Friday, February 29, 2008

For those of you living under a rock

Or going to other schools (which is the same thing - hey-oooo!), this Friday is Unofficial St. Patrick's day at U of I. Unofficial is the day in which Illini get drunk at 7 in the morning, go to class waaaaasted, and then bar-hop all night. For those of you at Knox, imagine Flunk Day with a few weeks to prepare and several bars offering specials; for those of you at other schools, transfer (hey-ooooo!).

In all honesty, though, Unofficial as I've described is basically celebrated by Douchy Mac Douche and his brothers of the Alpha Phi Douche brotherhood. The administration spends a good deal of energy trying to suppress the "holiday," generally with little success. This year, they've not only publicized that anyone caught disrupting class drunk will be expelled, but also that no visitors will be allowed in the dorms this week, and have reminded us that a drinking or disorderly conduct citation will cost 300$.

Now, I'm planning on going to work in the morning like a responsible adult, but I may enjoy the carnivalesque atmosphere of Unofficial in the evening. If you're planning on enjoying Unofficial, be safe and smart.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

God Bless the American Political System

Or, With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

The Smoking Gun reports that a man stabbed his brother-in-law during a political argument. Bonus: They were both Dems. Jose Antonio Ortiz stabbed his brother-in-law Sean Shurelds because Shurelds, an Obama supporter, said that Hillary Clinton (who Ortiz was supporting) was getting trashed in the primaries. The two yelled at each other, tussled, and at some point a knife came out.

I can't wait until the primary is over.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Craigslist is weird.

My friend Sarah got me reading the missed connections on Craigslist. They're all over the place - some of them are sad, some of them are sweet, some of them are just bizarre. And apparently "family" doesn't refer to the mob.

There's this long, sad one, to "Squishy," that's just a bit heartbreaking.
"Why can't you just call me?...You hurt me along the way. Blowing me off on my birthday, not giving me a hug when I really needed it. But that's okay. I can live with those things. I was good to you. I was there for you...I would drop my world for you in a heartbeat, because I'm your friend.
I miss you.
It's heartbreaking. You can smell the sadness there, the confusion, and the desperation.

There's also a preponderance of ones from the 13N. By a preponderance, I mean two, one of which could refer to almost anybody.
" You were the asian girl listening to a pink MP3 player with sunglasses this morning on the Silver MTD bus. You are cute!"
There's a bit of a tiff, too, about whether that one Asian guy with the tattoos is really as hot as it would seem, since:
"Dude, there is no way in hell so many 21 year old women are posting about the SAME ASIAN DUDE with the tattoo at CRCE. We know it is you posting about yourself. Just stop already. You're not hot, nor are you special enough to get a real missed connection. "
Actually, giving it a second thought, most of them are kind of sad, like the one called "Why not me?"
"Why is no one ever looking for me? I see plenty of people every day. I smile and make eye contact at the guys I like, yet still nothing. I have enough self confidence to think that I'm somewhat cute enough to get someone looking for me. All I want is to be wanted..."
Someone, either kind or cruel, responded to this with:
"Actually, I've really wanted to post about you for a long time, but I'm very shy. Let's talk about it the next time we see each other in person."

I think that proves the last sentence of this post:
(everyone deserves an MC)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Freudian Slip?

So, the ISU chapter of PRIDE is hosting a charity drag show, and the first line of their Facebook event's info reads "support GLBT students and have fund doing it!" I'm not sure if that's brutal honesty or a Freudian slip or a joke that went over my head.


This video is adorable. It's a 3 year old girl explaining Star Wars. I like when she talks about Luke's Jedi training, and how he has to fight a poke ball.

(via Neatorama)

Unintentional Ironies

If you get a chance, please do see the fantastic 1980 Australian film Breaker Morant. It's war movie and a trial movie, and what more do you really want? It also has that thing that sometimes happens, where lines intended with one meaning have another when you watch them. My example here, is when a junior officer yells at his superior about shooting a missionary, and gets back the yelled rejoinder "It's a new war, George! A new war for a new century!" Which brings us to our 21st century warfare, where we debate about wiretap and torture. In Breaker Morant, we're expected to sympathize with the railroaded Australian soldiers, who committed war crimes, who killed Boers in cold blood because "it's the first war in which our enemies didn't wear uniforms, where they're women and children."

It's a much more uncomfortable movie than when I watched it the first time.

Even with all that, with all the modern contaminants and moral quandaries of our age, the story of 2 officers railroaded for following their C.O's orders is a sad and powerful one. Please rent it if you have a spare night to watch it in.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cash Advances...

I love covers. I always think it's neat to hear what one band or performer has to say about another's work.

I mention this as a way of mentioning that I went to see the City on Film (Bob Nanna) tonight. He played three covers, among a big bunch of neat Bob Nanna-ness.

He opened with Amy Winehouse's "Tears dry on their own," played Lifter Puller's "Secret Santa Cruz" somewhere in the middle, and played "Come on Eileen" near the end.

I love Mr. Nanna's cover of "Secret Santa Cruz" because his voice is so totally different than Craig Finn's. When Finn sings it, he's yelling about this fucked up story about this girl he knows, how she did it in a disco! With some guy from San Francisco! When Bob Nanna sings it, he's telling out this very sad story, about how Candy's back on campus, and she can't believe that it's September, and even though he knows the story, he asks her how she spent her summer, and sings it like is this still fucked up, but terribly sad story.

It's really an amazing thing to hear.

The other neat thing about this show is that the audience way, at absolute most, 15 people, all just standing around the stage, occasionally singing along, sometimes talking to Bob Nanna, or suggesting songs to play, or giving him beer.

It was quite a time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Face, meet palm, I think you'll be friends.

My Knox College correspondent hooked me up with another lovely little piece of human failing this afternoon, only this one's about racism (or, at the very least, pig-ignorance of a racial flavor) instead of grammar and formatting problems.

The Knox Student - their version of the DI, but with apparently worse quality control - published a real beaut of an article yesterday, titled "Racism? Nah, just some truth." Now, thankfully, it's about sports and not, say, test scores or personal habits, but it's still pretty lovely. I'll let the fact that the old "I'm not bein' racist, I'm just bein' straight with you" is the oldest trick in the book slide, and get right to what makes this article jaw-droppingly awesome.

It begins reasonably well:
"Several of my suitemates have been embroiled in a discussion this past week in their psychology class, after one of their classmates brought up the fact that African-Americans are more predisposed to being successful in sports, and in general, being more athletic. Now, this seems like a straight off racist statement to some, but I have to say, it seems like there is more truth to this statement than a lot of people are willing to admit."

Well, yeah, and it's possible that there are all sorts of explanations for this. Cultural ones, economic ones, questions of incentives - things like that. There's probably a good book or two on the subject either out there or waiting to be written. This, however, isn't it.

After several paragraphs of nearly interminable basketball drivel - "
all they [white guys] can do is set shots and the like"* - we get to the money quotes. First some talk about genetics and Kenyans, and then this:
Now, the fact that these athletic juggernauts are in America is no secret. During that dark time in world history when the African was thought of as subhuman, one of many groups throughout history seen as that by the Europeans, they were packed onto cramped prison ships and sent across the ocean. Those who died on the trip were inferior, genetically, and those who were stronger survived the trip.

Once they got here, their owners would breed those who worked hardest, had the strongest back, that sort of thing to get the best work out of them. After a time, the genetically inferior ones were weaned out, and only the strong survived. These people are the ancestors of those who play in sports today, the ones who dominate on the court, and just make the whole arena their own. Basketball isn’t the only sport, either; baseball, football, heck, even soccer has its greatest players being descended from those who were once slaves.

One might wonder if the article is trying to say is "Dear Black America, You're welcome for the athletic stardom. Love, White People." One is also forced to conclude "probably not," but still, there's really nothing to recommend this column. It's got that bright, sparkling, negligent racism that also leads to things like, say, The Bell Curve. The Bell Curve, for those of you not up on your classic sociological flamewars, was a book that used the classic "I'm not bein' racist, I'm just bein' straight with you" defense, gussied up with graphs and charts, to explain the differences between test scores and IQ in black and white Americans. It really didn't do any good for anyone.

And neither does this column. No, I don't think it was malicious, but it was negligent. Yes, the Knox Student did already issue an apology, but you can't unring a bell. I'm not going to wag my finger at either author or the editor and tell them that they are bad people, but I really do wish they'd have sat down and read through the article before putting it in print.

*Fun fact about sports and race: in the early 20th century, it was Jews who were good at basketball. It's also interesting that they weren't considered "White," they were "of the Hebrew Race." Matthew Frye Jacobson's book Whiteness of A Different Color explains how this happened.

A Modest Proposal.

Today was "Wear Chief Day" and the 1 year anniversary of the Chief's last dance. Sadly, the campus is still a bit divided over this, as the comments thread on the DI article about the Chief shows.

I had a satirical column planned, wherein I suggested bringing back the Chief, but as a member of the Village People, listing all sorts of completely sincere reasons why this would be a good idea, but I just don't have it in me. The earliest versions of that post date back to last year, when my buddy Marcus and I started kicking around ideas after an Unofficial party, but after a year of sniping and whining and bitterness and both sides getting, if anything, more entrenched, it wasn't funny anymore.

You have, supposedly, the future leaders of our country and graduates of one of the finest public universities in the country arguing and casting all kinds of pig-ignorant, misleading slander at each other over...

I'm not sure what.

On the one had, yeah, it's an 80-odd year old tradition. Many U of I alumni do have very fond memories of their time here, and remember the feeling of pride they had here.

On the other, and possibly more persuasive hand, it's a white guy dressing in a costume. A costume that's not even of the tribe that the Chief is named after. That's like having Micky O'Irish as a mascot, dressing him up in a tartan kilt and a bowler hat, and making him do some square dancing. It doesn't make any sense to try and claim that that's honoring Micky's native culture.

So, why all the fighting? My working theory is that its because the Board of Trustees, nervous over NCAA sanctions, did away with the Chief pretty quickly, and a bit shadily. The pro-Chief people are mad because they feel stabbed in the back, the anti-Chief people are mad because they didn't win correctly - didn't win by changing attitudes, but by fiat.

Meanwhile, while we're bitching at each other about whether a fictitious Indian being played by a white college student is ok, there are still massive issues facing our campus. Paul Schmitt, who's been downplaying the Chief issue in his campaign for student trustee, has pointed out that our priorities are all messed up. I personally like to point to the shiny new alumni center on Lincoln Ave, which is of absolutely no use to students.

The continued squabbling over a complete non-issue is also keeping us from talking about actual racism on campus. I've talked about this before. There was the Tacos and Tequila party last year, the continued underrepresentation of most minorities on this campus, and, most recently, a Compton-themed party. There are two real money quotes from this article, one from the president of the frat hosting the party and one from the school functionary responsible for the tolerance program. I'll present them in that order.
Muccigrosso was quick to point out that despite the props used by some of the partygoers, no ethnic groups were specifically targeted through the use of makeup. The decision to model the floor after Compton came about as the result of many residents' affinity for hip-hop culture, he said.
"Many members of the community felt like this was a mockery of that city's culture," Abdullah-Span said. "For students who don't come from that type of situation, to portray themselves in such a way is stereotyping."
If you'll please note from the article, the frat has one black member, out of 33, and is an engineering frat. Surprisingly, there are no comments on the article yet, but I am just waiting for the first one to blame the Chief and thus start the flamewar. Which, you know, is a damn shame, since it'll just piss people off and do nothing to solve the problem.

So, to sum up my points, the Chief is gone, his departure was managed shittily, and somehow, racism still persists on campus. I-L-L...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Having Weasel Pox gives you a lot of time to think.

I was going to do a post about how much I hate student elections, and how all the fliers the candidates are putting up are useless or worse, and then I found a candidate I can support.

He's a columnist at the DI, he writes entertaining, generally to the point columns, and he's not Paul Schmitt.

I am officially endorsing Scott Green for Student Trustee. Scott is the only candidate to take his message directly to the voters. Unlike Mr. Schmitt, who has hidden behind a flurry of fliers and a deceptive website that only takes visitors to a facebook group, Scott Green has done the right thing and declared his candidacy for Student Trustee right out in the open, and elaborated on his platform.

Granted, his platform seems to be that he thinks this is bullshit, but he brought that platform to the voters, and it's one I can damn well get behind.

So, fellow Illini, when you vote for your (generally useless) student government this term, vote for the man who recognizes the futility of the situation. Scott Green. You'll have to write him in, because he's too bad for the ballot.

So, you want to host a literacy event: or, Like a Monkey Fucking a Football

From our Knox College correspondent, we get this gem of an email:

Come to Kappa-copia!!
And Support Literacy!!!!
3-5pm in CFA Lobby this Saturday
Get the
Spinach Bisque form Landmark,
The cinnamon rolls from Packinghouse, and much much more!!!
Food, Games, and PRIZES

$3 at tabling or $5 at the door

Sponsered by Kappa Kappa Kappa Gamma

Now, I'll draw your attention to a few little things about this posting. First, it's to support literacy. Literacy, defined by our old friends at the American Heritage Dictionary as "the condition or quality of being literate, especially the ability to read and write." Now, even setting aside the fact that they got the name of their sorority wrong*, we're still left with some dire questions.

There's also the matter of who's hosting this event. If we leave off a Kappa, we're left with the fact that its sponsered by the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Yes, those fine young women of KKG are the sponsers of this Kappa-Copia to support (one supposes they might have wanted to write it "suppert") literacy. We remain unsure who the sponsors are.

Moving along, there are still a few more howlers in this email. First, I'm not sure what "Spinach Bisque form Landmark" is. Is it spinach bisque that's been shaped into a model of the Landmark? Is it a particular school of spinach bisque preparation? Or is it simply a typo? My money goes on the latter.

And even beyond typos, there's their illegitimate gerundizing of "table." What exactly do they mean? Is tabling a real word for the act of sitting at tables on the quad selling tickets? Or do you get $2 off if you get past the door and only get caught while being seated at the table?

I would hope my readers know the old rule about exclamation points, but I'll repeat it in the event that any of the fine ladies of KKG are reading: "One or None." The colors are your choice, but a bit garish.

Finally, I would ask if anyone gets the feeling that they're raising money for a literacy program for themselves?

*there's no such thing as the sisters of Kappa Kappa Kappa Gamma. That's one Kappa too many, as I'd hope they know.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

So, I'm not Tsutpen

But, I know a treasure trove of pictures when I see them. The previous link takes you to a big archive of photos from the 60's-80's (I think) of daily life of the USSR. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A query:

If we're basically heading back to the 80's (Knight Rider, American Gladiator, revived reaganomics, poor fashion choices), do we get some halfway decent music again?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shooting at NIU

According to the RRStar and the NIU website, there's been a shooting at Northern Illinois University. The threat has passed, and the gunman has killed himself, but please: if you have friends at Northern, please give them a call as soon as you can.

Double-post future party!

Nanotechnology is sweet. I mean, in theory at least. The ability to manufacture teeny-tine things out of carbon tubes could bring us space elevators, manufacture on demand, better solar power, and all kinds of amazing things.

Also, it features in The Diamond Age, one of my favorite SF books.

The future, though, is getting closer, courtesy of my home institution, UIUC. Scientists north of Green St. have made a miniture radio out of carbon nanotubes. This is just really neat and makes me smile a bit.

My inner twelve year old just made his christmas list.

io9 had a piece today on the magic of marketing. What you see behind the link are real, honest to God pitches made to Lucasfilm around the time Episode I came out. The sad thing is, I've thought about how sweet a Jabba the Hutt beanbag would be.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Commercials are Bunk #2

Does anyone really want a cell phone for Valentine's day?

First, who would pay for the contract? If it's the person giving the phone, would you have to pay the early termination fee if you broke up with them?

Second, a cell phone is the kind of thing one uses every day. That's kind of personal. That's the kind of thing I'd want to shop for myself.

But the worst part about this? The fraking commercials. There are a few particularly repugnant ones that stand out in my mind. The first has this irritating couple baby-talking about how much they love each other, yes they do, and should they get new phones, those new phones are buy one get one, yes they should get them, yes they should.

It's frankly insulting to my intelligence, and also to my dignity as a human being. As is the second one, where a white guy (try not to faint here, please) tries to rap! Now, this is always daring and funny, to be sure, but this time I just feel bad for him. Not only is this actor making an ass of himself on national TV, but he's doing it to sell phones. Truly, there are some fates worse than death.

Such as, say, being the ad agency hack who came up with the blindingly horrible "heaven must be missing a squirrel" spot. Finger puppets, who are on the screen of the cell phone you should buy for your love. You see, it makes perfect sense, finger puppets are one of the great things your beloved can watch on the internet capable phone you just bought them - because you are in love with a 4 year old. You might want to look to that.

Ack, pbbbt. Again.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Things get stranger everyday.

According to the NYTimes, a manga adaptation of the Bible written by an Englishman of Nigerian descent has sold 30,000 copies in the UK.
"Abraham rides a horse out of an explosion to save Lot. Og, king of Bashan, looms like an early Darth Vader. The Sermon on the Mount did not make the book, though, because there was not enough action to it."
I don't even know where to start or where to begin, man.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Commercials are Bunk #1

If you watch TV, which in this day and age is an entirely reasonable assumption, you have probably seen those ads that go "He went to Jared!" in a breathless tone.

These ads, my friends, are bunk.

I take particular issue with the one, which unfortunately has not been put on Youtube, where three giggling hags are sitting around, gathered around a cell phone for text messages from their friend, who is out for dinner with her man-candy. Through the magic of the televisor, I join them.

The first text message arrives, complete with annoying dinging sound. "Roses," it reads. Our little Greek chorus coos "he got her roses." Yes, ladies, he had the presence of mind to stop by Schnucks on his way to pick her up. Quite the gentleman, that. He managed to get her roses, grown by some farmer in Colombia who is more likely get shot by the FARC or his own government than to take his wife out for a meal anywhere. Way to go, dude.

While we're absorbing that, my three future bridesmaids and I, another ding hits us. He's taken her to Chez Francois. Now, if my middle school French is correct, that means either "Frank's House," or "the French House." Oh, this man sounds like a winner. Maybe on their next date, they could go to that new place, Casa Mexicana! Truly a man of taste and refinement.

A new ding stops our tittering. We huddle in the dim glow of Lydia's cell phone, when the most magical words appear on the screen - "He went to Jared!" Oh! An attack of the vapors! He went to a chain jewelry store, and bought a diamond which was possibly soaked in the blood and tears of small children. Truly, he is the epitome of all that we desire in a man!

We put our heads together for a response worthy of the situation. Being that it's the week before St. Valentine's day, and being that, since we are all single women in a jewelry commercial, there is only one right answer.

"Does he have brothers? We've given up, you see, being jealous of your success bagging a man of so many manifest qualities. And, as everyone knows, life without a man is just terribly meaningless, so please, since this fella has both class and taste, and those are clearly genetic, set us up any potential blood-kin of his!"

Ack, pbbt.

If I'd had this much success in the 90's, I'd have moved to Australia too.

I've had interesting things to say this week, but usually on the bus, and by the time I get to a computer, I've forgotten them all. My apologies.