June 30, 2005

Majikthise : Mukthar Mai paradox

Majikthise : Mukthar Mai paradox:

If you presuppose male hegemony, it makes sense to address rape by silencing victims and to protecting future victims by restricting their freedom, especially their access to other men. The framework itself is often invisible to those who operate within it, making it impossible for them to realize the presuppositions that circumscribe reactions to the problem of sexual assault.

The bounded logic of male privilege pervades attitudes towards rape in every society, including our own. It asserts itself every time a guy is incapable of condemning rape without admonishing women for doing 'stupid things.'

June 29, 2005

Dream Theater: 2005 Images & Words

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

5. Images & Words

It’s a testament to Dream Theater’s ability to move forward that this album is ranked so low. When this one was released in 1992 it essentially started the modern progressive music scene, which had been languishing after punk supplanted prog rock in the 70s. This is a towering of an album monolith of an album and, though I think it’s a little silly to tie music to tightly to the past, many prog fans still consider this the yardstick against which any new prog album is measured. When complaining about the state of new albums, many fans wish somebody could just makes something more like Images & Words. The album is just packed with great songs that typify everything Dream Theater has come to stand for, a tight blend of good tunes and complex music. This album established to goal of prog metal to take what some see as the overly cerebral prog rock of the 70s and show that music can be both cerebral and rock to; you can make something that you can just bop around to, sing along with, or sit down and think about.

Now, it did come out in ’92, so not all the songs have held up as well as others, which really accounts for where it is on the list. To me, however, this just shows how adept Dream Theater is at keeping their sound updated. They’ve never released an album that sounded like a throwback; never gotten so locked into one sound that they get passed by. Sure, metal may not exactly be popular these days, but that’s not what I mean. They’re not chasing the charts, they’re taking the style of music they’re in and pushing it forward, incorporating modern bits into the old formula to keep it from getting stale.

Dream Theater: 2005 Train of Thought

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

6. Train of Thought

Their last album before the recently released Octavarium and is perhaps the most guitar heavy that they’ve released. If Octavarium is the lighter, approachable side of Dream Theater, Train of Thought is the gritty heavy meaty album it balances out. This isn’t to say it’s more complex than any of the other albums, it’s just more in-your-face than other albums. I can see why not everyone would like this album, but really there’s just so much great stuff going on in this album I think that’s a shame.

If there’s one weakness to the album, it’s lyrics. None are bad, I don’t think, but about half the album has fantastic lyrics that make the rest look a little more ordinary by comparison. Again, not bad, but I find my thoughts relating to the lyrics gravitating towards one or two songs (though they’re the long songs on the album) that are just fantastic, which leads me into talking about one of those songs…In The Name Of God, which is the second of the two best DT political songs released. Being a New York based band I would have expected Dream Theater’s take on 911 to be a little skewed towards the home town perspective, but like The Great Debate before it, they manage to be completely even handed with the subject matter, producing a song that doesn’t take sides or preach. To do something as deftly as this with just a few lyrics, and some of the musical themes, is what Dream Theater is all about.


Sorry, forgot to post my Dream Theater post yesterday, so you lucky monkeys get two today! If you feel like, use this as an open thread to post whatever the hell you feel like. In fact, there may be Ra points in it for you...

June 28, 2005

Are Superheroes Innately Conservative?

That is the question asked in a post Jesse links to. The poster discusses the following theory:

I think it important to remember that the superhero is at his essence a libertarian or conservative icon, simply because he uses his 'gifts' and his will to set things right as an individual. Even an anti-system rebel-- say 'Batman' in DK2-- is an individual imposing his or her vision upon the world. The values are individual rather than collective. Moreover, it is the individual, the hero, who is uplifted over the group. One person sets things right, usually with violence. This fits right into the extreme individualist models so common in modern American conservatism or libertarian thought.

Much liberal politics is really based upon working with patience and understanding to 'dissolve' problems, or to attack them at their roots, long before they exist. The teacher who gets an inner city kid interested in engineering prevents a villian, but such stories are difficult to tell in comics and not superhero stuff. Talk is the stuff of liberal politics, or as Winston Churchill once put it, "Jaw, jaw is better than war, war".

So now Winston churchill is a great liberal icon? Huh.

Anyway, this looks a lot like the arguments I've seen here and there that The Incredibles is a conservative/libertarian/Ayn Rand-ian movie. But as both Jesse and this poster point out, the left/right distinction pretty much breaks down here when you poke at it. In their fictional worlds, superheroes are usually one step closer to Nietzsche's Uebermensch (often misleadingly translated as 'superman'), or a lot like Kierkegaard's Knight of Faith; and it's easy to read Nietzsche and Kierkegaard as politically conservative. It also doesn't hurt that, in the mind of today's conservative/libertarian, 'liberal' often equals 'Commie' often equals 'anti-individualism'. But a more nuanced reading of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and recalling that Fascism was all about individual sacrifice to build a great society, rejects this simplistic identification.

What Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were all about, at least in this respect, was the rejection of mediocrity, conformity, and the notion that the highest moral duty was to the impartial law. I think this is precisely the spirit we see in all superhero comics (at least, all good ones), and the fundamental tension of vigilantism is the tension of Kierkegaard's Knight of Faith. A conservative can read an elitism into this, like Ayn Rand did when she ripped off the worst ideas from Nietzsche, but a liberal can find a far more democratic dream that everyone can overcome the temptation to conform and deny their own power.

At the end of the Powerpuff Girls Movie, a giant Mojo Jojo threatens the helpless people of Townsville, and tries to convince the Girls that they owe nothing, and can use their powers to help him take control. As they smack him down, the Girls explain that their powers are precisely the reason why they side with the people of Townsville. (Haha, just found a transcript!)

Mojo: For them? The ones who hated you? Have forsaken you? (continues climbing to the building top.) Can’t you see? None of them will ever understand you as I can. For we are kindred spirits, whose powers spring from the same source. So girls – do not make me destroy you, for we are smarter! We are stronger! We are invincible! We have the power! We are superior to them! And we shall rule! All we have to do is work together. Girls! Join me!

Girls (All): Nooooo!

Blossom: We’d never join you! And it’s because… (flying, hits Mojo) … we are stronger!

Bubbles: (hitting Mojo) Because we are invincible!

Buttercup: Because we have the power! (striking Mojo)

Girls (All): We have to protect them from you!

Blossom: It’s you who is to be feared!

Bubbles: ‘Cause you are a monster! (She smashes Mojo’s dome, revealing his brains.)

Buttercup: You are evil!

This isn't a liberal or conservative notion: this is just about doing what's right.

Amandagon: My love-making is your experimentation

Pandagon: My love-making is your experimentation:

I remember being a teenager and I'm sure that most people here do as well. Nothing, but nothing, pissed me off more than adults telling me that my feelings weren't real because I hadn't passed the age of 18 yet. I didn't like being told I didn't love my boyfriend, because I did, or that my traumas and joys were somehow less real due to my youth. I realize that it's traditional to devalue teenagers like this, for what reason I couldn't tell you, but all it does is amplify rebellious feelings. Want kids to think you're completely out of touch? Tell 'em what they consider love-making is mere experimenting.

Two fantastic examples spring to mind immediately.

Most obviously, a friend who I'll call A. I met her just a little over two years ago now, when she was 17. She'd just had a major fight and broken up with her boyfriend of like three years, and one of the first things she told me was how everyone told her that it didn't matter, because it wasn't really love, they were 'too young'. Two years later, they're planning on getting together the first chance they get, in the Fall, and she's hearing a lot of the same, that marriage is 'too big' for people who are 'too young', 'only' 19 and 21.

I've heard of a lot of 'young' marriages that fail; but I've also heard of a lot of 'old' marriages that go the same way. Maybe A and her fiancee aren't in love, this is all a fantastic mistake, driven by fleeting good looks and great sex; or maybe what they have is as perfect and amazing as anyone can hope to find. But the only way for anyone to know is for them to do what they think is best, and live with all the wonderful and horrible and awesome consequences. I wish them all the best, and a long and happy life together.

The second example is my step-sister, Rachel, who turns 17 this Fall. Admittedly, Rachel has a bit of a temper, and can hold a grudge like no-one I've ever seen. But, in a vicious cycle, a lot of Rachel's rage is directed at her mother, who in turn seems to hold only the most token respect for Rachel's desire to have some control over Rachel's life: Rachel's curfew at her mother's is an hour earlier than at her father's, her diary and IM chat logs are often read without her permission, and almost all the problems with that relationship and with her life are blamed exclusively on her. My dad's new wife, unfortunately, treats her teenage daughter like a twelve-year-old; while my dad, in a display of equally poor teenager parenting, declares all her actions to be part of a 'phase', or symptoms of some generic teenage desire 'to find her own identity'. No wonder the poor girl feels like no-one has any respect or sympathy for her; I'm inclined to agree with her a lot of the time.

June 27, 2005

Just Two Links

Like the 101 Rules for Prog Music posted a while ago, here are some rules for video game fanboys, and also like the former list you could pretty much replace all the video game references with some other type of fandom and the list would still be pretty accurate.

Second, we have the poster for the film adaptation of Bloodrayne, which could look like a worse movie. Given the fact that the video game wasn't terribly spectacular this shouldn't be terribly surprising. And Ben Kingsley, what the hell buddy?!

Dream Theater: 2005 Awake

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

7. Awake

Don’t let the low rankings of these last few albums fool you, these are utterly fantastic albums, they’re just a little more uneven than those higher on the list. As I listen to Awake today, I’m just amazed at how well the band incorporated some musical themes throughout the album, so that even though it’s not a concept album and each song is individual in its own right, the album is tied fast together. You find yourself in the latter half of the album wondering where you heard that theme from, then on the next listen through you hear echoes of the later songs appearing in the earlier tunes. A couple of the songs haven’t held up as well as other, but there are still some real winners that still get play on tours and sound as good as ever

If the Frame Fits...

Katha Pollitt has an interesting insight at the end of her column on Lakovian framing:

There's a word that doesn't show up much in the new abortion frames: women. Maybe it doesn't poll well. 'Reframing' abortion is actually a kind of deframing, a way of taking it out of its real-life context, which is the experience of women, their bodies, their healthcare, their struggles, the caring work our society expects them to do for free. Lynn Paltrow, the brilliant lawyer who runs National Advocates for Pregnant Women, thinks the way to win grassroots support for abortion rights is to connect it to the whole range of reproductive and maternal rights: the right to have a home birth, to refuse a Caesarean section, to know that a miscarriage or stillbirth--or simply taking a drink--will not land you in jail. The same ideology of fetal protection that anti-choicers wield against abortion is used against women with wanted pregnancies. More broadly, Paltrow argues that the right to abortion would have more support if it were presented as just one of the things women need to care for their families, along with paid maternity leave, childcare, quality healthcare for all, economic and social support for mothers and children, strong environmental policies that protect fetuses and children.

But when was the last time you heard a Democrat talk about paid maternity leave? It's been reframed right out of the picture.

I could write something about virtue and care ethics here, but my mom and I are going to go have ice cream, so you'll have to use your imaginations.

June 26, 2005

Dream Theater: 2005 Falling Into Infinity

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

8. Falling Into Infinity

This is the album most reviled by fans and for which DT is accused of “selling out”. Of course, prog fans are pretentious and ridiculous, so it’s not always advisable to listen to them, especially when one of the chief charges that a couple members of the band cut their hair short. So anyway, this was my first exposure to Dream Theater. Evidently their label switched producers for the band on this album and the new guy was intent on trying to make DT more marketable and mainstream, which resulted in perhaps the least “proggy” album they’ve ever made. One of the songs actually got a little bit of radio play, which is where I heard it, so I suppose I should be thankful to that erstwhile producer for introducing me to my favorite band of all time.

Now onto the music. There are still some fantastic tunes on this disc, more than fans would care to admit, but it’s just a little more uneven than other albums and there are a couple songs on there that I’m not crazy about. Actually, I think it’s the fact that this album is merely “good” that is so disappointing. There’s no epic length song that blows you away, the music sounds nice but doesn’t wow you. I think Mike Portnoy, DT’s drummer and sort of leader, summed it up best when he said that though he likes some of the songs it’s not the album he would have chosen to make.

June 25, 2005

Happy PRIDE weekend!

Unfortunately, I'm spending it in a town where, a couple months ago, anti-gay marriage demonstrations tied up the weekend traffic *on the highway* even worse than usual. The mayor ended up passing a resolution (which was quite controversial) condemning these homophobic and derogatory demonstrations as hateful and not representative of the town or county.

So, no campy parade for this straight boy to blush at.

Dream Theater: 2005 When Dream And Day Unite

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

9. When Dream and Day Unite

This is the one album that I don’t really listen to on any kind of regular basis, and you’ll notice that it basically isn’t counted as a Dream Theater album since one of the main themes in Octavarium, the most recent album, centers around it being the eighth studio album, when it’s actually the ninth if we count When Dream And Day Unite. The reason is that James LaBrie, Dream Theater’s singer/frontman didn’t join the band until Images and Words, which is when the Dream Theater sound really solidified. The singer on this album, Charlie Dominici, just doesn’t have the power, range, or vocal quality to really carry what the band is setting for him. That coupled with the fact that the band members were in their very early twenties and the sound is a little unpolished. Still, the songs themselves are good and on the most recent live album the current lineup played “Only A Matter Of Time” off this album and it sounded pretty good. Also, "YTSE Jam" is a fan favorite instrumental and gets a fair amount of play at concerts and MP3 players still. A good, but flawed, first effort.

Edit: I just now found out that there's an official bootleg of a show celebrating the 15th anniversary of this album where the current lineup performed the whole album. Supposedly the production sounds a bit better and the songs benefit from James LaBrie being a much better singer. I'll have to check that out...

Friday Random 10: This Week Fortified With Extra Random!

(Song - Artist)

1. Dimmest Star - The Pernice Brothers
2. Alone You Breath - Savatage
3. Lullaby For Lucifer - Angra
4. The Big Payback - James Brown
5. Flite - Cinematic Orchestra
6. Mr. Blue Sky - ELO
7. Until We Say Goodbye - Joe Satriani
8. Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle And The Sleeper - Dream Theater
9. The Shooting Company Of Francis B. Cocq - Aryeon
10. Fresh Feeling - Eels

Come on now, post your random 10!

Just A Quick Linkaroo

Photoshop Phriday's pretty good this week.

Voice Actor Strike

As frequently happens these days when someone talks about unions, the reaction from gamers to the possible voice actor strike was pretty much to not support the union at all and call them greedy. Keep in mind that most of them don't know much, if anything, about either unions generally or what the voice actors are asking for specifically, but as Something Awful tells us, the internet makes you stupid. Penny Arcade also did a comic on this effect, but their archives are completely impossible to search with any usefull results so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Anway, Will Wheton, King Nerd of the Intarweb, has a great post on the strike. Besides being generally a great post, towards the end he makes the point that perhaps the reason gamers and game makers are so hostile to the voice actors union is because the gaming industry, as with most professional industries, is woefully underunionized. If you need any examples of what happens to labor with no unions, you need look no further than our friend Electronic Arts.


The guys over at Penny Arcade have evidently been getting into the pranks lately, and came up with this gem. For those unaware, Gabe is the artist of Penny Arcade, and Tycho is the writer. Both, of course, use psudonyms.

From Tycho's post:
We made a comic about "the romz" as well, minus the sky high trucker and vehicular manslaughter it is a true story. It was Gabe though, not me, and it was actually a real FBI agent who cracks down on pornography. He had the cuffs on him, Gabriel's face pressed into the sticky circle left by an ancient soda, and we decided that was a good time to reveal our hidden cameras. Strangely enough, Gabriel never professed his innocence throughout the ordeal. Weird!

And from Gabe's post:

It is apparently hilarious to play practical jokes on me. The story Tycho mentioned is just one example of the sort of junior high bullshit I am forced to deal with here at Penny Arcade industries.

I was sitting at my desk drawing when an honest to God FBI agent entered the room and asked for me by name. The man had a badge and a fucking gun and everything. He said something about investigation of pornography and that I was under arrest. I looked to my friends in the room for assurance that this was some sort of joke and got none. To their credit they did not crack during the entire joke. In fact it wasn’t until I started crying and begging for my mother that they all had a good laugh and patted each other on the back. Apparently Robert has a friend in the FBI. I guess he had a few spare minutes to stop by our office and make me piss myself. As for me not proclaiming my innocence during the ordeal, well that’s true. Once again I must give my friends credit for creating a plausible scenario for my incarceration.


More Corporate Fighting

Microsoft and Sony are really at each other's throats about the next generation of video game consoles, which starts this fall when MS releases the Xbox 360. Recently, Sony rented a hip loft in Paris to show off the PSP, their new handheld gaming system. MS responded by renting the storefront window of the laundry across the street with an Xbox 360 ad. The ad said, "Gardez vos forces pour cet hiver" which translates to "Save your strength for winter" when the 360 ships. Evidently Sony was so pissed off that they offered the laundry owner even more money to take the ad down.

Here are some pics.

Hat tip to Evil Avatar.

EA, Still Major Dickheads

Electronic Arts' website briefly displayed a picture of the cover for the next version of EA Sports NHL Hockey which sported a "Exclusively Licensed" logo. After some activity on the gaming forums the picture was altered to say "Officially Licensed". So the question is, was this just a mistake, were they testing the waters, or did somebody accidently let the cat out of the bag?

Now, I've made my hatred of EA clear in previous posts, but here's the recap if you're just joining us. Back in the days of the SNES and Sega Genesis, Sega was where you went for sports video games. On top of the many third party sports games on the system, Sega itself produced some great sports titles. With the birth of the Playstation, and the begin of Sega's decline on the hardware side of the industry, Electronic Arts took the reigns as the premier company dealing in sports video games, particularly Madden, their football title. Madden, and the other EA sports line, ruled the field with almost no serious competition from roughly the launch of the Playstation in 1995 until around three years ago, when Sega got serious about sports games again.

Sega's sports development house, Visual Concepts, put together an increasingly competitive line of sports games, and in some cases garnered higher scores in the reviews than EA's version. The problem was that most gamers were so used to buying the new version of Madden every year, and the name Madden was just so universally recognized, that Sega just wasn't making a dent in EA's sales. The solution to this was two fold; they licensed the ESPN brand and brought all of their sports games under the well known banner. The second prong came just this last year, with Sega pricing all of their sports games at $20 instead of the industry standard $50. Coupled with the fact that the games were universally getting better and better while EA's had been stagnating or actually getting worse, and Sega finally started making some headway in the market. How would EA react? How would they counter this new competitive force?

Be really huge dicks with barrels of money.

The first volley came when EA announced that they had paid the NFL $300 million for a five year contract for exclusive use of all the players, teams, and stadiums in the league. Now, back in the day, making sports games based on fictional teams was pretty standard, but as the games became more of a simulation, the need to license the teams and players for heightend authenticity increased. Sega could certainly make a football game, but if a player wanted to play as their favorite real life team, they have to go to the substandard Madden. Next EA announces that they've paid ESPN a truckload of money for the exclusive use the ESPN brand for the next fifteen (15!) years. Keep in mind that they still have a contract with Madden for the next several years and will in all likelihood renew it, so chances are they won't even use the ESPN brand, or at least only in a very limited sense. The positive influence on EA's games will be minimal, but this sure hits Sega hard doesn't it? Oh well, at least they can still make another football game, like college, right? Wrong: EA then got exclusive licenses for college and arena football. At this point Sega got out of the game and sold Visual Concepts to Take 2 Interactive, another gigantic publisher like EA.

Take 2 managed to get some kind of limited exclusivity with MLB and the NBA has refused, thankfully, to enter into any exclusivity agreements with anyone, but EA's still in the driver seat. The worst part about this rumor is that while ESPN Football 2k5, the last Sega football game, was pretty widely considered to be better than Madden '05, EA's NHL game has actually been getting worse each year since the 2000 edition and the Sega version was significantly better in most ways. Exclusivity gives the company no reason to improve their game year to year, and EA has precious little competition now. Not only that, but all the money they used getting these exclusivity agreements is sure to be passed on to the consumer, and they've even hinted that next generation games from them might jump to $60.

On a slightly positive note, I suppose there is some hope that Take 2's games, since they are no longer bound to constantly trying to keep their game up to date on how real life players are doing, they might be able to make their nonlicensed games even better. Also, since they no longer have to pay royalties to the various leagues and players associations they might be able to sustain the lower price on their games. Also, this new generation will offer unprecedented customizability and online sharing, so it's entirely possible that though Take 2's games don't ship with official teams and players someone will make them and post them as a download. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if Take 2 employees did that on the sly. Still, when your average gamer is in Gamestop, he's going to see one game he doesn't recognize, and Madden with some real life football player's picture plastered on it.

John Tierney's "Mild, Mild" West

Tierney's latest sounds reasonable:

Roger McGrath, a historian who studied dozens of Western mining camps and towns, found a high rate of homicide in them mainly because it was socially acceptable for young, drunk single men to resolve points of honor by fighting to the death. But other violence wasn't tolerated, he said.

'It was a rather polite and civil society enforced by armed men,' Dr. McGrath said. 'The rate of burglary and robbery was lower than in American cities today. Claim-jumping was rare. Rape was extraordinarily rare - you can argue it wasn't being reported, but I've never seen evidence hinting at that.'

It sounds like the utopian visions of the NRA: arm everybody, and no-one will dare attempt a violent crime. Because, of course, there's no justice like angry mob justice.

The town I grew up in is about eight miles from the site gold was discovered in California in 1848. In the 1850s and 1860s, Placerville was one of the largest white communities in what is today the state of California. At the time, it was known as Hangtown, and it was just the sort of law-abiding little gold rush boomtown Tierney's contrarian Ph.D is talking about. You see, if anyone was suspected of committing a crime here, they were hanged from a large tree at one end of Main Street.

The first lynching in the camp, a triple hanging, came after a gang of five tried to rob a miner of his gold dust. They were caught and each received a whipping of nearly 40 strokes. Then someone in the crowd of 2,000 said he recognized three of the five (two Mexicans and one Yankee, or was it two Frenchmen and a Chilean?) as being wanted for involvement with a murder on the Stanislaus River. At that the three suspects, who were still weak from the flogging they took, were immediately tried, sentenced and hanged by the crowd. There was one dissenter, E.G. Buffum, who stood on a stump and protested on behalf of the accused, saying they were too weak from loss of blood to either stand or speak in their own defense. His valiant efforts were in vain, however, and he himself was threatened with lynching by the angry mob if he didn't 'shut up'. Buffum escaped with his life and later became the senior editor of the Alta newspaper in San Francisco. The three suspects were hanged together from the huge oak tree in camp. The location of this well-used hangin' tree is marked by a dummy dangling from the second story of the Hangman's Tree Historic Spot in downtown Placerville.

Now that's mild!

The dummy actually got taken down three or four years ago. The Chamber of Commerce decided it was giving tourists the impression that the town had a history of mob violence.

Due process? Rules of evidence? Psh! Someone in a crowd says you might be guilty, that's all the evidence John "Let God Sort 'Em Out" Tierney needs!

June 24, 2005

Bitch. Ph.D.: Somehow I missed these posts, but they're great

Bitch. Ph.D.: Somehow I missed these posts, but they're great: "Telling rape victims--including drunk 18yos in Aruba--that they ought not to be flashing the goodies reduces women to, well, to goodies to be flashed. Dude, if I get drunk off my ass and stumble down the street, I'm not flaunting 'goods' to be 'stolen.' I'm getting drunk and stumbling down the street. If you see it as anything else then bingo, baby: that's what we call rape culture."

Internet's being "amusing", so that's all you get for the time being.

English is the university classroom

An interesting article in today's Unclear New York Times:

With a steep rise in the number of foreign graduate students in the last two decades, undergraduates at large research universities often find themselves in classes and laboratories run by graduate teaching assistants whose mastery of English is less than complete.

Of course, the article offers nothing but anecdotal evidence to support that 'often'.

Naturally, I would like to chalk up these complaints to racism. But almost every account given in the article includes praise for the teacher in question: they're called brilliant in their field, but completely ineffective teachers. Furthermore, almost half the grad students in my old department were from China or Taiwan, so I know firsthand that occasionally accents will be quite thick.

The best approach, if departments really feel this is an issue, would be to gather hard data: Are complaints about impenetrable accents clustered around a few TAs? What percentage of a TA's students report problems understanding their instructor? Then maybe a semester in a class designed to improve English diction would be advisable.

June 22, 2005

Introducing "Superdickery!!" No kidding!

Here is a very funny link to old comic book covers featuring Superman, hero to all, last son of Krypton, defender of truth, justice, and the American Way acting like, well, um...a complete and total ass.

Courtesy of thismodernworld.com.

June 21, 2005

More on our culture of rape

Great post at DED Space:

The American culture absolutely supports the sexual assault and rape of women and girls. I no longer have any doubt about that. The rapists have the public on their side (though the public is probably willing to capitulate if the victim is white and the perpetrator is of color), and women and girls who report rape--and thousands of them don't--are shamed just as much today as they were thirty years ago.

Be sure to read the comments, too.

Maxim advertising

Via feminist blogs, some links on the lastest advertising fad to target 18-34 males: the 'bad-boy' or 'Maxim' style. Examples include Axe and Carl's Jr. spots. Note the way this is characterized, as rejecting 'effeminate' 'metrosexuality', a 'return' to 'masculinity'. And, of course, treating women as fuck objects to be pursued, captured, and physically abused (pressed against steering wheels and such so hard it leaves imprints on their backs in the Axe commercials).

These ads have apparently been remarkably successful. And my friend Annie wonders why I don't think well of most men my age.

Yes, I can combine feminist bitching with Batman ... watch ...

Stephanie Zacharek basically pans Batman Begins in her review for Salon. It's pretty clear that she didn't understand the background of the film very well, but she's entitled to her own opinion of the film qua film:

But neither Nolan nor, unfortunately, the usually superb Christian Bale seems to recognize that darkness takes on many shades and colors: "Batman Begins" is a dull monotone of heavily theatrical, and yet wholly unmoving, angst. Nolan obviously didn't want his picture to be too cartoony, and that's a good impulse. But "Batman Begins" needs much more energy and kinetic flow -- less dolor and more dolomite. Bale can't seem to find an anchor for the character of Bruce Wayne; at times he's mildly affecting, but he can't locate that elusive hairline at which a character's self-absorption becomes engaging for an audience. His Wayne is so deep inside himself we can barely bring ourselves to care about him.

I don't agree, and I suspect really connecting to Christian Bale's character requires more familiarity than she has. But, in any case, we have this letter to the editor response, with my emphasis:

Such pissing and moaning. And coupled with phony intellectualism, to boot. I know it's gonna get me rapped, but that doesn't make it any less true: Never send a woman to review what is obviously a Guy's Flick. Especially when the flick in question is based on an adventure strip. We're not allowed to have our wish fulfillment fantasies anymore.

Oh, look ... Here comes "Bewitched." An acceptable fantasy. Where's my exploding batarang?

I have nothing to say to this but: WTF? She was criticizing the film as a piece of art, you neanderthal. The presence or absence of a vagina is independent from evaluating a work of art, as evidenced by your own apparent inability to see anything more in the film than an articulation of your own stereotypical fantasies of beating people up.

June 20, 2005

I Got A Fever, And The Only Prescription...Is More Batman!

I've had Batman on the brain lately, so here's Grayson, the best fan film ever. Now you'll always know where it is!


The new Batman movie kicks much ass. Do I really need to say much more? Go see this movie.

Okay, a little more. I recently read Superheroes and Philosophy, which prompted me to follow up with the excellent graphic novels The Dark Knight Returns, The Watchmen, and Kingdom Come. Drawing loosely on Batman: Year One, Begins offers as much as these highly acclaimed graphic novels, including fodder for reflections on many of the topics discussed in Superheroes, including the ethics of vigilantism (and thereby ethics in general) and the way the secret identity ties into issues of personal identity.

Some of you might also be interested in looking at the comments on the City of Heroes forums thread on Begins, with pretty unanimous praise for just about every aspect of the film except the fight cinematography.

Brand-new flowers in Chicago this April. Bonus posting because my internet access will be sporadic for the next two weeks.  Posted by Hello

June 19, 2005

An Opportunity

Since Casey got that phat load of Ra points for writing the review below, I thought I'd give you all the chance to catch up a little. (2 points per)

1) What with Batman Begins out now, who is Batman's (the comic, not the character) creator?

2) An updated version of Pirates! comes out for Xbox in a few months; who is the mastermind behind this game (as well as the various Civilization games)?

3) Advent Rising was just released for Xbox, with the story written by what creator of Ender's Game?

4) What actor/special effects whiz appearing in George Romero's soon-to-be-released Land of the Dead cut his teeth with Romero on Dawn of the Dead and also appeared in From Dusk Til Dawn? Extra point for his character's name in From Dusk Til Dawn.

Remember I also distribute points at random for posting in comments.

Review - Dream Theater: Octavarium

Here is the first of what I hope to be many posts that I get to post, but which I have done nearly no work on. Remember that submitting reviews, stories, cool links or anything you think other people would like to see gets you Ra points. This is a pretty long review, so I think it's worth a hefty 20 Ra points. This one comes via Casey:

Dream Theater's eighth studio album, "Ocatavarium," returns to what most die-hard DT fans have come to love the band for: compositions that challenge the listener both lyrically and musically. Beyond mere dork rock, this band has symbolism strewn about the album that is all worth studying. Consider Green Day's new album a crappy 99 cent cheeseburger. Use the same analogy for this album and you get two tables full of Thanksgiving dinner. Every time one truly LISTENS to this music, and doesn't just hear, they'll find something new that contributes to the whole.

Dream Theater uses the time tested method of theme and variation often found in classical music. Thankfully, they do it with much heavier riffs along with solos that, as a musician, make me cringe with contempt for their musical aptitude. Their song writing includes elements of U2, Pink Floyd, ELP, Tool, Holdsworth, Pantera and Zappa, but it all sounds like DT because all those bands can't pull off what this band can. On top of that the songs discuss issues that MATTER in life. They're not just complaining about mean parents, talking about kicking someone's ass or getting someone in the sack; nothing is trivialized.

Now for the actual songs. The first tune "The Root of All Evil" is a continuation of two other songs spanning the two albums previous to this, in that the lyrics are all part of one person's struggles and revelations. The song starts familiar enough - w/ the final note from the last song on the previous album - a familiar trick of DT. From there the album is off in many directions, dealing with breaking down communication barriers in "These Walls," clashes w/ ungratefulness in "Never Enough" and even the events of 9/11 in "Sacrificed Sons." Though dubbed a progressive metal band, several songs are conventional in structure, but there's something more - the drum fills, the brief time signature changes and layered textures keep things interesting. Furthermore, the mood of the music coincides with the lyrics so well that it's evident how much effort these guys put into a song. "Panic Attack" exemplifiies this by the opening bass riff.

As for the title track, I don't want to over-analyze, because the rewarding part about music like this is finding the answers on your own. Let me just say the artwork reinforces the song lyrics, and the song lyrics reinforce messages from every other song (listen to the countdown during "Intervals"). Theme and variation of course come into play (tastefully) and the use of orchestral instruments is quaint but powerful. Epic, thick work. It took me a while to understand the "5" in the heavy "5/8" imagery, but turn the back cover 90 degrees and it all becomes clear. Look at where the birds are on the cover. On top of that, look at the back cover and observe where each song title is written. I love this band.

A Couple Links For You

Ever wish you could find an old tv ad for a video game? Here.

For the GTA players out there, here's something that was cut from San Andreas. Not work safe.

One of the first projects I did with Photoshop.  Posted by Hello

June 17, 2005

winterson.com: episode iii, the backstroke of the west

winterson.com: episode iii, the backstroke of the west

Just go. Read about the thrilling battle between the west and the Presybterian Church.

Behold adorable kittens! Well? Go on! Make with the beholding already! Their names are MJ (on top) and Spidey (below), and while I didn't take this picture, I'm doing the Friday Cat Blogging thing with my future cat -- Spidey is going to be mine as soon as I can get down to St. Louis and take him off of Manda's hands.  Posted by Hello

FR10 to the EXTREME!!!

  1. Santana - Evil Ways
  2. Yann Tiersen - Amelie Soundtrack - Le Banquest
  3. BtVS Once More with Feeling Soundtrack - Suite from Hush
  4. Patricia Barber - Pieces
  5. The Real Group - Come Together
  6. The Polyphonic Spree - Reach for the Sun
  7. BtVS Once More with Feeling Soundtrack - What You Feel
  8. Rachmaninov - Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, part 2
  9. Moby - Procelain
  10. Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool - Budo

I like this; I think it captures my rather wide taste in music quite nicely.

June 16, 2005

Some of the members of the gypsy-swing ensemble that played at my dad's wedding about six weeks back. The sringer actually sang just like she's shown in this photo: hands in pockets, eyes closed, completely immersed in the music.  Posted by Hello

Real sexual frustration

That is, frustration at the way our society handles sexuality, and how it in turn fosters a culture of rape. Go read Amanda, then come back.

Men can help stop rape by actively resisting this stereotype and getting up in other men's shit when they say things like this. Get offended! I would, if I were told I have no self-control.

All this leads me to another point--the discussion as such was based on the false model of sexual relations as something men do to women. That women somehow own sex (usually phrased as 'have all the pussy') and men have to trick us into handing it over or take it by force. That's ridiculous. Sex takes two--men fuck women and women fuck right back, or something's not right. Men and women both can help reform the way we speak about these things to reflect the reality--that women desire, too, that men have to consent, too.

Lakoff's theory of frames is useful--replacing metaphors of speech that regard sex as male conquest of women--I hit that, I nailed her, I fucked her--with frames that emphasize mutuality--We fucked, we hooked up--can't hurt and will probably do a lot to undermine the widespread cultural belief that women are objects to be taken, by force if necessary.

My fellow Loggers, especially those of us who worked Orientation a year or two, might remember the "date rape awareness" segment. Twenty or so freshmen from the same dorm would be in a classroom with a pair of orientation leaders, one male and one female. The leaders would take turns reading a short essay written by a man reflecting on how he raped a woman, manipulating her to get her back to his apartment then forcing himself on her. Even though she never said 'no', never actively fought back, and he didn't explicitly threaten her, he raped her, and only realized it years later. In the essay, he talks about how he felt entitled to sex, had exactly the sort of attitude Amanda describes in the middle paragraph of that quotation.

If I'm remembering right, one thing that always bothered me about the essay was that the author didn't explain how he came to realize he'd raped this woman; or if it did, much more time was devoted to a painstaking account of the evening leading up to the rape. The result, I think, is that the essay stresses the connection between a certain view of sex and rape, but can't present a real alternative beyond 'make sure she wants it, too'.

The followup to the essay didn't help, either: a series of vapid, leading statements was read, and students positioned themselves around the room depending on how strongly they agreed or disagreed. Leaders were allowed to do nothing more than call on students to explain why they (dis)agreed, and in a room full of strangers the conversations were pretty empty. The freshmen were lead to earthshattering conclusions like 'girls who dress *that way* are not, in fact, asking for it' and 'guys aren't entitled to sex'.

I participated in this program twice, and ran it two or three times, and only once did a genuinely useful discussion of rape and sexuality break out: when all the orientation leaders -- sophomores, juniors, and seniors in college, who mostly knew each other -- were participants. More thoughtful and more comfortable than the incoming freshmen, they were able to actually deconstruct and challenge the questions, getting at the more important issues the program avoided.

This, I think, is the most important thing: to build a culture where sex is first and foremost a collaborative act, an expression of one's sensuality and eros to be shared with another, not the empty, narcissistic pleasure of getting off our culture takes it to be today. In the latter, one's partner is nothing more than a sophisticated masturbatory tool, and rape 'is' a slightly more violent means to the same end. But in the former, rape and sex are essentially incompatible.

Why Iraq is a boondoggle


Barney Frank just made the point that it's pretty impossible to end something when you didn't have a good reason to start it in the first place. It's hard to have an exit strategy when you don't know why you're there and what you hope to accomplish.[...]

The media are operating under the basic assumption that once we fix the broken pot, we'll go home. This is something which is most certainly false, but since no one is much concerned with answering the question of why we went to Iraq in the first place they're certainly not much interested in finding out what we intend to do now that we're there. The two are connected."[...]

If everyone in the administration thinks their pet war happened for a different reason, then the people in charge truly have no idea what the fuck they're trying to accomplish.

No-one's in charge. No-one has any goals, beyond grabbing as much government cash as possible before things fall apart again. Insurgents and soldiers chase each other endlessly from stronghold city to stronghold city. Everyone just does their own little job, shooting or reciting talking points or driving trucks or buying crap at the mall. Keep their heads down, do what they do, don't ask questions.

This war is fucking adaptation of a Kafka novel.

David Brooks refutes David Brooks

Bobo's latest: "There was still a sense [in the middle of the twentieth century] that culture is good for your character, and that a respectable person should spend time absorbing the best that has been thought and said."

This from the same man who celebrates all the mediocratic crap and anti-intellectualism of those parts of the country he would, in fact, never step foot in.

But, of course, he has to avoid (new) cognitive dissonance, so who does he blame for the death of American culture at the hands of theocrats and bottom-line-oriented media conglomerates?

Clement Greenberg called the middlebrow an "insidious" force that was "devaluing the precious, infecting the healthy, corrupting the honest and stultifying the wise." Dwight Macdonald lambasted the "tepid ooze" of the Museum of Modern Art and the plays of Thornton Wilder. Basically, these intellectuals objected to the earnest and optimistic middle-class arrivistes who were tromping over everything and dumbing down their turf.

Yes! Brilliant! Blame anti-intellectualism on the intellectuals!

Oh, how one longs for the days when our periodicals featured intelligent writers musing on the arts, sciences, and current events in a literate, insightful fashion.

Recommended reading: Anti-intellectualism in American life, Richard Hofstadter, Vintage Books.

Hugo Schwyzer: Some more musings on beauty, desirability, and friendship

Hugo has a great post on lookism (though he doesn't use the term) -- the way a woman's 'attractiveness' plays an overwhelming role in determining how people relate to her. Then he presses further, in the way I particularly like, being, like him, a feminist man.

As a man, I have to ask: how do I play into this? What can men do? It's not right to dismiss all of this as a 'woman's issue', and make some cheap remark about female jealousy and cattiness. We have to find ways to deal with women we find attractive without either 'hitting on them' or withdrawing from them. It's hardly impossible! Sexual attraction is normal and natural and universal -- but it's not a mandate for action. We need to see how our own actions often exacerbate women's competitiveness with other women. Women have been trained to be good students of male behavior, after all; when they see men responding in fairly obvious ways to attractive women, they draw understandable conclusions. Men can help by understanding that sexual attraction is not incompatible with platonic friendship, as long as excellent boundaries are in place and firmly maintained.

There's a well-known scene in When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal's character explains to Meg Ryan's character that men can't be platonic friends with a woman they're attracted to; they've either had sex with them, or they're waiting until they have a chance to. I, of course, called bullshit right then and there. But looking at the men around me makes me wonder if I'm not the exception here.

I have a great example of this, from just a few months ago. One of the new grad students in the UIC philosophy department this past year lives with his long-term girlfriend, who I'll call H, a woman originally from Korea who is also a grad student in philosophy, at Northwestern. She is as smart and well-read as any of the rest of us, and also quite attractive. On the particular Friday evening I have in mind, this couple came over to my apartment, to hang out with me and my three roommates. Drunken philosophical conversations happened as usual, but I don't recall anyone asking H's opinion on anything philosophical all evening. In fact, the only part of the evening that really involved her was when one of my roommates went on loudly for ten minutes or so how hot "asian chicks with swords" are. Yeah.

In our society, it's clear that men (and women) are taught to evaluate women as objects of sexual desire first and foremost. How deeply are these lessons ingrained? How often do you find yourself doing this?

June 15, 2005

The "Blame Women First" (well, third) Crowd

Amandat links to something truly disgusting:

Want to talk accountability? I blame: 1) The parents for not equipping their daughter for the real world and failing to realize that she was ill-equipped for the temptations of Aruba. 2) Her 'friends'. A good friend wouldn't have let her get in a situation like she did. I've saved some drunk buddies from making bad decisions, and I'm sure they've helped me avoid trouble as well. 3) Herself. When all of the failsafes out there, parents, friends, society, fail you there's still the most important one left: yourself. She didn't get kidnapped... she went off with them willingly.

She responds quite inappropriately with

I see shit like this and I want to beat someone with a shoe. We love to talk about what women can do to stop rape, let's talk about men.

Why do I consider this inappropriate? Because the guy who wrote this needs to be beaten with a 2x4, preferably one on fire with a couple or three big nails stuck through it.

I almost suggested a good friend drag him into the back of a van and violently rape him before leaving him for dead on the side of a highway at the age of fourteen. Almost suggested this because that's essentially what happened to a good friend of mine, who as a result was unable to kiss a boy for about two years and, five years later, was essentially non-functional for about 48 hours.
Or almost suggested he be violently raped by his boyfriend after trying to stop an ordinary makeout session, because "a good girlfriend doesn't say no", becomes pregnant, disowned by his family, and forced to drop out of high school to support himself and the child. Didn't suggest this because no-one deserves to be put through that, not even rapists themselves or their misogynist enablers. They just deserve violent, disfiguring beatings so everyone knows that they doesn't deserve the label of 'man'.

I call this 'Still life with sake bottle', what with the bottle of sake in the foreground and all. April of this year.  Posted by Hello

June 14, 2005

A panorama of Chicago, taken from a small breakwater at North Street Beach last summer. This panorama spans about 180 degrees, giving the 'island' effect.  Posted by Hello

Some reframing I'd like to see

From Amp, quoted in full:

For all the talk about “reframing” the abortion debate, the reframing I’d like to see never seems to come up. The issue is government-enforced childbirth. Right-wingers want government-enforced childbirth; lefties don’t.

The issue is not whether we favor or oppose abortion. Plenty of people who are personally opposed to abortion are still pro-choice. You can’t tell the difference between pro-choicers and pro-lifers by asking, “do you favor abortion?” You can tell the difference by asking, “should there be government-enforced childbirth for pregnant women?” Government-enforced childbirth is the defining issue; wanting government-enforced childbirth, not wanting abortion, is the difference between the opposition and us.

June 13, 2005

Safe, legal, and rare

An excellent
diary published over on Kos (off the main page, I'm pretty sure), on why abortion is not a 'fringe' issue, but a curcial core one. Via Bitch Phd.

I reiterate abortion is not an aberration among women; it is a NORMATIVE facet of women's experience and medical needs- period. To deny women abortions is to deny women autonomy. Once you can deny that large a portion of any population autonomy guess that may mean for the rest of a population?

But further, to label abortion 'horrible' is to also label those who provide, assist with, or seek, participate in, or experience abortion as 'horrible'. PEOPLE are those targeted within, but hidden by the language of 'this form of medical care is horrible'. As people who are part of that form of medical care are inseparable from and essential parts of that action.

Rather than adding to the stigmatization and isolation of those who relate to abortion, instead realize WHO you're talking about.

These same women and people are all around you every day, yet relegated to invisibility. To support women who have had abortions is to support perhaps your mother, your sister, your friend, or your wife, and yes, to support women who read daily Kos. Do not assume they'd have told you, not in this climate, where they are being labeled 'horrible' by proxy. Where to have had an abortion is to be equated to a murderess.

And then this bit especially:

Shall I even point out, as so many already have, that construct, was constructed and comes directly from 30 years of wingnuts 'seeding' and 'loading' the culture, and language, and the very ability to think about abortion with their images, definitions, particular uses of terminology, etc (Go study Francis Schaeffer or R. J. Rushdoony, or Billy Graham, and their uses of abortion to enable their broader goals of a society governed by an oligarchy of 'godly men') to the point that even those who claim to be abortion supportive can't get beyond false memes such as "no woman wants an abortion". Women do want abortions. Women and yes men too, risk their lives every single day to get or to provide abortions.

Abortion is not some 'dirty' word. Abortion is an autonomist word. It translates to 'maintaining the fundamental ability to own and control our own lives'.

What's important about autonomy? It's completely incompatible with fundy Christianity:

These people at their core do not believe in an autonomist definition of the word freedom, they believe only that all humanity lives as slaves, the only distinction being slave to jesus or slaves or satan. On this continuum, there is no self based freedom- only a "choice" of masters. Thus freedom in their lexicon is the "freedom in slavery to christ". This is also the "Freedom" Bush offers via missionaries tied to AIDS programs and foreign aid or at gunpoint.

Lots of good stuff here; I won't quote any more, though, go read for yourself.

Edit: Atrios links to this story with the tagline "it should be safe, legal, and rare, in the same way that appendectomies should be safe, legal, and rare."

I need one of these flags

What's wrong with these people? Seriously. Pandagon: Fly That Banner Proudly:

In case you can't read the legend in tiny, stupid font, it says 'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world ... and then shall the end come'. Go America! Bring about the end of the world! Whooo!

You've Been Struck By, A Smooth Criminal

So Michael Jackson has been found not guilty. Despite what many non-lawyers think when they ask me about it, I haven't followed this thing at all. Really, with all the various crimes and trials going on all the time I just don't care about one, especially one I'm not directly involved in. Anyway, I'm sure we're all going to know people, hell some of us might be them, that are pissed off like crazy about this. I'd just like to remind everyone that we have one of the most fair and least corrupt court systems in the world, the pinacle of which is the trial by jury. A group of strangers came together, looked at the facts, and made the best decision they could. Anyway, enough preaching. Like other high profile celebrity trials, this isn't really about the legal system, or even the facts of this case, it's about class, politics, and the really odd facination people have with seeing the once mighty humbled.

A Prelude

My favorite band of all time, Dream Theater, has released a new album, their eighth studio release. It usually takes me at least several listens to absorb enough to feel comfortable talking about it, so in the mean time I thought I'd post a little to something to show that though most prog metal/rock fans are among the most pretentious music fans out there (though let's be honest, music fans of most genres generally tend towards uber-pretension), there are still some that have a sense of humor about themselves.

Edit: Really, as I look over this list it'd be pretty easy to switch a reletively small number of words in that list and apply it to most genre fans.

Edit Part Deux: I should have pointed out that this link came to me, and thusly to you, from my friend Aaron at law school.

More vacation!

Due to my unemploymed and sitting around bored off my ass status, I'm going to California for the next four weeks. No doubt I'll be almost as bored and sitting around there, but I won't have to pay for my own food or laundry, and I'll have air conditioning. Expect erratic blogging, but I'll try to keep up with the photos if you guys are enjoying them.

A beach sunset at Aptos, CA, just after last Christmas. Unphotoshopped.  Posted by Hello

June 12, 2005

A rowboat, beached next to Lake Tahoe, CA. Taken last December.  Posted by Hello

You know, I'm always impressed when I see a girl at a comic or videogame convention that seems like she actually wants to be there and isn't just in tow with her nerdy boyfriend, but seeing women are into it enough that they actually dress up is just cool. Also, I'm wondering where on that costume she puts those sais...

And thus ends my Wizard World pics. It made my posting this week easy, so I don't really care if you enjoyed it, though you probably did.Posted by Hello

June 11, 2005

This was taken near my apartment in Chicago last January. It gets fucking cold there in winter.  Posted by Hello

I might post something later if I think of it, but right now I can't think of anything off the top of my head. Posted by Hello

Damn Droids, Beep Boop Beep. Posted by Hello

Hung Over Random Ten

Head throbs, hopefully these songs don't make it explode...

1) Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding - Dream Theater (covering Elton John)
2) Bowtie (Feat. Sleepy Brown & Jazze Pha) - Big Boi
3) No More - DJ Krush
4) Wuthering Heights - Angra
5) GhettoMusick - Big Boi
6) State of Grace - Liquid Tension Experiment
7) Land of the Free - Gamma Ray
8) The Distance To The Sun - Spock's Beard
9) I Don't Believe In Love - Queensryche
10) Momma had a Baby and His Head Popped Off - Atmosphere

I was just wondering, have any of you downloaded music posted by someone else in a Random Ten post?

Now that there's some good science!

I'll just let the opening paragraph speak for itself:

A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

They couldn't even find some morally bankrupt chemist or geologist to do this; they had to get a lawyer whose degree was in econ. That either shows how incredibly inept they are at this propaganda thing, how hard it is to find a Ph.D who's that big of a tool, or both (which would be my vote).

June 10, 2005

This is a sulfurous hot spring in Yellowstone, from a trip I took with my dad and his household two years ago. This picture hasn't been digitally altered in any way; the colours are from bacteria that thrive in the water.  Posted by Hello

These guys were totally prepped to have pictures taken of them. I don't mean that they were cool with it, though they were, I mean that the second "Can I take a picture of you guys?" slipped passed my lips they dropped their shit and assumed the action stance like I was Darth Maul pre-stumpification. This was the first picture I took at Wizard world.  Posted by Hello

Feminist of the day: Katharine Graham

Here's a fantastic quotation from today's Feminist of the Day, Katharine Graham:

The thing women must do to rise to power is to redefine their femininity. Once, power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact power has no sex.


What She Said!: Women's Autonomy Movement

I really like these names:

Shakti suggested we call it reproductive sovereignty. I've been thinking we need to take a two pronged approach. First would be the Women's Autonomy Movement, which would be a continuation of feminism, emphasizing our right to our own bodies, medical decisions and to safety from rape, sexual abuse, assault, domestic abuse, slavery and war. The second would be the Sexual Sovereignty Movement that would assert that adults have a right to have sex as they choose, in accordance with their own beliefs. I'm sick of the Christian assumption that sex is bad and only for procreation. I'm a proud hedonist in a free country. I won't be limited by ideas from a book written by a tribe of hash-smokers a few thousand years ago that have nothing to do with my life. The government exists to make the trains run on time and keep the peace -- it has no place in my bedroom, or my doctor's office.

As should be obvious by now, I take the right to an abortion (and birth control of all sorts) to be nothing more than a direct application of a woman's right to reproductive, sexual, and bodily autonomy.

Tom Friedman solves the education crisis

Brilliant. Rather than paying educators a living wage and leaving standardized testing behind as yet another phenomenally boneheaded product of the twentieth century, we should just talk about how important teachers are. It's a hell of a lot cheaper.

Each of the four teachers is given $2,000, plus a $1,000 donation to his or her high school. The winners and their families are then flown to Williams, located in the lush Berkshires, and honored as part of the graduation weekend.[...]

And the best way to ensure that we have teachers who inspire their students is if we recognize and reward those who clearly have done so.

Imagine if every college in America had a program like Williams's, and every spring, across the land, thousands of great teachers were acknowledged by the students they inspired? "No Great Teachers Left Behind." How about it?

Starting pay for public school teachers is pretty comparable to academic grad school stipends, around $15k. After working in this incredibly (existentially) rewarding and psychologically demanding job (you try dealing with teenagers 70 hours a week, plus spending your free time prepping for those 70 hours) for a couple decades, a public school teacher in a good district can make $60k, meaning they might actually be able to afford to live in their district (assuming they don't have more than one kid). Yeah, the possibility of a nice weekend, a couple thousand bucks (yay! I can get the transmission on my car fixed!), and a little semi-public recognition is all we need to make teaching a viable, attractive profession again.


June 09, 2005

Photo blogging

Most of you don't know this, but I have a small hobby playing with Photoshop and my digital camera. I've decided to put up a series of these, starting with one of my favourites:

This is based on a photo I took at the wedding of our own ArchGarth, two years ago this August.  Posted by Hello

Damn #$%^@-ing Dog!

This game is bullshit, I totally shot that duck.

How Does He Fit In Such A Tiny Pokeball?

The plan was for the whole group to get a picture with Picachu here, and then have Jay run at it, finishing with a vicious tackle, but somehow that didn't happen. Actually, I'm pretty sure that unlike most of the people I have pics of, this guy was getting paid to be there, as there was a huge Pokemon Tournament going on. Never have so many older men played games with little boys and there be not a single arrest. Another little interesting fact about this picture is that after I took the thing, Picachu shook a little at the flash, as if frightened or startled, which I found sort of amusing. Still, I can only imagine how annoying it must have been to be the hot and sweaty person inside that suit having to do cute things like that all day.

I realized today that in all the hustle and bustle that I experienced while unemployed for three weeks I managed to miss celebrating the one year anniversary of Staff of Ra! The not-so-old addage in the blogging world is that if you're still managing to make yourself do it after a year you'll keep doing it for a good long while. Though it's been a while since I had a good long political post, which is sort of why this blog started last summer, it's been a great year with a great blogging partner in Dan, who does all the real work. More later, gotta run...Posted by Hello

June 08, 2005

Chinese Gamer Sentenced To Life For Killing

This is that guy from a few months ago that killed his friend because the friend stole a sword from his Massively Multiplayer RPG character. I guess he missed his evade roll.

Seriously, though I'm stealing this line from the link, this is exactly the type of thing that the anti-game crowd latches onto, even though it's pretty obvious this guy had a coupld screws loose regardless of his gaming.

Know Thyself

Who are you?

Aren't You A Little Short To Be A Stormtrooper?

As you would expect, most of the people dressed up in Star Wars regalia at the old Con. It's just one of those things that goes with with nerd-dom. One of the things that I found really facinating about Wizard World was the number of pirated movies being sold in the open. They had copies of all kinds of nerdy shows just laying on the tabletops with obviously homemade covers. I would have thought that type of thing would land you some serious fines, but apparantly it's not that big of a deal. They were also selling a number of midevil weapons there, which simultaneously seems like a very good match to the swords and sorcery crowd and a monumentally bad idea for nerds with gallons of bottled rage.

And yeah, this guy *was* a little short to be a Stormtrooper, but Drew was too scared to say it to him...Posted by Hello

TK421! Why Aren't You At Your Post?!

Post above... Posted by Hello

June 07, 2005

Foundations of modern liberalism

Via Pandagon, an excellent post explaining why feminism is NOT just a woman’s issue

One of the most disheartening things for those of us who consider ourselves feminists is the sense that it has become a ghetto term; the Right was successful in labeling us as man-hating FemiNazis (or, as one recent Dkos poster referred to us: “menstruating she-devils”), when the irony is that feminism is the bedrock of progressive politics. Feminism links the private with the political, interrogates how restrictions on personal behaviour echoes out to national policy, and understands gender not as “sex,” but as power—who has it, who wants it, and how those in power get to portray those who do not.[...]

You do not have to be a woman to recognize that gender and feminism are inextricably tied to the progressive agenda. You do not have to be a woman to recognize that when progressive males start shitting on so-called women’s issues, they are missing the point. If you do not understand how power works, how it is rooted in the binary oppositions that we ascribe to the sexes, then you will continue to focus on saving one tree while the entire forest is being razed.

This was one of the great achievements of feminism's so-called Second Wave: feminist theory. Bundled together with the work of intellectuals writing explicitly from queer and 'ethnic' points of view, 'Theory' became the foundation for our contemporary understanding of social science and philosophy. Beyond just marginalizing more than half the electorate, dismissing 'cultural issues' as unimportant shit means discarding the grounds for progressivism as we know it.

June 06, 2005

You Got Your SNES In My Playstation

This guy had some time on his hand, but it was a holy mission.

Though I do appreciate the project, I must say that this guy is obviously a fan of Nintendo and they products and he really didn't waste any opportunities to praise them or to attribute the successes of others to Nintendo's ideas.

A New Idea!

Ok, here's a problem I've been running into lately: I really like posting stuff, and I sure like the feeling that Staff of Ra is a bustling site o' love...err, news and information, but I'm really busy these days. So here's a possible solution I've been banging around in my head lately: you do my work for me! I'm not looking for long, in depth articles here (though if you feel like it you're welcome), just something in the ~100 word ballpark (I'll allow less if it's just a really cool link that doesn't need to be explained, like Bananaphone), and it needn't be politics or nerdy-stuff related either. You find something you think other people might want to see, you send it to me, and I give you those ever precious Ra points that I know you all thirst for. Furthermore, if you want to come up with some original content (reviews of things for instance) that would also be cool.

I have to say, however, that I have to retain some editorial power here. If I change anything in your writing I'll make that clear in the post. Anyway, bring it chumps! Let's see your game!

Edit: Just realized you don't know how to get in touch with me probably. Let's say you send things to me at MosBen-at-hotmail-dot-com.

TWIP! Think He Keeps Web Fluid Cartridges In That Fanny Pack?

This week we have a fun feature for you, the loyal readers of the SoR: Pics from Wizard World '05! That's right, some friends and I made the exciting and nerdy trek to a comic book convention this last weekend.

I had a really good time, which probably says something about my personality, but everywhere I turned I was compelled to profess my eternal and complete love of geeks. Seriously, not five seconds after I took this picture Spidey here got called over to a group of four or five girls that were pretty attracted and ended up talking to them for several minutes. Now, they were probably laughing at him on the inside, but he was talking to them! How often do you think that guy, and most of the people there (self included), has random attractive girls prompt *him* for a conversation?

I have enough pictures to get us through Saturday, with a couple days of double pictures, and I plan, at least at this point, to give some commentary on each one. Till next time, true believers (10 Ra points to the first person to say who I'm quoting).Posted by Hello

Pie fight

Over the weekend, both Daily Kos and Pandagon had sidebar ads that referenced a teevee commercial for TBS's Gilligan's Island (go to the dKos link and hit page down a time or two). In the teevee spot, 'Ginger' and 'Mary Ann' smear cream pies and then wash each other while wearing ridiculously skimpy clothing. If you have cable, you've probably seen the spot sometime over the last six weeks or so.

I wrote Jesse and Amanda an email

I have a problem with one of the sidebar ads; in particular, the 'pie fight' ad for TBS (I'm enclosing a cropped screen capture so you know what I'm talking about). While this ad itself isn't a problem, it doesn't make any sense without the teevee commercial it links to, which is, in my opinion, sexist, disgusting (in the particular way it's sexist), and stupid.
I don't know precisely how they work, but I'm guessing blogads has decided to put this in circulation on your site, so I don't blame your personally. Nor will I be driven away from the pandagony goodness if it's not removed. But I was quite surprised to see it, and thought I'd let you guys know what blogads is putting on your site.

Now, I don't think Pie Fight is all that bad; that's why I didn't threaten to leave if it wasn't removed. It's just a couple of shades worse than Baywatch, which really does make it more idiotic than objectifying, as far as I'm concerned. But it is still objectifying, and it's an open debate among feminists whether objectification is ever acceptable. Amanda, like me, is the sort of feminist who thinks this sort of thing is more juvenile than morally problematic:

Huh, that is pretty stupid. We don't vet our ads much, just check to make sure they aren't pro-Bush type stuff. I'm not sure why they advertised with us anyway. Still, I'm no stranger to the pull of the cold, hard cash. I've been meaning to write something on the gender stereotyping on reality TV shows, and maybe this would be a good occasion, a sort of prank on the BlogAd.

I didn't even realize they were advertising a TV show. Shows what I know.

I just checked, and the ad is still up on Pandagon. Kos has a slightly different reaction:

Feel free to be offended. I find such humorless, knee-jerk reactions, to be tedious at best, sanctimonious and arrogant at worst. I don't care for such sanctimony from Joe Lieberman, I don't care for it from anyone else. Some people find such content offensive. Some people find it arousing. Some people find it funny. To each his or her own.

But I am not Lieberman. I won't sit there and judge pop culture and act as gatekeeper to what I think is "appropriate", and what isn't.

And I certainly won't let the sanctimonious women's studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I'm somehow abandoning "progressive principles" by running the ad. It's a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.[...]

Update: [...] I honestly didn't mean to smear anyone who has ever taken a women's studies course, or majored or minored or gotten an advance degree in it. Just what is, to me, a small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock. So yeah, a poor choice of words that cast the net far too wide to cover the people that have, in fact, pissed me off.

Sorry about that, but not sorry about my broader point -- that being sanctimonious about this ad is no different than the sanctimony we decry from people like Lieberman, Dobson, and the Family Values Coalition.

I'm noticing signs of anti-feminist hostility more and more on Kos: it's NARAL that should compromise and support anti-choice Dems; feminists (which, in his retracted smear, is the 'women's studies set') who have a problem with stupid, objectifying commercials are humorousless; it's sanctimonious to call for Kos to take a tasteless ad off his own site; sexism isn't important for progressives.

Kos could've written fifty words saying he didn't think the ad was all that bad, that if people didn't like it they shouldn't click on it and it would rotate off the site in 24 hours. Or been understanding that a significant part of his community has big problems with portrayals of women as sex objects and taken the ad down out of respect for his fellow Dems. This dismissive, stereotyping attack on feminists was completely inappropriate.

Obviously Kos has a right to his opinions and veto power over his BlogAds. He doesn't care about feminism, fine. He wants to leave the ad up, fine. But, as I explained in a previous post, marginalizing feminism as unimportant, sanctimonious, and humourless (and thereby marginalizing women) isn't going to help bring lefty types together into that powerful, unified voting bloc Kos is trying to bring about. I wonder how many feminist types have pushed Kos far down their list of regular reads because of this sort of shit from him.

Update: Echidne of the snakes weighs in.

In short, and in an effort to be polite, I suggest that Kos doesn't see the sexism around him. That's the only kind explanation I can give for his response, whether the particular ad is harmless or not (I didn't look).

Update 2: We've got our first trackback, so yay about that. This has erupted into a huge issue on the feminist blogosphere, so I thought I'd add some links to more active discussions: Pandagon and Feministe. And, deliberately echoing the women's rights movement, Democratic women's caucus, etc., a group of former Kossacks has split off to their own group blog (link from Pandagon).

June 05, 2005

This is just plain creepy

Here's a link to an article in Salon (site pass required) to what is one of the most morbid sounding displays I've ever heard off. Imagine an art gallery where people's bodies (which could in fact be people who haven't given their consent, say, like, executed chinese prisoners whose organs may have been illegally harvested by their government?) are posed on things like bicycles with their skin peeled away and various organs displayed.

Personally, I feel you can call anything art, but just because someone takes a crap on a cinder block and call it art doesn't really mean it is.

June 04, 2005

This is what happens

when teenagers don't take real science classes in high school.

Via Pandagon