contemporary misgivings

24 June, 2009

Hippies, A Brief Ethnography

Anthropologists and Sociologists alike define any social orientation within or fitting under the umbrella of a larger, dominant culture as a subculture. While vastly different in character, the hippie culture is as much a subculture as Britain’s soccer hooligans, Ireland’s pikeys and the anarcho-syndicalists from that Monty Python movie.

All subcultures have their own practices, characteristics, and flaws, and many have some sort of structured or agreed upon set of beliefs. Having been in the company of more hippies than I wanted or thought I could endure, I’ve made note of several such consistencies. Some common, socially universal characteristics can include physical appearance, clothing, music and religious/spiritual doctrine.

Unlike most other subcultures(as learned through personal in-depth research) hippies tend to reproduce. This is not always through the foul-smelling, drug-induced sexual interactions they have become so famous for, but by a twisted process of enculturation that recruits and assimilates weak-minded, socially awkward, and embittered loners. (This recruitment transition is especially easy for the latter because they are already used to being disliked by all of their peers.)

Digressing back to the thesis, hippies have a very conspicuous physical appearance. We all know the gender neutral traits: exposed jet-black bare feet or Birkenstock sandals(for the hippie who has mysteriously come across money); second-hand clothing either too large or full of holes and stains to be of any practical use; wild, unkempt lengths of facial and body hair; and, of course, the knotted, greasy, octopus like dreadlocks. Like individual variations found in any subculture, not every hippie may display all of these characteristics, but a combination of more than one is usually a troubling sign. For example, MoonUnit(tragically a real name) may wear crap-stained rags and sandals, but may not display full on dreadlocks (perhaps only stringy, grease-shined proto-locks). And Mr. Free Waterfall Jr. may emit a nostril-abrasive odor from the unshaven orifices of his rotten hippie body, but may not wear a raggedy tie-dye shirt or any shirt at all. Hippies can be quite versatile in their decrepit style of choice.

Hippies are also well known for spawning an entire genre of music that consists entirely on the concept of a jam band. As you might expect, their music is as obnoxious, annoying, and unlikable as the hippies themselves including musical groups like Widespread Panic, the String Cheese Accident, the Grateful Dead, and finally the legendary hippie band, Phish(Sea Kittens).All hippies love Pink Floyd, especially during their religious rituals(to be discussed later). The above stated bands are expected to ‘jam’ arbitrarily for periods of time, normally lasting 2 hours too long, approximately 125 minutes. This is crucial as a transitionary catalyst into their most holy of spiritual rituals; The Freak Out.

Some anthropologists cite instances where hippies in the wild have been observed making use of any solid or metal object as an improvised ritualistic instrument. Most notably of which are various forms of cooking vessels, kitchen utensils, and landfill fillings. Groups of hippies(or gaggles if you will) march and rally in ironic un-formation to the rhythmic tune of their own over-sized spoons and trashcan lids. Others dance and skip in traditional hippie shambling, usually incorporating various forms of closed eye twirling, that is medically similar to a controlled seizure; objectively, it’s similar to watching a blind person play with an invisible hacky sack. Usually these marches, sometimes beginning as an orderly drum circle, have no purpose, goal, or destination. Depending on the environment, i.e, a protest rally, the improvised noise-making can be intended as cohesion against a common unseen enemy. Scientists have even witnessed said marches railing against the unethical treatment of various forms of algae and phytoplankton.

In combination with these wild improvised music sessions, hippies tend to gather in the center of their huts and dwellings for the purpose of a near hourly ritualistic burning and inhaling of cannabinoid substances. The hippies have been observed attempting to mask the scent of their precious green leaf by light small pungent sticks ablaze in various locations in their bungalows.

Other professionals believe the functions of these ‘incensed sticks’ are rooted in spiritual and religious doctrines. They theorize that the incense is a pleasing offering to an ancient hippie spirit. Such spirits in their religious pantheon include such churlish deities as Uncle Zonker, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia’s cousin Barry, and Tommy Chong. I theorize that this drug use is an important psychedelic ritual who’s misguided goal is to grant the users the ability to communicate directly with spirits of the departed hippie forefathers.

Many people despise the hippie subculture, and after years of research I can clearly see why. I cannot attribute all of these findings to merely my own research, but I feel that it is necessary to make mention of one young man’s amazing work studying and ridding the hippie subculture, Eric Cartman. According to Dr. Cartman’s groundbreaking work, he has discovered a common link between all hippies; they all despise a popular genre of music originating in rural Florida known as ‘Death Metal’.

For more information on Dr. Cartman’s work, feel free to track down a copy of the critically acclaimed Comedy Central documentary, “Die Hippie, Die”.


22 June, 2009

Of Dirty Harry, Eastern European History, and Infomercials

You’re Off the Case, McGarnicle!  …err, Callahan!

I think it’s been long enough.  Finally, the world will be able to enjoy a Broadway musical about Dirty Harry.  More specifically (and awesomely), the musical is based on the second movie in the series, 1973’s Magnum Force, the plot of which revolved around four ex-special forces soldiers turned rookie traffic cops meting out vigilante justice to San Francisco’s sleaziest villains and running afoul of Inspector Callahan and his big ass gun.  The fun of Dirty Harry movies, to me, has been that they always gave the audience heaping helpings of what many of us deep down inside want: nasty jerks and murderers getting their asses kicked, shot and blown up.  Magnum Force had that in spades; and not just from Inspector Callahan and his heavy hand, but the four vigilante cops.  Bad guys they might be, but how satisfying was it when one of them pulled over that pimp who murdered his ho by making her drink drain cleaner and shot him to a pulp all over the gaudy interior of his ridiculous pimp-mobile?  Damn satisfying.  It’s also the most engaging in terms of what it says about justice.  Whether the plot of Callahan taking down actual vigilantes was driven by the loud criticism the first film received for its underlying vigilante spirit, I don’t know.  But Callahan’s observation to one of the vigilantes,

“I hate the goddamn system, but until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I’ll stick with it.”

is uncommonly profound for what is otherwise a violent and sometimes mindless take-out-the-bad-guys flick.  But you tell me – you have a pretty good view from behind your desk!  Fuck, that’s McGarnicle again. 

You Forgot #Poland

A recurring theme I’ve seen repeated by certain GOP types on this week’s cable shows, and somewhat less frequently on the #IranElection twitter feed, is that Reagan dealt with the emerging democracy movements in Eastern Europe better than Obama is currently dealing with the one in Iran.  The evidence is this: Reagan gave a speech, sometime later the Berlin Wall fell, ergo he was responsible for it.  The formula is the same for Poland, except you replace “speech” with “vocal support of the Solidarity movement” and “Berlin Wall” with “Wojciech Jaruzelski’s Communist dictatorship in Poland.”  Aside from the obvious fallacies involving causation at work here, this is indicative of a larger trend among right-wing foreign policy thinkers to attribute all the positive developments toward democracy that occur abroad to our influence, and all of the negative to other forces, which used to be commies, but now are usually Muslims, which are the commies of 2000’s.  More often than not, tyrannical regimes fall for internal reasons: powerful contradictions, class-based or ethnically-based cleavages, conflict among the elites, and so on.  To illustrate my point, here’s a brief run down of how the Berlin Wall became irrelevant. 

The Berlin Wall did not crumble immediately after Reagan’s speech, but, rather, after a colossal fuck-up by a party apparatchik named Günter SchabowskiSchabowski was supposedto make a relatively benign pronouncement to the press about how travel restrictions for East Germans were being lifted.  The correspondents in the room were confused about whether this meant that the wall was now open (not exactly) and when the decree became effective (not immediately).  To the correspondents’ questions, Schabowski, who wasn’t really caught up on what the decree was about, mistakenly said that he thought it was effective immediately and everything else they needed to know was in the statement.  Predictably, thousands of East Berliners converged on the checkpoints at the wall as word spread.  The border guards’ frantic calls to their superiors either went unanswered or their superiors didn’t give them permission to shoot.  Eventually, the border guards relented and thus began the end of a divided Berlin and a divided Germany, though the decrepit East German regime limped on for a little longer. I don’t want to turn this into a book, but the situation was fairly similar in Poland, which, unlike Germany, had been never really stopped resisting Soviet-imposed rule.  In broad strokes, the regime there suffered a similar crisis of legitimacy, and in the late 70s, during another of Poland’s periods of restiveness, a non-communist union called Solidarity formed.  Solidarity’s existence undermined the government’s legitimacy because every other union was more or less a creature of the government.  The movement gained steam throughout the 1980s, culminating in a crushing electoral defeat in Poland’s first free elections, which, I would add, were a response to the domestic power of Solidarity as well as the realization by the regime that the only way they could possibly stay in power now that the Red Army was no longer backing them up was to roll the dice with elections.  Perhaps foreign encouragement played a larger role here, but the encouragement of Pope John Paul II, himself a Pole who had endured the regime, was no doubt more powerful than Reagan’s. 

The story of the Berlin Wall’s fall as well as the collapse of the Communist regime in Poland are stories of a people heaving off an oppressive government that they perceived – and rightfully so – as deriving almost all of their legitimacy from an enormous foreign military power and the associated threat of a military intervention by that power.  When the possibility of Soviet tanks rolling into East Germany and Poland vanished, so too did the legitimacy of those countries’ respective tyrannies.  The real hero – and the reason that tanks did not roll into Berlin and Warsaw – is Mikhail Gorbachev, who revised the Brezhnev Doctrine of assisting fellow socialist nations if their regimes are threatened to the “Sinatra Doctrine” of “you’re on your own, dudes.”  To boot, it was also the economic chaos and spirit of criticizing the government that were part and parcel to Gorby’s policies and ethnic tensions inherent to and exacerbated by the Soviet system that made the Soviet Union collapse – neither of which, you’ll notice, have Reagan anywhere near them.  Words help, and the Solidarity movement and East Berliners certainly felt better knowing they had the support in their struggle against dictatorial governments with foreign backing.  If anything, though, the lesson here is that it’s the taint of a much-hated foreign power that can level the most tyrannical dictatorships.  Unless for some bizarre reason we decide to interfere, there is no perception of a foreign power dominating Iran that we can condemn in Manichean, Reaganesque terms to hearten the forces we favor in the conflict. 

Oh, and Ahmadinejad/Khamenei are not Mikhail Gorbachev.   

Death of a Sales Pitch

It occurred to me while watching infomercials yesterday that if someone were to ever actually figure out the 10/5/12/etc. steps to a happy/successful/motivated/etc.  life/career/mind/etc., no one would ever believe them.  They’d be lost among the menagerie of late night hucksters shilling snake oil.  We’re all so accustomed to every single one of the late night infomercials peddling enlightenment being frauds that if it one of them ever actually had a real system no one would believe it.  That’s a little sad to think about.  But kind of not, since there isn’t such a system.  I’m 99% sure about that.

Assorted typos, grammatical errors fixed. I really need to proofread before I publish these… >:|

21 June, 2009

Check Label Before Reading

Today I dodged a cinematic bullet.  A few days ago, I arrived in Florida to visit my parents for a few weeks.  There being not that much to do here, my dad suggested we all go see a movie on Sunday.  Before going to bed on Saturday, I suggested we see “something original.”  To my horror, my dad confronted me Sunday morning with a choice of three movies that he thought “looked pretty good”: The Proposal, Easy Virtue and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.  Why, when a fantastic movie like Up was still out and none of us had seen it, did they choose three generic boiler-plate genre pieces?  I got my answer on the ride home, after I saw Up and they had seen The Proposal: because my step-mom “doesn’t like animated movies.”  She’s well into her sixties, so I suppose I can excuse her from not knowing that the good name of Pixar is synonymous with universally accessible and deceptively insightful animated films.  Or from knowing that animated films and films that can be enjoyed by adults are not mutually exclusive categories; last year’s superb animated genre-defier from Israel about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Waltz with Bashir, comes to mind, as does the similarly mature 2007 narrative of a woman’s experience of the Iranian revolution, Persepolis.  But maybe labels don’t have any significance.  They probably still would’ve seen The Proposal if it was billed as a formulaic fish-out-of-water rom-com.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, they probably would’ve walked out saying it was fantastic, just like they did today.  Shudder.

I have a new interest in saving the term “anti-semite” from the people who regularly abuse it to tar political opponents, namely AIPAC, the ADL and a grab bag of assorted neo-conservatives, many of whom write over at the op-ed page of the Washington Post.  Before I move any further, let’s be clear here – an anti-semite, as I (and probably most people) broadly define it, is someone who hates or is in some way prejudiced against jews.  It’s also worth noting that anti-semitism still definitely exists.  The murder of a security guard at the holocaust museum in the United States last week testifies to that, as does the enduring-if limited-popularity of far-right and often thinly veiled anti-semitic parties in Europe (see here and here for just a few high profile examples).  The frequency with which the aforementioned groups and individuals toss around the term anti-semite would be pathetic and transparent if they weren’t so influential.

Consider the current situation of UCSB Prof. William Robinson.  Robinson, who is himself Jewish, mass mailed students in one of his classes an e-mailcomparing Nazis and the behavior of the IDF.  I encourage you to read the e-mail yourself; from the furor over it I expected something much more inflammatory.  In any case, the usual backroom shenanigans occurred (which resulted in a separate investigation by the UCSB academic senate) and Robinson found himself before the academic senate explaining his “anti-semitic” behavior and fending off attacks by the ADL, among others.  Leaving aside the question of whether a semite can be an anti-semite, comparing Nazis to Israelis is not in and of itself anti-semitic.  Inappropriate?  Yes, such comparisons usually are unless they are very, very carefully nuanced – nothing the IDF has done to date compares with murdering 6 million people (or 11 million, depending on how you define the holocaust).  People can be idiots without being anti-semites.

If the condemnation of Robinson were an isolated incident, then this post wouldn’t be necessary.  Unfortunately, it is part of a larger pattern of painting individuals and opinions as anti-semitic that the groups with brush and bucket in hand disagree with.  Witness the recent spatbetween The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan and The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, in which Goldfarb stretched Sullivan’s words beyond recognition in order to make the smear work.  Sullivan isn’t an anti-semite, and Goldfarb isn’t smearing him because he’s part of a secret jewish cabal; Goldfarb is smearing him because Goldfarb is an idiot who subscribes to a discredited and laughable political ideology – and because using the term anti-semite, regardless of whether even the objective facts on paper even remotely resemble something that couldbe construed anti-semitic, still has currency.  The more Goldfarb et. al. keep this up, the less meaning the term has.

And that’s unfortunate, because, as noted earlier, anti-semitism still exists.  But if AIPAC (a lobbying group that represents a the right wing of a foreign government and shares little else besides a common religion with the 2 million or so American jews) and its ideological counterparts in the United States continue to conflate criticism of Israel and “anti-semitism,” or, indeed, criticism of anything they advocate by virtue of their political ideology and “anti-semitism”, then the term will eventually lose its meaning and go the way of “literally,” whose depressing descent into misuse deserves to be wider known.  I want to be able to pick out people from a crowd who are prejudiced against jews so I can give their views the scorn and revulsion they deserve.  Don’t you fucking take that away from me, AIPAC & company!

Bonus Paragraph:
While fiddling with some ideas earlier today, I read thisop-ed by the Washington Post’s (natch) Michael Gerson.  In case you didn’t catch it, I will quote for you one rather choice excerpt:

The anti-Semitic community is varied in background and ideology. It includes both Internet Nazis and campus leftists carrying signs that read, “Jews = Nazis.”

I think the implication here is that while some of these insidious campus leftists may be clever enough to disguise their jew hate in the language of opposition to Israeli policy, they are all, at base, expressing the same vicious sentiment as the above referenced “campus leftist.”  If you think about it, there really is no other context in which an anonymous campus leftist would be toting a sign like that.  So kudos to Michael Gerson for again suggesting a relationship between anti-semitism and criticism of Israel, albeit quite subtley.

Bonus Paragraph #2:
There are 14 drafts by various other authors in the drafts section.  Get off your duffs and publish some shit, bitches!

17 June, 2009

The Wall Street Journal Takes a Very Credible and Intellectually Engaging Position on Obama and Iran

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Esmé Pestel @ 7:26 am

Just kidding.  The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has taken a break from prescribing tax cuts in relation to every economic development so that it could criticize Obama’s response to the current situation in Iran.  Obama speaks “like a good lawyer;” displays again his “now-frequent moral equivalence” by deigning to mention that we overthrew Iran’s elected government in 1953; lacks the moral clarity of Nicolas Sarkozy (what the fuck?) and proves prescient Hillary Clinton’s criticism of his inexperience during the primary season.

The WSJ takes issue primarily with the following quote:

“Now, it’s not productive, given the history of the U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling — the U.S. President meddling in Iranian elections”

I realize it is hard for some people, particularly those who have been inculcated with the mythically manichaean narrative of America’s relations with the world that’s common currency in the media (or those who suckle deeply of Bill Kristol’s teet), but American endorsement is poisonous in many parts of the world and a death kiss in others.  This conclusion would probably be borne out if they took the time to pick up any international history text about the 20th century, but why read 300 plus pages when you could any speech of Ahmadinejad’s from the past year?  His rabid anti-semitism and somewhat-less-but-still-there anti-Americanism isn’t just a middle finger to the United States, it’s also to rev up his constituency, many of whom are old guards or conservative rural folk with whom the memory of the 1979 revolution is still mostly positive and that kind of talk plays well with.  But why read a speech when you could read 140 fucking characters?  There have been numerous tweets about how the perception of American support for the reform movement would play right into the hands of Ahmadinejad (who has already begun to play that card in earnest).

The position of all the twitterers with Iran, of course, is not unanimous.  Some probably want a more vigorous condemnation from Obama.  But a lot don’t.  All this is beside the issue, anyway, since the WSJ didn’t even have the intellecutal honesty to address what Obama said – that the perception of American involvement could be deleterious – and instead attacked a Straw man about how 2009 is different from 1953 because the CIA isn’t there right now and ergo Obama is wrong/a weak wristed liberal/etc.

The part that’s the most confounding to me about this editorial, and about right wing foreign policy thinking more generally, is the notion that we should loudly voice approval/disapproval of other country’s internal situations.  I’ve never been quite clear what exactly doing so is supposed to accomplish besides jerking off our own moral sensibilities. A stern reprimand from an American president is not going to cause a dictator to rethink their latest stolen election.  Besides, if we really want to be seen as a credible moral force, not helping prop up abhorrent dictatorships (like the one in Equatorial Guinea, to name one of many) would probably work much better.  At worst, it can play right into the hands of the very people that such statements are ostensibly supposed to undermine.  One need look no further than our most colossal foreign policy failure of the 20th century – the war in Vietnam – to see evidence of this: American support was enough to doom a succession of military juntas that tried to rule South Vietnam.  People in other countries like to make decisions about their own future, and, like it or not, the U.S. has a history of, how shall we say, encouraging other countries to make certain decisions.  Anything the president can do to minimize the perception that we’re up to our old mischief is smart policy.  But who am I to expect anything remotely like that from the WSJ?

11 March, 2009

The Final Solution to the Palestinian Problem

Filed under: Anecdote, Economy/Economics, Pictures, Politics, rant — Tags: , , , — Tyrone Kissinger @ 3:36 am




fun stuff huh?

Hurray for Zionism!

4 January, 2009

new year?

Filed under: rant — Thurston Thunderfuck @ 10:33 am

It surprises me that people really consider 2009 a “new” year.  Yeah you write a 9 instead of an 8 on checks and papers and whatnot, but with a long hard look at it, everything is fluid.  The woes of 2008 still exist and continue to flourish into this new year, and unfortunately (or fortunately) they will never go away.  Who is to say they weren’t reaching back from 2009 and we haven’t seen the worst yet?  Any sudden difference someone notices between the years is simply random, or caused by the change in the time of year, or imposed by someone observing the new year, or magic?

The outlooks you may have and fresh start set for the year, it has really just been an arbitrary date for you to change your ways.  You could have began one day earlier, one day later, but people tend to think January 1st carries some meaning with it.  I’m all for making changes in life, but why not make that personal vow on Dec. 18th or August 1st?  Same effect, but you’re not jumping on a contrived bandwagon set to fail.  Maybe I’m wrong, and somebody hit reset at midnight and life has a lot less meaning.


3 December, 2008

Lucid Dreaming

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Alfred Farnsworth @ 8:22 pm

Every so often I have lucid dreams, where I recognize I’m in a dream.  It’s an interesting position to be in.  If I had good control over it I could use it for all kinds of fun purposes.  Instead of reigning in control my dream usually ends, I wake up or everything in the dream just kind of falls apart.  People turning into zombies or something of that sort.

Last night I recognized I was dreaming, and even remembered how some things in my dreams referenced other dreams I had a long time ago.  I was in a book store I remembered from when I was a kid, in a previous dream I had a job there.  I remembered that dream within the dream last night, where I was at the same bookstore, and started talking to the people working there telling them how I had a short stint working there.  Rather than wake up or have it get screwy I just let things go.  Recognizing that nothing really mattered I started not really caring about anything, kind of like when I’m drunk, only with less slurring, shouting and stumbling.

Murphy, did you ever find that sound?

26 November, 2008

Fuck: The United States Bailout Hits 8.6 Trillion

Filed under: Anecdote, Economy/Economics, Nicolas Cage, Politics, rant, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jones Octavian @ 4:31 pm

US Government issues every citizen a Jennings 9mm Pistol (only $149.99), one bullet, and a fifth of Gin.  Alcoholics that need more than a fifth to get drunk are trying to get a piece of the bailout, but it doesn’t look good.

I have no idea what the hell is going on.  Here is the bailout in visual terms:

We could build 8 of these fuckers from Contact and still have enough left over to buy a 12-pack of Icelands.

We could build 8 of these fuckers from Contact and still have enough left over to buy a 12-pack of Icelands and populate them entirely with strippers and clones of Carl Sagan.

The worst part is it would result in as much usefulness as the bailout, but we’d have 8 hot tracks of audio static that ought to sell like hotcakes.  They’d better, at a cool trill a track.

As for the actual size of the bailout, while 8.6 Trillion DOES sound like a fuck ton, it really needs to be put in perspective.  The bailout is currently using 13 percent of the entire production capacity of our entire species.  The Human GDP.  That kind of shit really only happens in movies, when some sort of giant rock or fuckever is going to collide with earth and we pool together the resources and ingenuity of humanity as whole to save ourselves.  Except it is usually a lot cheaper than 13%, and we usually don’t bailout GM.  Movies always have an unrealistic standard of human ingenuity.

Honestly, I was never sure if I would ever see economics of this scale in my life time, but when you throw around humanity’s ability to do shit in 2-digit percentages, I figured it would HAVE to be some sort extra-solar colony ship, a jump gate, terraforming mars, transcending physical form…the list goes on. The least 8.6 Tril should get us is a toaster that fucking works. Imagine if we decided to spend the 8.6 trillion as a grant to medical research.  We’d cure every form of cancer, all terminal illnesses, rape aids and even be able to distill the female orgasm to a single, elegant equation. All this before the turkey is done.  Black friday will still suck though.  

But instead, we’re giving it to a bunch of bullshit fronts so they can zerg up the phat bonuses.  Oh, and they’ll leave a little behind so their business doesn’t die and cause a global economic crash. Yes, I’m looking at you, Citibank.  

This is silly.  The numbers are too big, none of the people making these decisions have any idea what they’re doing at this scale.  No one does, because this shit is unheard of.  A sensible leader would say, “over half our GDP? lol” and just nationalize these fuckers and sort it out later.  Why don’t we just force them to renegotiate all debt to be paid back at 0% interest? It will probably average out to something reasonable and it will actually get paid back, instead of dropping 300 Billion on the home protection fund, whatever the fuck that does.  Oh, and why can’t we seize funds received through ‘bonuses’? A bonus is a reward given to someone who excels at their occupation.  Someone who excels at destroying the economy and their own bank, then steals a much larger bonus are either highly amoral or lack certain human abilities, like the ability to recognize shapes.  We should punish them with forced play of monopoly in solitary confinement for the rest of their natural life, but the bank refuses to deal out the bills to start the game.  As artificial life extenders become available, we may be able to prolong the hell even further.  But I digress.  Everyone in Washington seems to really want to move money around in several steps to insure it goes back into the hands of those who have proven their incompetence.  It just seems easier to treat the problem, that being loan sharking through bait and switch, then giving people money to pay back the loan shark.

Whatever, it all just creating all the credit and debt you want, it’s value in that it must be paid back.  The U.S. is certainly a fiat system abuser rather than user, but it’s flexible.  I’ll just wait it out see what Obama’s radically new policies do.  They are totally unprecedented so no one knows what will happen, but he’s a shrewd man.  Let’s see how his plays out.

As a last resort, we can always just fuck the national debt over more.  If people were freaking when it was at 4 tril, I think it can handle a few more totally ridiculous additions before we have to start actively ignoring it.

27 October, 2008

Positions of the Candidates on Salient Human Rights Issues

This is a table that documents the candidates’ positions on assorted domestic and international human rights issues, was made for internal purposes at UCSB’s wing of Amnesty International, with which I’m affiliated. Murphy saw me working on it the other day and urged me to throw it on here since I hadn’t posted in a bit, so here goes.

Now, the caveats.

-Barack Obama has said a lot of stuff about a lot of things. McCain, not as much. Having to dig through reams of information and find his positions on issues was thus a little difficult. My worry is that some of his positions might be misrepresented. McCain has, for instance, voted against a number of bills that are generally regarded as pro-women’s rights, but because I didn’t examine the entirety of his legislative record, and because the sources I was forced to use for 2 or 3 of the issues were lightly agenda’d, it’s possible that he may appear more extreme then he actually is. (The chart still captures their fundamental policy orientations rather accurately in my view, though)

-The space I had to work with (1 page, double sided) did not afford much room for nuance. So don’t expect any examination of the merits of soft power vs. hard power in foreign relations or anything.

Anyway, regardless of the flaws, it might make for some interesting reading and definitely tends to crystallize further the nature of their division.

26 October, 2008

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?: The Pro-Obama Argument From A Younger Generation.

Filed under: Anecdote, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Sarah Jessop @ 6:09 pm

In order to make ends meet in these challenging financial times, I have begun tutoring kids and teaching SAT prep classes on the weekends for a company in San Diego. This weekend I worked with a very bright fifth grade boy on his writing (I have no idea why his parents are making him go to tutoring on the weekends– it just makes his bored in class for the rest of the week– but that is a discussion for another time). When I gave him the “opportunity”  to write a paragraph about anything he wanted, he chose to write about why Barack Obama is a good leader. His father is an Obama supporter and they have been watching the news coverage and debates together. Once he had decided on that topic, he was considerably less sullen about the task and I was pleased as well. I tried not to let my politics show too much, though; I’ve been running into people of various political leanings in my work and life lately and I figured it may be unprofessional. So, I resisted the urge to pull out my “Hope”, “Change”, and “Obama/Biden” stickers to help him decorate his paragraph and let him do it on his own. Here are his thoughts on why Barack Obama is a good leader.

“I believe Obama is a good leader. He is friendly and a peace-builder. Plus, he voted for wealth for everyone. Also, he is a great rolemodel. He is a self-confident man that is able to explain problems or things so easily even a baby could understand. He also wants to stop the useless war (that Bush started) in Iraq. But the problem with both candidates is that they do not explain who Joe the Plumber or Joe Sixpack is. If Obama wins he’ll be a great leader.”

Sounds good to me! I’ll see you all on November 4th.

algorithmic analysis

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , — Murphy Moore @ 4:20 am

You have eight identical keys. One is heavier than the rest. Using nothing but a balance, what is the most efficient way to find it?


The most obvious answer is to split the keys into four groups of two, weigh each set individually, and in a maximum of four attempts you’ll have your answer. A rung above is the divide and conquer approach.  Split the keys into two groups of four on the balance, take the heavier four, split them in half, determine which two are heavier then weigh them against each other. Same answer, three steps, but it can be done in two. You split the keys into three groups, two sets of three and one set of two. Put the groups of three on the balance, if they are equal weigh the two remaining balls against each other. If they are not equal, balance two keys from the heavier side and take the third one out,  if one is heavier you have your key, if they balance you know the one left over is the heaviest.

The applied principle exploits the additional information provided by the balance. By splitting the keys into three groups and comparing two of them we can infer the state of the third. So the balance provides three pieces of information instead of two. In the worst case using this additional piece of information will always be 33% more efficient.

Demo (executable)

Demo (java Source)

20 October, 2008

The Dude Effect and The Bitch Effect

Filed under: rant — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Alfred Farnsworth @ 1:14 am

Mob mentality is a pretty well documented phenomemonon.  I wonder though, how many studies have been done specifically on male vs female mob mentality, or as I would like to call it the dude effect and the bitch effect.

I’ve passed through my fair share of social groups, from choir nerds, to engineers, a fraternity, or simply an old group of friends.  One thing they all have in common is that despite various stereotypes they all act the same once you get enough of them together.  I think inherently all men enjoy essentially the same things, women, booze, boozing with women, having a penis, crass jokes, being hairy, long johns, firehats, you know the usual.  When you get a group together of men, no matter what type of individual they are, men just want to be men.  Often the behavior is dictated by the most dominant man, who often also could be the biggest douchebag, goofiest, ridiculous, or outgoing of the bunch.  A fraternity is the best example as that is essentially a group of men getting together to celibrate being men.  The result is lots of alcohol, objectification of women, and endless gay jokes.  I think we should embrace this for what it is.  It’s a beautiful thing, to bring men together, bro down, and just act like a bunch of dudes.

On the other hand there are women.  Women are inherently very competitive with each other.  Probably the whole limited number of eggs deal.  Either way, most groups of women are fraught with infighting and bickering.  They have to have very strict rules lest they be unfair.  Friendships turn into hatred at the flick of a wrist, and sometimes reverse that course just as quickly.  If they can come together long enough they similarly will follow the most dominant girl.  Unfortunately, as in the situation with men, dominance is not necessarily a sign of intelligence or a particularly good leadership quality.  To hopefully alleviate some backlash from women I won’t name specifically the traits I’m thinking of but if you look at sororities or various other women’s clubs I’m sure you can guess what I may say.

We’re all so predictable, yet we still can’t really understand each other.  Damnit.

18 October, 2008

Why prevent it, just throw some drugs at it!

Filed under: rant — Tags: , , , — Thurston Thunderfuck @ 12:39 pm

I doubt many people care about obesity, heart disease, and diabetes… I sure don’t.  But have you ever just been curious as to what research is going on in the field?  Mainly diabeetus.  Turns out they spend lots of money and media coverage trying to cure type two, the one that is exploding due to obesity. Type two is even referred to as the diabeetus, disregarding the other one. Eff that. (Yeah yeah, old people and smokers and other stuff makes it come about, but I have charts and graphs.)

See? They clearly are linked.

More fabricated proof.

Now I’m sure there’s other factors, but if something is largely linked to being a fattie – with research to back it up – then why throw money and medication at them when they need salads and a brisk walk? Maybe I’m a little biased, maybe I just have it out for obese people. But if you can prevent something and increase the quality of life… why not?

17 October, 2008

Tyrone’s Top Ten: Ways McCain can Spin Calling Obama the “N-Word”.

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Tyrone Kissinger @ 8:52 am

By now everyone has heard about how John McCain has famously called Senator Barrack Obama ‘an ignorant nigger’ at the conclusion of the third and final presidential debate of 2008. And while I am wishing and hoping that this spells a quick end to McCunt’s presidential bid, I think that John McCain can find a way to spin this incident in such a way to bring him back into a positive light with the American people. Here are the Top Ten arguments, responses and excuses the McCain/Palin campaign can use to make a come back after “Nigger-Gate 2008”.

10. John McCain is from a different era in a American history, if you disagree with him you are an ageist and you’ve forgotten your roots.

9. After being tortured Senator McCain has learned the hard way that sticks and stones might break his bones, but words will never hurt him. Perhaps one day when Senator Obama is older and has spent more time outside of his ivory tower he will learn this lesson as well.

8. The Obama campaign and their supporters in the mainstream liberal media elite need to give up on this endless barrage of manufactured outrage and make this an election about the REAL issues.

7. Well, there are black people, and then there are NIGGERS, John has already spoken his beliefs. They are protected by the Constitution of the United States of America.

6. “The real racism is that THEY can say that word and WE can’t!”

5. Senator John McCain is a good old American boy, who was in a prison camp in Vietnam for 5 years, during that time his evil commie captors never allowed him any access to racial sensitivity training.

4. McCain made a simple, unfortunate misstep in his speech. he had meant to call Obama a “dirty rag headed Muslim terrorist faggot who would strap on a vest and bomb your children if he could get Bill Ayers’s cock out of his ass long enough.”

3. My friends, I regret my words and apologize. I will not use that word again, and rest assured that my vice president Sarah Palin has never used that word in fact I doubt she even knows how to spell it.

2. What Senator McCain meant to say was that Obama is niggardly, as in cheap and miserly. Barrack Obama does not tip his waitresses.

1. “Obama lets a single word get under his skin. How can we expect him to stand up to people who want to kill us?”

11 October, 2008

So few words

Filed under: Philosophy, rant — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Alfred Farnsworth @ 5:10 am

It’s amazing how few words it can take to completely destroy a mood or situation.  For me tonight it went from euphoric to scared shitless in a mere 7 alphanumeric characters.  Every day I find it harder and harder to trust people.  It’s a frustrating and sad situation.  So many synonyms.  Power, winner, dominant, leader.  It’s what everyone strives for throughout life.  It only makes sense to try to take control of your life however you can.  But I think every so often someone comes along who has a true sense of empathy.  But it’s so rare it’s not worth the detail.  So much of life is spent trying to figure out what is true, what a waste.

7 October, 2008

Jones Octavian Victimized By Brutal Penis Accident

For those who haven’t heard the word ‘fap’ before (some haven’t) it is slang for masturbation.  Like with your genitals.   

So I began a fap session after a long, tiring day and decided to use some lube.  There wasn’t anything great on hand, but I found some conditioner that would fit the bill.  Sweet.  I whipped out Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (called Augustus from this point on) and tried it out. It was fine, and might even be superior to lotion, the last bastion of teh improvised fap. The problem was it dried out FAST. A couple minutes fast. So I had to re-apply a couple of times.  The third time, disaster struck.  

The bottle had one of those little rocking clicky-valves so a little opening on one side would open and close with a solid and self-sealing click.  As I was closing it, I shifted in my seat and at this point, Augustus decided it would be a good time to reenact one of the Gaul Campaigns, which means he bobbed off in a totally unpredicted direction,  straight towards that closing maw of the bottle.  That little plastic fucker grabbed at part of my head and pinched it, then closed all the way. And it HURT, so reflex kicks in (damn those instincts) I moved the bottle as far away from poor Augustus as fast as possible…the squeamish should stop reading now.  




For those that didn’t quite get it, or fainted the first time reading it, let me restate it:  

A chunk off the most pain receptive place in my entire body was ripped the fuck off.    

Let me give you a little visual insight into my thought process as this occurred:



I think nothing else needs be said here.

I think nothing else needs be said here.



A penis wrapped in bandages...just like the ibrokemypenis guy.

A penis wrapped in bandages, just like the ibrokemypenis guy.


Surely Nic Cage can help me.

Surely Nic Cage can help me.

At this point my penis was, in fact, bleeding.  The bit of head skin that was visibly attached to the bottle was also bloody, and clearly absent from the head.  I thought to myself, “I’m sure Nic Cage has intentionally done way worse things to his penis for the sake of method acting. What would he do?”

From the back of my mind, his monotonic and hypnotic voice typical of more his recent (a.k.a. the shitty era) films droned out: “Wash it off and bandage it.”

Thanks Nic Cage, you’re the man.  I owe you one.


So the hole in the head wasn’t too large, similar in area to a hard drive jumper header if looked at vertically.  Curious about my prognosis, I looked online and discovered that the glans can totally heal in a matter of hours (don’t leave that piercing out too long!), which makes me question why evolution has withheld these penis powers from every other body part.  I can only conclude that be it nature or God, both are just as likely to draw a penises on everything as humanity is.

Surprisingly, the internet was telling the truth and it completely healed overnight.  Thank god.  However, a word to anyone with a penis:

Be EVER VIGILANT about your penis’ safety.  A mere zipper is all that stands between your second favorite thing in the universe and a harsh, penis-mutilating reality.

6 October, 2008

Tipping is Bullshit

You know it, I know it, baby jesus knows it, even god damn Mr. Pink knows that tipping is utter fuck.

If you were to leave money at an establishment in Japan, the waiter or waitress who discovered it would be severely inconvenienced.  They would quite literally chase after you in a desperate attempt to return the money you mistakingly left on the table.  Money that is surely the only thing keeping your grandmother from being shipped off to the fearsome wasabi mines.  How could a starving serviceperson possibly do such a thing, you ask?  Simple: Their employer actually fucking pays them enough and charges more for the food to make up the losses.  It’s _THAT_  _FUCKING_  _SIMPLE_.

For fuck’s sake, I’m a patron of your business, good service is required without question.  If it’s really bad, I’ll complain to the manager.  If it continues to be bad, I will cease being your patron.  If it ends up being exceptionally good, as in “oh my god, this waiter/waitress hooked me up, I want to give my server some extra cash” good, then sure, I’ll throw some coin their way, and ONLY their way.  None of that splitting with the whole staff clusterfuckery, no subsidizing.  I am NOT responsible for your financial system.  You want me to be your goddamn accountant after every fucking meal?  No.  Add the 20% or whatever the tip bullshit is to your prices and pay your staff properly.  Most countries have a more reasonable system in place, but for whatever reason the U.S. has decided that going retarded is going good.  Hell, I’d stop tipping to fight the system, but then some idiot will just spit in my food instead of growing a pair and taking the blame to the source; their employer.  Better yet, the employers should stop being such giant assholes and upgrade their business model to that of the rest of the first world.

Additionally, paying for shit at restaurants sucks.  Hard.  Every time I have to deal with the check and divide up cash, use a card because someone doesn’t have cash, etc. etc. instead of just waving my RFID-enabled cellphone/wallet/hand over a part of the table, I die a little inside.

In closing, Ho Yu made the point of racially stereotyping black people as cheap.  Unfortunately, this opens her up to racial stereotyping (by me) and I view reduced tipping as just a small step toward balancing out her stereotyped socioeconomic debt.  By that I mean the dozens of traffic accidents she has knowingly or unknowingly caused annually due to being both potently asian and female.  I don’t know of any accidents off hand, but color and gender don’t lie, right everyone?

3 October, 2008

municipal messes

Filed under: rant — Tags: , , , — Murphy Moore @ 2:36 pm

I am certainly no environmentalist. I think nature is wonderful, and as a civilization we need to prioritize its preservation, but it is not so simple. Temporarily disregarding the fact that recycling is, for the vast majority of items, total bullshit requiring more input energy and or waste than new manufacture, economic viability is key. It needs to be both temporally and fiscally advantagous. As it stands recylcing is so incredibly inconvienent that it is absurb to expect that the average over burdened american citizen to take the high road over the convience of the trashcan. Sure landfills are disgusting, but that is why they are so far out of town. Businesses, to expound in a grander scope, are social machiens desgined to make as much money as possible. They are intrinsically capitalistic and, as such, amoral. They will not help the environment until their profit margins find it favorable. But I’ve digressed, what I want to talk about is littering.

Littering in the purity of nature is a reprehensible act. I’m overstating the point, but it does have a negative ecological impact. Don’t throw coffee cups in the forest, or on the mountain peaks, but if you happen to be in the city, toss at will. Not only does littering in developed areas gainfully employ fleets of street sweepers, the negative consequences are purely asthetic. You are not hurting anything except the tidy sensibilities of others with your carelessly scattered burger wrappers. Once we moved in and destroyed all that was natural to create a humanoid paradise of asphalt and concrete we did about all the damage we could possible have done. It is naiive to think that littering even makes a difference.

I like living in clean places (with some extremist exceptions like Irvine, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of that haven of unsettling sterility), but it is not your responsibility to cater to my visual sensibilities. And in return, I vow not to cater to yours.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Sarah Jessop @ 1:34 pm

Recently, I have renewed my passion for libraries.

During college, I appreciated them, but more in a utilitarian sort of way. I liked them because they were an easy place to study or nap on campus. I also came to enjoy the fact that by borrowing your text book from the library you could avoid paying for it at the bookstore. But all of these things were very practical.

Now I that studying and text books are no longer part of my daily life–at least not for the time being– I have rediscovered some of the more enriching aspects of these fine literary establishments.

As an economically challenged avid reader, I love the fact that I can check out book after book and entertain myself for weeks on end without paying anything (as long as I turn my books in on time). This guesture of good faith toward the community is touching to me. Knowing only a person’s address and name the library is willing to give you free access to all the books you could possibly want. I look up and down the aisles filled with worn books like a hungry child in a bakery examining pastry. It is literary grace.

After having rediscovered the wonders of the library, I have expanded my literary horizons. Now instead of only reading what I have to, or what I know I will like, I am able to experiment with genres and authors learning more about myself and the world around me. Some of the time I end up reading something that I don’t like or agree with, but there is no loss of money, only time and at this point I have plenty of that.  Libraries in this way allow people to discover themselves within their walls and pages. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

1 October, 2008

Hey Jerks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Esmé Pestel @ 4:14 pm

Hey other authors: what is so important that you can’t post?  Some of us are moving, and that’s a valid excuse, but the rest of you are just being lazy!

Sorry I had to put this here, but I don’t know how I would even contact half of you!

29 September, 2008

A Mental Disconnect

Filed under: Philosophy, rant — Tags: , , , , — Alfred Farnsworth @ 7:47 pm

Lately in my pursuits of the unsavory I have noticed a serious disconnect between what I really want and what I’m inclined to want, or as Murphy Moore put it “what I want, and what I want to want”.  What I want is generally my natural inclinations, and what I want to want is the result of intellectual decisions.  So that makes me wonder is intellect an amazing tool, or cruel joke perhaps?

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