Sunday, December 10, 2006

Did what I think just happened just happen?

If this video embed won't play in the blog, but rather takes you to youtube to watch the video by default, then yes, what I think just happened (YouTube stopped allowing embeds to play in the context they are placed it) just happened.

-Then again, if it will play - and it appears it will - then I guess YouTube has done no such thing. I wonder what the deal is with this clip of the Colbert Report at Daily Kos?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Total Capture

Of late, I've been a busy little research Bee.

Where research = watching youtube, that is.

Oh, and stuff on media economics, that too!

Anyway, it gets me thinking about this back-of-the-envelope bullshit sort of speculative social theory of mine. I would posit that, as a society, we are moving closer and closer to a day when everyone is always on video, and that video is always viewable by anyone, anywhere. We'll never really get there of course, we're just getting closer and closer at an accelerating rate. I call the imaginary state where everyone is always being recorded "Total Capture" because I think it sounds sexy.

Anyway, you can see why youtube, everyones favorite emergent cyborg-indexed searchable video retrieval system would get me thinking about this. Here's another thing I think is neat and related to the idea that I return to from time to time: Google discoverable webcameras. I just love 'em... its like a treasure hunt! Maybe you find some kind of Korean office building or maybe a Pool Hall or a mall parking lot.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bert and Ernie

I still think of this sketch whenever I come across a long chain of substitutions.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

More Zombie Andy

Lookit! :)


Another wacky Halloween Party, another wacky Halloween costume. Here's me, amongst the ranks of the Undead!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It cost too much, staying human.

Bruce Sterling's entry in wired's "Sci-Fi Story in six words" contest. I like it.

Here's a couple attempts of my own:

-Sorry, children, we loved our monster
-The ruins will never be believed

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Words that pop

Literally via good ol' Boing Boing, an article on the (in)famous czech plastic explosive Semtex. I closes on the thought that part of the mystique of Semtex might be due to the poetry of the name itself.

it does feel good rolling off the tongue. SEM-TEX. Two syllables. One soft, one hard. It has a science-fiction look with an acidic old-tech twist.

Ah, the poetry of technology. Hard-edged and sparkly. It's a big part of what I love about Gibson. Here are some more favorite tech words for me.

-twisted pair
-implosion device
-jacketed hollow point
-fiber line
-packet loss
-nominal yield
-electromagnetic pulse
-positron emission tomography
-neutron moderator
-throttle body
-Near IR

And last, but hardly least, everyone's fav from Neuromancer


anyone else have unlikely fun words to add? (Just in case this one hasn't gotten me on enough watch lists.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sometimes I Love BLDGBLOG just for the titles

I mean, really, how do you beat something like:
BLDGBLOG: The Transgondwanan Supermountain
for poetry? I mean, there is dada spam I suppose, but that's about it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

This is well within the capacity of even the smallest nuclear nation.... you know

North Korea claims to have gone nuclear.

Call me a bad man, but my first thought is to wonder about the impact on domestic politics here in the states. Will this hurt Republican candidates for congress and senate, by suggesting to the American people that current policies are making the world a more dangerous place? Or will it help said candidates, by getting the people's minds off of GOP congressmen who bugger 16 years old boys.

UPDATE: CNN international just gave their timeline of "how we got to this point" thusly:

-George Bush calls N. Korea part of "Axis of Evil"
-Everything goes to shit
-Blah Blah, crap with a Bank in Macau

One wonders if such sentiment will make it into the domestic CNN feed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mandatory Glimour Girls Post

I can't believe they knocked up Lane. Fuckers. And if Lorelai + Christopher is the end-state of the show I may have to throw something rotten at Amy Sherman Palladino (Sp?).

Oh, and can I, as a male watcher of both Gilmour Girls and Veronica Mars, just say how annoying this "American Eagle Aerie" ad campaign, where they have clips of meticulously selected "average teen-age girls" pretending to watch the show along with you in the commercial breaks, is? Talk about making assumptions about your audience.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hard Negative Ads

The Republicans have gone hard negative against Ted Strickland, the democratic candidate for governor here in Ohio. Strickland has been consistently ahead of the Republican candidate by a number well outside of the margin of error (often in excess of 10%). Here are some of the nasty, homophobic ads:

This hyperbolic set of "values ads" reeks of desperation. Both use text on the screen that warp voting against institutionalized discrimination into voting against "marriage." Apparently Ted Strickland is in favor of eliminating marriage, replacing it with wild sex parties, at which attendance will be mandatory, all across Ohio.

Besides showing just how desperate the republicans are in this race (You NEVER try an ad like this unless you have no other choice... the risk of boomerang is just too high) and show just how ugly the GOP gets when its cornered, these ads make me wonder about something. They play to identity, othering homosexuals. This is designed to fire their base of course... why is their base not fired? Part of it must be the Ohio GOP scandals, but those should be dragging down Mike DeWine as well, shouldn't they? But DeWine is neck and neck with his democratic counterpart.

Could it be... race? Could white, rural Ohio (I assume this is the GOP base here... it is everywhere else) just not be interested in coming out for Ken Blackwell, the African-American candidate the Republicans are running? Could these ads hope to encourage Ohio voters to think of themselves, not as white (or black, since the GOP has been hoping to make inroads among African-American voters for awhile) but rather as straight and "Christian"?

William Easterly

William Easterly's new book The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Help the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good is getting quite a bit of attention of late, including this piece by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Review of Books.

Just from what I've gleaned from the various reviews, there seemed to be a variety of potential critiques one could make of this book. I find some of them more satisfying than others. Easterly is definately pro-capitalism, and the burden of responsibility his market-liberal ideology places on the poor certainly sounds like something most scholars in my field would find distasteful (a common quote given from the book is how attaching a token fee to mosquito nets, rather than giving them out for free, increased the percentage of people who used the nets they obtained, Easterly - or his source, it isn't clear - infers this is because the fee made net recipients "value" the nets). His central claim, however, seems to be that aid agencies should use best possible practices to target their spending (including, very importantly, listening to the expertise of the people they are tasked with helping) and the dollars spent should be evaluated objectively to evaluate how well they work. I understand the potential problems with this (who is "objective"? what questions will they ask? what assumptions about the goals will they make?), but I think it has some merit. I admit I can't speak for folks in the field of aid, but if its anything like my own field - academe - there may be a need to admit that wishes aren't horses. We need to find out if what we are doing is actually doing any good. I've read too many "revolutionary theories" that never lead to any revolutionary social change. Or even meaningful reform. Dreaming a new reality is a necessary step to creating a new reality, but it is not a sufficent step. We must know what methods will succeed in realizing our dreams.

That rant out of the way... here's a critique of Easterly's logic I find fairly compelling. Why is it only the poor and those spending money to help the poor who need to be evaluated? I suppose in Easterly's mind aid agencies are spending "someone else's money" and thus need oversight... but the west's wealth was gained via colonial exploitation. Is it really fair to evaluate only those who would try to give it back? Shouldn't there be some thought to "evaluating" how the wealthy and powerful spend "their" money, and what the social consequences of that might be? Or would that be an unthinkable intrusion on our precious "consumer freedom?"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Two Quick Things

-I do not recommend Thai Kitchen instant pad thai in a box. Oh, Pad Thai kits in a box - the kind you make on the stove - are great, I swear by 'em. And Thai Kitchen makes many other fine products, such as their red curry paste. Very tasty. But Pad Thai cannot be made in your microwave. In all fairness, I knew that before I bought it, but seriously how cool would microwave Pad Thai be if it actually worked? So I tried. I tried and I failed. What did Condoleeza Rice do about making Pad Thai in the microwave? Nothing.

-Do any Math nerds out there know what it means for the relationship between two variables to be "curvilinear"?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Diebold AccuVote-TS Security Demonstration

Everyone needs to see this. Many of you probably already have. Hella compelling video by Professors out of Princeton showing just how easy it is to hack a diebold voting machine.

Better, clearer, higher resolution video, along with the full paper detailing the findings of the research team can be found here: LINK

Youtube isn't all drugs and Jihad

Perhaps some folks were turned off by my recent youtube posts. They weren't exactly safe for work, or small children. As a bit of a change of pace (not quite a unicorn chaser, but close) here is a sample of a totally sweet (and hilarious) set of french language short cartoons I recently discovered on there. I don't speak french, but I think its funny.

Blogging right now

Pizza at my apartment. This silliness will end when the novelty of my macbook wears off.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Phun with Bluebook

I'm spending today converting an essay from last semester from Chicago-style citations (favored by historians) to Bluebook-style citations (favored by legal practitioners and scholars) so I can submit it to the journal Communication Law and Policy as my chair has advised me to do.

I've sometimes joked that some towns have bad road signs because they don't want to make it easy for strangers to navigate the town. "If you was from here you'd know where you was, if you ain't then go home." Bluebook seems somewhat the same way. Why on earth would one subsititute "U. Pa. L. Rev." for "University of Pennsylvania Law Review" except to obscure and mystify things for those without training in the law?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Guardian Article

The guardian read through the statements of inmates about to be executed on Death Row. The article on it is here. (Found, like so many other things, via BoingBoing).

The distaste of a British newspaper at bloody American barbarians and their savage practices is palpable. Understandable, but a shame really, since for me this reduces the utility of an article like this as a teaching tool. My undergraduates would read the distate as anti-american bias and dismiss the content as coming from an unreliable source. They have been trained to do this very well, and it is a difficult habit to break them of (especially if one doesn't wish to simply reverse the polarity of their bias and turn them into slavish, name-droppy, latte-liberal trendheads)

The power of the excerpts really speaks for itself. The ultimate Other, the capital murderer, heard in his or her own voice. I would hope, at least, that some of them might find the humanity in these words obvious and compelling. That's probably naivete on my part.

How can I teach them, I wonder, that the monsters they have been taught to hate are all just people?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reading Boing Boing

So you don't have to. They just linked to Bruce Sterling's new story over at New Scientist: LINK.

I get down on Sterling sometimes, because I feel like he can sometimes be better in touch with technology than humanity. Stories like Distraction, for example, can tend towards over-simplistic characterization, even while they paint a thought-provoking (if cartoonish) vision of a future political and economic system. I suppose this story isn't terribly long on characterization either, but it is short enough that imagination can fill in the blanks. I really like it. I think it handily sums up a whole set of fears about the possibilities of the internet, that much vaulted space of freedom, becoming a space of control.

If I have a criticism, it is this: does this story still frame the issue at hand as a choice between negative freedom and control? Sterling does a good job of bringing in elements that focus on issues of creative expression - the protagonist's banned hobby of graffiti, for example - but there still seems to be a dichotomy of the "mommy state" vs "the electronic frontier." How do we create space of freedom that are not spaces of privilege, as so many spaces of freedom have historically been?

Friday, September 15, 2006

You Tube In Iraq

The following link goes to a you tube video of what appears to be a visual record made by iraqi insurgents of sniper attacks made on US troops. The video may be an authentic record of such attacks, or it may be a doctored video attempting to show what appear to be attacks for propaganda purposes. I can't tell. It's a very disturbing piece of footage, if you haven't garnerned that from my description thus far. I post it here for 2 reasons.

-to again show the diversity of stuff going on on you tube

-in the hopes of getting the assistance of my friend Ben (who knows some Arabic) in reading the titles on the video, which I'm curious about

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Found on You Tube

This kid manages to cram at least 2 seperate violations of copyright, and a depiction of illegal drug use into his video. Watch it while you can... I think its an interesting example of some of the productive stuff going on right now.

It will be interesting to see what happens if Universal goes ahead with the planned legal action against You Tube it announced today. If they try to follow Mgm v Grokster and argue that the You Tube business model promotes infringement, when many of the infringers on You Tube, like our Boba Fett enamored friend here, are not simply passing around copies of songs (as on tradtional p2p) but creating something out of existing media it could be a very interesting, very important test of the Grokster rule. (Note: the sentence I just wrote is a mockery of proper grammer. Meh. I'm blogging.)

My Screwed Up Video Camera

The Isight on my macbook isn't working right.

This is what I see whenever I turn it on. Once the image becomes normal, it stays that way... until you stop and then restart the camera. I'm hoping to have it fixed soon, but for now I thought I'd share, in part because its kinda fun to watch.

More Fun Stuff on the Internet

The Royal Society has published the whole of their journal archive on the internet, and their going to allow free access to it until December (then the bastards will charge an insane subscription fee to see it).

The really fun part?

The Royal Society Archive goes back to 1665.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Even if you are still dangerously limited to elite groups, I still <3 you, Internet

So my reading for my globalization and media class for today was interesting. It basically suggested that there wasn't just one "digital divide," but rather, several of them. Old v. Young, Upper v. Working Class, Urban v. Rural. It was rather dismissive of the internet as a medium for social change, as it saw these divides as creating a sort of veneer of young, upper class, internet connected urbanites. There was little evidence, the reading suggested, of mass mobilization of anyone via internet.

These are all empirical claims I really need to do more checking up on (has anyone seen a decent map of IP space onto real space? Does such a thing exist? One suspects google or someone has one squirreled away somewhere, but they ain't sharing it.) But anecdotally, they seem to hold. The internet darlings have had a hard time gaining traction in American electoral politics thus far (though, maybe, possibly, Lamont is a sign of a beginning of a shift there), and even internet boosters like Benkler seem to rely on only a few examples of fairly small scale mobilization (eg. the Diebold e-mail case).

Here's the thing though... I'm thinking about all this while sitting in a public place, having a cup of coffee, with a 5 pound machine on the table in front of me happily humming along on wireless internet. I'm flipping through a book I'm interested in and I'm trying to find where I can get ahold of some of the stuff referenced in the footnotes. The library index at my University isn't cutting it, we don't have the documents I'm looking for. So I try a google search for the title. Lo and behold, the document I wanted was a policy brief for the house science committee... and the house has handily transferred those (at least for the last decade or so, though I was also able to get Vannevar Bush's brief from 1945 in HTML from the national science foundation) to .pdf and released them onto the internet. My little 5 pound notebook gives me (and anyone else with one) the ability to access, from any number of places, decades worth of government documentation that might have been otherwise inaccessible even to someone in my University library.

With all the potential that gives us to put many eyes on the (legal) code... surely we can do something.

At least I hope so.

Sez Who the Internets are for Elites?

I mean, I love the Internets and I'm just an average Joe, chilling in a coffeeshop, with my MacBook and my fluffy espresso drink.

Just an average, blue collar guy, just look at my shirt!

Yep, that's me... salt of the earth Andy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Things that ran on recharagable batteries

In my apartment Circa 2003: 0

Today: 5

2 Beard Trimmers
Cell Phone

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Found on Youtube

One hopes its real, after the whole lonelygirl115 affair (which was, i thought, fairly transparent), but this is fairly interesting:

The web's collection of weird video fragments is starting to reach a sort of critical-mass of interestingness.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Internet Dating + Foucault

My Internet Communities class is doing a segment on Internet Dating, I suppose its a valid enough subject - the use of the internet to find mates, to form kinship relations... these are the things communities do, yes?

But I'm having a hard time getting over my distaste. I'm a country boy, and, truth be told, a bit of a prude. Reading about clever, pretty urbanites engaging in a seemingly endless internet-enabled hook-up party leaves just kinda pisses me off. The amount to which that pissed-offedness is actually jealousy is anybody's guess. But, nevertheless, I feel compelled to dream up theoretical support for my predjudice. Doesn't everyone.

Here's the thing: wasn't the hope vested by so many in desire as a revolutionary force based on its potential to encourage links between people and thus to shatter hierarchy? To encourage you to look across the cell at your neighbor in the panopticon, rather than gaze back at the tower, ever wary of its presence, and its promise of violent retribution for those who did not exercise proper discipline.

But this thing we've built out of desire, spinning us all into brands, into advertisements, into clusters of definitive "facts" flying in close formation... its as if the panopticon has been turned into omniopticon the gaze of all applied against all, meeting in the middle, so that in effect it is desire itself that now occupies the tower.

And desire is ravenous, and her sister is despair.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The House Burger

Graduate Student Food meets graduate student video blogging. I understand this is not exactly thrilling content... I'm just trying out the technology at my disposal.

Consumer News

Oh yeah, I also recently purchased a Macbook. It's all kinds of pretty.

Wealth of Networks?

I read Yochi Benkler's excellent Wealth of Networks for an independent study this summer and since then I've been thinking quite a bit about his ideas on emerging forms of distributed production. One note often scrawled in the margins of my copy of Benkler's book is the constant question "Who Benefits?" (often in huge, emphatic capital letters, messily underlined, with 4 or 5 question marks). Sure you can break down huge, complex tasks into small modules that can be worked on collaboratively by network-connected individuals, but how can we be sure that the collaborators reap the rewards of their efforts?

Since then I've been noticing news stories like this one:

that interest me along those lines. It seems Google is using user inputs derived from a sort of game to help generate tag information for sorting images. This article on OReilly sums up my own reactions pretty well

Basically, is a project like this one, where many folks collaborate and contribute (all for, just as Benkler predicted, non-monetary compensation) but it seems to me pretty clear that it is Google that gets the lions share of the benefit from the resulting work, really the sort of thing those of us interested in the radical potential of distributed production are looking for?

Monday, July 31, 2006

Page of the Day

Heavens Above

No, I haven't suddenly found religion, it's a really cool page that will compute predictions for visible satellite passes over your location, along with day-to-day starcharts and planetary locations and stuff. I just watched the lacrosse-4 Radar reconnaisance satellite fly over my house, which is extra cool because it officially doesn't exist.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

And another thing

Of course, despite my comments on the good parts of the CNN coverage (namely CNN's ability to put a person and a camera on any street corner in the world and put the image on your TV set in realtime) I have to admit a lot of it is crap. But I keep watching it anyway, despite the fact that I could get most of the information from my beloved web, which I'm rapidly focusing on as a center for my future scholarship (go go information society Andy!). Why is this?

I suspect that part of the draw of TV in a time like this is the illusion of presence. The CNN talking head in my living room, even if he or she is just repeating the same headline from 5 or 10 minutes ago, gives me the feeling that I am in the loop. That there is this person here, who will tell me if anything happens, and that that same person is being relied on by the important and the powerful. Therefore, I too am informed, important and powerful.

We new-media types probably need to consider that.

CNN and Such

I've been watching the CNN coverage of the recent events in the mid-east pretty incessantly over the last few days, in part because I'm a junky for that sort of thing, in part because I have a buddy currently in Beirut and I'm concerned for his safety.

If you're reading this Ben, stay safe dude... keep away from the blowing up stuff.

Anyway, CNN's coverage has been pretty damn brilliant, and that's coming from someone who is a committed who is a committed old media critic and new media buff. They've been stressing the superiority of their coverage during the broadcast, which is kinda tasteless, but they've been doing a good job of covering news feeds from all sides and presenting a variety of images, as well as doing stuff like sending their Gaza City bureau down the street into a Gaza City bodega to interview the shopkeeper... which was a really interesting image/discussion.

One can't help but think the competition from the web, and from ideologically based platforms like fox news hasn't pressed them to make the best possible use of their resources for global coverage... the results (while still suffering from many old-media framing problems) are fascinating to watch.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yeah, so, I did a geeky thing

Sometimes I wonder why I'm in the humanities. Like for example, while we were watching the last minutes of regular play during the world cup final my friend Colin absent-mindedly wondered if there was any way you could humanly make it to Europe by the time overtime concluded. About 30 minutes.

Those of you who have known me for awhile probably see where this is going.

Folks suggested the Concorde, or various fighter jets, but it quickly became apparent that those were way too slow. Even the fastest Air-breathing aircraft (the SR-71 and the XB-70, both retired, both with a top speed of about Mach 3) would take 2 hours to cover the 4000 miles between here and Europe. I suggested the Space Shuttle, since I knew orbital velocity took you around the world in 90 minutes. There were questions about acceleration and deceleration times. The issue was dropped.

Well, dropped by everyone else. Something in my tortured nerdy brain had to know... could you get to Europe in half an hour with exisiting technology? Could it be done?

So I continued to think about it. After some reflection I remembered reading somewhere that Intercontinental Ballistic Missles could do that sort of distance in about half an hour... and sure enough this sez a Minuteman could do 8000 miles (more than we need) in about 2060 seconds (30 minutes, give or take). Of course it also tells us the re-entry vehicle hits the ground at 7,000 miles an hour. Owie. (What the fact that the fastest way of getting between two points on the earth's surface ever built is a delivery system for thermonuclear weapons says about the human race is left as an exercise for the reader.)

But nonetheless, clearly this points the way to go, the fastest way between two points on the earth's surface is to launch yourself 50km up, past the atmosphere, and then boost yourself onto a parabolic, sub-orbital path that will land you where you need to go. The only question is, could you survive re-entry?

So I cracked open the old physics textbooks, looked up the section on parabolic motion, and tried my best to figure it out. According to my (very rough) calculations, launching yourself at a 54.6 degree angle at a velocity 5407.44 meters per second ought to put you on a parabolic path that will cover about 3500 miles in 30 minutes. (I allowed 500 miles for boost and re-entry) Since you will re-enter the atmosphere 50 km at this same 54.6 degree angle, trig sez you have about 200km of Atmosphere to bleed off you re-entry velocity in. That works out to an average deceleration load of about 7.5 gs for a little over a minute. Which this says is human survivable. Of course, that's not really how it would happen, but since that's the average load, I'm going to assume you could work out some way to manage the load so that it doesn't squish you, since people can survive stronger loads for short periods.

All this computed, I downloaded Orbiter a free (as in beer) space simulator, and ran my computed trajectory in an unobtanium fueled imaginary ship they have for beginners. Sure enough, my parabolic path took me from florida to western europe in about half an hour. But when I re-entered the atmosphere, my glider shaped ship skipped off! I went flying on another parabola that took me well out over russia... and quit the simulator.

That only supports my intuition that you probably wouldn't want a winged vessel to fly this flight path with. The shuttle, after all, makes huge S-shaped turns in the upper atmosphere to bleed off speed so it can use its wings to land. That takes too much time. No, if anything could fly the Ohio-France express mission, it's a Soyuz capsule.

So, if you had a Soyuz fueled and ready, you might be able to do it IF (and this is a big if) a Soyuz booster could actually generate enough thrust to put the Capsule onto the parabolic trajectory I described. Since the booster is designed to boost the capsule into orbit, this seems likely to me, but my rocket fantasy kick is wearing off and I need to get back to reading about the cultural implications of the information society (as is my actual vocation) so I can't take the time to look up the info on the booster and find out for sure.

But hey, if any of you want to... break a leg.

This was my geek of the week moment.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What am I listening to?

Sometimes people want to know what I listen to. Often I draw a blank, perhaps because Itunes has largely automated my listening process. Fortunately, Itunes also makes it trivial to recover a list of my recent musical selections. For the record (and as a memory aid for the next time somebody asks) here are some artists I've been listening to:

The Rapture
The Bravery
The Bloc Party
Catherine Wheel
Tegan and Sara
The Wolf Parade
The Rakes
The Tragically Hip
The American Analog Set
Al Green
Aimee Mann
Sufjan Stevens
Ben Kweller
The Decemberists
The Arcade Fire
Richard Buckner
The Fruit Bats
Crooked Finger

And Many More

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Whiteboy Trickster Gods -- Or, The Cultural Work of Van Wilder

So, I ended up watching Van Wilder on Comedy Central this afternoon. Its a fairly typical example of the late-nineties early oughts genre of wacky college adventure movies. Grandsons of Animal House, if you will. Same basic premise... happy slackers overcome the unaccountable hatred of their more responsible peers, and in the process win over their women via demonstrating that happy slackers are in touch with a sort of happiness lost to uptight overachievers in their quest for square accomplishment.

PCU would be another exemplar of the genre... and there were others... their names currently escape me.

The universe presented by such movies is interesting on a number of levels. It presents an interesting sort of utopian fantasy environment... a place where a variety of difficult questions need not be resolved. An ethnically diverse place, but one lacking any acknowledgement of the history of racism and the politics of racial oppression. A place in which women are simultaneously presented as accessible sexual objects and as independent, career minded people.

But I think an even more difficult question is being dodged.

See, the character of Van Wilder, like other characters within his genre, is a sort of "whiteboy trickster god" a beautiful, charming, member of the white upper class who has chosen to revel in the material culture of late capitalism and share its bounty with his equally beautiful multi-ethnic friends, rather than become a part of his father's class of uptight oppressor-types who make everything such a drag. Van Wilder's rival, equally ubiquitous throughout the genre, is an aspiring member of this uptight oppressor class, whom Van Wilder defeats through his wit, and the help of his uniformly capable, happy friends.

As a mythology it seems to value rebellion and happiness over obedience and accumulation... which is probably why I find such movies so attractive. But it elides something important.

The material ease that nurtures us whiteboy trickster gods was built by the uptight oppressor class. Its continuation is dependent on their continued extraction from time and the bodies of the opressed "ever more useful forces" of production. If there is to be real change we will be asked to make to make a more difficult choice than simply that of walking away from the role of uptight oppressor. If we want to realize a just world, one in which chinese workers are not slaves to machines for 15 hours a day to build our hip, rebellious ipods we will have to think critically about our own comfort. And that won't necessarily be fun.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What we learned from Tonight's "Grey's Anatomy"

-If you are a doctor, and you don't cover for another doctor who has committed fraud and recklessly endangered the life of a patient, you are heartless.

-If a woman is physically bigger than the man she is with, she will be willing to settle for tepid attraction.

-Asians are innate overachievers. Only white people's love can save them from following the black man's path into emotional distance.

-All women are completely defined by their relationships with men.

-Major teaching hospitals routinely assign surgical interns nonsensical, nonmedical tasks. This helps them retain their precious humanity.

-Black women are easily excitable.

-Everyone is completely defined by who they were in high school.
- corollary: Only Jocks can be Heroes.

-The most important thing in a young professional woman's life is to learn how to be devoted to a male mentor figure. The most important thing in a middle-aged professional man's life is to have hot sex with a beautiful subordinate woman.

-There are no gay people in medicine.

-How do you know if the accomplished surgical intern you are in love with loves you back? You call her like a dog. This will seem less offensive if a Snow Patrol song is playing.

-"Stop looking at me like that" means "Yes"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Andy == Still Existing

End of semester fries my tiiiny little bwain. Owie. I'll post something real soon.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

All the cool kids are doin' it

Your Linguistic Profile:

60% General American English

25% Yankee

10% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

Monday, April 03, 2006

More Coyotes

Turn up in more places (both real places and media spaces).

The coyote was always the central symbol of my fiction.

Some days, I'm unhappy with the coyote as resistance figure. Surviving without changing anything is complicit, isn't it?

Other days, declaring we will survive this apocalypse they have declared civilization without actively assisting in the work of empire seems like the best we can do.

We will survive.
We will not be made part of you.
We will teach our children to reclaim the carrion you leave behind, when you leave your broken culture burning on the highway.

Free Katie!

Tom Cruise on his intentions to wed Katie Holmes:

"First the baby, then the film," he was quoted as saying. "Then, in summer, we want to get married. I won't let this woman get away." (from

Get away? He won't let her get away? Clearly she's been trying to escape! Clearly a crack team of brave hostage rescue experts... or, failing that, Cultural Studies and International Relations graduate students... need to launch an extraction plan immediately!

I have such a plan here somewhere, under the zombie-apocalypse plan, and the killer monkeys with super-weapons plan... I'll find it...

Monday, March 27, 2006


I'm really enjoying this reading on the 1880's populist movement. Here's a fun quote:

"I know that for the man who sees the evils of the time -- the want, ignorance and misery caused by unjust laws -- who sets himself so far as he has strength to right them, there is nothing in store but ridicule and abuse. The bitterest thought, and the hardest to bear, is the hopelessness of the struggle, "the futility of the sacrifice." But for us who have taken up the crusade, there shall be no halting; and as our ranks grow thin by death and desertion, we should close up, shoulder to shoulder, and show an unbroken battle line to the enemy."

-Jeremiah "Sockless Jerry" Simpson

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Flash Cultural theorizing

My friend Ben posted a response to an article in the New York Times that I thought I had something interesting to say about. The article claimed that sociologists should look at the "culture" of young black men to account for their failure to escape poverty. Ben found this silly, for a variety of good reasons, but I wanted to try to stick up for studying culture (since it is my job) without defending this bad article. Here's what I came up with:

As I am, in fact, supposed to be a cultural theorist I feel like I should weigh in here.

First, of course, I'd like to defend Dr. Patterson's interest in culture, as it it after all, my field. And I think his justification for looking at culture is basically the correct one, Culture can be a site of struggle, a space for change, and looking for ways it can do this can be a valuable addition to other inquiries into the possibilities of social change related to the means of material production.

Here's where I think he goes wrong. He seems to be making the (victim blaming) assumption that there is something unique that the culture of African-American men is "doing wrong." His argument seems to be "If young Black Men were not all so addled on Hip-Hop and Street life they would do what they need to do to move themselves up in the world." This seems ridiculous for the very reasons you have so expertly outlined above.
In addition, it seems to have opened very little space for any sort of remedy of the situation other than some sort of "reform hip-hop movement." I would point Dr. Patterson to the historical examples of turn of the (20th) century moral reformers in the United States and mid-century government "culture agencies" in France and their attempts to "elevate" working-class cultures as demonstrations of the futility of this sort of paternalistic reform movement.

But could we look at culture and find more fruitful answers? I think we could. Here are some "back of the envelope" quick ideas I've had in the hour or so since I read this article.

For one, if we assume that there is some validity to Dr. Patterson's assertion that young black men are basically choosing to remain within street culture, despite its violence and limited prospects for material advance, even when they have a real chance at mainstream employment, what does that say about the attractiveness of our supposedly superior mainstream society? Could there be something so deeply lacking in the frighteningly alienated, massively commodified, tightly bounded world of the nine-to-five life of the postmodern bourgeois that street life, with its opportunities for expressive behavior and community provides? If folks are choosing not to assimilate to our culture, even when their culture is dangerous, are they "doing something wrong" or are we?

If one finds that idea overly romantic and unrealistic (and it is rather both, though I still like it) how about this one. One of the things culture serves to do is provide its users with rituals and other forms of expression that they can "deploy" in various symbolic contests for power. What Pierre Bourdieu called "cultural capital." Might members of other subordinate groups find the cultural capital of their childhood communities more useful in the workplace than young black men? In other words, can the poor white kid from the country still speak and act in a way similar to he is used to and gain respect, where the poor black kid from the inner city must learn entirely new forms of performance to get by. If this is so, wouldn't that be a pretty clear signal of still-functioning racial predjudice in our society?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I post, therefore I exist

What I've been up to:

Reading up about the late 19th century and the changes that occured then in both industrial organization and electoral politics. Its an interesting era that I don't think takes up much space in our popular consciousness. After all, it often seems that history begins in 1950, so far as Pop Culture and Political rhetoric is concerned. I wonder is that's because of the trauma of world war II, or because televison has become our primary technology of memory. Anyway, all this stuff goes down from 1865-1900 in which modern consumption and production patterns are established, the democrats and republicans establish themselves as the only two valid options in electoral politics, and the groundwork for modern cultural ideals is set out. It's pretty cool stuff, especially since the concerns of the era: a changing economic base, rising economic inequality, political corruption, have a certain contemporary resonance.

Spending far too much time on Myspace. Clicking around and looking at people's profiles is a shockingly addicting past-time, for reasons that are not immediately clear.

Reading my usual political blogs. I think its pretty cool that Feingold is at nearly 50% in the latest dKos straw poll. Sadly, as this salon article outlines, the chances of anyone stopping the Hillary machine are pretty slim. Even more sadly, I think the guy with the best chance of being a Hillary-slayer is probably Mark "I have a penis and I'm from the South and I'm basically a Republican" Warner. In that contest, count me among the Clintonistas. Meanwhile, the 2006 congressional election coverage, which should be getting rolling, has been noticably absent. 'Cause ya know, here in 'merica only the president matters.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I like this guy more and more

"Frankly, nothing irritates me more than when I see wishful thinking take the place of concrete willpower. When this happens to people I don't care much about much or who seem "useless," I feel annoyed, but when I observe this phenomenon on someone close to me, whose "use" I can hardly be objective about and whom I'd like to encourage, then I suffer. At the university I used to observe the targicomic existence of wishful thinkers. I still remember some of them, and if something brings one of them to mind, I feel the same anger I felt then."
-Antonio Gramsci

Note to self: develop practical prong to dissertation work.

Note to everybody else: Anyone want in on a Co-op house?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Just for the sake of updating

I've been kinda bleh over here, and schoolworky, which leads to a lack of postable stuff. But just some stuff in brief, for the sake of keeping the blog rolling.

-Whatever troubles I ever have sleeping, remind me never to take Ambien

-People should know, when I mention "capturing academic departments" in my little plan for revolutionary social change (ask me more when I'm drunk) I mean bureacratically, not violently.

-The Battlestar Galactica Finale was the Coolest Thing I've Seen For Awhile. Oh, it started slow, but ended sweet. Must... wait... until... October... to... find out... what the Cylons are up to! ack

Friday, March 10, 2006

Note to Hillary

Health Care looks to be a pretty hot issue for the near future. Sooo, since that was your thing back during your Husband's administration, you should probably get on that, eh Ms. Clinton?

I mean, I wish she wasn't going to be the nominee... but she is, so we might as well make the best of it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Our Priorities

Lead Stories on BBC world tonight:
-Bombings in India kill 15 and threaten to spark Hindu-Muslim violence
-United States and Russia agree that Uranium enrichment on Iranian soil will not be permitted

Lead Stories on CBS evening news tonight:
-Dana Reeve, widow of Chris Reeve, dies of lung cancer
-New book accuses Barry Bonds of doing steroids

Lead Stories on NBC evening news tonight:
-Superman's widow = dead
-Dick Cheney tells AIPAC that Iran will stop developing nuclear weapons or "face consequences"

Ok, so NBC gets some credit for mentioning Iran in the first 10 minutes, as opposed to the simply awful CBS broadcast. But still, acting hawkish towards Iran in front of the pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC) is not exactly a shocker.

World outside of United States? What's that?

Also the number of minutes devoted to Dana Reeve on both American Networks was nearly identitcal. I may keep posting on comparative nightly news. Interesting how a "competitive system" produces such nearly identical coverage.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Life's Little Victories

Despite the fact that I foolishly took aspirin while I had the flu and thus put myself at a (incredibly small) risk of developing Reye Syndrome, a condition causing liver failure and swelling of the brain, I have made it past the window for developing this disease after my accidental self-medication.

In short, I did not die horribly, or suffer from brain-damaging swelling today. Go me.

I continue to suffer from acute hypo-chondria, and researching diseases on the internet syndrome.

Now, back to the WHO cancer mortality database.

Urban Coyotes

I know y'all are perfectly capable of reading for yourselves, but I still feel the compulsion to link to stuff like this that I find personally appealing.

That's what the internets are for, right?

Anyway, apparently Coyotes are colonizing the urban centers of American cities. Canis latrans being a personal favorite critter of mine, I find this neat in its own right. It highlights a larger issue though.

Namely the nature, scope, and limitations of Power. Power is something a lot of us talk about a lot, but that we never define very well (aren't most things we talk about a lot?). Lets call Power the thing that creates commodities and cubicles. The thing that defends both property and propriety. The thing that cuts down trees and names streets and housing developments after them. The thing that certainly never imagined 68 pound coyote-wolf hybrids roaming said housing developments after hours.

So what does this mean? Is the triumph of the scavenger an illustration of the limits of power and order to regulate and constrain the teeming universe? That the clever and the quick can outwit and tactically outflank the monolithic phalanx of control? Or does it demonstrate that the only way to survive regimentation is through seeming inoffensiveness, and shall we predict that if Coyote-kind should commit any serious offense against the public order, they will be dealt with effectively and brutally?

And if the offense against the public order is eating a four year old, what does that say about our romantic notions of the chaotic and the wild? Hobbes anyone?

Damned if I know anything these days.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fun Internet Video

Some kids at Georgia State demonstrate what would happen if people actually drove the speed limit: video

I think this is cool, in part for what it is, but also because of the way it demostrates the potential of the current broad availability of video cameras and cell phones. These kids are able to coordinate and film a group action over several miles of highway in a way that only a handfull of organizations would have been able to a few years ago. Pretty neat.

I need a project like this. Hmmm.

Pajama Sick Day

After a full afternoon and evening of lying helplessly on my couch in front of the TV, a few observations:

-It is still possible to see at least 4 episodes of various "Law and Order" Serieses per day, but I'm pretty sure that's down from some much larger high.

-Whatever happened to "The Price Is Right"? Did Bob Barker die, and am I forgetting in my feverish haze? Is it just not shown in Ohio? Did I miss it? I wanted to see it for pure sick day nostalgia.

-What is so soothing about "Law and Order" and "CSI" type shows anyway? I mean, I'm a damn liberal, and I still think their like frickin' chamomile. Must be their predictability, I guess.

-I learned from the History Channel that history consists of the Civil War and World War 2.

-The National Geographic Channel is obsessed with boats. Shipwreck diving, rescue (and/or horrible awful death) at sea... Etc.

-Once Upon A Time, didn't the Learning Channel play things besides "Television About Mindless Couples, Meeting, Marrying, and Churning Out Babies"? Or is that just me?

-My God, The Core is a Very Bad Movie with a Shockingly Good Cast

-2 repeats and 1 new Episode of the Daily Show... Available daily

-Mash will Never die

All right. Back to Bed... here's to hoping I didn't give myself Rey Syndrome by taking aspirin with a Viral Infection.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Lessons of MMORPGs Today

Via Boing Boing:

I find this interesting because of its commentary on the limitations of internet social existence. Limitations waaaay too often overlooked by scholars eager to find "revolutionary social potential" in new techology (or anywhere else for that matter). I wonder how much the particular medium of the MMORPG and the business model behind that medium are responsible for the effects this author is noting. He points out that they tend to convey the message that: "Intelligent beings who have civilizations and languages of their own are generally evil and should be slain." This, of course, is driven by the central game mechanic of the genre... killing, gaining experience, levelling up. But what makes this mechanic compelling?

I think it has something to do with visible, measurable achievement. For folks in jobs where they are deeply alienated from the actual, tangible outcomes of their employment, workaday life may seem an endless repetition of almost ritualized actions that never lead to anything, or make any progress. The illusatory progress of the gameworld may be a welcome relief from this. But of course, its not really progress at all. And why the game world may seem to allow a character progressive change and development, as the author of this post points out, it is in fact dangerously static. The monsters just regenerate tomorrow, after all.

The question then becomes, can we build on-line experiences that don't have these sorts of dengerous static natures? Second Life would seem to be an attempt, but it hasn't caught on, and I must admit, I found it weridly uncompelling when I tried it.

Or is it time to give up on the idea of internet as "social space" entirely, and imagine instead as communication medium, transferring information between real spaces, but not really able to exist as space on its own?

Monday, February 27, 2006


Blech. Illness has beset me. Crappy.

Just to keep any remaining readership checking for updates I give you this image of protest against the insanities of net-censorship... care of boingboing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Somebody stole my ipod shuffle...


More Dada Spam

I won't keep posting these, cause I know we all get them, but this one is better than the last one, so I have to:
drew a thats next. news make turning purpose benefit. fire goes fire,
raise reading pretty reference respect hard. he appearance news.
edge development why,
supposedto fascinate allow or added prison. music edge servants rich principle suddenly.
make sandwich love pride?

The spam was supposedly advertising online sales of prescription medication.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is it obvious I've bee bored today?

So this sick bastard in Iowa kidnaps his wife after she tries to leave him. After he's caught, she turns over to the cops a "Marriage Contract" he had drawn up for them, detailing her "wifely duties." The document gets leaked to a fun little yellow-journalism website called The Smoking Gun (who also leaked congressional candidate Randy Kuhl's divorce documents... which revealed he had threatened his ex with a shotgun at a dinner party... fucker won anyway), and its now available here for anyone who shares my morbid fascination with human awfullness.

That link goes to a "contract" (the woman never signed the thing, not that its legally enforceable) that includes some pretty explicit sexual description, just FYI.

Anyway, this guy makes the Promise Keepers look like NOW. I honestly don't know what is creepier... the 12th century concept of proper gender roles that this espouses, or the fact that it couches everything in management-ese (he had his sexual expectations plotted to a daily timeline, with rewards for "compliance" given out by quarters).

Sadly, as backward and inhuman as this document is, its not hard to see some links between its dream of a submissive, robot-like wife and some awful ideas about the women that circulate in the popular culture. I can't say I see what the attraction to that hyper-submissive archetype is... isn't part of the fun of having a relationship with another person that their... you know... another person with their own thoughts and ideas and desires? If you want a body to lay there and take it... they make silicone dolls for that now, dude...

Is anytbody reading this thing?

Just curious. Toss me a comment if you are.


From the ever brilliant fafblog

Q. Why are we in Iraq?
A. To prevent the failure of the occupation of Iraq. If we pull out now the occupation will be a failure!
Q. Would it have been easier to have never occupied it in the first place?
A. Ah, but if we never occupied Iraq, then the occupation certainly would have been a failure, now wouldn’t it?
Q. [meditates for many years]
Q. Now I am enlightened.


Today I was told I had a "Mad Max Approach to the Quotidian." Hehe. Fun stuff.

I do.

Dada Spam

In the body of a Spam e-mail advertising a technique to "bigger your d11ck":
you miserable wrong off. window letters benefit reference. out embarrass use did out goes.least nothing companion slow night.young across social love? fascinate letters miserable force leader?yours yours again principle. thus wife leader fascinate social a? here force promised drew goes?anything teach development she. she leader friends social, love embarrass companion.
Where do these come from? Are they written by machine, thus to create large numbers of unique e-mails and refute the idea that a single "mass-mailing" is going out? Are they purposefully composed this way by a human being to defeat spam filters? Are they translated from another language? Is it the ghost of Gertrude Stein, floating around the internet, trying to sing to us one last time?

Isn't "fascinate letters miserable force leader" a fun way to describe George Bush... haplessly enraptured by "My Pet Goat" while his country falls around him? Also, I'm going to have to invent a "yours yours again principle" and start citing it in class.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Well, well Grey's Anatomy Fans

That was quite the little episode wasn't it? Poor George. Poor, poor George...

Watching that man is like watching a mirror of myself on television. Actually, that's getting kinda commonplace these days, either a whole raft of 20 something boys with complicated, difficult relationships with traditional masculinity have been doing TV writing recently; or my internal sense of self has been so warped by my recent heavy-dose TV exposure that I now completely identify with a mass-media archetype.

Probably a little of both.

But yeah, I had a whole rant I was gonna put up here about the "George tells Meredith how he really feels" bit of tonight's episode. How the idea that you should "always tell her how you really feel" is perhaps the biggest lie on television... how maybe sometimes you should just read the writing on the wall and keep your damn mouth shut. But... meh... not much new information there.

Besides, I think the show is going to do pretty well at rendering the unfortunate consequences of George's confession.

Don't worry George, its TV and all you have to do is hang in there a few weeks and your mid-season love interest will be right along. Hell, I'd be willing to wager that it'll be that Paramedic Christina Ricci played for the "bomb in the hospital" episode. Go you!

For those of us out here in what's left of reality... things ain't so predictable...

Then again, we ain't doomed to be archetypes


Friday, February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Gentle readers, it just occurred to me that the prior post may read as if I went through a period in my 20s in which I changed genders. This is not the case. I should have put "she's not pregnant" in quotation marks, as to indicate that time-traveling self was in fact reassuring 20 year old self that he had not impregnated someone else.

I apologize for any confusion or sensations of disorientation this may have caused. As we are living in the post-modern era of gender uncertainty, however, perhaps we had all best get used to it. Who am I to make the essentializing claim that a man could not be pregnant?

That would be a dangerous deployment of normative power, on my part. Donna Haraway's Cyborg assassins would hunt me down, skimming from rooftop to rooftop with their hydraulically boosted legs, aiming on infra-red to thwart my attempts to use this smoke machine for cover.

Speaking of confusion, behold this weird bit of Web ephemera:

Its a blog to make parodies of blogs obsolete. Mmmm, tasty meta-irony. I found it by accident, I was looking for information on political party registration in Ohio's fifth congressional district, and did a google search for "oh5 party" and google, like Dick Cheney's drunken hunting dog, dragged this back to me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

This is what you do with one of these... right

You post stuff you are doing, yes?

Current Heavy-Play Album: The Frames, Burn the Maps
it has that perculiar mix of bombast and vunerability I tend to identify with.

Current Project: Trying to come up with a Cyberpunk paper for my Popc Theory class
my dissertation is probably going to be way more historical, so I'm not sure if this will even be that useful to me , but its an area of interest and it fits the class. Gives me a chance to try to sort out my thoughts on Humanism vs. Posthumanism...

Current Neurosis: Making a bad impression
I'm enjoying expanding my social circle, but it makes me worry about what all these new people think of me. Sure, things seem cool now, but what happens if they catch me zoning out in class and absentmindedly scratching that zit behind my ear? What can I say, neuroses...

Current thought experiment: What to do with a time machine?
Came up in class today. I've always had a vague list, lets see what it looks like

1. Give 16 year old self list, telling him which women he is going to tend to want to pay attention to he should pay less attention too, and which women he's going to tend to ignore he should pay attention to.
2. Tell 20 year old self that she's not pregnant. She won't be the next time either. Calm down 20 year old self.
3. Arm Narragesets and Pequots with modern firearms. (Note, changes in time line due to this may invalidate rest of list. Hmmm.)
4. Bring $4000 back to 1930. Buy land outside of Pheonix or LA.
5. Prod boomers into actually having revolution. Stupid boomers.

that's a tenative and massively self-centered list...

Aiight, I gotta get back to the physical world, such as it is. Peace imaginary readers...

PS: and you Gavin... peace to you too...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Inconsistent Diaryest

I've always been an inconsistent diaryest (Diaryer? One-who-diaries?). Don't know why. Attention Deficit Disorder probably. In case anyone wants to know, here is basically where my life is at:

-I had a sort-of-kind-of not-really relationship last semester, which pretty much, basically, more-or-less fell apart over break. (Welcome to the Post-Modern moraine of Infinite Undefinablity. Fuck You Derrida.[Sigh, but on the other hand all the old definitions were basically fascist, huh. Thank You, Derrida])This sucked, but I feel pretty much recovered. The pattern I had gotten into last semester was way too closed-off anyway. This semester I've been making some new friends and acquaintances and its been a lot of fun.
-Among these new acquaintances include my downstairs neighbor and a girl who works in the office next to mine, both of whom I met in totally random circumstances. Somebody queue up "Synchronicity". Anyway, the downstairs neighbor meet was surreal, because apparently I had figured as a minor character in her existence since I moved in. Due to my heavy, recognizable footsteps, she had taken to calling me "the stomper," and knew my daily schedule practically
better than I did. She heard me singing in the shower while she was on the phone to her mother and remarked, "the stomper is singing now!" Very strange to think of how we brush past other people and never know it. The girl in the next officewas more normal, she just picked on me for mis-pronouncing "Hegel."

-My courseload is way less structured than last semester, which has occasionally left me spinning my wheels. I'm trying to come up with some sort of project/plan/course of action to organize myself. This not being my forte, I'm still working on it. In the meantime, I've been trying to organize my day to day existence.

-I gotta say though, I really do like teaching... at least when it goes well. Its a fun kind of performance.

-Volunteered for a local congressional candidate. Its a very, very long shot race, she lost in 2004 33% 61% and has $4000 COH to her opponents $300,000. Its local and its a chance to play the game though, and if we even get on the radar we'll have contributed to the larger fight for the congress in 2006.

So, yeah, back on the Blog. Let's see if I can keep this up.