Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This is awesome

From The Onion News Network: "Gay Scientists Discover Christian Gene"

This is a pretty sharp piece, I like it a lot.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Doing My Small Part

For democratic media. Here are some clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright being interviewed by Bill Moyers on his PBS news program. Watch these, and try to get others to watch them. They're the best antidote currently available for the "LOOKOUT! SCARY BLACK MAN!" show that has been made out of excerpts from his sermons.

Share the links and spread the love children. Lets get the message to the peoples.

Summer Art Project

I'm going to be trying to do a summer art project this summer, taking some pictures of the Grain elevators of Wood County, Ohio.

The Grain elevator seems a fitting subject for this moment of rising food prices, and I enjoy taking pictures that capture the odd beauty of industrial equipment. These ungainly behemoths have that in spades.

The pictures are coming up here... I'm going to try to put together a web-page with a map and some captions in the next few weeks.

This Guy

Might just be saving the world... or at least the parts of it that are pollenized by bees.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Jack of All Trades

Or perhaps more like the deuce of all trades. Sure I could be working on my Dissertation, or on my various political projects, but no... tonight I decided to learn some javascript.

I managed to hack together this crude but kinda fun tool with javascript and the google maps API. It shows a map, you click on something, and it outputs the Latitude and Longitude of that something in nice clean text, ready to be cut and pasted into GPS babel, or hand-keyed into a handy GPS unit.

I'm going to play with Google Maps some more for an Art project I want to play with this summer. I find this stuff to be useful when I'm having a video game craving... the same kind of problem solving is employed, and at least I'm learning a little something in the process.

The tool is here if you want to play with it. It is on my server box on my cable connection, so don't all click at once.

If you find the code useful, feel free to take it (of course), but you'll need your own key from google to use the google maps API.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

If you like, please link

This is egotistical to even ask, but if you like the post below, and support what it is saying, please link to it on your own blog (if you have one). If we can get enough links, maybe people will start to read it.

Again, I hate to even ask, but I'd like to see if we can use this crazy internet to reach somebody.

Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Senator,

I'd like to start out by saying that I'm a strong supporter of yours and have enjoyed being active in your campaign. I helped organize the get out the vote canvass here in Bowling Green, Ohio - there are even pictures of me working on it in the Getty Images photo pool of the day's events. I think you represent our best hope of real political change in our country.

That said, I have one question regarding last night's debate:

What the hell was that?

Seriously Senator, what the hell? I understand that the questions were nonsensical and a complete distraction from the actual issues facing our country, I understand the moderators did Hillary's attack job for her, I'm as pissed about it as everyone else in the liberal internet-sphere.

But here's where I, with all due respect Senator, think you went wrong when confronted with those questions:

you flinched

You didn't hit back hard and stick to your convictions, you waffled and stammered. The "bitter" question, I'll admit, you got just about right - but with only about the tenth of the energy you really needed to hit it with. The Wright explanation, on the other hand, is a disaster. Again, Senator, I realize you have very experienced campaign operatives working for you, and I am just a grad student and volunteer in Northwest nowhere Ohio, but I really take issue with how your campaign has decided to respond to that question - at least your "short form" answer, the longer Race Speech in Philadelphia was brilliant.

The short answer you gave last night (which seems to be the standard for the campaign) went something like this, "I didn't know Pastor Wright said those awful things, and the awful things he said don't reflect the other good things the church has done. I trust the American people to understand my views aren't Pastor Wright's views, and that Pastor Wright's views are part of a larger context." Senator, if you are going to trust the American people, you have to trust them all the way. You have to trust them to understand Pastor Wright's context, and to reject the notion that you and he share the same politics. Your current answer, on the other hand, attempts to disconnect you from the Pastor's remarks by denying you ever heard them, which suggests you really don't trust Americans to do this, and instead feel the need to make a denial which stretches the bounds of plausibility even for your most staunch supporters: that you did not know what your Pastor of 20 years was saying on the pulpit. I've watched a number of flame wars erupt over these remarks in a variety of online forums, Senator, and not once did your supporters use your denial as a part of their own argument as to why Pastor Wright's remarks should not disqualify you for the highest office in the land. Instead, they have appealed to the basic truth of the second part of your answer: that Wright's fiery sermons make sense in the context of a Black church community struggling to deal with the realities of oppression in the United States, even if the words of these sermons are often over the top; that a church should not be judged by the words of its Pastor alone; and that suggesting that a man's ideas are exactly the same as his Pastor's is absurd.

This sort of waffling, this attempt to deny and then explain continued throughout the debate. Again, I understand the questions were bogus, but just because we want to transform American politics does not mean we can expect it to transform itself for us. We're going to have to be able to operate in the current political environment, until we have secured the ability to transform that environment. The bogus corporate media cannot be ignored, it must be defeated.

In my humble opinion, the way to do that, Senator, is to trust the American people and to trust them all the way. Don't flinch, don't waffle, don't deny. Explain, persuade, and stand up for yourself. One of the things that first attracted me to your campaign was the strength and confidence with which you did these things in the early days of the primary season - a seeming million years ago. As the season has gone on, that confidence has seemed to wane and falter, and I think I know why: you have something to lose now. And so, like so many Democratic candidates before you, you've stopped fighting to win, and started fighting not to lose.

Please, Senator, if by some odd chance you should actually encounter this small letter written by a small campaign volunteer, I have just one request to make. A request I believe will be shared by millions of others just like me.

Fight to win again, Senator. Fight like you have nothing to lose. Democrats have been betting small and losing small for generations now. Look where it has gotten us. It is scary to bet big, but it may be the only chance we've got.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I Read Talking Points Memo

So you don't have to. Another interesting tidbit posted up there today:

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) on Obama: "I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country."
The point most others are making is that Rep. Davis seems a wee bit racist when he refers to the first Black Senator since the reconstruction as "boy." I agree, of course, but there is something much more interesting here...

When Rep. Davis offhandedly mentions "that simulation that related a nuclear threat to this country," what exactly is he talking about? Do the political parties, as a part of their vetting process, run candidates through some sort of advanced computer simulator game designed to recreate the experience of commanding US Strategic Forces during a nuclear strike on the United States? A sort of 21st century equivalent of Starfleet's Kobayashi Maru scenario - designed to test Starship officers in a "no-win scenario?" Are we to understand from Rep. Davis's comment that Sen. Obama - demonstrating both his intellect and his disregard for conventional thinking - responded to the scenario in the same way as the famous James T. Kirk, by re-programming the simulator to allow for victory, in this case perhaps a nice, peaceful negotiated settlement involving multilateral agreements and robust international organizations heading off any nuclear exchange?

If so, the Obama people need to get this out the the press! The Trekkers will turn out in droves! Imagine the bumper sticker:

Obama 08 - He Beat the Kobayashi Maru

Yep... that's gonna be the big November surprise people, the Trekker vote. You heard it here first.


I finally tracked down Rep. Davis's comments. He does indeed imply that he and Sen. Obama were involved in a "highly classified simulation" of a nuclear threat! Kobayshi Maru!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


From Talkingpointsmemo.com: a YouTube video clip of Senator Obama on Charlie Rose in 2004, explaining sentiments similar to those that recently got him called "elitist."

I think it is pretty clear here that, far from being elitist, Senator Obama is doing his best to explain the anxieties of working class people to the (largely privileged) media. For those of you "sick of the politics" of this campaign season, watch his thoughtful analysis here and then look me in the eye and tell me you've seen a politician who thinks and speaks like this in your lifetime.

You haven't. And you won't again. This is your chance America. Don't screw it up.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Another Good Column

By Garrison Keillor on Salon. He's been a bit hit-and-miss over there lately. This is a good one though.

The Pedagogy of Narcissistic Smarm

To involve my students in my lecture on Hebdige's "Subculture: The Meaning of Style" I asked them to provide some examples of contemporary youth subcultures, and how those subcultures might be engaging in the sort of semiotic rebellion that Hebdige suggests is the interesting potential of subculture. They named the emo, goth, and indy scenes as contemporary subcultures.

My favorite part: during the wrap-up I referred to the "emo-goth continuum" as being made up of "various distillates of crude punk." Clever, right?

Yep, that's what keeps me teaching, folks. The opportunity to say clever things in front of a captive audience.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Anthony Famiglietti 1919-2008

One of my earliest childhood memories is of spending a warm spring day with my paternal grandfather. I was a fanciful child, I always wanted to play games based on "imagination." The influence of Sesame Street no doubt. My parents tired of these imaginary exercises, since a young boy's notion of what a submarine or spaceship might be like is not very entertaining to an adult. But my grandfather indulged me, as grandparents will. That afternoon we were playing "Time Machine." We set the imaginary dial, and off we went to the sixties, or the forties, or the thirties, and with each stop my Grandfather would tell me stories of his experience in that time, tell me what it had been like to live through the depression, through the war, through the boom-time afterward. I remember being astounded at the long thread of living memory he possessed, and the ease and joy with which he wove that thread into tales and anecdotes.

That thread is broken now.

Like any good post-modern child of the mediated age, I have recorded images of my grandfather. Squeezed some small portion of the man's vast memory into patterns of bits, in the latest iteration of what must be a human tradition dating back to when we first became able to speak, but the full richness of his experience, and the funny, vibrant, sometimes bawdy man who lived it - that's all gone now.

Goodbye, Grandpa

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fafblog is Back

Fafblog, the death of which I blogged mournfully about a while ago, has returned to life! New posts here.

Ever since I put up the earlier post despairing of Fafblog's apparent demise, the blog here has been getting google hits from far and wide (so Google analytics tells me) based on some combination of the search terms "fafnir" "Chris Mastrangelo" "fafblog" etc. Each hit filled me with a sense of warmth, of community. Somewhere on the net, they told me, someone was searching for the same thing I had lost, someone was wishing on the same star.

And today, someone cruised by my blog to drop a comment and let me know fafblog was live again... how cool is that?