Friday, February 27, 2004
Matthew 10:24, Daniel 10:6
While in the mall bookstore yesterday, I paged through the Official Collector's Edition Book for Mel Gibon's new flick The Passion of the Christ. Goodness -- looks like he took a page from Requiem for a Dream on this one. Shock the audience into a numb stupor and your point will be made. I suppose it's working; one of my former students sent an email to his buddy list (which I'm on) urging everyone to go see it (he even offered to pay if we couldn't afford it).
I guess I can't find fault with Gibson for wanting to show people that Jesus was way cool, but I'd be more keen on a movie about how Jesus chewed out the moneyed interests and urged nonviolent revolution. Wasn't there also something about a camel and a needle? (Of course, it all depends on how you interpret it.)
But the real story about the movie is -- once again -- how lilly-white Jesus and everyone else is in the film. William Rivers Pitt puts it well:
To look at the central actors in this film, you'd think Jesus did his work near Manchester, New Hampshire instead of the Holy Land. . . . The Jesus most familiar to Americans, the Jesus featured in Gibson's film, looks like the front man for an alternative rock band out of Minnesota. Judas in this film is a shorter version of the same phenomenon. White skin, long straight brown hair, decidedly European features -- this is not the Jesus that preached revolution against the Empire long ago. This is the Jesus fashioned by Michelangelo five centuries ago, who used his white cousin as the model for the savior.The rest of the piece winds up attacking Bush for some reason, but the first part is pretty solid. (Naturally, conservatives are trying to get us to ignore the fact that we always cast Jesus as a white man.)
Dude: John Kerry rocks out with Moby! Everything Is Wrong -- except for Kerry's campaign! I'll bet they're headed to a strip club next. Thanks for the pic, DLF.
Thanks to PR Watch for linking us to Diebold's happy happy website to defend itself against charges that the company's electronic voting machines are unreliable and insecure. I suppose I could make a joke here about write-in candidates, but that seems easy and boring, except in passing.
I bet you don't know much about the darkwing fungus gnat. Well, it's time you did!
Buggy Woogie -- steering's a bit tricky, but you'll get it.
Today I'm listening to: Autechre!
Thursday, February 26, 2004
This Could Be Such A Lovely Civilization
I finally got my car fixed today. It's been wobbling something awful since I slid into those curbs several months ago. Turns out it was just my tires! I was preparing to replace the axle; sweatstorm averted!
As the Sears technicians worked on my car, I wandered around the East Towne Mall, mulling over the sparse, clean floors and seemingly upscale shops. When I was a kid, the mall was a noisy, disheveled place, packed with things I wanted and teeming with life. Today, the malls I visit feel vacant and subdued.
A while back I overheard some students of mine making plans for the weekend. They arranged to meet at Best Buy, which struck me as odd. Obviously, it's odd that I used to meet my pals at a hypercommercial space like the mall, but at least the mall has some neutral public-like areas. There are no fountains anywhere near Best Buy.
Everyone at the East Towne Mall looked joyless -- shoppers as well as workers. The managers always try to look happy, but given the experiences I've had with mall retail work, I always highly suspect the cheer in managers' voices. Many of the clerks were talking on the phone to their friends; some of them had a group of buddies hanging out in the store. I was never allowed to have friends hanging around. I suppose at this point the bosses have figured out that when you pay people the minimum wage and no benefits, you have to let them get away with some luxuries here and there. Or maybe the managers just don't check up on them very much.
The people at those weird kiosks seem the most disenchanted. One guy does custom name-painting in an unusual artistic style; he seemed happy enough. But most of the clerks in those pods are obviously just filling up someone else's space. Always on display; rarely approached or bought from, it seems. Never consulted on matters that might stimulate brain waves. At least they get to sit down.
Is this really the best we can do? So many of the mall workers are older people -- folks who look like they're hoping for some real career, instead of a boring wad of constantly shifting hours spent feigning interest in cheap jewelry and consumer electronics. In this respect, I suppose Al Bundy on Fox's "Married With Children" is the true portrait of modern work life. Willie Loman of the postindustrial age. Who needs travelling salesmen? Let the buyers come to us -- the company won't have to pay travel costs. Now we don't even get to see the country.
How have we allowed the great promise of this society to be so inanely packaged into cookie-cutter fashion "boutiques" and garish rows of gumball machines? Is this what our ancestors worked for -- the privilege to buy truckloads of garbage we don't need (and don't even want two weeks after we get it)? What happened to the spirit of discovery, the insatiable thirst of our imaginations? Not in the land of One Size Fits All. Who makes their own clothes anymore? How can I know about the stuff I don't see if I don't see it?
I know this is a tired old diatribe, but it really struck me today. My apologies to all the AdBusters devotees out there. (From this month's issue: "The neocon Right is on a rampage, while the Left is whining and struggling to get its [expletive] together." What needs to be done to overcome the onslaught of corporate world domination? We "can force force capital to retreat by . . . plugging up toilets [and] crashing spy surveillance systems with spoof emails." Man, I had no idea it would be so easy! Get bent, Lasn. Punk probably never worked a day in his life.)
The most singular absurdity in the mall is the One Dollar Store. The basic idea behind it is that everything in the place has an equal value (US$1.00). But I refuse to believe that a paring knife has the same value to the world as a plastic jump rope. How can a box of trash bags be economically equivalent to a scented candle? I always question the quality of the things I find in the One Dollar Store, especially when I own a similar item but paid many times more for it. Take the wrench: It's metal. It feels sturdy. It weighs about the same as the one I own. Is this one more likely to break when I'm changing a gasket, or did I just get suckered in by Stanley's name brand price gouging? Either way, there's no denying that some of the items in the One Dollar Store are every bit as good as the ones for which we pay ten times more. (Consider the tape measure; the sieve; the paint roller.)
I'm always simultaneously amused and depressed at the presence of books in the One Dollar Store. (Today's most amusing find: Standing Firm by J. Danforth Quayle -- but now that I've been to its listing on Amazon, I realize that $1.00 would be a massive overpayment!) How sad would it be to get a book published, only to find it on sale for one dollar? And they always have so many copies; even at that ridiculous price, no one wants your crappy work.
Why was I in the One Dollar Store in the first place? Sunglasses. I always lose or break them, so it doesn't make any sense to spend more on them than I absolutely must. Tangential query: Do they have the One Dollar Store in other countries? Do Indonesians shop at the One Rupee Store? Is there a Magasin du Franc in the malls of Paris?
Ultimately, I find myself seriously considering more purchases in the One Dollar Store than any other place in the world (with the possible exception of the supermarket). Even if it appears to be cheaply made and likely to break or unravel or burst into flames -- I can't escape from the thought: "I'd only be out one dollar." Could it be that this is the business plan of the entire One Dollar Store enterprise? That they're basing their whole sales strategy on the disposability of this most basic of American currencies?
The One Dollar Store: America's Warehouse for Everything We Only Kinda Might Be Able to Use. Special this week: Willie Loman -- Buy one, get one free.
We've come full circle, which means we're done.
Monkey Cliff Diving! I don't know which is more bizarre -- the fact that this game features monkeys plummeting onto jagged rocks, or the fact that it's part of a website for a company that sells skin care products.
Today I'm listening to: Atomic Babies!
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Random Stuff from a Crazy Week
Who says the US doesn't care? Look -- we're letting this guy spend quality time with his son! That's compassionate conservativism at work. (This pic won the 2003 award for World Press Photo of the Year.)
This week I set a new personal record: I graded 35 essays in 24 hours. I thought I had an extra day; so when I realized I did not, I had to put my face to the grindstone and blaze through them all. My brain was completely fried by the end of it. I never want to see another essay as long as I live.
Earlier this year, one of my students suggested I look up a comedian named Mitch Hedburg. I'm always skeptical of recommendations from people I don't know well, but Mitch has become my favorite new comedian. He's got the randomness and timing of Stephen Wright, the quirk of Bill Hicks, and the playfulness of George Carlin. Plus, he talks like Matt Olson. (His website is very messy, but it's got some great clips.)
Now my students have done it again with Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It's absurd, random, and hilarious. My favorite episode is the first appearance of The Mooninites. ("Using a key to gouge expletives on another's vehicle is a sign of trust and friendship.") Watch ATHF on Cartoon Network, Sundays at 11:45 EST. (That's 10:45 Central.)
Candy Bar Watch
First, a note about chocolate.
In case you didn't know, you may be supporting child slavery if you buy chocolate that isn't certified fair trade. From Global Exchange:
In 2001, The US State Department and the ILO reported child slavery in the Ivory Coast, the origin of 43 percent of the world's cocoa. Subsequent rsearch identified poverty as the cause - West African cocoa revenues average $30-$108 per year per household member! These impoverished producers have no choice but to keep their kids out of shool to work in dangerous tasks on cocoa farms, or even use child slaves.And yet -- although I force myself to buy only fair trade coffee -- I can't resist the lure of delicious chocolate bars like Whatchamacallit and Charleston Chew. In fact, I even made a song about candy bars once upon a time. (Which led to this exchange: "Who sings that candy bar song?" "Eric does.")
Ergo, DevSyn 2.0 is proud to announce a new feature, Candy Bar Watch, where we'll let you know about new candy bars on the market (we snatch them up as quickly as they appear) and let you know whether or not you should waste your money. Today we'll take a look at the latest offering from Hershey's: S'mores!
Yes, they're really scraping the bottom of the barrel here, folks. For those people who can't get graham crackers and marshmallows together, they've made this delightful campfire treat into a candy bar. The crazy part is that it's not half bad. The cracker isn't really a cracker per se, but the overall consistency is squishy and light. The marshmallow is a nice change of pace from the cliched nougat, and the diminishing returns don't kick in until the last few bites. I don't think it will become a standard anytime soon, but I will certainly eat more of them.
Did you know Ralph Nader once busted a union among his workers? According to this website -- which features ample sources at the bottom -- he said: "I don't think there is a role for unions in small nonprofit 'cause' organizations any more than . . . within a monastery or within a union." Hey, workers are workers. Can't make a revolution if the people making it burn out or starve!
Yeah, they gave us all kinds of lies about Iraq, but we should still pay them millions for more info.
From the ATHF website: Help Carl Find His Head. Pretty well done for a game on a TV show's website. Reminds me of that old NES game A Boy and His Blob.
Today I'm listening to: Frosty!
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Ode On a Digital Boom-Bap
How do I love electronic music? Let me count the ways. Ever since I first heard Paul Hardcastle's track 19, I was captivated by the possibilities that computers held for making block-rockin' beats. (Pic by the Voyager Interstellar Record.)
Twenty years later, I'm in deeper than ever. I'd say that at least 80% of my music collection is composed of music that is created mostly on computers. (I'm including hip-hop here, since the backbeats are frequently digital.) Classical, jazz, and my sparse country selections are the exceptions to the rule -- and they're in the vast minority.
Remember the cover of Strictly Business? They put themselves in the studio, in front of some computers -- while Run-DMC were in old burnt-out buildings; Eric B. and Rakim were lounging before money and cars; and LL Cool J was b-boying in front of "his" mansion. Idiotic Steve-Martin-dance song notwithstanding, SB was a solid record and it stands the test of time even as it sings the praises of electronic's influence over rap.
Indeed, the two worlds seem to have an intriguing symbiotic relationship -- plenty of DJs these days talk about how Kraftwerk influenced them; and many electronic artists affirm a lifelong love of Public Enemy.
One of the things I love about electronic music is that it (usually) can't be performed by humans. I'm not talking here about precision -- I mean the tempos, the intricacy of the constructions, the samples. Drum 'n' bass has exploded the possibilities of arranging traditional instrument sounds; Omni Trio's Music for the Next Millenium stunned me and stayed locked in my system for months.
Several years ago, I dreamed up this idea for a cool robotics project, and I just wish I had the skills to pull it off: Design a robot (or several) who could play D'n'B music in real time. How could would that be, to hear D'Cruze's "All Night Long" played out with real drums?
I'm on a big electrokick right now because Nate sent me a link to The Grey Album, which I would like much more if I were into Jay-Z. As it is, it's really cool and I like some of the tracks especially ("Encore" is tight); but I'm just not wild about it. As for "the ultimate remix record," I'd have to give the nod to Mad Professor v. Massive Attack.
Then today at MoFi, I stumbled upon Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music. If you've ever wondered what the difference is between trance and breaks; or what makes trip hop different from downbeat, this is the place for you! He's done an incredible job of mapping out the terrain of electronic music, while making it clear that some of the labels -- many of them, in fact -- are amorphous and fluid (and some are just silly). You'll find many, many samples of the different genres so you can yammer on about your favorite sub-sub-sub-genre with the most e'd out raver.
Funny side note: Back during the days of Anna Logg (Anyone remember that one? It had some good tracks that I still listen to once in a while) -- Sarasota, around '98 -- I sent a tape to my friend Karen in Virginia. She's not particularly into digital music, but I was pumped about it, and she was curious. She liked it and played it for her son, who is quite involved in electronic culture. After listening to thirty seconds of the first track, he said: "This guy's from Florida, isn't he?" I never realized the sound of the state was so distinctive.
Since I'm on the topic of myself and my music, I'll go ahead and put a plug in for my work. (I don't do this often, for fear of being obnoxious, narcissistic, or repetitive.) Check out dot com post to download all 16 tracks from my last album. (Actually, I've done a downtempo album since then, but I've never gotten off my butt and released it. One of these days!)
Garrett sent me this a while back, so thanks to him for the original link: 100 Things I'd Do If I Were an Evil Overlord. (The original is here, but the formatting is atrocious.)
Thanks to Diane for linking us to Shards O'Glass!
Check out these fun animated optical illusions. (Click on "Enter" and then "See For Yourself.")
Today I'm listening to: Digitally Imported -- Hardcore!
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Ra is my favorite god right now. He coats us with warmth and beauty, soothes chilly bones, and banishes the evil ice demons. All hail the sun god!
Watching the snow melt is the best part of Wisconsin's lunatic climate. Slowly the hard shells that have for weeks lined the streets and sidewalks slither away and drown in the ditches and sewers. Slippery sheets wither and green re-appears. Bicycles emerge and trees breathe a sigh of relief.
Pic by blackant.
A Simpsons movie? Yeah, we've heard it before. I'll believe it when I see a preview. I hope they get Dan Castelleneta to do the voice of Homer -- I love that guy!
I actually got some decent reviews at Newgrounds. Hard to believe!
Check out Rumsfeld's Fighting Technique. For a Secretary of Defense, your Kung-Fu's really lousy! (HalliBush Clan ain't nuttin ta [censored] wit!)
Grow! I don't get it.
Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad!
Monday, February 16, 2004
Fred's Escape: Episode 2
My work habits are so weird -- I started working on a sequel to the first episode of "Fred's Escape" over six months ago. Then I stopped working on it because it felt too tedious, too laborious. Then I showed Episode 1 to a student at school and he liked it; this inspired me to spend my entire weekend finishing the new one.
Now it's done! Please check out Fred's Escape: Episode 2 and join our hero for a second round of freedom-minded hijinks. (TPCQ: "Funny word, hijinks. Three dotted letters in a row.")
Or, if you'd like to join my idiotic neverending quest to gain the favor of the dimtwits at Newgrounds, you can watch -- and vote for, or review -- the movie here.
Thanks for your support -- let me know what you think!
Friday, February 13, 2004
Jon Does It Again
The Daily Show's recent joke about Dean's support from unions is one of the funniest one-shot gags I've heard in quite some time. It's one of those clutch-my-stomach jokes that I have to sit and laugh at for several seconds, incapacitated from doing anything else. (TPCQ: "Listen up, people. If we make this week's quota, I'll take you to the most duck-filled pond you ever sat by." "Hot diggity! That's how they got me to vote for Lyndon LaRouche!") (Secondary TPCQ: "Where you have a brain, Mr. LaRouche has a whack-a-mole game.")
Try to escape from the Crimson Room. I hate these things. Fortunately, hints are available.
Today I'm listening to: Yo La Tengo!
Thursday, February 12, 2004
There's a Horse in the Hospital!
Not really -- but there was a cow in the bank. Fortunately, it left after it made "an elegant turn." German cows are very elegant.
Lobotomy? Brain Damage?
I'm happy to report that I'm just fine and everything in my head is okay. I've just been having some weird conversations lately, so I've been in a strange mental geography. Fortunately, my dedication to enlightement and the love of my friends and family have helped me maintain my sanity. Things are returning to normal.
Deep breaths. Air is good.
HalliBush Wars, Inc.
The LA Times recently ran an interesting article about US companies which did business with Saddam Hussein, many of them providing important military technology and in some cases, biological and chemical agents.
And what's life like in Iraq now? Well, you can check out Baghdad Burning for one perspective, or visit Iraqi Spirit for a slightly more charged view. Each of them seem to contradict Bush's weekend assertion that we are being welcomed in Iraq.
Cool pic at left courtesy of Satan's Laundromat.
What the heck is going on in Haiti? Well, if you can stand the black-on-teal colour scheme, check out this interview with Noam Chomsky about recent history there. There's a really good book called The Haiti Files by James Ridgeway that is very useful for understanding what's going on there. It came out in 1994.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We've reached our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. You may now feel free to move about the cabin and, if you like, renounce your false idols and bow before the one true God. Off the right side of the plane you can see the Grand Canyon. Enjoy the flight!"
Create your own conspiracy -- it's like Mad Libs for conspiracy kooks! The syntax can be very amusing -- "In order to prepare for this, we all must slamming one's fist on the table."
Today I'm listening to: Merzbow! Interesting that there's an animal-rights link on his page. No sound clips, tho. For those go here. Be sure to turn those speakers up good 'n' loud. (And check out those reviews!)
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Flowers Are Pretty
I think flowers are about the prettiest thing in the world. They're so colorful and they smell fabulous. Plus, they're a perfect way to say "I love you" to that certain special someone! Sometimes I think God put flowers here just to make us smile each and every day.
You can buy all kinds of flowers -- roses, tulips, and so many more! Isn't it weird that you can just go to a store and buy a flower? It's like buying a tree! I think that's kooky. Still, I must say that I really like getting flowers. They're a perfect "pick me up". No wonder FTD calls it the "Pick Me Up" Bouquet! (That's such a weird word, bouquet. It looks like it's spelled wrong, doesn't it?)
Today I saw a woman buying some flowers for her husband. It was so sweet -- you could totally tell that she wanted the flowers to really make him smile. I think that's great, when someone uses flowers to make another person happy.
Make Way for Ducklings
Another thing I think is super cute is baby ducks! Couldn't you just grab them up and hug them forever? They're so soft and fuzzy -- and maybe it's me, but they seem happy, too. Seems like they're always frolicking and playing around in the lake.
Sometimes I like to get some old bread (not too old!) and go down to the lake and feed the ducks. They always seem so grateful when I give them my leftover bread.
I don't know why people always have to focus on negative things like war and starvation when there's so much in the world that's pretty and wonderful, like flowers and baby ducks!
Support the President!
Speaking of war, I don't understand how so many people can talk bad about President Bush. I, for one, stand behind him 1000%! Whether you agree that we had to stop that madman Saddam Hussein or not (I don't understand how you can't, but let's just say for the sake of argument), you have to support our leader -- he's the President!
It's like that song says -- I'm proud to be an American, and to live in the USA. Imagine what it would be like to live in Russia: nothing but borscht and vodka all day long. Yuck! No communist food for me, thanks. I'll take good old hamburgers and hot dogs.
Today at School
Oops -- can't talk about that!
Watch this neat flash movie featuring Lee Greenwood's patriotic song "I'm Proud to be an American," courtesy of RiverSongs. Or check out the inspiring movie for The Day the Eagle Cried!
Today I'm listening to: Kenny G! He's got so much soul!
Monday, February 09, 2004
SYSTEM ERROR: reboot sequence initiated
CAUTION: terminal input failure
You'll Buy a Widescreen Monitor and You'll Like It...
MadWomen for Peace (incl. Diane)
Die Puny Humans (Warren Ellis)
Random Pictures (Photoblog)
Satan's Laundromat (Photoblog)
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow)