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Monday, May 29, 2006

Ich Bin Ein SynCaster 

Er um uh.. It gives me great pleasure to announce that this week's SynCast is now available for all you people to hear. It contains many great sounds and is sure to keep your moron ears happy.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a very important meeting coming up with my PS2 advisers. Er um uh.. And also papers to ah.. grade.

By the way, did you know that the "I am a jelly donut" thing is just an urban legend? And I just this week told my class it was the truth. D'oh!

Timor Tension

It looks like things are calmer today in Timor, but everything's still way tense. While the schism between the rebel troops and government/military leaders goes back a way, I don't know much about it, so I won't comment on it. What I can say is that the "gangs of youths" that every article is referring to have their roots in the country's staggering unemployment, which is estimated at 50%.
"The problems in Dili, I'd say the thing that's really sort of in-your-face all the time is the unemployment. The young people, especially young men wanting work, rushing to look for work," [Sister Tess Ward] said.
Sister Ward also says the prospect of civil war -- which every news outlet is suggesting in every story -- is unlikely.
"No way," she said. "That would be an extreme view. I think the normal, everyday Timorese little people, as I would say, the normal people on the ground, they do not want civil war."
As usual, the majority of folks who have nothing to do with this dispute are caught in the middle. I got an email from Yohan and Milena, currently in Australia for the Northern Territory Writers' Festival. They're okay, but some of the family's whereabouts are unknown. It goes without saying that our thoughts and best wishes are with them.


Check out Dan Castellaneta and Harry Shearer doing Simpsons voices on Conan's show. (Conan used to write for The Simpsons, for those who didn't know.)

Today I'm listening to: Shine!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Wanna Join a Group of Jingoistic Racist Cretins 

I finally realized why the protests I'm always in never get any media coverage -- we're not moronic xenophobic ideologue white people! Your average peace protest these days gathers 200-400 people in the streets, and we're lucky to get a passing mention on the society page. Meanwhile, the Utah Minutemen cobble together "65 to 70 protestors," and they make it onto their local news' website (probably the evening news, too). (TPCQ: "They took our jobs!")

How odd that white people appealing to the basest, most selfish desires of middle-class America get so much media coverage with so few people in attendance? And here I thought protests just weren't exciting enough for local TV news! (For the record: I don't fling accusations like "racist" around lightly; the Utah Minutemen website links to this lovely gem. ("Why doesn't she go back home where she can enjoy her culture and her heritage all the time?")

But They're Illegal!

I don't really have any sympathy for the anti-illegal-immigration point of view, because I have a fundamental indifference at this point to the entire notion of the modern city-state. We're all humans, and in this era of neoliberalized transnational capital, borders are serving more and more as little else than a means to oppress workers. (Companies can get up and go wherever they like, but people can't.)

So while I don't condone illegal behavior, I don't really care that there are so many people in the US who "snuck in". I daresay the Sioux and the Apache and the Seminole and the Creek and the Coeur d'Laine probably have a few things to say about who the most offensive illegal immigrants on this continent are.

Besides, the prime beneficiaries of illegal immigration are the business owners who profit from such cheap labor -- not the poor shlub working in the lettuce fields so he can send money to his family who are even worse off than he is.

Baby News!

Mega-Congratulations to Garrett and Christie for their new baby girl, born yesterday. Surely pictures and news from the exhausted family will be forthcoming. Speaking of which, C&G -- when is Max going to have his own blog?

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

In other news: BWA HA HA HA HA!!
The eight-woman, four-man panel found Skilling guilty on 19 of 28 counts, while Lay was convicted on all six counts leveled against him. Skilling was spared on charges of insider trading. They each face decades behind bars at their sentencing, scheduled for mid-September.
Surely it won't be a sentence commensurate with the suffering they caused (especially when compared to the relatively longer sentences blue-collar bank robbers receive), but it's still a dose of sweet justice at last.

Alas, Timor

You may have heard about all the violence recently in Dili, East Timor. I wish I had some insider information to give you, but unfortunately I can't offer much. The development-monitoring group La'o Hamutuk has been releasing statements for several months, but I doubt any communiques that come out soon will paint such a tranquil picture. Still, they're good background material. Meantime, be sure to check out the statement from ETAN for some more infrastructural background.

A delegation from Madison's own Just Coffee was in Dili recently; we don't know if they're still there or not. We do, of course, have a lot of friends and colleagues in East Timor, and it goes without saying that our thoughts and well-wishings are with them. For once it doesn't look like there's anything specific we in the US can do to help the situation in East Timor (aside from of course advocating for an international tribunal and a severing of military ties with the TNI), but if I hear of anything I'll keep you posted.

This guy is blogging in Dili, but it's hard to know how reliable it is.


Check out this clip from Robot Chicken. It's Star Wars-related!

Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

She Said Yes 

Big news, everyone. Today at the annual Tour de Timor bike ride, I asked my special lady friend Diane an important question -- and she gave the right answer.

So yeah. Thought you all should know. Thanks to Jesse for taking this excllent picture. (Nice work, J!) More details soon, along with more pictures from the ride, and video too! (Of the ride; no video of The Question™, alas.)

No SynCast today -- I got celebratin' to do.


Check out this superb Robot Chicken bit about Terrorism! It is in fact funny.

Today I'm listening to: Massive Attack!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Irony Sucks .. Not! Or Does It? 

Why I Love Irony

I love to be ironic. I love, as Kurt Vonnegut once pointed out, that we humans are so intelligent that we can deduce -- often with no more clues than a tone of voice or slight context -- when someone means the precise opposite of what s/he says.

Irony provides an extra layer of thought between the listener and meaning. When you have to decode my actual meaning, your mental circuits get an extra workout, which is good for the collective health of the hive mind.

People tend to be funnier when they're being ironic. The idiocy of the statement itself becomes the joke, as does the reality that some people take it seriously. The ironic person also gets to feel extra smug if the listener doesn't catch on right away; there's a hint of insult thrown into the exchange -- but a fleeting hint, which helps lighten the mood of many discourses.

Irony gives the speaker a chance to practice his/her deadpan, to inject an additional moment of humor and an extra coating of cynicism to the exchange. We understand irony best by understanding the people around us; and so the use of irony facilitates this understanding by giving us practice.

Pic from GlarkWare, where you can get it on a t-shirt.

Why I Hate Irony

Irony is acerbic, sour, and biting. Ironic people are never satisfied with the truth itself; they feel the need to lacquer everything with extra jerk sauce. The use of irony is endemic of a language unable to speak with mere words.

A society which can never speak truthfully is a society in danger of losing its true identity. We wear the mask so long, we forget who we are. Relationships are subject to immolation, as Tom Tomorrow pointed out. (Image via this academic essay on irony.)

Irony is an excuse for smarminess. By now we're all Far Too Cool To Say What We Really Think™. The prevalence of irony is a badge of honor for the hiperati, the suave and sophisticated who seek to direct the linguistic patterns of the moron lesser 85%.

Irony -- and its cousins sarcasm and "just kidding" -- are leeches on the lifeblood of honest discourse. The more ironic we become as a society, the less chance we have of truly bridging gaps of history, race, culture, community, and ideology.


The video for the Public Enemy / Moby track MKLVFKWR is really good. Watch it!

Today I'm listening to: BassDrive!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Laugh for Mom Day! 

This week's SynCast is a delightful collection of prank phone calls. I hope all you moms out there enjoy!

I've been spending a lot of time lately watching the archived Frontline shows you can watch online. I especially recommend, for my teacher friends, A Class Divided, about Iowa teacher Jane Elliott's 1968 program to show her kids the power of discrimination. Be sure also to check out the 2002 interview with Elliott.
I've learned that discrimination and its effects are the same no matter where you find them. I get the same results with the exercise in Berlin or in the Netherlands that I do in the U.S. or Australia or Curacao. And what's even more distressing is the fact that I've gotten the same results using the exercise with adults in Scotland and Australia in the year 2002 that I got using the exercise with children in Riceville, Iowa, in 1968.

If you have a strong stomach, check out Bush Was Right! It's Jack Black's band from Bob Roberts..

Today I'm listening to: The Jerky Boys!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A to Z 

Yes, this is one of those Magic Eye things. (Animated ones here.) Click on the image at right for the larger, dot-less, original.

Today I reorganized my CD collection in alphabetical order. I know, in this age of mp3s and iPuds the CD collection is an anachronism of sorts. I don't care -- I still like having a CD collection, and regardless of my friends' bellyaching, I also like the brick-and-dowel shelves too.

I had organized the discs thematically -- DJ mixes in one section, classical music in another, soundtracks in another. But it got hard to draw the lines (should I mix drum n bass with gabber?), and I kept losing discs. Still, this should have waited for some other time; it was too much like work for a weekend.

Alphabetic order presents some problems in itself: Does 1000 Homo DJs belong before 2 Bad Mice (since 1 < 2), or after it (since 1000 > 2)? Should I file the Harris/Plotkin project Collapse under Scorn, Harris, Plotkin, or Collapse? And what the hell do I do with Aphex Twin?

Well, anyway, I decided in honor of this semiotic celebration, I would treat you to an around-the-world tour of my music tastes in this week's SynCast. Thirty seconds each of the following excellent musicians:... and so on. Enjoy!


The Tomb of Doom is a bit of flash clay game fun. There's a monkey at the end!

Today I'm listening to: Q is for Queen Latifah!