February 28, 2006

Prairie avenger, mountain lion

A review (or something review-esque) of a book on William Jennings Bryan:

Kazin may not intend this, but as he fleshes out his fascinating portrait, Bryan comes to seem the central influence on 20th century American populist politics of all persuasions. His descendants are scattered across the ideological map: FDR and LBJ, and maybe even George McGovern and Paul Wellstone, lie in one direction. Huey Long, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan lie in another. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, different as they may be, are all Bryan's grandchildren.

Escapist and Junk

The new issue of The Escapist is out. I particularly recommend "After Sex", an article exploring sex in online communities. Thoughts?

Also, Dan Brottman clued me into a movie review site. Now, I tried to read several of his reviews so I could be fair, and in being fair not all of his reviews are horrible. That being said, some of his reviews are a bit shocking. I recommend his reviews of Freaks and Geeks, and Brokeback Mountain.

February 27, 2006

Optimus Prime (person)

Optimus Prime (person)

Thanks, Manda!

Just because I'm watching it tonight

Is one of my favourite films of a piece with the pseudo-philosophy of Ayn Rand?

the movie revolves around a hero -- a concept that Rand greatly lauded over the muddy protagonists of most modern work. Mr. Incredible is by no means flawless, but he is shown to be exceptional in a world of mediocrity, as are the movie's other superheroes.

Well, sure. Rand's followers like to rail against mediocrity, but of course this is a huge strawman -- does anyone going around defending mediocrity and conformity? Okay, maybe Rousseau, but he also says a community ought to try to kill everyone who's not part of it. Certainly you don't find this in any serious social/political or ethical philosopher of the nineteenth or twentieth centuries (fascist paeans to the glory of a totalitarian state don't count as serious philosophy because they're not). Even Marx's (in)famous dictum starts with the clause `From each according to his ability'.


On its flip-side, the movie's villain is also a classic Objectivist foil. Voiced expertly by Jason Lee, Syndrome is everything that Rand deplored in her novels -- a conniving, manipulative man who seeks personal gain without honest work or achievement.

Well, er, no. Certainly Syndrome is conniving and manipulative and seeks personal gain at the expense of others, but he works even harder than the Supers to get his power -- he's born with nothing more than a genius for invention, not special abilities, and spends fifteen years building his fortune and developing his weapons. He conducts himself with an utter lack of respect for those he perceives as his inferiors (that is, everyone else), but, in Rand's ethics, that's a virtue of the superior, not a vice.

What's more, consider Rand's 'heroic' character Howard Roark, who destroys a building, killing the people inside, to keep others from taking credit for his work. Does this sound more like the altruistic and self-sacrificing Supers, or Syndome's plan to gain fame by launching a giant robot at the city and pretending to defeat it in battle? (Not to mention Syndrome's fit when the people he's 'rescuing' mistake him for some of the old Supers.)

Certainly The Incredibles calls on us to celebrate and develop our natural talents. But the heroes of the film develop their talents in pursuit of the greater good and classical notions of duty and virtue, not out of Rand's twisted ideal of self-aggrandizement no matter the cost to others. If anything, The Incredibles is an anti-Objectivist film.

She Kicks High

It seems odd to me that so many video game --> movie projects have used fighting games as their basis. Yeah, it's a pretty weak excuse to throw some fighting stunts at the viewer, but the source material rarely has any background story and the characters are almost always shallow stereotypes. It's telling that the fighting game with the most source material, Mortal Kombat, is the best of the bunch, though that doesn't say much.

Is that green hair on Zack's head? Yup.

Paper Writing

But I had to pop in to post this both as a fond rememberance of Don Knotts and a humorous jab at the President.

February 24, 2006

The communal responsibility of someone else's kids

Early on in this thread, we find this comment (which starts with a quotation from an earlier comment):

'Feminists respond by rejecting what they see as a false dichotomy; only in a society where there are no communal and governmental responsibilities for helping families raise children will women be forced to choose between motherhood and independence.'

Personally, too marxist for me. Not that I have kids, but if I did, I wouldn't want the government interference that comes with the government handout. And since I don't have kids, I don't want to be taxed for the communal responsibility of somebody else's kids.

I think looking at this issue in this way is ridiculously short-sighted. Unless you plan on living out in the woods by yourself, everyone depends on other people -- to grow the food, to keep the power running, to build and maintain houses, to keep the peace, and so on. And, unless you plan on dying very shortly, there will come a time when today's children will be the ones primarily responsible for doing all these things you need to get by. Now, it doesn't seem unreasonable to think that the quality of care and education one gets as a child has a significant impact on what one is like as an adult; hence, quality childcare and education is a social good, a benefit to everyone (again, except those who tragically die young). State-subsidized and -licensed child care, for example, guarantees that children of all economic classes can have personal, nurturing care even when both parents are away, and thus will help make the next generation better citizens and contributors to the general well-being (including your own well-being).

That is, it's not a transfer of wealth from childless adults to parents with children; it's a smart investment in your future well-being (that has the happy 'incidental' benefit of enabling greater freedom in the way others live their lives).

February 22, 2006

Jack Vettriano

Is he Scotland's answer to Thomas Kinkade and Norman Rockwell, or the successor to Edward Hopper?

Incidentally, I find it amusing that Wikipedia refers to my hometown as a 'city'. For you Northwesterners, that's like calling Sequim a city. For you Midwesterners, that's like calling Warsaw (the one in Indiana, not the one in Poland) a city.

Also, South Bend is the fourth largest city in Indiana. I think this is another reason for me to dislike Indiana intensely.

One More For The Day

Just a couple fun links for you guys.

1) Supposedly Warren Ellis, famous comic book writer, and Joss Whedon, you know who he is, got into a bit of a forum battle on Ellis' site. Strange as it seems, supposedly this is for real.

2) Jack Cafferty strikes again. He is my hero.

Skipping Class To Sleep

Dan may know a bit more about this, but here's an article about students, professors, and the emails that bring them together. In the article and some of the commentary to this I see a lot of hand wringing about the demystification of the professor, but that's really nothing I ever experienced in my years of education. Granted, I went to a small school, but I always thought that professors that made a big deal about being called "professor" or that avoided being too friendly with students were, to put it mildly, jerks.

Hall Of Handcramping

IGN has a top ten of worst controllers of all time, and it has a couple contentious choices. It's a hard question. Do you go by how well they hold up today or do you by how innovative they were for the time? The NES controller is absolutely horrid now, but was there any better at the time? The N64 controller looks rediculous as I hold my Xbox 360 controller, but they didn't know how quickly the analog stick would supplant the d-pad as the primary directional control, so it made sense when it was designed. I never had a problem with the original Xbox controller, known affectionately to its fans as "the Duke", and I certainly don't think it was the second worst controller of all time. Personally, I've never been a big fan of the PS2 Dual Shock, with its kid sized proportions and cramp inducing symetrical analog sticks.

Edit: Here's a top ten of worst haircuts in video games. Not nearly as contentious, but amusing nonetheless.

We're Not Worthy, We're Not Worthy!

In high school and college I would occassionally think to myself, "You know what'd be sweet? If I could play the guitar!" I'd learn a few chords; pluck out a tune or two, but inevitably I'd turn on one of my favorite groups and realize that these guys started earlier and worked harder than I'd ever be able to in order to get as good as they are. Realizing that there are many of their songs that I would never be able to play, I'd give up. While I'm not ready to quit blogging just yet, it is awfully demoralizing when somebody like Dave Neiwert writes something that's just too damn good.

Follow the link. He manages to tie together several current stories along with things running just below the surface into one cohesive post that sums up why I'm a Liberal regardless of politics. There are just too many people like Coulter in the mainstream of the conservative movement and far too many others that disagree with the things she says but tollerate her anyway.

February 21, 2006

I Fear We Need Some Game News

I don't feel like I've posted about video game news recently so here are some tasty tidbits. First, here are a couple new accessories for the Xbox 360. I can only imagine the things people will think of to use the camera for. Also, we have an announcement that the award winning PC game from last year, F.E.A.R., will be getting a sequel which will be appearing on the PC and several next-gen consoles. Along with that we have a rumor that the first F.E.A.R. will be ported to the Xbox 360. It was made by the same team that did Condemned: Criminal Origins and uses a lot of the same tech, so it's entirely possible and extremely exciting.

February 20, 2006

50 weeks in a row?

Piled Higher and Deeper
That's just crazy. Work is to be done in sixty-hour weeks for three months, followed by a month of listless unproductivity. Anything else is just insane.


The second decent Salon author interview in as many days is about the financial dire straights of today's middle-class twentysomethings.

What it is all really about for me is realizing that we are part of the first generation in America that does not expect to and probably won't do better than our parents. It's about taking a step down, and that is a feeling that is terrifying. The American dream has always been about progress and about going up and up -- but we are not making as much money as our parents, and maybe we are a little bit less educated than our parents. We are not achieving the milestones of adulthood at the same time that they did.

Of course, the situation for college grads is a hell of a lot better than it is for the young adults out of the working class; but that just means most everyone under the age of 35 is, at best, in a moderately shitty position.

Not that there aren't some spectacular displays of classist and racist ignorance:

In America, there are no people living on a dollar a day. Even homeless people on the streets in New York are better off than people in Mali.

This is what we did in Kant today

[] is the modal operator 'necessarily' or 'in all possible worlds'

P1. [](x is a substance -> x exists)
P2. Santa Claus is a substance
3. [](x is a substance) -> [](x exists)
4. x is a substance -> [](x exists)
5. Santa claus is a substance -> [](Santa Claus exists)
C6. [](Santa Claus exists)

So Santa Claus exists necessarily, if you believe that being a substance is a sufficient condition for existence.


I love words. I love words that are fun to say and I love words that let me say the same old thing in a new way. Even more, I love words that I've made up. To celebrate my love of words I'm going to try to jumpstart the comments here by posting a few Words of the Week every week. Everyone that uses a Word of the Week in a substantive comment, that is, not a comment whose only purpose is not a vehicle for using a WotW, will receive 5 Ra Points. You can earn as many points as you like through this manner, subject of course to the afore mentioned restriction on spurious comments. I'll try to choose a mix of more and less common words, though they'll always be words I think we should use more.

This week's words will be: sine qua non, recondite, and capricious. So, I figure I'll give this a try and see how it works. I will be seeing how to balance my desire to have enough WotW that you guys don't have to work hard to fit them into your comments and what I'm sure is the exponential increase in the amount of searching I have to do when dishing out points. I'll also have to try to post enough that you guys have things to talk about. We'll see how it goes I guess.

Finally, while we're here why not make this a contest thread. All you need to do is post a comment to this post where you treat the security letters as a word and post it along with a definition you've created for it. I'll give twenty points to the one I like best.


February 19, 2006

God is a vengeful berserker

This Salon interview with some academic who wrote a book on justice and revenge takes an interesting turn on page two:

You list several instances where bodies or even parts of bodies were used as payment, literally or metaphorically.

Well, what is the Eucharist, for heaven's sake? It's a payoff on a hundred levels. It's paying off God, because God is vengeful. The incarnation and crucifixion and sacrifice of Christ is the law of the talion. You owe a god to a god for a breach of god's rights.

Not only that, but God has to divide himself into more than one person in order to pay himself off. But it's paid on behalf of mankind, who could never pay back what's really owed.

It can't be God just paying God. Christ is also the perfect man, a man who is God and then pays God. So the balance is exactly right, an eye for an eye. Otherwise, God is undercompensated.

But the original 'eye' in this case is the disobedience of eating the apple in the garden, and the life of a god seems like a high price to pay for that.

Well, God was never what we would call a proportionalist. God goes postal a lot, which is what human societies won't let their people do.

So, in a way, the Old Testament God is exactly the kind of vengeful berserker that modern justice systems promise to protect us from.

And it goes on. Really, I never understood the savior thing, even in my pre-agnostic high school days, but I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with it until I read a parody (that may not be at that site in particular) of a Chick tract that put it something like this: "Why would I need to sacrifice Myself to Myself, in order to make Myself change a rule that I made up in the first place?"

Guest blogging at Pandagon

If you're not a regular reader, check out the guest blogging posts over at Pandagon; Amanda's in Amsterdam for like a long weekend or something, and has put up some very good posts from random contributors around the lefty/feminist blogosphere. For example, this one about false rape accusations.

The Much Requested Random Ten

The kids love the MP3s these days and they sure love their Random 10s too. So let's all load up some music on our computers, ipods, or any other player you might have, set the thing to shuffle or random and then post the first ten songs that come up. We ask only that you try not to make yourself seem cooler than you are by editing the list in any way other than getting rid of audio books or something. This is about our music tastes, afterall, and not our taste in books.

(title - artist)
1. Nothing To Say - Platypus
2. 25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago
3. Speed of Light - Stratovarious
4. Let It Whip - Dazz Band
5. Take Away My Pain - Dream Theater
6. No - Fat Jon
7. E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) - Blue Oyster Cult
8. Blind Faith - Dream Theater
9. The Memory Remains - Metallica
10. For A Million Years - Lynch Mob

February 16, 2006

Protest photos


This photo, and the one above, are of the two lines that formed the silent protest against the threat of censorship of the Vagina Monologues at ND. Due to rules instituted during the '60s, demonstrations like this are only permitted to stand for fifteen minutes; combined with the lack of advertising -- just a sentence tucked in the back of the VM program -- turnout was low, and these two photos show almost all the protestors. Follow the link below if you don't know what I'm talking about.  Posted by Picasa
  Posted by Picasa

In lieu of a post

just go read what I've been writing about here.

February 14, 2006

The one time you will see me repeat an email forward

You know you're from the Pacific Northwest when ...

1. You know the state flower (Mildew)
2. You feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash.
3. Use the statement "sun break" and know what it means.
4. You know more than 10 ways to order coffee.
5 You know more people who own boats than air conditioners.
6. You feel overdressed wearing a suit to a nice restaurant.
7. You stand on a deserted corner in the rain waiting for the "Walk"
8. You consider that if it has no snow or has not recently erupted, its
not a real mountain.
9. You can taste the difference between Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and
10. You know the difference between Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon.
11. You know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Issaquah, Oregon, Yakima
and Willamette.
12. You consider swimming an indoor sport.
13. You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Thai food.
14. In winter, you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark
while only working eight-hour days.
15. You never go camping without waterproof matches and a poncho.
16. You are not fazed by "Today's forecast: showers followed by
rain,"and "Tomorrow's forecast: rain followed by showers."
17 You have no concept of humidity without precipitation
18. You know that Boring is a town in Oregon and not just a state of
19. You can point to at least two volcanoes, even if you cannot see
through the cloud cover.
20. You notice, "The mountain is out" when it is a pretty day and you
can actually see it.
21. You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 50, but still
wear your hiking boots and parka.
22. You switch to your sandals when it gets about 60, but keep the socks
23. You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.
24. You think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists.
25. You buy new sunglasses every year, because you cannot find the old
ones after such a long time.
26. You measure distance in hours.
27. You often switch from "heat" to "a/c" in the same day.
28. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit under a raincoat.
29. You know all the important seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still
Raining (Spring), Road Construction (Summer),
Deer & Elk season (Fall).

Throw in the disclaimer about this only being the western (or, as I say, 'important') part of the PNW for MosBen.

Johari window

Please fill out mine and post a link to your own in the comments if you want to try it out. This strikes me as potentially much more accurate than, say, the Kiersey temperament sorter (that iNTj business). Of course, blog personality != IRL personality.


Frank Miller has written some damn fine comics. Maybe it's just me, but when I read this, I thought of this.

Unequal Representation

This is a story that's been talked about quite a bit lately on the blogosphere, but now that Media Matters has put together some real numbers it's all the more shocking. Let's face it, even if you don't subscribe to the "Print is dead." school of thought you must admit that television is the primary source of information for most of the country. Because this medium is increadibly powerful, you'd hope that the multi- millionaire/billionaires that control access to the forum would, in the best interests of their viewers specifically as well as the general discourse of the country, make sure that the conservative and liberal positions would be roughly equally represented. You would, however, be wrong. This isn't something huge like putting together a news organization to push the conservative agenda, nor are we talking about interviewers tossing up softball questions to their conservative guests while railing on the liberal guest. We're talking about just not having liberal guests at all.

Now, I haven't checked super deep into the methodology of how Media Matters classified people as "liberal" and "conservative" and I'm sure somebody will take exception to some classification they made, but the margins are wide enough that I doubt it will really change anything. During the Clinton years there was roughly equal, if tipped slightly to the conservative side, representation on the talk shows. During the Bush years, even in the early years when the Democrats held the Senate, the scale slid heavily to the conservative. I can't imagine a good explanation for this.

Hat tip to Atrios for the link.


Thanks to Dan Brottman, I now have the perfect way to express my feelings about Valentine's Day. Some humbug Christmas. Some hate Thanksgiving dinner with the family. I humbug Valentine's Day.

Edit: Something Awful also has good stuff on V-Day.

Edit 2: Not at all related to today, but here's another feature on Something Awful that's pretty good.

Logic is fun

Is it a paradox? or just a puzzle?

What I find amusing is how much of a fuss some people are making over this. (See my comment in the first link.)

February 12, 2006

Religion and progressive values

An excellent short essay on William Jennings Bryan. Note that by 'short' I don't mean 'short for a blog entry', I mean 'short for an essay'.

There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the Democratic Party desperately needs to return to the rhetoric and commitments of progressive values to be truly viable as a political party. I also accept as empirically evident that, in order to speak to most Americans, much of this rhetoric ought to be cast in the language of religion. Thus, we ought to see the Democratic Party embracing the 'next William Jennings Bryan' and 'next Martin Luther King', powerful activists and orators who openly ground their progressive values in their faith, and therefore speak to their sisters and brothers in faith of the progressive values they ought to hold.

But do William Jennings Bryan and Martin Luther King have to be the only models progressives embrace as the representatives of the values we hold to the greater public? I argue that this is not so.

Consider the Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble in particular (this goes from the 'When in the Course of human Events' bit, up to the long list of 'HE has ...' indictments). A creator is mentioned as the ultimate source of the 'certain unalienable Rights' King George is being charged with violating -- but the creator is not much more than mentioned, and then only this one time. Yet this was a powerful, radical document for its time. Striking the largely formalistic phrase 'by their CREATOR', we have a secular text that speaks resoundingly of deep values. More contemporaneously, spend some time at Pandagon or feministblogs.org; the progressive blogosphere is vibrant, full of voices of all religious persuasions.

What progressives need are powerful voices of values from diverse backgrounds -- some who speak the language of faith, and some who find their commitments in more humanist or rationalist sources. And these voices must come together, to make it clear that what binds us as progressives is a commitment to improving the here-and-now, and we can embrace each other and work side by side regardless of whether we do so as a display of agape or out of duty to improve the lives of our fellow rational beings.

February 11, 2006

He enjoys playing a pair of boobs with a sword

Via the Eighth Carnival of Feminists, I came across a piece on 'cross-dressing' in MMO's, I Enjoy Playing a Girl, and two excellent fiskings of it.

I have something of a personal stake in the issue, since I play both male and female characters in City of Heroes. But hopefully, unlike Chris Dahlen, I don't come across as a complete tool talking about it.

He's clearly well-meaning:

I have to believe any serious gamer would rather roleplay their characters than ogle them. Your avatar is your interface to the game, the vessel other players speak with, tend to and fight alongside, and I can't imagine making one just to leer at it.

But as the article goes on, it's clear that he can't get over how his character, and not he himself, is perceived by other players -- she kicks gnoll ass, but what's really most salient and interesting about her is whether she's pretty, cares about her outfits, how much flirting she does, how much romantic attention she gets. Take a look at that quotation again: she's a vessel, a means of interaction for him, an Other placed between him and other players. Compare the way he talks about playing a male character (my emphasis):

When I roleplay as a guy, I start with the way I see myself and project that into a 60-foot-tall caricature - and it never comes out the way I want. I keep asking myself: Am I the noble hero? A backstabbing thief? An insecure wisecracker? Do I want to be an alpha male, and if not, does that make me a wimp?

This really becomes clear towards the very end, where he explains why he thinks girls are cool (again, my emphasis):

Geek guys don't look up to the high school quarterbacks that smacked us in the locker room; we're more impressed by the complicated but confident geek girls, who actually talked to us in the library and always seemed more sure of themselves than the rest of school, no matter who teased them.

The cool girl isn't cool for herself; she's cool as an Other for the guys. Similarly, his character is neither an autonomous being nor an extension of himself in the game world, but rather just a doll he pushes around. Hence, although she has a female appearance, she's truly genderless -- indeed, she's completely bereft of any personality or self-consciousness whatsoever, a pair of boobs that can be instructed to kill gnolls.

In contrast, I consider all of my characters, male and female, to be my presence in the game world. I'm not just telling People's Fist (male) to run up and kick a guy in the face, or Sternschein (female) to launch an energy blast at a villain; I-as-People's Fist am the one doing the running and kicking, and I-as-Sternschein am firing those energy blasts. I think there's an interesting comparison to be made here with the way novelists often talk about their characters as having their own independent personalities -- a certain line of dialogue wasn't the novelist's free creation but what those characters actually said in that situation, fictional though it was. People's Fist isn't the same as Sternschein, and the two act very differently, but they're both still me, insofar as I am part of the game world.

The entire premise of this article is a mistake. If the issue were 'what happens to a female character in the game world?' or 'why are girls who kick ass cool?', then the real-world gender of the player would be irrelevant -- I'm sure women playing female characters have had to deal with undesirable online flirting just as much as men playing female characters, and we can ask why both women and men admire strong women (I bet the women don't just because those are the girls they hooked up with in high school). The real issue, I think, is the same as gender identity confined to the real world -- If you've lived your whole life as a woman, what's it like to spend time as a man, and vice versa? What does it mean to 'pass' as a particular gender? That's the particular experience of being a cross-dressing gamer that needs to be talked about.

February 10, 2006

Friday Random Ten

You all know the drill, load up your MP3s, set the player to random, and post the first ten songs here in the comments. You might be tempted to alter the list of songs that you post because some artist is overrepresented or because you think a song isn't cool enough and embarrasses you. The only rule to the FRT is that, uh, don't do that.

(Song - Artist)

1. Oh Happy Day - Aretha Franklin
2. Ain't My Bitch - Metallica
3. Master of Puppets - Metallica
4. Fade To Black (feat. Sintax) - Mars ILL
5. No I Ain't With It - Freddie Foxxx
6. Colors - Shadow Gallery
7. Voodoo Doll - Red Elvises
8. Heart Of The Sunrise - Yes
9. Race With Devil On Spanish Highway - Al DiMeola
10. Universal Mind - Liquid Tension Experiment

Speaking Of Valentine's Day

A poster from Despair.com can last all year long, but this is that narrow window for Bitter Sweets from Despair.com.

What To Do, What To Do

So here's my predicament: While cruising the web today I found a lot of stuff that I you guys should read about, but if I write substantial commentary to even a fraction of it it will take up too much of my time and way too much space here on the blog, which would probably mean that nobody would read it. Such is born a link dump....

First, we have dual stories of corruption out of the White House, with one in which we learn that "Scooter" Libby was told by his superiors to leak Valerie Plame's name and another in which we learn that the White House knew that the levees had failed in New Orleans on the night of the storm though they later claimed to not have known. Is anyone surprised?

Next up, a piece by James Wolcott on Imus. Imus has always struck me as one of those hosts that really shouldn't be doing interviews. He doesn't conduct intverviews well and that just adds up to, as Wolcott points out, conservatives getting the run of the show and liberals getting bad questions, at best. I don't think this is because, like a Hannity, he's out to make the show as conservative as possible. I think he just doesn't know what the hell he's doing. Eh, who knows, maybe I'm being too charitable.

The best part about the adoption of broadband internet by the mainstream is that now I can link to video and audio clips that need very little in the way of commentary. First, Mary Matalin, on Hannity & Colmes, says that civil rights leaders are racists. Next, Limbaugh says that he like the comparison of Senator Barak Obama to Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, whom Limbaugh claimed was only receiving media attention because the media was desirous to have a black quaterback succeed. Yay, another video! This one of Bill Bennett synonomizing Islam with violent extreme Islam. He does claw it back just a hair right at the end, but it's still pretty bad. Finally we have a clip where Bill O'Reilly claiming that he wants Al Sharpton in chains when Bill dies. I think it's important to be charitable to people, and it seems pretty obvious to me that this was just a slip of the tongue, though a pretty humorous one.

Here's a very interesting take on the Danish cartoon scandal and the ensuing riots.

And in recognition of the impending onset of the most corporate and, for me, hated, holidays, here are a couple articles about how nerds are all the rage on the romantic scene. Hogwash, I say!

"But you better keep moving before you get totally cold
And you better start growing up before you get old"

February 07, 2006

Further evidence

from Amanda, supporting my theory that Hobbesianism is a serious political movement in our society today. There's one interesting piece of data that doesn't quite fit, though:

Brooks’ attempt to gently transistion the weenies-in-golf-pants contigency from imagining themselves as rebels against the feminist cabal and warriors against the Muslim menace to imagining themselves as obedient-yet-manly high school athletes under the direction of the Shrub-as-football-coach intrigues me. Will they fall for this attempt to distract them from the fact that the basic freedoms they’ve purported to support for all these years are under attack? Are they really so dumb as to buy into yet another maudlin masculine stereotype and blindly go along with whatever BushCo asks for fear that doing otherwise would make them less than All Man? Is J*ff G*ldstein really afraid that my cock is bigger than his?

The countercultural Hobbesian? Hmm ...

No shit


Democrats are heading into this year's elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities.

The Escapist

I've been meaning to post on The Escapist for a while now. It's an internet magazine devoted to gaming, but without all the usual previews, reviews, and rumors. This is a magazine filled with thoughtful essays on gaming and gaming culture. Now, I'm sure by now that you all realize that I'm a gamer at heart, but I do think the writing is good enough, and the topics interesting enough, that even a non-gamer could find something worth reading there. In fact, it'd be super cool if some of our resident non-gamers would read an article (or maybe two) and post their impressions in the comments.

"I walk pass with a nod and a reminisce / Swear to god hip hop and comic books was my genesis"

February 06, 2006

A note on the Vagina Monologues

Letter to the editor in the Notre Dame student newspaper today; I'll spare you all the details, but suffice to say that the Monologues are at the centre of a nasty controversy here right now. My response follows.

Dear Editor,

In his letter published today, Brian MacMichael levels an important critique of the Vagina Monologues and the V-Day movement -- important not because it is valid, but because the way it is invalid goes directly to the purpose of the movement and the Monologues. Mr. MacMichael writes from a traditional straight male viewpoint, and correctly points out that, from this viewpoint, for a woman to be sexualized means she is objectified, her sexuality and thus her vagina reduced to the object of male desire. Hence, stuck in this point of view, he can only understand the Monologues as a purient, pornographic performance -- he clearly sees the actresses in the play as nothing but erotic dancers, there to titilate him and his brothers.

But I find it hard to believe that anyone remotely familiar with the play could take this interpretation seriously. This male-centred notion of sexuality is precisely what the play is meant to challenge: the Monologues portray women as autonomous sexual agents equal to men, and explicitly reject the traditional notion that women are nothing more than sexual objects for male use In one moving segment, the actresses chant a certain word that starts with 'c', slang for vagina, and used to this day to turn women's sexuality against them. But here it is not some lewd, provocative utterance; rather, as the introduction to the segment makes clear, the intention is to reclaim the word, and thereby reclaim sexuality as another aspect of women's agency. By chanting this word, the actresses are not putting their sexuality on display for the straight men in the audience; rather, they are exclaiming proudly that their sexuality is truly theirs, and an intrinsic part of who they are as people.

If men like Mr. MacMichael are so depraved that they cannot distinguish women speaking forthrightly about sex from an erotic performance, this can hardly be blamed on Eve Ensler or the actresses who perform the Monologues. If anyone is to be censured, it is clearly those who would use the rhetoric of sexual agency and equality as a rationalization for the suppression of genuine declarations of these principles.

Dan Hicks

You can do a search to find a local performance of the Monologues here.

The Day After

Well, it seems like the comments to the Superbowl post are borked, so I'll just make this post the official Superbowl discussion thread. Needless to say I was...dissapointed.

Edit: Ifilm is collecting all the Superbowl ads for our viewing pleasure. It seems like they're getting hit with lots of traffic right now, but my pics for best of show are both Sprint ads, and the "Hidden Bud Lights" and "Save Yourself" from Bud, though there were plenty of good ones.

February 05, 2006

Super Super Bowl

For the first time ever I have a team from home in the most important game their sport has to offer. Being in an area now which puts so much importance on sports I've heard more than my share of disparaging remarks about my good old Pacific Northwest, but this year we kicked some major ass with people nay saying every step of the way. Go Seahawks! Posted by Picasa

Betty Friedan has died

She was 85.

Last week or the week before, we lost Coretta Scott King. About a year ago, we lost Andrea Dworkin. Over the next eight months, as we bear down on the election, we ought to reflect on how far our society has come since these people were our age, and how much further we still have to take it.

February 04, 2006

The Return Of The Random 10

I intended to post this yesterday, but what the hell, it won't be the first time it's been posted late. In case you've forgotten how this all works since the last time we've done one of these, load up some mp3s in your device or software of choice, set the thing to random, and type of the first ten songs that get played in the comments to this post. The only rule is that you don't alter your Random 10 in any way. If multiple songs by the same artist come up, that's the way it goes. If that guilty pleasure song comes up and it's a bit embarrassing that you've got it, well, we all have those.

Here's mine to start us off: (title - artist)

1. Deeper Than Life - Shadow Gallery
2. I Dream Of Jeannie - TV Theme
3. Wild One - Billy Idol
4. New Millenium - Dream Theater
5. License To Kill Suite - James Bond Theme
6. This Dying Soul - Dream Theater
7. My New World - Transatlantic
8. Beats And Pieces - DJ Coldcut
9. Us And Them - Pink Floyd
10.Cold And Ugly - Tool

"She got some tricks and she got some treats / She'll shake the ground underneath you / Knock you off your feet"

February 03, 2006

Thoughts on the bachelor pad

Amanda has, as usual, a great post this morning, on cleanliness and the line that women 'just have higher standards' than men. She talks about men who live without women for a couple paragraphs:

Sure, there’s the stereotype of the bachelor pad–messy, beer cans everywhere, a testament to men’s “inherent” slovenliness. But that stereotype is understood as a temporary condition, and that such men who live like that will soon be married and living in hygenic conditions once they have wives to clean up after them. Instead of looking at the stereotype of how men live without women in temporary circumstances, look at the stereotype of men who live permanently without women and another picture emerges.

The most obvious men who live permanently without women are gay men, and the stereotype of the permanent bachelor is about as different as you can get from the stereotype of the temporary bachelor. Gay men are stereotyped as neat and fussy, which is a stereotype of femininity on a certain level but also speaks volumes about what we think men do want long-term–they want cleanliness, and if they aren’t going to have a woman to do it for them, they will bite the bullet and do it themselves. The neatness stereotype is also applied to straight men who live alone for a long time. Witness Jerry Seinfeld. Or your stereotypical priest, for that matter.

I have two things to say about this.

First, as an unmarried man who's shared many an apartment with another unmarried man, I think the stereotype is basically accurate -- but, like many such stereotypes, it needs to be fleshed out. In my experience, it's true that men aren't going to put in the effort to clean their living space, but they will appreciate someone else doing the work. For one example, none of the three men (just to be clear, this includes me) in my last place in Chicago ever did more than clean the toilet, wash the dishes, and sweep up big spills; the one woman mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors every other month. The men noticed, and were appreciative, but none of us were ever going to be bothered with mopping ourselves or, and this is important, so much as casually suggest to her that the floors needed to be mopped again.

So here's how I'd reformulate the stereotype: bachelor men enjoy living in a clean home as a bonus they don't have to pay for.

My second point is that this formulation brings out the injustice of the situation even more. The direct effect of this attitude is that men will sit back and watch their female roommate, girlfriend, or wife scrubbing floors, and refuse to help because he's fine with the floor not getting scrubbed -- indeed, he might even appeal to the stereotype to explain the situation. But our duty to help others isn't limited to situations (I) where we desire the end result, or even (II) where the end result is a benefit to us; we have a duty to help others accomplish their goals even (III) when we are completely indifferent to those goals. This is especially the case when the other person is someone we're close to -- a good friend or romantic partner.

From an economics perspective, a clean house is an externality to the stereotypical man: he doesn't pay for it, but he gets to enjoy the benefits of having it; indeed, he gets to enjoy it precisely as much as the person who did pay for it. Externalities are important in environmental analyses. Consider a pristine body of water, owned by the public, and located next to a paper mill. Without the stick in the hands of the EPA, the mill and its owners get to enjoy all the benefits of the body of water -- a convenience source of material for use in production, and a convenience place to dump waste -- without having to foot the bill -- some level of government will be responsible for paying to keep it clean.

We then arrive at remarkably parallel rationalizations. The mill to the community: "If you want clean water, you pay for it." The slovenly man to his girlfriend: "If you want a clean home, you pay for it." The common wisdom of our day seems to be that the first is idiotic -- the mill is at least partly responsible for getting the water dirty, it's at least partly responsible for cleaning it up -- and yet the second is perfectly fair -- even though he's at least partly responsible for getting the home dirty.

February 02, 2006

Two Links

First is an interesting piece on the abortion/contraception debate written as an email from Will Saleton to Katha Pollitt. He makes an argument for contraception proponents referring to abortions as "bad" and setting contraception out as a means to reduce them. Not the first time this argument has been stated, but it's interesting. Thoughts?

Now for the second link. There's a halucination scene in Dirty Work where Ken Norton boxes with Gary Coleman. Yes, that Gary Coleman, who dances around the ring for a few seconds taunting Norton until the pro-boxer flattens him with one punch. There's just something funny about somebody that's literally begging for it getting absolutely cremed. Anyway, there's a guy making the argument that the Oscars have become nothing more than a vehicle for Hollywood to push its liberal agenda through artsy indie films as opposed to movies that "regular" folks want to see. John "Kung Fu Monkey" Rogers absolutely evicerates this guy. I mean, he just demolishes him completely and thoroughly in one of the most amusing articles I've read in a good long while.

To top it all off, and I'm going to ruin it for you here, at the end it's revealed that this whole argument is born of the fact that this guy is pissed that Star Wars: Episode 3 didn't get any major Oscar nods. Oh man, it's classic. Go read the whole thing, really.

Thanks to Ezra for both of these links.

"Silence disguised / I watch you / Show me the hurt / That haunts you"

Sheehan Update

I rarely post directly to Drew since, well, we share many of our regular readers, but I want to post an update on Cindy Sheehan, and more imporantly the reaction to it, and he's got a good one there.

When I originally posted on this, I mostly just wanted people to go vote on the poll MSNBC was holding, but I tried to restrain myself a bit on jumping to conclusions because, as I mentioned, this isn't the first time it's happened and frankly I'm just not an expert in the rules of the Capital. Well, evidently the Capital police have apologized and admitted that Sheehan didn't do anything wrong and that there was no grounds for having removed and arrested her. I'm going to say it again because I'm feeling vindicated, and therefore a little pompous.

They were wrong. Also wrong were all the conservatives that jumped on that story like sharks on chum and defended both the removal and arrest. Will they use this embarrassing mistake to temper their reactions in the future? We'll see, but I wouldn't put any money on it.

I Love The Internet Volume #360

I've been reading this for a half hour, including the comments, and I can't tell if this is a joke. My inclination seems to be yes. I decided that I would try to analyze its jokiness without looking at anything else on the site, that is, that I should be able to determine satiricity only by reading the content. I'm *pretty* sure this is supposed to be funny, but even if it's not, it is!

Incidentally, there are some really funny comments to the story. When people that think something is a joke get together with people that take the same thing completely seriously get together...well, a certain type of magic happens.

Edit: Alright, I've completely decided that it's a joke and am now just the slightest bit ashamed that it took me so long to really be sure, but to me that just makes it even funnier.

February 01, 2006

"You know how much Satan hates to be disturbed when American Idol is on"

The most entertaining thing I've seen all day. And I was involved in a very entertaining discussion in Hegel today.

The voice is the best.

Video Games And Race

A Native American group is boycotting Activision, the producer of the recently released wester-themed video game Gun. I know several of my readers who have played Gun, and for those that haven't you can get a rough idea about what happens in the game from the article. This, to me, seems like a great opportunity to talk about race in games. Is there enough diversity in characters? Do people feel that races and genders are dealt with well in games, and if not what should be improved?

More after the flip...

Of course, most of the comments in the story where I found this quickly degenerated to people mocking the Native American group using all kinds of purposefully offensive "jokes". One poster did get in an honest criticism, however, saying,


We also play games that depic the world war two period in a realistic fashion, allow you to play nazis and kill allied soliders, etc, etc.

We play games like Civilization in which you can nuke the crap out of about any nation if you want to.

There are hundreds of movies in the Western genre out there that do that. They should just STFU.

Also, reading the article, the writer fails to mention several facts

a) Yes you kill the indians. then you find out they are right and help them to slaughter masses of white man. A whole lot more of them. You also free indians from prison, you support their attack against the a fort.

b) Yes Red Dead Revolver successfully cast a half breed as main character - so does GUN! The main character IS half indian.

c) The indians don't cry louder when they die, they just have a different voice actor

d) You can scalp anyone in the game, not just indians.

e) Indians are portrayed not worse than white men in the game. The most noble character in the story is an indian. There are sadistic, evil, murdering white men all over the place, many more than indians.

So the author should check his facts and actually play more than the first 5 minutes of the game and then rant on about how politically incorrect it is. It's not worse than Lucasarts Outlaws, or Red Dead Revolver. It's not a good game, by any means, it's ok - but it doesn't do any special things that haven't been done in other games and more importantly, tons and tons of movies.
So what do you guys think?

"My Tribe went down in the hall of fame
Cause I'm the one who shot Jesse James"

A Meta Post

Now that I'm back at the keyboard and posting pretty regularly, I guess it's time to really get the site back to form. As I'm sure you've noticed, I haven't really been doing the Ra Points feature for a couple months, first due to finals and then to do post vacation laziness. Needless to say that February will have a full competition again, so get ready to battle for points and keep in mind the various ways beyond lyrics identification that you can earn points. Also, it seems like a convenient time to be doing this post because the yearly hits slide appears to be over, knock on wood. It seems like every year we get increasing numbers of readers up through September, when they take a gentle slide through the end of the year. January turned it around just a bit, especially thanks to an end of the month push of hits, and ended up around 2,500 hits, which is around 500 more than December. In case you're interested, we peaked in September '05 with around 3,000 hits in that month. The previous September peaked around 600, so that's quite a bit of growth in a year.

Anyway, welcome back to the reinvigorated Ra. Tell your friends.

Sheehan's T-Shirt

I'm reading some analysis of last night's State of the Union speech and gathering my thoughts for a post, but in the mean time I wanted to post something about Cindy Sheehan being removed from the speech. Evidently she was invited to the speech by a congress person and wore a t-shirt that said, "2,245 Dead - How Many More??", though she didn't display the shirt until she reached her seat. She was escorted from her seat by Capital police in handcuffs. Evidently there was a guy arrested for wearing an anti-Clinton shirt during the impeachment. In addition to informing you about this, the real reason I want to post this is that there's a poll up at MSNBC asking if people think removing her was an acceptable thing to do.

I'm certain that this poll is going to be flooded by the readers of web sites on both sides of the political spectrum, so why not throw our hat in the ring.

Edit: You can find the poll by following the first link to the Kos article.