building that will include these tax-relief projects, a building that is to be called Lothlorien, and will be on the 4700 block of University Way. This will make two buildings in the University District, in fact within no more than four blocks of each other, named after sites in Fellowship of the Ring. The other has been around I'm not sure how long on 15th Ave NE, and is called Rivendell. It's official then, the Eldar have captured the U-District. The University itself will change its name to Eregion, and the Safeco building will soon be renamed Barad-Dûr, being a den of great evil. Or maybe Mordor is in fact Pullman, in the desert far to the east? That would make all Seattle Eriador, and the Waterfront the Grey Havens on the Gulf of Lune (though I shudder to think that this might make Bremerton Eressëa).

Of course, clearly these developers don't know anything about Middle-Earth, as 15th is east of the Ave, whereas Rivendell is west of Lorien. Fools.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Howdy, "Partner"

I don't seem to be in a lot of company with this, but I'm not very happy with the general use of the term "life partners" or just "partners" when referring to members of same-sex couples. I find it condescending and uncomfortable, and I think it unnecessarily separates straight and gay couples into two different sorts. To more thoroughly explain my feelings on this, let's look at some of the common other terms.

An unmarried couple with some amount of commitment to the relationship is some combination of boyfriend and girlfriend (one of each or two of one). Once married, they are spouses, or husband and wife, or wife and wife, or husband and husband. Of course, each of these three terms is a little bit problematic, as spouse sounds almost as cold and legalistic as partner, and husband and wife carry a lot of cultural baggage from older days and gender constructions. But these older ideas can be passed out of current mentalities, and there is no inherent problem with calling someone a husband or a wife -- or a partner for that matter. The issue I have with this term is its use solely in same sex couples. It seems to be saying that this relationship is somehow different on a fundamental level from that between a committed man and woman. Obviously, there will be some practical differences between how the two couples interact, but that can be said of any pair of couples, regardless of the gender makeup of either.

The term partner wouldn't bother me at all if every straight person who ever used it would use it just as readily for their own significant other.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

On Blog Comments

Often times, on online forums such as blogs and livejournals and message boards, comments are made that offer nothing real, and often are better off left unmade. This comes in a variety of forms. One I've seen is a simple:


This one seems to denote "I've read this post and have nothing more to offer about it." In this case, why the hell have you bothered to comment? Imagine you are a leader of some group or body: would you, in such a case, throw an entire press conference to point out that you are aware of something and have nothing to say about it? I should think not!

Of course, much more common, grievous, and insipid is a response of "LOL!!!" or "HAHA THATS FUNNY!" or perhaps "Oh man, that's funny because of [restatement of punch line and/or key element of set up]!" We're all proud that you get the joke, and I'm sure the author is satisfied with himself or herself that they have amused you, but these serve almost as little purpose as the voiceless recognition of point comments mentioned above, and are many times more annoying.

Another common comment message that I have yet to form a solid opinion on is often expressed via the web shorthand "iawtc" (which I like to think of as being pronounced "yowtch"), or "I agree with this comment." This has more substance than the above items, because it at least offers an opinion, if not an original one. On the other hand, it carries little more purpose than saying "I have nothing to say." If you do agree, maybe you have something more to offer on the point, or perhaps there is something in particular that you found agreeable about the original post or thread?

Of course, for all its wordiness, this post has little more purpose than all that I've mentioned. I will write something a lot better later, though.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pro-Life Display Revisited

All of WWU seems atwitter over the nonsense last week. And as if the group who put it on weren't bad enough, there's a large contingent of its detractors who are going about their opposition the absolute wrong way: acts of vandalism and calls for censorship.

During the second day of the demonstration, a few rebellious souls decided that just making a counter-protest and doing what they could to make the "Genocide" people appear more clearly as the fools they are wasn't enough. They had to destroy the group's display. They caused a fair amount of damage and are of course being disciplined for it.

But much worse, and much larger, is the group of people who felt that the group should not have been allowed to demonstrate in the first place. They regard the nonsense as "hate speech," and are petitioning to have such things forbidden from public display. Some have claimed that after first seeing the display, they were forced to stay home much of the rest of the week for fear of trauma. Others claim to have needed to retreat to the campus counseling center, so shocked were they.

The response to the hate speech allegations by the campus pro-life group on campus is of course bad in its own right. From WWU's Western Front newspaper, spoken by Western for Life club president Tom Herring:

“We had no signs of hatred, we had no signs of condemnation for anyone,” Herring said. “All we were doing is exposing what abortion is and revealing accurate pictures depicting what’s taking place in an abortion and stimulating dialogue on campus as to whether or not this is what we want to endorse as a country as a good choice.”

There is a lot of dishonesty in what this Herring fellow says (although, if this is the same guy I think it is, mentioned in the previous post, then I'm not surprised): if you are "exposing" abortion as an act of "genocide," then clearly you are condemning its supporters or those who have performed it as mass murderers, and you know damn well that this will not stimulate dialogue, but rather it will stimulate rage and controversy. Either this man is an idiot or a vile liar, and I'm willing to believe that it's both.

But the reaction to this, while not so dishonest, is naïve and immature. One cannot expect to go through college life without being offended; and once it has happened, one cannot expect the offender to be punished for having a different point of view. That is not the administration's job, and it god damn well should not be. If you are scared to leave home for fear of being offended, or if being exposed to an extreme viewpoint leads you to seek psychological counseling, then you simply do not have the emotional or intellectual maturity or strength to be in the environment of a university. Period.

Liars and brats, all of them.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ban Bloody Noses!

Anyone who has seen any protests at all has probably seen multiple abortion-related protests. The pro-choice types with their catchy slogans like "Keep your laws off my body," "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries," "If you can't trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a life," and on one occasion, "If you can show us Dead Fetuses, I should be allowed to show some Clitoris;" these usually pop up during demonstrations by the other side, the pro-life contingent, who show dead fetuses. They also show pictures of war and genocide related deaths, purporting to draw a connection. There are also bible verses.

But the forefront of their argument seems to be in the pictures of abortions. With no real argument given as to why they believe these little aborted pre-humans are equatable to the victims of war and starvation and deadly hate. It seems enough for them to say that abortion is bloody and gross, and therefore wrong in the eyes of their God. Of course, anything that produces that much blood is clearly the holocaust returned in greater force. You know, like open-heart surgery. Or childbirth. Then, of course, there are the arguments that abortion is wrong because God says so, ipso facto. This argument seems to be all you need if you want something labeled wrong, unlawful, or at least controversial in this country. God doesn't agree with abortion, homosexuality, evolution, or disagreeing with God. It says so right here in this book that says everything in the book is true, how can I argue with that?

The past couple days at WWU, a group of pro-life demonstrators have had up quite an eyesore of a display of blood and fetuses and hanged black men and concentration camps, and were accompanied by a few people holding up their nutty Bible signs, reading "God's love is CONDITIONAL! You-must [sic] REPENT (Luke 13.3)" and other such things. And this of course drew a multitude of counterprotestors, a few of them scantly clad.

But then came the part that made it truly remarkable, in the worst possible way, to me. Words do not exist to convey my ire when I saw a photo in yesterday's edition of the Western Front (the school's rather pathetic newspaper) of the leader of the school's pro-life club. He was standing next to the large moving truck that had contained the pictures in their display. And on his face was a look of transcendent smugness, of powerful self-satisfaction. He smirked, looking at the likeness of an aborted fetus on the truck's side. That smile told much. This is a man who knew what bullshit he was spouting and gathering others to spout. How could he not? How could anyone who took seriously the "genocide" that is abortion grin like an idiot king when talking or thinking about it? Here truly is a man who deserves to be shot every moment of his life. In honor of this asshole, I leave you with another quote from one of yesterday's Bible nuts' signs:

"Are you a fool? Then repent!"

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Social Construction of Science?

Last night, I was discussing with my room mate, an aspiring and studying geologist, his field of study. The topic turned to how easy it would be, with some amount of education in the field, to convince lay people of just about anything about rocks. He could make up subclassifications of rocks and arbitrarily assign them, and most would be none the wiser as he spoke. "See that?" he might ask Joe or Jane Businessperson, "it's slightly darker than the others, which means that it's not just a grain of sand, but a small piece of goobernatitious rock."

I thought then that the same could indeed be said of any field of physical science, and indeed a few other fields. If someone claims (rightfully) to be a physicist, or a linguist, or a historian (not to be mistaken for an historian), then none would question him or her as they spoke as voices of authority on laws of motion, or the mechanics of glottal stops in Koisan languages, or the events preceding the Prussian Social Reform (easily the most boring sounding social movevment ever named).

I, on the other hand, am a social scientist. I study society. As such, people tend to think that I am no more qualified to talk to them about my field than they are. After all, they are part of society. They can clearly see that everyone who is X does Y more than those filthy Zs. Nevermind that the Z turn out to be fabulous Yers, if one looks at the numbers, whereas the X types tend a lot more towards ∂.

Fun fact: before the work of August Comte (about 1830), sociology was called "social physics." Maybe if it weren't for Comte's egomaniacal renaming frenzy, the field would be taken more seriously by the public (but probably all the less seriously by physicists).

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