Friday, May 23, 2008

Really I Just Want It All to End

I would rather Senator Hillary Clinton drop out of the race about now. I think Senator Barack Obama would be the better candidate. This doesn't make me a sexist.

Here are some things:

I like Sen. Clinton sometimes. I like her health care plan, I like her response to the sexism that she has seen. To hear her talk about the bullshit media pigs who spewed unthinkable, bilious word vomit about her gender, her purported resemblance to a nagging housewife and whatever other nonsense, is to hear her talk like a real thinker. The fact is she's right about it and it might be a different game right now if we didn't have people like Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough on people's TVs.

However, I don't like her a lot of the rest of the time. I don't like she played a Republican game about gas taxes, and then to defend it played the same game that Christian Conservatives play when defending abstinence-only education or creationism: the Screw-the-Experts Game. She plays the anti-intellectual card, she does not win points with me.

I also don't like that despite her heartfelt, well-spoken response to media misogyny, she has made no effort to reject the racism of some of her supporters. She has made blunt - and admittedly true - statements about how white working class voters support her and not Sen. Obama. However, despite the truth of this, as the favored candidate to these people isn't it her responsibility to at least give some lip service to the thought that maybe race should not influence their voting? I mean, obviously she wants their votes and that's fine, but I do not like seeing a major Democratic candidate saying "well sure they're racist, that's just how it is, so just back off and let them vote for me for the wrong reason," especially when she's seeing discrimination of her own.* Her readiness to play up GOP talking points regarding Obama and Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan has not sold me on her either.

It boils down to this: I respect that Hillary Clinton wants to win, and if she loses the reason damn well shouldn't be because she's a woman. But that doesn't give her the right to run a hatemongering campaign (based on race or intellectualism), especially under the banner of the Democratic party.

*Notably, Sen. Obama could have done more to reject the sexism that surrounds his opponent. However, it's not like he made any speeches proclaiming that he would win black voters because black people do not trust women.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Anti-Intellectualism Jumps the Shark?

I want everyone to pay very specific attention to this story. Rep. John Duncan (R-TN, natch) said, regarding the mountains and mountains of evidence that Abstinence-Only sex ed is useless, that such facts are "elitist." He thinks that people gathering facts and evaluating them in an academic, impartial fashion, is elitist and would rather empower individual families with all education decisions (from Yahoo! via Pharyngula)

So most of you have probably noticed how anti-intellectual Americans can be. The message here is little different than the message of the "bitter" news cycle Obama was caught in recently, the idea that he was elitist because of the blunt and correct observation he made about the American populace. Of course, the problem here is that by his own definition of elitism, Duncan must himself be elitist; he is an elected lawmaker, named by his constituency to be an authority, an elite, who is empowered to make decisions for the greater community, rather than individual family units making those decisions themselves. If Rep. Duncan feels so strongly, perhaps he should step down as a Representative of his people?

The greater point here: this is the logical end of anti-intellectualism as it stands now (well, barring a great holocaust wherein all academics are lynched for thinking too much anyway). The anti-intellectual sentiment grows so strong that any intellectual statement on anything ever is taken as elitist, some sort of dangerous oligarchy (as opposed to the safe one that exists in the hands of plutocrats, but that's really a story for another day). Maybe in seeing this logical end, a few people will take a step back and say, "Wait a minute, that's moronic. Ought I to reconsider my stance vis-a-vis these poor maligned intellectuals? Oh dear, I'm even talking like one. This is rather problematic." I hope so anyway.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007


If you heard about one celebrity misfortune today, it was probably the death of Ike Turner. Ike Turner was an important fixture of early rock and roll, but in the end much more notable for being a horrid man beast who beat his wife (a much longer-lasting fixture of rock and roll). Ike Turner has not done anything worth mentioning in a number of years.

On the other hand, Terry Pratchett announced today that he has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Terry Pratchett is a confoundingly brilliant author and by all accounts a wonderful person, and plans to finish writing at least two more books, hopefully more. Hopefully many more. Best wishes to Terry and his family and friends during what must be a fucking horrifying time.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ideal for WHAT!?

Sadly, No! links to this amazing piece of future Americana. I've got to say, while my first and second thoughts regarded the general ridiculousness of it and the completely batshit insane slogan they have chosen respectively (seriously seriously wow wow wow), my third thought was that the white-cross-on-blue looks remarkably like the Scottish flag. One nation, (no) underwear.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Best Potential Gay Bar Name Ever: The Rum and Cock

I chose the title because I felt it needed to be said, and I couldn't think of a good relavent title.

It's always struck me as pretty strange that mainstream conservatives don't at least publicly disavow people as completely unhinged as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.* But, I think I might have figured out why it is.

Modern Conservatism is a very conflicted ideology. It relies upon reactionary fundamentalist Christians for political power, but it does not necessarily embrace fundamentalist Christianity. And yet, vestiges of older conservative ideas (usually bigotry against women, minorities, gays) rest in their head, and sometimes peak out through their chosen mouthpieces (this conflicts very directly, of course, with those members of the movement who are gay themselves, as we see in cases like Larry Craig and that guy who gives blow jobs because of how scared he is of black men).

Because modern conservatives can't decide if they agree with Coulter and Limbaugh or if they think they are horrible, they have created a compromise solution: they treat them as humorists. This is also because conservatism mixes very poorly with humor, and as such there are very few actual humorists who use conservative politics in their work. Of course, in their respective ways Coulter and Limbaugh really do have humorous aspects to them. Limbaugh uses a fair amount of attempts at humor in his programs, usually in a style that is aggressively bigoted or misogynist (surely we have not forgotten "Barack the Magic Negro"). Coulter is a little trickier, because while everything she says is delivered as if it were a joke, and indeed she says things that are so ridiculous that they really ought to be jokes, she has never given any confirmation that she is joking (unless she gets in trouble; see John Edwards = faggot).

In both cases, for those on the mainstream right, it is much more comfortable to assume, since they feel strangely drawn to these people, that they are joking. Conservatives need to think of reasons to label these zealots as their spokespeople without openly embracing their ideologies, so they add a subtext of joking to their messages (in the case of Coulter, it could also be argued that they are adding the subtext of "See, conservative women can also be 'hot'"). Granted, this is entirely hypothetical, but I feel like there isn't much else that explains people who seem reasonable on the surface even sort of embracing Coulter and Limbaugh.

*I know that people on the right often say much the same thing about far-left people like Michael Moore, but they also say it about such "radical" liberals as Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, so this piece will take as a given that they are wrong.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wales, Pt. 2

And we are back.

I had intended here a section about all the great things that increased my love of Wales, and a few things that are cool anyway. But rather than do all that, I will just talk in general about being a Walesophile (or whatever you want to call it).

I have a tattoo on my right arm of Y Draig Goch, the Red Dragon, which is the Welsh emblem, found on their flag, some local beer labels, and assorted other Walesful things. The most common first question regarding this is something along the lines of "What's the deal with the dragon?" The second is usually "So, are you Welsh." It's a natural question, to which my answer is usually "No, I'm just a fan."

Fig. 2a. A dragon on my arm, or an army of my dragon?

No one overtly seems to judge me for this, but then actively criticizing someone's tattoo is rather a faux pas, so they could just be polite. But, reactions in general are usually at least "oh cool," and at most "that's awesome!" The only situation related to the tattoo that has had me at a loss for proper reaction is when I met someone else who wasn't from Wales who had the same tattoo. It was the foreignese/Eurotrash employee of a local cafe; he pointed out my tattoo, said he had the same one, showed me (it was slightly further up his arm than mine, and it also had more friends), and we talked about how Wales is great and we both have visited and loved it. At first I was a little put off just by having the same tattoo as someone else, but once that had sunk in, I enjoyed the encounter quite a bit. Someone else understanding on that level really helped me feel less awkward about my generally Wales-influenced mental state.

I have been trying to teach myself the Welsh language for a couple years now, but it is very slow going. This is not because it is exceptionally hard to learn (the pronunciation is by far the hardest aspect and I've had that down for a while), but because it is hard to learn a language independently and completely removed from other speakers. If anyone wants to learn Welsh with me and speak it to the end of confusing others around us, and essentially having our own secret language in almost any situation, feel free to let me know.

Fig. 2b. Curiously, this is a google image search result for "Welsh language"

I have taken something of a liking as well to Welsh music. Wales' folk music is actually surprisingly different from Irish or Scottish music, bearing some resemblence to mainland northern European folk music in its tonality and flow. The most widely known form of indigenous Welsh music is male vocal choirs. Also popular among people who are me are the Super Furry Animals (who often sing in Welsh) and Tom Jones (who sadly does not). There are two annual festivals in Wales that I positively ache to attend. One is the National Eisteddfod (ay-steth-vod), the largest Welsh cultural event there is. This year it was in Mold; next year it will be in Cardiff. The other is the Fishguard Folk Festival. Fishguard is on the southwest coast of Wales, in Pembrokeshire, and the festival looks to be a sort of Welsh Folklife. Count me in, sirs.

I take interest in Welsh or Wales-themed literature and film. I cheer for Welsh teams when they pop up in sporting events (which is generally just in international rugby, unless I am paying attention to second-tier British football leagues). Sometimes, I bake Welsh cookies and cakes. Basically, two roads diverged in a forest, and I take the one that is Welsh. And that has made all the difference.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

UN: Clearly Megalomaniacal Tyrants.

Wales Part 2 is in the works, but it's going to be undercut real quick by a post on a slightly more important matter.

I was listening just now to an NPR report on the international politics surrounding solutions to climate change, and heard the same old predictable things about how there needs to be an international solution, and how the US (emitter of 20% of all greenhouse gases) would absolutely need to be involved for any meaningful results to occur. The Danish and English spoke of how we aren't doing our part, and how there needs to be an internationally agreed upon protocol (maybe if it were discussed and agreed upon in, say, Kyoto...), because self-policing just plain doesn't work in this matter. The American response to this was so typical and yet so stupid, it was almost unbelieveable. The American talking head (I didn't catch who exactly it was) declared, "There is no world government [or] dictator" who can give orders regarding this. In so many words, what he said was "You can't tell us what to do!"

This is really the overarching problem with the American mindset. We will do what we want because you can't tell us not to! This is why we have such rampant environmental problems ("I will drive this ridiculous gas guzzling SUV because you hippies can't tell me not to!") and such terrible suburban sprawl ("I will live where I want! I can afford a bigger house out in the boonies and I can commute with my ridiculous gas guzzling SUV!"). It might even be why we entered Iraq this last time ("You can't tell us NOT to invade this other sovereign nation! Screw you UN, you aren't our real dad!").

David Cross once said of the rhetoric of the war on terror ("The terrorists hate our freedom," etc.), "Are we a nation of eight-year-olds?" I'm starting to think that we are in fact 16 year olds. Which might be a lot worse.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Wales, Pt. 1

As many of you are aware, there's one thing I'm into in an almost over-the-top and generally unexplained fashion. That thing is Wales. After having been questioned so much on my fascination, I've done some thinking about it, and shall herein attempt to illuminate for you all a bit of the history and reasoning behind me and my Wales fixation.

Background and Initial Curiosity

Fig. 1a. Wales is well known for being full of Sheep. This is not an inaccurate characterization.

Of course always aware of a place called Wales, and that it was part of the United Kingdom, I was all the same unfazed more or less by the existence of the tiny country. The first two things I can remember being accutely aware of as particularly Welsh are Tolkien's inspiration by the Welsh language as a base from which to build Sindarin Elvish and an obscure bowed lyre instrument called a crwth. I saw one on display at a stringed instrument store and was told a bit of its history -- there were traditionally 24 songs written for it that all crwth players knew, and it was popular before the much more versatile fiddle was introduced Britain -- and its function -- it had two bowed-and-fingered courses and two plucked drone strings. I loved obscure things, I loved interesting instrument designs, and I certainly loved words where "W" was a vowel. But, for some time, I learned nothing else new that was Welsh.

Fig. 1b. The crwth: funny looking and hard to pronounce

The next step came when I decided to plan a brief tour of mainland Britain, and wondered what parts I should visit. I consulted assorted travel guides and general facts about the island, and decided that this trip would primarily to Wales and Western England. While I learned a good bit about England in these studies, the facts that caught my eyes most were those about Wales. The literature focused more on North Wales than South, so I didn't learn especially a lot in advance about the latter. But I did learn a few phrases in the language ("Bore da" means hello, "diolch" means thanks, so forth), a brief history of King Edward I's conquest of the Welsh and subsequent building of many castles, a few facts about the region and national park of Snowdonia, and the general demeanor of the rural, sheep-filled north versus the largely urban and suburban south.

Plans for the trip solidified, and I decided to spend two days in the south and two days in the north, selecting a town from each with a castle in it and about which I had at least some information to go on. Cardiff, the capital and first city, was chosen for the south, and Conwy, a tiny and somewhat touristy village, for the north.

The Trip

Cardiff was the second city I visited in the UK, after Bath, and not counting Gatwick airport as visiting London (it's just an airport, you see). I got off the train in the central city and hopped a Welsh cab for the hostel at which I had booked a bed, and was immediately struck by a gorgeous city that reminded me instantly of my own beloved Seattle, especially the green and greatly walkable neighborhood in which I was staying. Unfortunately, while I was in Cardiff I was still figuring out just how to travel, and wasn't quite good at it yet, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have, or meet as many great locals as I might have (one part of the problem is, having been a 20-year-old American at the time, I was not used to being in public houses, and thus was not good at striking up conversations there). But my impressions of Cardiff were this: scenic, friendly, and easily maneuvered around. I also remember there being a lot of very, very attractive women in Cardiff.

Fig. 1c. The buses even look kind of like Metro

Having seen all I could schedule myself to see of Cardiff, I took a train (via a brief stop to visit a friend in Birmingham) to the North. The train went to Llandudno, from which I caught a cab to a bed and breakfast just outside the old castle town of Conwy. The cab ride, by the way, was two or three miles and cost all of 2 pounds. So there.

I remember several things about Conwy that made me truly happy. The first is how nice the Bed and Breakfast I stayed at was. There I got the two best nights' sleep I had gotten sleep I had gotten thus far on my entire trip, the lady who ran it was very nice, and both mornings I got delicious British breakfasts with vegetarian sausage and incredible grilled mushrooms. The other things had much more to do with the general character of the town. Everyone was incredibly friendly. The lady at the post office saw my last name on the traveller's checks I was cashing, and talked quite a bit about how she might have known someone with the last name Clauss to have been around Conwy at some point. The guy who ran the shop by the castle that sold replica medieval weaponry and armor was enthusiastic and helpful. The two middle eastern dudes who ran the fish and chips shop on by the quay were extremely friendly, if impleaceably shady. Most memorable of all, though were the people at the George and Dragon pub.

My second evening in Conwy, I decided to go pub-hopping. The first I don't recall the name of, but I went early enough that it was empty save a gossip of French teenagers with whom I had a long and broken conversation in English and French (and something in between). The second, I believe it was called something like the Post Master or Postman, was nice and would have been enjoyable had I been better about socializing myself. But after a couple drinks, I left in favor of a third pub, the George and Dragon. The folks there were of a much older set than the other two, and also of a much friendlier manner. They introduced themselves (though I'll be damned if I can remember any names; I was pretty tipsy at this point), asked about my national origin, and we discussed our common dislike of George Bush and Tony Blair. Eventually, I left the pub happy, and stumbled back out of the castle walls to my comfortable bed.

Fig. 1d. It is important to emphasize that I think North Wales is fucking gorgeous

The next morning, I left Conwy and Wales in favor of the disappointing English town of Chester, taking with me memories, pictures, a miniature replica claymore, and accidentally my room key. I haven't been back to Wales since but I hope to return as soon as possible at this point.

Next time: Learning more and yearning more.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gender and Clothes, or Buy Me a Dress!

I had this thought the other day, and then decided that it's probably a thought lots of people have had before, so I figured I'd just open it to a floor discussion.

I've always been struck by the fact that men's fashion is just less exciting than women's fashion (that is, men's fashion is limited to a few things, just variations on the three piece suit in most cases). I came to the conclusion that this is probably because of the former division of labor by gender in society; women did wear whatever they want (within the limits of other social guidelines) because they do not have the constrictions upon dress of a physical labor environment as men did. Now, men and women have similar labor constraints, but the clothing constraints have not changed for women. This is because the labor environment has also changed to that of a post-industrial economy. So, as the restrictions of women's lifestyles have been eased, so should have the restrictions of men's fashion. So it should be socially acceptable for me to wear a dress.

It's rought, but there's the theory

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Don't! Stop Believing!

Last week, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, two of the creationism movement's foremost idiots, went on national tv to try and prove the existence of God, claiming they would be able to do so without invoking faith or the Bible. Opposing them were a couple of dorky, atheist 20-somethings calling themselves the Rational Response Squad. Suffice it to say, Cameron and Comfort not only didn't prove anything, they also didn't avoid invocations of faith or scripture.

Comfort's purported proof was not in fact any sort of proof, it was conjecture. He conjectured that if you see a painting, you know there was a painter; ergo, creation is proof of creator (he has made this argument before, using a soda can as proof of a soda factory). He further claimed that, if one wanted to verify this scientifically in a lab experiment, one could gather scientists in a lab and ask them if a painting were proof of a painter. Now, there are several ways to debunk this argument, but the first that occurs to me is that that is not an experiment, it is a survey, and only proves what people think about the painting, not what actually created it. Another argument that has been made against Comfort's weird claim is that this line of thinking means something must have created God, but that's not actually proof against creation; it's more of a philosophical cunundrum. He then went on to attempt to "stir the conscience" in order to get people to do their "God given duty" and ... I'm not sure, but I think he was going for believing. This was, of course, problematic given his original premise.

The Rational Response Squad, though starting by just asserting that Comfort had failed, and debunking his several claims (making the point, among others, that the existence of a painter can be verified by asking around and finding him or her, whereas God is more elusive), then went on to make scientific arguments against creation and logical arguments against God.

This brings me to my point: in arguments between atheists and creationists, atheists will appear to win 99% of the time. Of course it helps that Comfort and Cameron are morons who also believe that bananas are proof of creation and that non-scientist evolution-supporters who claim not to be experts are a hole in the argument for Darwinian evolution, but the same would happen with other, less crazy creationists/intelligent designists. This is not because atheists are necessarily right that God does not exist. It is because modern creationists choose to attempt to use science and logic (or things they call science and logic) to prove the existence of God. The problem with this is that God, if he/she/it does exist, is not a scientific or logical being. And this is a problem, not only for Christian creationists, but for atheists as well.

The argument for creationism is that God intervened with the world in some tangible, measurable way to create life as we know it, and that we can be sure of this. The argument for atheism is that there is nothing at all, in any form anywhere, that is not in some way tangible or measurable, and that we can be sure of this. I was raised Catholic, and I never believed either of these, nor was I told to believe either of these by any spiritual authority figure in my life. I never saw a conflict of interest between what I was told about science and what I was told about religion, because it was always impressed upon me that it was beyond human understanding to grasp the way that someone like God behaves.

So to creationists, I pose this question: why do you try and prove a non-specific idea using scientific methods? And to atheists, I pose this question: how can you prove scientifically that something that is beyond science does not exist?

And to everyone, I pose another question: Why do we care? Many arguments have been made about this too, of course. Many claim that God's existence is the only reason to act within any sort of moral code, which I believe is quite a hateful comment on the human condition. And of course, it begs the question, where are people more moral, more orderly in their behavior, in theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran, or in aggressively secular states like Sweden and the Netherlands?

Some creationists have said of science that it is more of a leap of faith to deny God than to accept God. While I would call this quite a hyperbole, I would also call it a fair point that absolute denial of God is in fact somewhat of a leap of faith. To do so with surety, one must presume that only what one perceives empirically is real. This, just like the assumption that one's own set of folklore and traditions are more divine than anyone else's, is an arrogant thought. Belief - any kind - is arrogant and small-minded. Many have said it before, of course, but it bears repeating. The cliché goes that the only thing you can be sure of is that you can't be sure of anything. I, however, don't even claim to be sure that I can't be sure of anything. Who knows what revelations the next day will bring? I sure don't claim to. This is because I'm an agnostic.

You know, in case you were wondering.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Good Times

School in Lake Stevens is stupid.

I wrote a letter to the editor about this. I don't know whether or not to expect it to be published. The article is like a week old now so probably not. Anyway, here it is:

"The fact that this teacher was reprimanded for this lesson is ridiculous. God or gods or turtle forbid that a high school teacher should attempt to teach his students to consider religions equally. And that is exactly what this teacher did. It is completely irrelevant that the teacher happened to be an Atheist, or that his students knew this. Would it be a more valid lesson if taught by a Christian? If he had replaced the Christian creation story with a Pagan one, would complaints by Pagan students be so indulged? All this teacher did was encourage his students to think beyond dogma and beyond standard high school expectations. If his students are unable to do that, it is their own fault and the fault of their previous teachers, secular and spiritual alike."


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Some newses

First on the agenda, apparently a pediatrician at a medical office called Christian Medical Services in Bakersfield, CA, has refused to treat a young child because her mother had a tattoo*. I guess I'm screwed if I ever find myself desperately in need of care while in Bakersfield with only this guy around. Also I guess he's a terrible person who should be mauled to death by zombie Hippocrates.

Also, remember a few weeks ago when I discussed the situation in Sri Lanka? Apparently today saw the attacking by the Tamil Tigers of a helicopter containing diplomats from the US, Germany, and Italy. The Tigers have apologized, blaming the Sri Lankan government for placing the diplomats in harm's way. Seriously. I'm not sure if I think they have a good point or if I think they're just less ballsy than other terrorists who are up and shouting about all the ridiculous shit they've pulled within minutes of pulling it.

Speaking of whom and which, the Taliban have taken credit for a suicide bombing in Afghanistan that had Cheney as the target. Cheney was completely unhurt, but several soldiers were killed. I sense an allegory here.

*Linked to by Pharyngula

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Brief Defense

Many people just regard Valentine's Day as a bullshit holidy created by greedy greeting card moguls, or as a pounding into our heads of the reasons we should be in monogamous relationships and aren't right in the head if we don't engage in romantic love. These are valid arguments, but I would like to celebrate the day by playing devil's advocate a little.

Regarding the first point, as far as evil corporate industries go, I can't really think of a more benign one than the greeting card industry. They just want people with no creativity to be able to show their love! I mean, it's true that much worse industries (ie diamonds) have gotten on board, but as terrible as they are no one accuses them of thinking up holidays just to make more money. Let Hallmark have its day, I think we'll still be able to make it through as a society.

As far as the idea that Valentine's Day enforces the need for validation through romantic relationships, I think that it is not necessary to treat the holidy as such. Personally -- and I'm sure this is the case for most of you as well -- I grew up being expected to give valentines to everyone, for example, in my class. This is a pretty awesome message: you should love everyone. If you focus more love on your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/civil partner, that's ok, but the idea remains the same: a day to show your love. If you think of the day that way (and don't use it as an excuse to withhold love on other days), it ends up looking like a pretty bitchin' holiday, says I.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Dirtiest Thing Is Your Soul

Florida theater advertises "The Hoohaa Monologues"

Where do these people come from? How do they survive and reproduce? Why do people pay attention to them?

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Sunday, February 04, 2007


Today was the 59th anniversary of the creation of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka, known previously as Ceylon under British colonial rule. Today, like most other days in Sri Lanka, there is much in the news of those who seek to form another sovereign state on the South Asian island. "Those" would be the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who seek to create the state of Tamil Eelam in the Sri Lankan north to be a homeland for the native Tamil language group, seperate from the Sri Lankan Sinhalese language group. There are of course a number of ways to see this struggle -- as an instance of an Indo-Aryan language group oppressing a Dravidian group, as violent renegades creating terror, as just another far-off dispute out of western reckoning -- but in any case I'd like to think that on American independence day we would have thoughts on struggles for freedom on our own soil, so I feel that it is prudent to give the story of the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankans a little air today.*

Not too far from East India, in the People's Republic of China, it was the 55th birthday of Li Yinhe, a sociologist and sexologist who devotes much study to the sexual norms of the nation, a topic with just as much resonance in our own American home front. And while we are back on these familiar shores, it was also both the 1st anniversary of the death of, and the would-be 86th birthday of second-wave American feminist Betty Friedan, who studied gender roles in our own society decades ago.

And here in Bellingham, it was the 22nd birthday of your noble blogger Mike. I celebrated by pondering social issues abroad and at home, and by being with some of my very favorite people in the world. Today was a very good birthday, and perhaps will even go down with the previously mentioned historical events as a revolution, a triumph of good times over the oppression of bummed-outness and the formation of the new state of 22 Year Old Mike-istan.

*The 4th of February has actually been historically a prolific day for revolutions, reform movements, and the like. In 1861, six states first formed the Confederate States of America. In 1969, Yasser Arafat first took the reigns of the PLO. The SLA kidnapped Paty Hearst in 1974. Hugo Chavez staged a coup d'etat in Venezuala in 1992, and was elected president of the nation exactly seven years later. And, in 2000, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia became Serbia and Montenegro, a country that would be further revised in identity six years later (though for once not on this day) as the seperate states of Serbia and Montenegro.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why Does America Hate?

South Africa recognizes same sex marriages. Croatia and Israel recognize same sex civil unions.


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Friday, January 12, 2007


There is a lot about the way people talk today that pisses me off, as most of you are probably aware. Today we discuss gripes that go beyond issues of propriety of usage and semantic contradiction (as in misuses of "literally" and the phrases "very" or "sort of unique"). Today's QUIPs, or Questionably Used or Irritating Phrases deal instead with socio-cultural or political issues.

The first of these QUIPs is "World Music."

The most popular music in the world is not actually pop music. It is, in fact, world music.
--Sifl and Olly

This generally refers to any music that is non-western, or any contemporary music whose style did not originate in the English-speaking west. This is either arrogant or maliciously lazy. The assumption here is that, for all the subdivisions that can be made of American popular music, all the hundreds of subgenres of metal and punk and jazz and electronic music, all those things that end with -core, there are two words that encompass all the other music from every other society. Are you from Lapland? Perhaps Siberia? Perhaps you hail from Jakarta, or Sao Paolo, or Lagos. It doesn't matter, though, because you are just the rest of the world, so you just play "World Music." All this being said, some bands are in fact eclectic in their style, having elements of music from many different parts of the world, and thus could arguably be described as "World Music," as it is music that attempts to be simply of the world rather than its particular culture of origin.

The second QUIP: "Anti-Semitic." This, in common usage (actually, in just about all usage) means "in opposition to the Jewish people, nation, and/or society." However, it literally means a more general opposition to all Semites. Most people see the word in context and thus would assume that a Semite is a Jew. And ethnically Jewish people are indeed Semitic. However, they are scarcely the only Semites in the world. In fact, with this popular definition of Anti-Semitic, the most prominent Anti-Semites in the world are, in fact, Semitic. Care to guess who? Perhaps you have guessed it: The Palestinians. Along with Egyptians, Assyrians, Iraqis, Saudis, etc. Arabs are Semitic. A good portion of the "Anti-Semitic" statements made in the modern world are made in Arabic, a Semitic language.

Now, some racially motivated people probably are Anti-Semitic, but even these people probably seperate in their minds the cultures of the Jews and their Semitic neighbors. Preferably, if you want to describe a sentiment or person that is in opposition to the Jewish people, nation, or society, say "Anti-Hebrew," "Anti-Jewish," "Anti-Israeli," something along those lines that clarifies which Semites are being opposed.

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

More Like Eid BULL-Adha

Saddam Hussein was hanged on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid Ul-Adha. Much has been made of this, and it was probably a very stupid idea, which will upset many in the Muslim world and may serve to make Saddam a martyr. However, I think the very notion of this holiday is a hideous thing.

Eid Ul-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, commemorates one of the absolute worst stories in the original JudeoChristIslamic tradition. This is the story wherein Abraham (or Ibrahim in Arabic), prophet and father of this tradition, unquestioningly follows orders to kill his own son at God's whim. At the last moment, God sends a messenger to stop the sacrifice. This shows a God that is both cruel and despotic, but interestingly is no hypocrite. The story provides an interesting foreshadow of God's actions towards His own son in later portions of the Bible. Of course, this is beside the point, as this is a discussion of Islam, which does not hold Jesus as the son of God. The real point I'm trying to make here is, happy Eid Ul-Adha. Please use the opportunity to do something nice for your children, if you have them, and reflect on the symbolism of our sacrifice of Saddam as a child of American foreign policy.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bush v Satan

This just in: Bush #1 Villain of 2006, or so says a poll conducted by the AP and AOL. When asked to name the person they thought of as the greatest villain of the year, 25% of respondents named G-Dub. Comparitively, 6% named Saddam, 5% named Ahmadinejad, 2% named Kim Jong Il, and about 1% each named Satan, Hillary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell, and a whole grim cast of others.

The jokes are too easy. However, I think it's more remarkable that Saddam Hussein, a man who has been in custody for quite some time now (and indeed all of 2006) is considered a greater villain than a histrionic dictator known to have at least some nuclear weapons AND a far right muslim leader who puts on holocaust denial festivals. Also, I'd like to meet the people who responded "Satan." I'll bet they are very interesting folks.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

We Did It!

Time Magazine has announced its Person of the Year. Joining such great figures as Nelson Mandela, Charles Lindbergh, and George Herbert Walker Bush, joining such lame editions of the annual love fest as The Computer, "Middle Americans," and the Earth itself is:

You, me, your grandma, and whoever she buys groceries from.

What a fucking crock. Everyone knows that the persons of the year is Devin Townsend and only Devin Townsend.

PS. The pictures totally make it seem like an ad for iPods or herpes meds.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In yet another instance of me feeling vindicated for not liking something, the producer of the show 24 is now going to join Fox News Channel in creating a conservative political satire show to rival The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I never got a positive vibe about 24, but could never place why. I know now that it was my conservodar.

Also: amazing.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Above is the CEO of the company that produces the Girls Gone WIld video series, who just pleaded guilty in a case regarding the ages of some of the girls who have, over the years, been documented going wild. Two things about this remain utterly unsurprising: the case itself and also the way this guy looks. All he needs is a plastic cup full of beer in his hand and to be going "WOO!"


Friday, September 08, 2006

A Skunk Fell Out of my Nose

We're people. People have preconceptions about things. One of the biggest (and perhaps silliest) sources of these preconceptions is people's bodies, even things that are completely unchangeable and technically wholly separate from one's personality, one's lifestyle, etc. Of course, some things are easily changeable, and thus all the more ready to be associated with different sorts of people. My favorite example: mustaches.

Think of all the ideas we have about people with mustaches, the variety of preconceptions we can get from different types of hair on one's upper lip, provided there's none on one's chin. A thick, wide mustache makes you look gay, Italian, or like a cop. A thin, wispy one makes you look like a child molestor. A stubble mustache makes you look 13. A handlebar mustache makes you look like you should be in a barber shop quartet about 80 years ago. A modern, American fu manchu (or as I prefer to call them, redneck boxes) makes you look like you really enjoy guns, NASCAR, and Wal-Mart. A real fu manchu makes you awesome. And of course a little black bar makes you either Hitler or Chaplin.

I had a proper mustache once. It was part of a Halloween costume (I was "Gay"). When I wore the pants and muscle shirt that went with it, gay I did look. However, my features and ethnicity being what they are, when otherwise clad I looked like a certain famous Brooklyn plumber who had adventures involving mushrooms and turtles. It was pretty awesome. But, eventually I gave up on it and shaved it off, and eventually grew back my more standard facial hair configuration.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

230 and Still Sexy

Today is the 230th anniversary of a bunch of American politicians gathering in a room somewhere on the east coast and discussing Thomas Jefferson's recent retooling of a Thomas Paine pamphlet to serve as a way to goad the British, with whom they were squabbling. Though most of them had no particular part in writing it, they all put their names on it, just because they agreed with what the two Thomases, who were much smarter than them, had written. John Hancock was a real asshole about it and took up way too much space with his signature, but he would die before he reached the age of 50, the bastard. One signer had the unfortunate name of Button Gwinett.

The document's signing is considered the founding of a country that stands for freedom of speech, as long as you don't bother anyone, freedom of your choice of Protestant sects, freedom of being given due process sometimes, and calling sports that other countries play whatever we feel like calling them, and then making fun of them because we don't play them.

All brilliant satire aside, happy birthday America, though you've seen better ones. If we don't blow up the world, we can make sure that the best is yet to come.

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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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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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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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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Idiocy of the Month

The issue of immigration, especially of the illegal sort, especially among Hispanics, has been ever so hot lately. Politicians speak, pundits bicker, and the streets of major cities the nation over are crowded with people making feeble (though agreeable) statements in support of the hard-working, if illegally-residing and employed Latin population of the United States. And of course, many, many people spout pure nonsense.

One such example was presented to me just today. No, not just an example; it was a gem, a paragon of poorly-thought drivel, as confusing as it was malignant. So inconceivably stupid, the mind reels, boggles at just where to begin in correcting it. If reading it causes your brain to escape its skull and join the circus, I apologize, but I can't not repeat it here, it's too priceless:

"[W]e should stop using the term Hispanic ... give them a name and you give them power."

The argument continues that by grouping together people from all over the Spanish-speaking Americas, we are giving them greater numbers and thus greater influence on the mighty monolith that is American society (the word "White" is not used on that side of the argument, but its as readable as a bludgeon to the head). Further, including with the Mexicans and the Colombians the more European Argentinians gives the former a sort of prestige that they clearly do not deserve and will manipulate into a tool to our detriment.

I cannot begin to chronicle why this is idiocy. Granted, it's at a disadvantage with me already because it is blantantly racist, and I see any number of logical flaws with any specifically racially driven ideas, but there is such thing as vaguely reasonable racism. But this is not it; this is paranoia, senseless and ridiculous, being spouted by an educated American.

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