29 January 2009

To all buggered bastards out there...

We get it. You're depressed. Just don't be such a selfish bastard and let the wife and kids make their own decisions.

Who knows how many more stories like these we will hear in the times to come, and how many we didn't hear about before media saturation and the internet echo chamber.

25 January 2009

The short track to street cred. Or not.

I like Joe Strummer as much as the next person, but...

No, let me rephrase that. I revere Joe Strummer, but...

I would never buy this Faux Strummer guitar for nearly $1000:

Seriously. For a grand you can get a manufactured Telecaster that simulates Joe Strummer's 1975 Tele. Forget the fact that his Tele looked that way from relentless repaintings and actual road wear -- now you can buy it prefab. But the best bit (if by best you are thinking nearly throw up in your mouth) is the verbiage written to sell this distressed guitar:
All his life, he vigorously championed individuality, self-expression and change-tenets often reflected in the constantly altered look of his favorite instrument-his Telecaster (currently on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland), an otherwise standard '60s-era model with all the original parts and specifications.

So in tribute to his individuality, self-expression, and change, we're going to offer a cookie cutter replica so you can all be individuals (yes, we're all individuals...).


22 January 2009

Have another bag of pills, fool.

You do have to hand it to right-wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh. He not only gets behind his microphone and tells his vast listening lemmings that his four words for Obama are, "I hope he fails," but then he tries to explain what he means.

Apparently, he claims the government is trying to take over "as much of the private sector as possible," and that really it's those plans that he hopes fail, so therefore he hopes Obama fails.

Now that explanation may work for the comatose reactionaries who listen to his show on a regular basis, but for those of us whose memories aren't shorter than a goldfish, we recognize all of Limbaugh's complaints -- from the auto industry to the banking sector -- to be programs instigated by the Bush administration.

These drastic measures of course were made necessary by the last thirty years of Republican and Democratic free market foolishness (sure the Repubs bear the brunt of the blame, but the Dems -- esp. the Clinton wing -- share in it quite a bit). Rabid de-regulation (thanks, Phil Gramm) created a whirlpool in which a small group of greedy sociopaths could cook books and line their own pockets while creating phony profits based on selling not even paper but the idea of paper to one another.

For all the idiots out there who actually consider Ayn Rand a philosopher and not some third-rate literary hack (I'm talking to you, Alan Greenspan), it bears repeating: unfettered capitalism does not work. Not surprisingly, when people look to maximize their own personal profits, they tend not to give a shit about the long-term stability of their company or the social implications of their own recklessness.

By the way, ever talk to a Randian, or "Objectivist" as they like to be called? It's like talking to a 9/11 truther or a JFK conspiracy theorist. Reality is no obstacle.

21 January 2009


It's bad enough the IDF shelled the UN compound in Gaza, but now we find out that Israel has admitted to using white phosphorous shells, in violation of international law. I guess they figured they wouldn't be caught. Or maybe they just don't care. After all, it's not like the UN -- the very body that gave birth to the state of Israel -- has ever been respected all that much by Israeli governments.

From terrorists and rogue states, you expect such behavior. Is this the company then that Israel wants to keep?

20 January 2009

"The time has come to set aside childish things..."

At that point in the speech, G.W. Bush put down his Nintendo DS and looked sheepishly about...

12 January 2009

New semester.

I'm teaching in a basement classroom that must have been a storage room at some point. Low ceilings, floors with lumps beneath the carpet (seriously, it's as if they simply rolled some carpet out over a bare dirt floor and said done with it -- I nearly tripped waltzing around the classroom), and some bizarre paneling like it was someone's mid-70's basement rec-room redo.

However, the absolute best thing about the room is that when I stand at the podium with built in computer console, my ass hits the blackboard. My back is quite literally against the wall in this class. So I need to watch my use of chalk, lest I end up powdering all my clothes. Additionally, the podium is placed so that, unless I contort my body and lean further into my little corner, I'm blocking about a fifth of the screen when I use the LCD projector.

I suppose I shouldn't complain, since I do have a computer and LCD projector, but I have almost no room to roam at the front of the classroom, and I like to roam. I like to move from side to side in front of the rows. In this class, I have about ten feet to move across. That's three, four paces, then I'm up against either my immobile podium or the extra student desk they crammed into the front of the room.

Does anyone take classroom design into account when they're counting on how many tuition paying students they can cram into a space?

10 January 2009

The first full week of 2009 is about over...

I'm guessing a few resolutions are getting kind of old. That's why I'm still trying to decide what my resolutions should be. I'm contemplating the usual: lose a little weight, do more work, commit myself to a hobby. Maybe my hobby should be reading. Except that's too close to work.

Actually, I'm talking more like trying to learn me some guitar a bit better.

Maybe paint a bit.

I don't know.

At least I didn't go out and buy a thousand dollar exercise machine that I would have to put up on craigslist sometime in late February.

09 January 2009


This from the Guardian:

At least 30 people were killed in the Zeitoun district of Gaza after Israeli troops repeatedly shelled a house to which more than 100 Palestinians had been evacuated by the Israeli military, the UN said today.

The body of a child is removed from a house in Zeitun

The body of a girl who was found in the rubble of her destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on a house in Zeitoun Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

It's one thing to shell civilians and claim "collateral damage." It's quite another to evacuate civilians to one location and use that location for target practice.

Meanwhile, in our own "post-racist" society...

I've been watching the aftermath of the BART police officer's murder of a 22 year old man in front of several witnesses (it was a crowded subway platform after all). If you haven't seen the video one witness took, you should check it out (and try to make it through the long segments of off-angle frames of the roof and people's coats).

It took several days for the story to penetrate the national media. That in itself is inexcusable. Have we so lost our moral compass after eight years of the Bush Administration advocating and executing torture, authorizing lawless mercenaries to suppress civilian populations (until they, like Saddam, go too far, or at least get caught going too far), and implementing ever more strict regimes of domestic surveillance that we can't react to this execution-style killing with more indignation?

To date, the largest protest against this chilling cold-blooded murder has itself shown more unfocused discontent and seething rage rather than anything else. The protest started peacefully enough, then turned to vandalism as store fronts and cars were attacked. Many mob participants gleefully destroyed Black-owned businesses, telling the upset business owners they were lucky they only lost their businesses and not their lives:
"I feel like the night is going great," said Nia Sykes, 24, of San Francisco, one of the demonstrators. "I feel like Oakland should make some noise. This is how we need to fight back. It's for the murder of a black male."

Sykes, who is black, had little sympathy for the owner of Creative African Braids.

"She should be glad she just lost her business and not her life," Sykes said.

Yeah. Going great. I sympathize very much with the rage, but you aren't doing yourself any favors when you direct it against innocent people. Unfortunately, that's often the only response available to the disenfranchised (not an excuse -- an understanding...there's a difference): the cops will never allow them to set fire to the mayor's house or to the downtown or even to march to the neighborhoods where the power lies, and that anger needs an outlet. Eventually any target will do.

I'm reminded of the Dead Kennedy's song "Riot."

08 January 2009


I still keep in touch with a large cadre of high school friends; it helps that many of us attended the same great university, Penn State, but it's also significant that many of these people I'd known since kindergarten or even pre-school.

Yesterday, the first of that group turned 40.

So begins the hit parade that runs through the spring...I'm next to go, then Feb 24, March 5, April 7, May 17...and into summer...June 14, August 24...bang, bang, bang down the line (several birthdates I don't even remember, too). Not a big deal, really. I mean, if you're 39 already, 40 is just another number. However, I can't help but look back on my life and I always latch onto a question a teacher asked the class back in the heady days of the late 1970's: "What will you be doing in the year 2000?"

The year 2000 was only a concept then. It was so far off to a nine year old's eyes, when even next Christmas seems a lifetime away. One thing I remember was that I thought, with a sense of how unreal it was, that I'd be over 30. An impossible vision.

Well, as Pink Floyd says, "One day you find, ten years have got behind you..." and here I am on the cusp of forty. I don't really measure my age anymore except in terms of my kids. How old will I be when my son's X, when my daughter's Y? I'll be nearing fifty when my son graduates high school. I'll be nearing fifty-five when my daughter does.


07 January 2009

Plowing the secondaries.

Having grown up in western Pennsylvania, I used to complain about the weather-phobic atmosphere of DC. The mere forecast of snow was enough to send residents to the grocery store to stock up on supplies like they were getting ready to spend a year on the space station. Flurries caused traffic to slow to a crawl, lest that flake get under the tire and send the car careening into a tree.

I don't know what's changed in the fifteen years since I left PA, or maybe it's just that NEPA is different, but this region exhibits surprisingly similar behavior to the District when it comes to snow. And we've got snowplows, lots of them, working the roads day and night.

Yesterday afternoon, we had about two inches of snow. Then it started to rain, so the snow turned into sno-cone consistency. No big deal. So I wake up this morning and find out that the kids' school is on a two-hour delay. Unbelievably, my college is on a two hour delay, too. The roads were so treacherous we all decided to pile in the little civic and go to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.

A little while later, I've got the kids in the car and we're off to school. My wife calls; school's closed. She also informs me that her college is closed. That's a school in the downtown of a small city, not some school out in the middle of the mountain wilderness. Closed.

Now, as I said before, maybe in the fifteen years since I've been in DC something has changed. Maybe there were lawsuits or legal advice or something. Maybe we've simply become a nation of losers. I don't know.

It just seems that a region that has seen snow since forever should be a little more accustomed to getting around in it.

05 January 2009

and now for something completely different.

I'm no fan of Ohio State, but boy did they get hosed in the Fiesta Bowl. In soccer, what McCoy was doing to draw roughing the passer penalties is called diving -- and it's penalized. Of course, it didn't help that OSU couldn't seem to stay onsides during Texas's no huddle drives, but what else do you expect from a program that has one of the poorest graduation rates in the country?

I'm also not a fan of this rugby-style punting that Texas practices. I'm guessing you could argue that as soon as the punter makes that lateral move, he becomes a runner, and all roughing the kicker bets are off.

I don't think I'd like to be in either the Texas or the Ohio State bands. OSU's band-its look like extras from the ROTC scenes in Animal House, and Texas's band outfits are just plain stupid...I'd say they were like a child's Halloween cowboy costume, but most of those look better.

Round and Round and Round it Goes.

The first step to genocide is dehumanizing your opponent. They are not individuals: they are Huns, Beasts, Gooks, Commies...undifferentiated and guilty biologically or culturally. They are terrorists. Even the three year olds. This violence is discursive.

"These people only understand one thing." They are animals, to be rewarded or punished, a pet or a kick. The resistance of a few results in arbitrary communal punishment. All are guilty. My Lai. Soweto. Belfast. Darfur. Guernica. Gaza.

In 1980, the US was a steadfast supporter of Apartheid South Africa. By 1990, nearly all support for that regime had disappeared, at least officially (with notable exception Dick Cheney) -- with the Cold War all but won, South Africa was more a millstone than a keystone to its Western patrons.

Strange things happen.

When you go to fight monsters, take care that you don't become one. Nietzsche said that.

04 January 2009

In the new year, it seems little is new.

I am beginning to wonder if one of the greatest tragedies post-WWII and the Holocaust wasn't the creation of the state of Israel. Perhaps we should look on Israel as yet another of colonialism's failures, as European rulers divvied up their once-conquered lands along artificial and arbitrary lines, leaving in their wake a history of civil wars, coups, international conflict, and genocide.

Would Israel have existed without the Holocaust? I'm not talking about the historic/Biblical version...that's as useful as talking about the Roman Empire...I'm talking about the modern version created by the United Nations in 1947 (and yes of course for those completionists, promised by the British in the "Balfour Declaration," which justified the expansion of the British Empire in the great colonial land-shift known as the Great War). From the beginning it was a mess, with the Arab groups rejecting the partition and the UN unable -- like the British before them -- to develop a plan that would make war less likely.

Well, we're sixty years beyond the Israeli declaration of independence, so it's a bit late to put that horse back in the barn, isn't it?

Meanwhile, Gaza's being flattened in an apparent bid to burn down the house and everyone in it to catch a few rats.

01 January 2009

Resolutions and bad starts.

I resolve to overcome the Penn State loss in the Rose Bowl.

I resolve to spend more time thinking and writing.

I resolve to be a better teacher.