September 30, 2006

Guitar Hero 2

There was some doubt as to whether it would make it to the Xbox 360, but it sure is and with a sweet new controller.


Feministing has an excellent interview up with a woman fighting gentrification in Brooklyn. I find this opening quotation quite powerful:

Basically, at one point I was reading Patrice Lumumba [a former Congolese anti-colonial leader], and it just came down to this ... even if I am able to move these young people, if their parents don’t have a place to live, or an affordable place to live, then they won’t be able to live as healthy, conscious human beings. And so people have to start thinking about each other and their communities. They can’t wait for their government or someone in office to. They have to start taking care of each other.

Gentrification isn't just about an aesthetic preference for the bohemian over the Gap, or knee-jerk class resentment. On a fundamental economic level, gentrification involves pricing housing and retail space beyond the poor and working class so that upper middle class whites can enjoy a version of the city that's as `safe' (read: homogeneous and unchallenging) as a suburb. Or, put the other way around, it's deliberately denying `undesirables' (in senses of both race and class) access to economic resources they need to flourish for the benefit of the privileged. That makes it an issue of justice.

I'm not denying (and neither is McFarlane) that improving the economy, reducing the violent crime rate, replacing unsafe buildings, etc., in a struggling neighbourhood are goods. But these goods can be achieved by and for the current citizens of the neighbourhood, not by removing them.

Anscombe on contraception and abortion

Elizabeth Anscombe is best known as the editor and translator of the English editions of Wittgenstein's most significant works, but in her day she was a prominent philosopher in her own right. She was also a devout Roman Catholic. In this piece, Anscombe meditates on the `contraceptive mentality'. I've only had time to read the first section, but this bit really stood out:

The only objection, then, to the new heathen, contraceptive morality will be that the second condition I mentioned - near-universality of contraception where there ought not to be begetting - simply won't be fulfilled. Against the background of a society with that morality, more and more people will have intercourse with little feeling of responsibility, little restraint, and yet they just won't be so careful about always using contraceptives. And so the widespread use of contraceptives naturally leads to more and more rather than less and less abortion.

Except that, as this report by the Guttmacher Institute shows, that's precisely the opposite of what happens. Anscombe does throw in a qualifier, granting the possibility of a strictly short-term decline in abortion rates, but then claims the long-term result will be a net increase in abortion rates. She's simply empirically wrong about that claim, as well:

Initially, rapid fertility decline in South Korea was accompanied by increases in both contraceptive use and abortion; over time [ie, 40 years], abortion rates turned downward while contraceptive use continued to climb.

But the reason why Anscombe makes this assertion is also interesting. Prima facie, `contraceptive morality' (as Anscrombe calls it here) or the `contraceptive mindset' (as some contemporary opponents of contraception call it) is nothing more or less than the view that the use of contraception is entirely permissible, morally speaking. But this is, strictly speaking, only a proper part of what these opponents of contraception mean; they also seem to think that this mindset or morality involves a sort of firm resolution to avoid taking responsibility for one's actions. That is, using contraception is supposed to be a denial of responsibility, roughly on a par with the (supposed) denial of responsibility that is abortion, and since the former is less convenient than the latter (or something), an acceptance of contraception will lead to an increase in the number of abortions. This isn't just a strawfeminist and astonishingly (given that Anscombe is an influential analytic philosopher) vague line of argument; it's a downright bizarre inversion of the core notion, motivating those of us who believe strongly in access to and education about contraception, that the use of contraception is actually one responsible way to engage in intercourse.

September 29, 2006

Robert Downey Jr. Is Tony Stark

And really, other than being an actor and not, in fact, a billionaire techology based industrialist, they are indeed the same person.

This could actually be a good movie...

Opportunity costs

Selections from Rox Populi: What Can You Do With $2 Billion a Week?*:

Send 2 million Iraqi students to Harvard

Purchase a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home in Atlanta for all 330,000 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina

Enable Habitat for Humanity to build new homes for every Israeli man, woman and child living in poverty

Enroll every uninsured American in a private health insurance plan, with spare bucks to burn

Provide 25% of the world's population with the full six-dose regimen of the anthrax vaccine

Or sacrifice a few tens of thousands of lives to establish yet another violent sectarian-ethnic conflict that will take decades to settle.

September 28, 2006

Big Choice Videos

Colbert bullseye's all the current crap about Clinton.

Cafferty expresses exactly my frustration with the last five years.

shows why prominent liberals are better than prominent conservatives.

The value of greek life

No, not real Greeks. Greek with a small 'g', except at the beginning of sentences.

Luke's little dialogue nicely represents my own feelings on fraternities and sororities:

You didn’t bond over shit. That’s artificial bond-making right there, that’s phony. When you’re so desperate for brotherhood and friendship and “bond-making” that you’d purposefully create stressful, dangerous, sexist, homophobic situations for yourselves that isn’t bonding through anything. If me and you got stuck in an earthquake and fought ourselves out, that’d be bonding. If me and you got thrown in a Turkish prison and gotten out, that’d be bonding. If me and you went through drug or alcohol rehab at the same time, that’d be some bonding.

I think much the same applies to Notre Dame's dorm system -- an undergrad's dorm seems to define her or his social circle to a large extent, and almost all live in the same dorm all four years. Dorms will tend to sit in blocs at football games and in the dining halls, engage in fundraising and host parties, pep rallies, and community service projects. Rumours among the faculty and grad students (who generally regard all this with a sort of low-level horror) include hazing and exam and paper files. In short, pretty much exactly the sort of shit you find in the greek system at most schools -- except, instead of 30-60% of the student body participating, it's nearly 100%.

Home-based business


Nearly half of all U.S. businesses are run from home, and most companies owned by women are home-based, according to a government report released on Wednesday.

The data, showing 56 percent of female-owned businesses are run from home, illustrates how women opt to work from home for an array of family reasons, workplace experts say.

Via Feministing:

The word "opt" always makes me nervous. I mean are women *really* opting to stay at home? Or is it because a) they can't afford day care and b) it is difficult for women to advance in the corporate world?

My mom runs her own, moderately successful, business, designing homes and drafting plans thereto, out of her home. After she finished her AA when I was in junior high, she started work at the one sizable architecture firm in her small town. For almost two years, she spent 40 hours a week filling in the details of someone else's designs in AutoCAD and dealing with the mild resentment and harassment of her (nearly all male) coworkers. Eventually, she was fired, essentially for being too independent to simply draw someone else's ideas but not having the education needed to be a fully fledged architect (there's a complicated licensing process involved for future architects without a Master's degree, and her firm didn't want to pay for it). Also, she refused to go out with one of her superiors.

I was already driving, and my brother was in junior high, with a busy sports schedule; her reasons for `opt[ing] to work from home' had nothing to do with the family. It was a necessity born of simple discrimination against a housewife turned professional once her children were grown and the divorce was finalized.

(Yeah, okay, my mom as feminist parable is stretching things just a bit, but the point remains: her unusual career path and her gender made starting her own business a necessity; she didn't `opt' for anything but the career she loves instead of cutting hair or waitressing until she was 70.)

September 26, 2006


I caught the premier of Heroes last night; if you missed it, NBC will apparently be running it again tonight (while that's odd, I have no comment on it), or I'm sure you can already find it in other, less legally upright, venues.

My feelings about the premier are mixed, and I think a fair review of this show must be based on more than a single episode. A conventional film needs to establish the characters and basic plot within the first thirty minutes or so, to allow for an hour of development and fifteen to thirty minutes of denounement and conclusion, for a total running time of just under two hours; meanwhile, a conventional teevee season has upwards of fifteen hours to work with. While film as its own advantage, television is a medium that is excellent for presenting complicated plots with multiple interwoven threads that unfold very, very gradually. (Joss Whedon does this very, very well -- the best seasons of Buffy and every season of Angel have a far more complicated plot than most any film you care to think of.) In other words, good teevee can have the depth and pacing of a good novel -- and a novel shouldn't be judged on the first twenty pages. Well, okay, unless those first twenty pages are really bad. But the premier of Heroes was not really bad.

Avast, mateys! There be mild spoilers below that thar fold!

Heroes seems to be built on a number of familiar tropes in the superhero genre, and this works both in its favour and to its detriment. The basic premiss is that seemingly random individuals around the world are starting to manifest superhuman powers, and the opening voiceover (done by a geneticist character) explains this with some handwaving about `evolution', but also uses the language of pathology, talking about a `patient zero'. The array of powers is quite familiar: rapid regeneration, teleportation, hyperintelligence, flight, precognition, telepathy. This familiarity lets the writers spend most of the first episode on some character development, and suggests that this will not be a simple, mindless action series.

On the other hand, the first episode reeks of both sexism and racism, sadly pervasive problems in the comic book world. The episode presents five or six primary characters (assuming those with prominent speaking roles and screen time will be primary characters), all but two of whom are white. There is one Indian man, who seems to be positioned for the role of knowledgable yet powerless mentor a la Rupert Giles; and one Japanese man, who seems to have been written with every stereotype of the nerdy, sexless Asian in mind. The two female primary characters are both white, and both thoroughly packed as eye candy: one's a teenage cheerleader, and the other sells strip shows over the internet to support the requisite preternaturally intelligent child. I guess Standards and Practices wouldn't let them get away with a hooker with a heart of gold.

Other groanworthy tropes that rise to the level of cliche are the angsty, drug-addicted artist, the evil white guy in a suit and sunglasses (with mysterious connection to other characters), and the machiavellian politician.

However, as I said before, the series is only just establishing itself. Optimistically, we'll see more diversity in the cast as other primary characters are introduced, and the inversion of stereotypes as the characters develop. The first episode shows a lot of promise, and the show warrants at least another few episodes to really get going.

September 25, 2006

Am I On Drugs, Or Are They?!

Thanks Mr. Brottman. You realize, of course, that we all must memorize these dance moves and bust them out at parties or in bars. It's a moral imperative.

Keith Olberman Strikes Again

Telling Truth to Power. If only more of his media peers would take his lead...

And here's Jack Cafferty with some more well-deserved rancor for President Bush.

Biff! Pow!

I was completely unaware of this until today, but evidently Uwe Boll challanged several of his critics to a boxing match several months ago and the fights just happened. Among the group of Uwe haters was Rich "Lotax" Kyanka, founder of Something Awful. According to Kyanka, the critic guys were led to believe that this was a silly PR stunt and that it would all be in good fun. Evidently Uwe is something of an amateur boxer and had no intention of having fun, or at least, not having fun that was unrelated to mercilessly beating on some internet nerds.

What's really surprised me is that, barring a few exceptions, the forums over at Kotaku are coming down heavily on Uwe Boll's side. Even granting all of Kyanka's assertions that this was supposed to just be fun and that training that was promised to the critics never happened, the nerds seem to think the critics, and Kyanka in particular. I had no idea there was so much anti-SA venom out there.

September 23, 2006


That's right, I'm actually taking a day off from homework (whether this is a good idea or not, we'll see), and I've actually written a blog post that's more than just a link to something else.

But that post isn't here. It's over at Plato’s Beard. This one is just another one of those `go read it' posts. Though that post is only going to be interesting/comprehensible if you care/know about meta-ethics.

September 22, 2006

Two videos

I'm too lazy to look up the embedding codes, so go watch them at real men are not

September 21, 2006

An experiment

Staff of Ra is now being automatically syndicated to my Facebook profile, as 'Notes'. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to only syndicate the posts I write, so I'll be removing those MosBen writes (as well as those by Archgarth, should he reappear some day) manually.

A little reminder that oral sex is sex, too

Oral sex can cause cancer. (Via Majikthise)

How's that? HPV. You see, the viruses that cause warts (including genital warts) and cervical cancer can cause tonsil cancer.

So what to do? Basically, the same things you do to keep from getting genital warts: condoms and dental dams can help (but don't work as well as they do against the transmission of HIV), and of course avoiding hooking up with someone who has genital warts in the first place is a good idea. As the HPV vaccine becomes more widely available, immunization is also a good idea.

So why am I blogging about it? Because teenagers in abstinence-only sex ed probably won't hear about any of this, and an overwhelming majority of high school students have had oral sex, even if they've taken a virginity pledge and believe they're sticking to it. Abstinence-only sex ed isn't just a problem because it doesn't tell kids how to have safe vaginal intercourse; it systematically ignores the existence of oral sex, and thereby actively encourages unsafe behaviour that puts kids at risk for STDs, and thus cancer.

September 20, 2006

It's MosBen's birthday today!

So leave him well-wishes in the comments (unless you wish him ill, in which case you can just die right now, because Ben = teh cool), and you Jersey people better be taking him out for a drink tonight.

Happy Birthday!

September 18, 2006

Barbara's Blog: The Shame Game

Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and dimed, among other books) has been blogging sporadically for most of the past year. Her latest post, on shame, seemed like a good pretense to link to her.

Shaming can be a more effective means of social control than force. The peasant who stepped out of line could be derided for daring to question his “betters.” The woman who spoke out against patriarchal restrictions could be dismissed as a harridan or even a slut. It doesn’t always work, of course. In 1994, Dan Quayle and rightwing writer Charles Murray launched an initiative to “re-stigmatize” out-of-wedlock births by restoring the old pejorative term “illegitimate.” But somehow the country wasn’t ready to label millions of babies bastards.

September 17, 2006

Sunday Random Ten

What the hell, I haven't done one of these in a while. Maybe some of you remember? The whole, "loading up your MP3s" in a "MP3 hardware or software player" thing? That crazy "set the thing to random and post the first ten songs in the comments" wackiness? The whole, "don't be all shy and omit songs you're embarrassed of" dealy? Come on now, what are you people listening to?!

(Song - Artist)
1. My Blue Heaven - Leon Redbone
2. It's Not Unusual - Tom Jones
3. Silence and Distance - Angra
4. Desiree - The Elected
5. Ninja Gaiden - The Minibosses
6. Color Blind - Chroma Key
7. Colors - Shadow Gallery
8. Modeling Sucks - Handsome Boy Modeling School
9. Prelude in G sharp minor, op. 32 no.12 - Rachmaninov
10. Dark Night - The Blasters

A weird but good list. And uh, I'm studying up for a stage performance of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and I'm up for the role of Carlton. That's why I have Tom Jones music...that's the ticket...

Edit: Ok, I kept looking on You Tube for Fresh Prince videos and came up with a couple others. Arnold and Mr. Drummond? Whachoo talkin' 'bout!? Shatner? Call the Borg in 'cause this is the best of both worlds! Jokes for nerds!

Weekend Web Posting

Well, it's Sunday and I really wish I didn't have these motions to write for work, so instead of working I've been looking for cool stuff to show you all.

First, let's get the Trek out of the way. Star Trek had it's 40th anniversary a little while ago, so here you have a great music video for the original series, and a great one for TNG. It's sad that DS9 didn't get it's own humorous opus.

I've always wished that I could breakdance. What few attempts have been made to that end have resulted with very soar elbows and shoulders. These guys seem to have gotten past that stage.

Here's the first five pages of the Transformers script along with a slew of pictures. This movie will be awesome by the power of my very will.

I love videos of stunts, though it's certainly better when they succeed. For the squeemish: Don't worry, no "serious" injuries here.

September 16, 2006

Bombthrowing II

You can review the first stage of the saga here. Ryan Davidson -- the racist first-year ND law student I targetted in my last letter to the Observer -- didn't respond directly to me, but, after a week's silence, wrote this spectacular piece of rhetoric. He's responding to this letter, but you really don't need the context -- Davidson accuses his target of having "toxic opinions", making "confused and benighted moral equivocations" and displaying "intractably paranoid anti-Semitism". And then we have this final paragraph:

I would implore the editors of The Observer, the official student publication of an officially and concernedly Catholic institute, to refrain from countenancing such immoral race-baiting in the future. It does nothing but unnecessarily inflame discussion with unrelated issues and has no place in serious academic discourse.

As near as I can tell, he's not talking about his own letter, but the one he's criticizing. I don't hesitate to point out how bizarre this is.

Then I visit Facebook. It turns out that Davidson has a blog, and the man appears to be a living caricature of my theories about conservative political philosophy. In particular, within the last ten days, we have the following:
  1. Not one but two posts wherein he expresses approval for the Pope's recent denunciations of Islam.
  2. A post where he speculates that Hobbes is "really on to something" with his paranoid, pro-authoritarian, anti-democratic version of the state of nature.
  3. He calls one of the last Crusaders a hero of the "great war" -- on September 11th.
  4. Granting "terrorists" (by which he means detainees disappeared to secret CIA prisons and recently relocated to Guantanamo) protections under the Geneva Convention means "they win. They get to use any tactics they want, but we're not allowed to use reasonable and proportionate force to stop them."

None of which, of course, is anywhere near as disturbing as the simple fact that this sort of paranoid xenophobia -- transcending even simple racism -- is quite mainstream here. New university tagline:

The University of Notre Dame: Bizarro Academia.

September 12, 2006

They Just Keep Coming

Losing Lois Lane parts 1, 2, and 3. Sharp eyed and nerdy viewers will note that Danny Strong (aka Jonathan from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays Robin: The Boy Wonder.

Here's some surf guitar versions of classical pieces. Like peanut butter and chocolate.

Thanks to Ed and Michelle!

More Sweet Videos

God bless Weird Al.

And Keith Olberman.

September 11, 2006

Ok Go

Saw the frontman for these guys on The Colbert Report. They made a couple music videos at home and put them on You Tube, and now they've got a record deal with Columbia Records, at least I think that's the one. It's a sweet song and an super cool video.

Video Games Are Still Awesome

An Xbox 360 transplanted into a laptop case. Click the link at the bottom of the first page to get to pics of the finished product.

Crooks & Liars

Now this is the Democratic Party I want to see.


I don't really have much to say on the topic, so I'll let Ze say it for me. And here's Frank Miller's thoughts too.

September 10, 2006

ZeFrank Speaking At TED

I've been obsessed with Ze since I found The Show a week or so ago. If you've watched all the episodes of The Show it'll be nice to know that there's this video of Ze giving a presentation at TED. Who likes the little duckies in the pond? I do...

September 09, 2006


Thanks to Andy for sending me this link. Spock and Kirk's simmering, silent lust boils over.

I want Knight Rider to come back and I want this to be KITT.

Steve Carell vs Stephen Colbert.

Bill Bennett, usually a pretty big douche, makes some very good points about that horrible ABC 9/11 movie.

September 07, 2006

French ad offers fresh perspective

Guest-poster Blue at Alas has is posting about ablism this month. If you're not familiar, this post is a good place to start. The teevee commercial it links to is especially interesting.

The Beat Of A Different Drum Core

Marching band performs video game tunes. Sweet, but hard to hear.

Also, I give you: The People's Mario!

Finally, little bit creepy, little bit sad for some reason, here's six years.

September 06, 2006

September 05, 2006

September 04, 2006

Found This Through Penny Arcade

Oh, nerd rock, how I love thee. He's got lots of good stuff, but here are two particularly good ones. Oh, and he's got a myspace page, if you like that sort of thing.


The political issue du jour here at ND is the situation in the Middle East. The opening salvos were this op-ed and this letter in the Observer (the mainstream student paper). They garner a more-or-less expected response: spectacular racism. The author of the first letter rightly calls BS, and the racist retorts with -- to no-one's surprise -- an even more spectacular display of racism.

I threw my hat into this ring today, with this letter, calling the racist out (though more for being an idiot than being a racist).

It'll be interesting to see whether my students mention this in class on Friday.

'Crocodile Hunter' Amazingly Survives 44 Years

Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter, has been killed by a sting ray near the Great Barrier Reef. I always liked his show, but let's face it, it's amazing that a guy whose career was based almost entirely on pissing animals off didn't have a horrible accident like this much sooner. Evidently he's the second person *ever* to be killed by a sting ray in Australia because they're generally extremely peaceful creatures and only attack if they think they're in danger.

In other news, more songs have been confirmed for Guitar Hero II. Where there are a couple on the list that I'm not excited about (never really been much of a Nirvana fan) , that's still a really solid lineup. There are 23 songs confirmed at this point, and I believe that there are supposed to be thirty or forty licensed songs total. Anybody have some suggestions for songs to fill out the list?

September 03, 2006


Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Show with Zefrank. I recommend starting with the "popular shows" as they are all hilarious.

September 02, 2006

$4,355 worth of shit MSN says I 'need'

I own absolutely nothing on this list. Nor could I afford anything on it. ($10 per for white teeshirts? Jesus.) I guess that makes me a failure at this `being a man' thing.

(Okay, I do have an overnight bag, and one teeshirt that would be white except for the paint splatters. The overnight bag was about $60, and I got the teeshirt for $2 at Kmart.)

That's what we've been trying to tell you!

Via PZ Myers, quotations from the Dover, PA decision on ID in the high schools:

Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God....

As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition's validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe's assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition.

If you want to believe that your demiurge of choice guided evolutionary development from the first pseudoprotein soup through humanity, whales, and cephalopods -- God determined which random variations would crop up when -- that's fine. That's supersensible causation, and it's not something science can test for, ie, it's 100% compatible with the methodological naturalism of the evolutionary developmental biologist. But this is not what ID is about.

Instead, ID argues that it is mathematically impossible for the sort of stochastic processes described by evolutionary theory to yield `irreducibly complex' systems. (They're wrong about this, by the way; there are lots and lots of empirical examples and hypotheses for the development of `irreducibly complex' systems that did not require divine intervention.) Hence, ID is an attack on the notion that the sensible world is at least describable on the whole and for the most part using stable, regular mathematical models -- the fundamental notion of science since the Rennaisance. ID is not a scientific theory; it's an attempt to discredit science as a whole and replace it with a particular theology of socially conservative, evangelical Christianity.

September 01, 2006

Coach Jules

Man, hockey season can't come fast enough.

Free stuff!

Granted, it's not stuff that you want, but it DOES allow you to take one little drop out of FoF's ocean of cash. L'Etranger (which appears to now fancy itself `Seattle's only newspaper'):

Few people know that Focus on the Family—the powerful evangelical Christian para-church based in Colorado Springs—will give you, absolutely free of charge, books, CDs, and DVDs. Usually people pay for these products, and the millions of dollars raised helps Focus on the Family produce yet more books and CDs featuring Dr. James Dobson and other Focus 'experts.' (Focus on the Family's experts, when they're not chatting on the phone with Karl Rove, run around the country teaching people how to stop being so gay and when it's appropriate to kick their kids' asses.)