Friday, August 29, 2008

Fellow Gentlemen of the Democratic Party

Please do not attempt to attack Sarah Palin in the following ways:

- Making innuendos about her appearance (ex: a friend of mine's away message "sure she's hot, but is she ready to lead?")
-Snide comments about her beauty pageant experience (ex: Paul Begala on CNN "she seemed very poised, probably got that from her beauty pageant days")
-Any observation on clothing (the only acceptable outfit for female politicians is the pantsuit, its not their fault, its the society)
-Suggesting she is a vapid ditz (

Sarah Palin, on her own, will not draw many democratic women away from the party. The sight of male democrats dusting off a suite of sexist tropes to attack her, might.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hyper-Real moment of the Night

And this was the first night of the Political Convention season, a decidedly hyper-real time:

Paul Begala: "The buzzword this year is authenticity and Michelle Obama definitely has it" (a brief moment of recognition in which Begala catches himself), "that is, its not just a buzzword, she really has it"

Why the GDP is Madness

I've read some analysis like this before, but this short piece in a recent Harper's really does a good job of making the case for the insanity of subordinating all other priorities to the cash economy.

Some of my colleagues may disapprove of the way the piece seems tinged by a certain nostalgia for the "traditional" family. They may object to this as essentialist, or as a call for the return of a way of life that was patriarchal, homophobic, and disapproving of many other forms of difference.

I think all these criticisms are meaningful, and would hope that we can work toward a future in which the non-money economy is not founded on unrecognized drudgery by women, and in which closely knit communities are not based around principles that insist on homogeneous aesthetic choices and sexual practices.

However, at the same time, I think we cultural studies scholars, especially those of us who work on popular culture, have an unfortunate tendency to valorize a variety of consumption-based practices and cultural forms simply because they seem "radical" or like something that would shock the oppressively square church-going denizens of middle America.

It may be fun to feel edgy and hip, but so long as our cultural forms are based on consumption, they only serve to hand over to capital ever more power to make decisions about what is best for our society as a whole. And capital, as this piece points out, is systemically incapable of giving a damn about anything other than ever more profit, and ever more production. If we want to introduce any other values at all back into our political discourse, we're going to have to enter into discussion with our neighbors... even if those neighbors may hold values that make us uncomfortable.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some actual text and analysis by me

To go with that last video. I think it is great that Obama is finally hitting back against McCain on the economy, and pointing out the position of economic privilege that McCain holds, and connecting that to his lousy, benefit the rich and screw everybody else policies. Its smart economic populism and I hope it will go far.

That said, charges of "elitism" always seem to stick more to Democrats than to Republicans, don't they... I'd like to advance a theory as to why.

Maybe its about gender.

The McCain campaign hit back against Obama's remarks by calling him "someone who worries about the price of Arugula" and thus is more "out of touch with ordinary Americans" than his fellow millionaire, John McCain.

I think that says something about how Republicans craft their message on "elitism" and what cultural codes they depend on it activating. I think they are trying to cash in on a long tradition of depicting the upper-class as effeminate - and therefore weak - and the working-class as strong, robust, and masculine. Arugula is expensive, sure, but more importantly it is a salad green - very fem. Rich folks who eat that stuff, like those who spend their money on haircuts (John Edwards) windsurf rigs (John Kerry) hybrid cars (Al Gore) or chardonnay (liberals in general) are effeminate, possibly gay, and therefore disgusting. Rich folks who buy prime steaks, massive SUVs, toy cattle ranches, and sports cars are just ordinary (macho straight) Americans.

One hopes this sort of blatant manipulation of prejudice has a limit, and that the electorate will not respond to it forever. Especially since the policies it enables are now so clearly screwing over the vast majority of the country. Sadly, history would seem to suggest that may not be necessarily so.

I apologize for posting endless video clips

But there are so many good ones out there these days.

Here's Obama, finally throwing punches...

Right on! Hit 'em!

Best Mash Up Evar

Ok, well, best Mash-up this week anyway...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Attack of the Giant Chavez

The above image, from a Reuters article about an upcoming attempt by the Venezuelan gov't to launch a mapping satellite, kinda looks like a giant Hugo Chavez is attacking a satellite dish. Sloppy composition, but hilarious...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Great Indy Campaign Ad

Everyone who supports Obama should put this on their blog, IMHO.

Where to find

The last Lun Class Ekranoplan - a massive Soviet aircraft designed to fly a few feet off the surface of the sea carrying a frigate's complement of anti-ship missiles - on google maps:

View Larger Map

Oh wikipedia, the things I waste time on because of you...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm not sure

How much help a recommendation from a site full of marxist rantings and profanity like this one will be for somebody looking for freelance writing/business consulting gigs, but Mike over at is a really sharp student of technology and pop culture looking for work. He groks the networked world... if you need somebody to write up your web 2.0 project or give you some insights into contemporary technologically mediated culture, drop him a line.

Monday, August 11, 2008

14 Ways to look at an international conflagration

Well, not quite 14, but as an experiment (and to satisfy my curiosity) I've been watching to see how many different points of view I could get on the Georgian conflict via the internet news sources I routinely monitor. Here's what I've found:

Two articles from the NYT: One broad overview, one more "on the ground"

Some unabashedly (and predictably) Pro-Russian coverage from Pravda

Several short videos from Reuters... good for some sense of what things might look like:

This article critical of what the author perceives as Pro-Western bias in other reports appearing in The Guardian

That's what I've found so far...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Orwell's Diary as a Blog

These folks are posting George Orwell's diary online as a blog. Posts will go up exactly 70 years after they were written, starting today with the entry from August 9, 1938.

I'd just like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of my attempt to get folks to call Orwell "The Democratic Socialist most likely to be cited by Authoritarian Capitalists"

Thursday, August 07, 2008

We're also apparently down with

Holding prisoners in tiny wooden boxes

Human Rights(TM) only available for Citizens of the United States* void wherever they would be a bother

*Some rights, especially those protected by the 1st and 4th amendments,no longer available. Supplies of other rights are running low! Get yours today!

Automating the Army

Just in case some of you were hoping the debacle in Iraq would finally convince the United States to abandon the use of military force as a way to pursue its interests, I bring you today's Very Depressing Link (TM).

How will the United States continue using military force around the world when folks get upset about American casualties? Simple! Use Robots for the dangerous combat jobs!

Of course, if we gave a fuck about killing other people
we might be deterred by that... but all the evidence I've seen suggests the US electorate is willing to kill virtually unlimited numbers of "enemies" (including "collateral damage") so long as "our boys" are safe. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that the enemies are usually brown or yellow.

Yes America, we can continue our lifestyle of rampant consumption unabated, and send in the Kill Bots to quell any resistance to our appropriation of resources or labor! Happy Day! Let freedom (for consumption) ring on every (ok, not really every, since the poor and the black won't be getting a cut of this pie, and will be targeted by second-hand Kill Bots in the hands of the Police) American hillside!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

They Built a Desert and Called it Peace

Or, in this case, they built a prison and called it peace. Great documentary work by an Iraqi reporter for The Guardian on the current state of Baghdad. The short answer: there is no peace there... just a civil war on hold.

Via the always excellent Juan Cole

How to explain why Capitalism is fucked up in jargon free English

This video by Austrian art collective monochrom is a great, straight forward skewering of Capitalism and Market economies. Nobody's done it better since Marx.

Granted, their simplicity leaves out some important nuances, but hey you can't have it all.

The fact that I can only find this via the increasingly hyper-capitalist and ad-crufted is just a bit of irony to top it all off.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

On the same basic lines of my post below

A recently, an episode of the "PhD Comics" webcomic was published that depicted fictionalized versions of some members of my department. The folks depicted were pretty pleased with the comic, and I suppose publicity for the school (since the program has been conflated with another program here, either to protect the anonymity of the folks in the comic or by mistake) is a good thing.

You can read it here.

However, as much as people seem pleased with the comic, I must really, really take issue with the way that my discipline is depicted in this cartoon.

There are a bunch of things I don't like, but right now I'd like to single out the way my colleagues are apparently quoted as saying that, in humanities scholarship, there are "many truths." This sort of simple, pluralist line reinforces what I think is an important mis-representation of what we as humanities scholars do (or at least should be doing, in my opinion).

To say that doing humanities scholarship is about showing that "there are many truths" is like saying that doing environmentalism is about showing that there are many species. Yes, there are, but that is not the point. The point is what is happening to those truths and species under the systems of power at work in contemporary capitalism. Namely, they are being tossed into its gaping maw, shredded, and shat back out as commodities.

And what about the wonderful, snowflake "truth" that our smirking jock-boy conservative ass-clown depicted below lives in? Is it important for us to understand that it exists? Oh yeah. Does that mean we respect it as a co-equal member of the smiling community of truth? Hell no. Our duty is to confront it, to challenge it, to limit the effects of its toxicity where ever we can.

And that means our job is to reach conclusions, to take stands, and to advocate for some truths and not for others. Not because they are the sole truth, but rather quite the opposite, because what truth will prevail is always at stake.

Behold the Modern Conservative, or, Way to Go Boomers

Yes Boomers, remember back in the 1960s, those radical times when you got all radical and challenged the system? Well, at least you challenged the system until it stopped killing you in a misbegotten war in South East Asia and started paying you really well. Then you decided the system wasn't so bad after all and moved out to the suburbs and made sure no Black Folks followed you there. Not that you had anything against them, oh no, you just needed to maintain your home value.

Behold what you have wrought, the modern conservative dude, captured in his natural habitat - the mind bogglingly awful facebook page.

Thank God for your brave sexual revolution Boomers! You made sure Conservative dude could be utterly unabashed about his appetites. But you left the systems of inequality that let him treat his partners as cattle totally untouched. Dismantling those would have been no fun. I understand.

Oh and thank god for the brave war you fought on naughty words, allowing Mr. Douchy-McDouchebag here to express his vile notions of racial supremacy and basic disregard for all human life that doesn't immediately serve or entertain him (aw, lets face it, he doesn't have much regard even for them) with cutting, edgy prose. How fun!

Yes, the conservative dude, the ultimate product of vapid pluralism. Behold his unique and wonderful truth. Is it not beautiful?

You fought for freedom and liberated the powerful from any sense of responsibility for the rest of us. Now voices scream freedom in every direction and justice in none.

What really scares me, Boomers, is I'm pretty sure we Internet Kids are doing it all over again.