Saturday, February 25, 2006

funny ha ha

MediaBistro is hosting an eight-week Humor Writing Workshop with Neal Pollack.'s an online course. And it costs $500.

"Your instructor's lectures are posted once a week. Students post completed assignments on the course bulletin board, where the class gives feedback. Students ask questions, share resources, and support each other, creating a conversation that continues all week. "

What would really be funny is if someone copied and pasted Pollack's lectures onto a blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Freedom of Speech

Jesus H. Christ on a fucking popsicle stick, what the motherfuck is going on? If someone believes something stupid or destructive, I want him to say it or draw it. At least we'll know it's out there. Jailing anti-Semites and shutting down papers running sacrilegous cartoons isn't going to fix anything. The only thing censorship and self-censorship makes me want to do is be as fucking vulgar as I can.

If we're going to go after these types of idiots one by one, why can't we just launch the War on Stupidity and get it over with already?

Monday, February 20, 2006

One Steel Cage Match I'd Pay Anything to See


Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French writer with a spatter-paint prose style and the grandiosity of a college sophomore. As always with French writers, Lévy is short on the facts, long on conclusions.

Thanks for coming. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.


Every now and again you come across the real thing: a case of full-blown, corn-fed, white-bread American nativist bloviation.

and Henri-Levy:

And now that he's had his fun, it is these questions that I would love to finally take up with the herald of Lake Wobegon. At a time and place of his convenience. That is, on the turf and in front of the public of his choosing. But face to face, this time. On equal ground. He may consider this an invitation.

This might be better than Kristof v. O'Reilly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Kreider

God damn, this one's good. "Scientists Riot!" Perhaps even better than the gas pirate.

Speaking of cartoon protesters:

A new bumpersticker for your SUV

Americans love their ribbons and their bumperstickers. But it's been a while since we've had a new fad. How long have we been putting U.S. flags and "Support Our Troops" on our SUVs now? It's time for a new one.

If we really want democracy to flower around the globe, we have to not only support the troops who deliver it, but also the people who are fumbling with it for the first time. We have to Support the Iraqis! Bush said so:

The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them. There's more distance to travel on the road to democracy. Yet Iraqis are proving they're equal to the challenge.

So I propose a joint U.S./Iraqi flag bumpersticker.

We don't need the stripes anymore. We have 50 states. The 13 colonies are so like yesterday. I feel the American people will be more than happy to have the joint U.S./Iraqi flag bumpersticker (it has to be a bumpersticker--it won't work on a ribbon) flying proudly from their SUVs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Journalist plagiarizes self

All journalists love a good quote. So I can understand that Clive Thompson, in writing an article about the blog hierarchy that detailed--in the lede--the methodology of a social science analysis of the blogosphere based in network theory, got fairly hot and bothered over this quote:

“I didn’t intend to become a millionaire,” says Rojas, “but I wound up there anyway.”

The quote refers to a man who landed a windfall when AOL bought out the company hosting his blog for $25 million.

It's quite a kicker, and Thompson indeed used it to end his article. But the same quote, and the same allusion to the buyout, appeared on the third page. It also appears as a pull quote on the fourth page--odd, since online articles don't usually stick print-style pull quotes smack in the middle of the text.

Here are some screengrabs of the autoplagiarism:

Page 3:

The awkwardly-placed pull quote on page 4:

And the kicker on page 6:

The story is about how the blogosphere has organized itself into the same kind of A-, B-, and C-list hierarchy as mainstream media. Anyone who was on USENET in the early 1990s and saw--gasp--the first advertisements on the World Wide Web wouldn't be surprised at this.

Thompson breaks the hierarchy down thusly. There is a smattering of A-list blogs making total bank, and gazillions of C-list blogs chattering in obscurity, begging the A-list blogs for traffic. They beg because hits come from links, and as the rich blogs get richer and the poor blogs get poorer, no one ends up linking to the little guys.

Of course, Thompson sneaks in a sly, self-deprecating self-promotion (parenthetical, natch):

(This has even happened to me. I run a small science blog—avowedly C-list, a pure vanity project—and the times that Boing Boing or Gizmodo have linked to me, my traffic has exploded.)

At least he was tasteful enough to leave out the name of his blog. But I'm sure he wouldn't mind finding himself in the position of Dan Rojas. Last fall, AOL bought Weblogs, Inc., which includes Rojas's blog Engadget, for $25 million.

“I didn’t intend to become a millionaire,” says Rojas, “but I wound up there anyway.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Here is the last in a series of three improvised meditations on violence. These are one-take, live guitar improvisations using mostly feedback, some real-time loop manipulations, and a little off-mic yelping. I recorded this new one after witnessing a shooting. The others (#1, #2) are also reactions to violence that found itself a little too close to home, literally and figuratively.

It occurred to me while putting this together that violence does not have an antonym other than "nonviolence." Violence is so forceful that in language it forces itself upon its antonym. I don't think "peace" works. Perhaps "humanity," because violence negates our humanity by forcing us into the decision of the feral animal: fight or flee.

Anyway, you don't need to read too much into the music, but it is an opportunity to spend a few minutes thinking about violence/nonviolence.

1. 115th Street
2. In Memoriam
3. My Plea

Monday, February 06, 2006


What can motivate a man to resolve himself to a state of constant war? Surely, on one end, a baroque, childish, wish-fulfillment vision of the afterlife. But what about the other end? Cynicism? Surely it can't be pragmatism soaked in fear? Does it have anything to do with a vision of the afterlife?

"Things get very fuzzy past the five-year point," Henry said of the review in a talk last month.

At the same time, Henry stressed yesterday, "we cannot win this long war by ourselves."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A revolution of conscience?

Highlights from Bush's State of the Union address:

Winking at War Widows -- Bush read from a letter a KIA soldier had written to his family before his death. The widow and parents were in the audience. The camera showed Laura Bush turning around to shake their hands, then cut back to Bush, who looked over, leaned in, put on the CharmSmirk, and winked. Winked! As if he were saying, "Yer on da tee vee!"

It reminded me of some of the best advice I ever got. Just before I taught community college students for the first time, I approached one of my wisest teachers for advice. He said, "Be friendly and enthusiastic, but not overly familiar." Bush goes for the jugular with familiarity, at the expense of friendliness and enthusiasm. Or curiosity.

Anyway, I don't know if Emily Post ever addressed it, but I'm pretty sure presidents shouldn't wink at war widows from the rostrum of the House chamber.

Rostrum -- It was just fun to hear Bush chew through this word so early in the speech. Oops, I just broke my "don't make fun of Bush" rule. Hypocrisy is fun! "Rrrroshterm."

A Well-Behaved Nation -- Bush cited declines in abortion, teenage pregnancy, crime, drug use, violent crime, and welfare rolls to argue that our culture has undergone a "quiet transformation, a revolution of conscience." He did not, however, mention our superlative incarceration rate or rainbow parties.

The Grand Theory -- "Sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore. Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing."

That's quite a statement. If that "human action" includes the Iraq War, then I see you one naivete for your optimism and one hubris for your confidence.

Claims that need to be checked out -- Cutting 140 programs will halve the deficit by 2009; tax relief left $880 million dollars in hands of taxpayers; Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will comprise 60 percent of the federal budget by 2030; welfare rolls are down by half over the past decade; from 24 democracies in 1945 to 122 now; and 4.6 million jobs, "more than Japan and the European Union combined."

Isolationism and Protectionism -- Most disturbing was Bush's characterization of those who would not wrestle down the great wide arc of human affairs and tear at its Gordian Knot with their teeth as "isolationists" and "protectionists." Broad brush much?

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's Democratic response wasn't exactly inspiring, either. The Democrats' plan for winning the war on terror without "sacrificing...liberty"? Re-enlistment bonuses, asking oil companies to return some of their profits (to whom he does not say), investment in alternative energy, and some vague mumbling about a "rational immigration policy."

Yep, that ought to do it.