Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What If We Threw a Blogocalypse Carnival...and the GNF Came?

To show that the WAAGNFNP is all about the transparency as well as the splitting and the fusing, I have a question for the relevant Party Ministries. How about making The Unofficial Carnival of the Blogocalypse official sometime this fine winter season? Or does the notion have more of a spring feel to it, April being the cruelest month and all? (Yes, April 1 it must be. Don't you just love the decisiveness and inclusiveness of the Party's decision-making process?)

Which is just to say that perhaps we ought to consider another cage match or something. You'll no doubt have noted that the Apocalypse Scale I linked twice to a few days ago ranks the GNF rather low among the range of doomsday scenarios--and that bloggers who shall not be named here have derided the WAAGNFNP for ignoring the threats posed by viral and ecological forces. (Remember when Floating Head Professor deleted some Christian Identity apocalypse spam from his comments? Ah, those were the days.) Such challenges must not go, uh, unchallenged!

Can we do it? Yes, we can! (But what do you think? "You" in the most inclusive sense, no Party oaths or confessions required for commenting here!)

[Update 2/2/07: Rough Theory updates our scorecards for us! 2/3/07: Twice! 2/6/07: High, Low & in-between nominates blogocalypse for new word of the year! Thanks, I like it, too--and even thought I was being original when I "coined" it--but that's another Sadly, No! moment for me, it turns out. Too bad. Still, I'm hoping we can count these folks in for our 1 April 2007 carnival. 2/7/07: Here's some hot piping Schoolhouse Apocalypse from one of The Valve's newest BWAers. Is this the best way to set up a survey course you've ever read about, or what?]

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tiger Woods Wins Seventh Consecutive PGA Tournament, Blogs About WAAGNFNP

Which part of my title do you think is true? Check out his blog--or at least one that purports to be part of "The Official Tiger Woods MySpace," although I'll bet anyone anything they name it's maintained by a fan who went here and registered the same way I just did--to find out.

Just to annoy Oaktown Girl (who starts her first day at her new job soon--gambare!), I'll also share two quick Tiger stories:

(1) I was at some tournament Tiger didn't win awhile back at Oak Hills (a course I got to play once as a college golfer, but I played the wrong ball on the third hole and never recovered from the shock) and walked within a few feet of his wife as she was sitting on a golf cart. Although earlier I had had the guts to say a few words of encouragement to Shigeki Maruyama, whom I followed for a few holes after Mike Weir got off to such a terrible start (yes, I do like short golfers--why do you ask?), there was no way I was bothering her, so I just walked on by, trying to find a place on the 18th fairway to get a good view of the approach shot of the guy who minutes later sealed his victory with it. Got about as good a view of it as I did of Tiger all day, which is to say not very. While I enjoyed the chance to see a major live, I found myself missing the tv coverage. May have to invest in the kind of cell phone I have here if/when it becomes available in the US and pay for the wireless access to multimedia, just to be ready for the next tournament I attend.

(2) Although Tiger gives the most boring interviews in the history of sports to the U.S. media, he is more relaxed in Japan, so I've really enjoyed the few times he's been on Japanese tv while I've been in the country. I'll check in with my tsuma to see if she has time to search YouTube in Japanese for a clip; I couldn't find anything in English easily, so I gave up. In any case, he lives up to his reputation of being funny in Japan, so here's hoping he drops by Mostly Harmless to find out what the hell the WAAGNFNP is.

And while I'm wishing upon the stars, here's hoping Charles Howell III (another short guy!) keeps playing so well, and that others on the PGA try to make like Lorena, Ai-chan, Karrie, Cristie, Mi Hyun, Se Ri, Jeong, Natalie, and Meena--all of whom I think have a realistic chance to catch up with and maybe even surpass Annika this year on the money list and Rolex Rankings--and bring some great competition to men's golf.

Signs o' the GNF (2)

Just as Le Blogue Berube was becoming one with the GNF, two big themes emerged in the blogs I read most regularly--what I've called elsewhere Blogging While Academic and what I'll call here Blogging the Apocalypse--both of which I tend to think of as tributes to Floating Head Professor and efforts to theorize the WAAGNFNP.

For those with way too much time on their hands, or better things to do that can stand being put off just a little bit longer, or who just may want to stage a suitable Party intervention, High, Low & in-between provides a nice summary as of 1/20/07, which Rough Theory rightly praises, The Kugelmass Episodes promisingly responds to, and I cite doesn't-quite-cite, which prompts questions from the modestly-named The Weblog and gives pas au-dela a needed opening to not pass up a chance to go go go Blanchot on her (and to think I didn't know what "il y a" meant during my second grad school language exam). The Xenofiles ignores the entire discussion yet manages an excellent sequel to a 1985 Louise Erdrich essay.

Since I am nothing if not a fabulous procrastinator, here are the funnest results of a little search I did to track the progress of The Unofficial Carnival of the Blogocalypse outside the realm of cultural theory. If you're interested in radical ecology, check out adaptivereuse.net or The Fourth World--or both, for the cognitive dissonance. If ponies are more your style, check out the YouTube link to Moral Orel's improvement on My Little Ponies in Bridlepath (which, so far as I can tell, has no connection to The Poor Man Institute or their now-concluded 2006 Wingnut Awards). Oh, and even though Jamais Cascio created an Eschatological Taxonomy, I'm linking to Warren Ellis's Apocalypse Scale link, because he's Warren fucking Ellis, dammit, and now he's on the blogroll, too. And even Bud may be getting in on the act. Because nothing sells like the GNF, baby!

[Update: Baltimore's Radio Station for New and Significant Music has come up with the most predictable top 10 Songs of the Apocalypse imaginable. Surely the WAAGNFNP can do better! Clearly there is an aching need for GNF 101: Welcome to the End of the World. This summer course gets us started, but there's so much more to be read/seen/heard. Are we being nihilistic--or annihilistic--enough?]

Friday, January 26, 2007

Signs o' the GNF (1)

All right, so gin up Prince's "Signs of the Times" (I don't have Roxanne's skills at creating intertubesque playlists), get your Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens out and ready for bed-time reading, and check out this sign that the Giant Nuclear Fireball is on its way: the convergence across the political "spectrum" of concerns about "domestic militarization."

Check it: warning about the costs and dangers of domestic militarization is not the province of Angela Davis, Henry Giroux, Christian Parenti, Bad Subjects, and ColorLines alone anymore--in the past couple of years, we've seen the Cato Institute raise red flags of their own, most recently with a 100-page report called "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America."

Read parts. Oh, and my questions: what's up with this convergence? what is fueling it? Katrina? The Siege? What?!

[Note: edited several times to appease the little voice crying out, "Stop, in the name of all that which does not suck!" And the other one going, "Heh heh. Heh heh heh."]

A Paler Shade of Fire

.FNG a ni demusnoc kcurt a yb revo nur saw enoyreve ylnedduS

***BREAKING*** *** Web Only Exclusive*** ***BREAKING***

By KIRBY ALTHOUSE, Associated Press Writer

PALO ALTO - Cyber-researchers at the Hoover Institution on Massively Redundant Sucking and Blowing confirmed the discovery of an Internet White Hole in a rarely visited corner of the blogosphere. Long postulated, but never previously observed, researchers traced the source of the White Hole via Internet tubes to a much more significant Internet Black Hole that had developed several weeks prior (see comment #287 here.)

Experts puzzled over the interesting transformations that the content being emitted from the White Hole had undergone. While certain images and in-jokes were unchanged, other content was not: danger had become harmlessness; hockey, golf; French, American; and 2001: A Space Odyssey emerged as Star Wars. Other key elements and content appeared to be missing altogether. A pair of shoes was found as well.

The significant mismatch in size and information content between the two suggests that the connections between them have split and fused repeatedly, and that this particular White Hole probably represents a mere fraction of the total energy consumed in the Black Hole. This led some to predict that other White Holes might pop up elsewhere on the Internet in the near future.

The discovery caused a ripple of excitement among some of the giants of Internet lore. When some Pseudonymous guy who sounded like indigenous people who had been portrayed in Earth Island Jo heard of the development, his face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale, and he skated off without comment. An earthtone clad Al Gore, however, greeted the news warmly. “Hot damn”, he sighed, “This is the kind of thing we were looking for back at the start. Now we’re cooking with gas!” Internet tubemeister Ted Stevens (R-Dementia) responded by rushing an emergency Appropriations Bill to the floor of the Senate to fund construction of several hundred bridges to locations in his home state where new White Holes might or might not appear.

There is a very loud amusement park right in front of my present lodgings.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Princess Industrial Complex

Not Leia, Disney. (H/t: RoBoTNiK, who supplied me with the title phrase.) Nothing really to add, except I'm glad my daughters are getting inoculated with the anime rearticulation of Disney so that they may, some day, exercise the powers of comparing/contrasting and of drawing their own conclusions. Which is a roundabout way of saying, thank you, Pretty Cure. You're no PowerPuff Girls (click on both to exercise your own powers of c/c and dyoc), but you're ok in my book. Never mind what I said about you on Berube's blog (@ end of comments). Or mine.

Scrubs Christmas and Windows Live Writer

I am not the biggest Microsoft fan out there, but their new desktop blogging software "Windows Live Writer" is really great. It downloads your blogs CSS settings and lets you write your post in the look it will appear on the blog. I am using it for blog.adrian-hermann.de since 2 weeks and had no problems yet. Look at this screenshot:


As you can see I am writing this post with the Live Writer as well. Let's see how that turns out. And since all that blogging software talk alone is arbitrary but not that much fun, I'll go ahead and try embedding a youtube video with the Live Writer:

I love Charlie Brown... and the first seasons of Scrubs were kind of fun too.

It seems that adding blogger labels doesn't work with the Live Writer yet, so I'll add them manually. But let's see how this looks posted...

[Well, the video didn't work, I embedded it again online... The embedding took some time, but it seems that you can embedd youtube videos by using the following code in the HTML editor:
<div xmlns='http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml'><p>-;<object height='350' width='425'><param value='http://youtube.com/v/20Of_mna-Rs' name='movie'></param><embed height='350' width='425' type='application/x-shockwave-flash' src='http://youtube.com/v/20Of_mna-Rs'></embed></object></p></div>

Well it took like 10 edits, but now it should display right... and the HTML you can use, too. Just replace the youtube url with the one of your video.

First Post Ever - Tech Blegging!

Hey Everybody! I don't know if I'm using the term "blegging"
appropriately, but since TC used it, I guess I will too.

If you are seeing this, perhaps I did not break the blog, so
that’s good. Adrian has generously taken the time to send me
intel on WordPress and his experience with it. I will post it
later (unless he can do it before me) so this post won’t be too

In the meantime, I’d like to ask our Party members with tech
knowledge to please review and advise on the following: Habari.


Habari, the latest must have, red hot blogging software

If you have been asleep for a week or even if you have been sickened by the Texan style hang ‘em high execution protocols in Iraq and stopped blogging for a bit - then you may have missed the Habari Hoopla.

A whole bunch of programmers, designers, and other cool dudes many of whom have migrated from WordPress have set about writing a whole new blogging app, one fit for the new millenium. They are starting in a forward leaning fashion building from the ground up with all the latest gizmos and options right from the get go.

The guys are scheduled to launch a download by January 31 but for folk so inclined the svn is up and running. As a starter you can head over to Google and find out How to get started in Habari - Downloads and Install .

I came across this person by clicking around and trying to
investigate Chris Clarke’s technical people. The link above
is a WordPress blog and many of the entries are blog-tech info,
so I'd really appreciate you checking out those and telling us what you think.
This person’s experimental Habari page is here.

Thanks in advance for any information or opinions you have on this
Habari thing.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Red, Blue, Green, and Orange

This is just a test of the facilities:

hit it-square.jpg

And the test established 400 pixels as the maximum width of an image. Anything beyond that gets clipped.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Star Wars Blogging--and Blegging

Well, kind of. You see, I'm scheduled to give a public lecture at the Japan-America Society of Fukuoka in precisely a month. As you can see from their list of officers, the JASF is made up of Fukuoka VIPs--the kind of audience a lowly English professor hardly ever gets a chance to address. And if the talk goes well, I get to do others on topics quite dear to my heart.

Unfortunately, the first talk is supposed to be the kind of horse-race-handicapping-meets-crystal-ball-political-forecasting deal that I have neither the expertise nor the inclination to deliver--how will the recent electoral victories for Democrats affect U.S. foreign policies in East Asia? I mean, I have some snappy opinions to trot out, but no considered judgments, at least by the end of the day when the draft is due to my translator. Did I mention that I'll be reading a sentence, pausing for the translation, then reading the next sentence? Yup. So on top of boring academic anxieties about stepping outside one's area of expertise, I also have the quite new ones (to me) of speaking to a non-academic audience in their second or third language on a topic they're far more likely to be plugged-in on than little ol' me.

The bottom line is, I have to find a way to make this talk fun for me and interesting to them. Impersonating a political scientist, much less a pundit, is out. So, what is to be done?

Fortunately, the JASF Secretary-General is a smart guy and he threw me a bone I am going to chew happily on for the first several minutes of the talk and in fact use to structure the whole shebang.

This gem will be featured in the invitation to the lecture going out to all JASF members, so everyone who attends will have seen it. "Reading" it will allow me to steer the lecture to areas I actually do have some expertise on and real interest in talking about: the analysis of visual images and narratives; the politics of science fiction and film; debates over the "imperial presidency" and narratives of American imperialism from manifest destiny to the American Century; the history of the U.S. in Asia and significant changes since the 1970s. It's not like I'm going to save all the "inside politics" stuff for the Q&A, but I'm going to try to frame it in a way that makes it palatable to me and hopefully informative and provocative for my audience. The real title that I'm working from is "The End of the American Century in Asia," but "Return of the Democrats" is what it'll be known as in Fukuoka.

So I'll close with a bleg: What are your responses to this image? How do you read it? How would you link it to U.S. foreign policy in East Asia? What should I be reading in the next month to prepare for the Q&A? (I just found out it's been extended to a 2-hour session, so I might have to be ready for over an hour's worth of questions, although that's really less than half an hour, given the need for on-the-fly translation.)

No, I'll close with an apology instead: sorry to be accosting you with this but I can't get to writing about Japanese kids' anime, American Dreamz, and Miyazaki until I finish my grading. Looking forward to fun posts from the Mostly Harmless crew while I'm out!

On Lucas and Card

OK, so I told myself I was going to sit back and see what the new Mostly Harmless Authors did with my last post besides (bo-ring!) comment on it, but this is too good to pass up: via Kung Fu Monkey, Keith Martin's rather clever reinterpretation of the original Star Wars movie (which my younger brother and I saw in California a total of about 20 times--him more than me--when it first came out) in light of the last three (or, for those keeping count, how IV looks when viewed after I-III). Makes me think of Card's Ender's Saga--as unpopular as Card is in Left Blogistan these days--and how the Shadow sequels make you rethink what you thought was going on in the original Speaker series. Don't know why--probably because I loved the originals when I first saw/read them (just like I was exactly the right age for Airplane! when it came out--does that date me or what?) and have to work hard not to be a wee bit embarrassed by them (ok, a lot bit embarrassed when it comes to Lucas's--the acting, people, the acting!). Reading Martin's piece almost makes me want to do what he must have subjected himself to and watch the first four Star Wars movies in a row. Almost. My youngest daughter is only 9 months old, so I have at least 6 years I can wait before whatever technology for viewing the movies allows me to start imposing my childhood pop culture canon on them. Or is that bad?

[Update 1/24/07: Oh no, I checked out the comments on the KFM piece I tipped the hat to above and found a link to this brilliant close reading of the end of IV. Stop me before I link again!]

[Update 1/28/07: Any writers from The Daily Show lurking here? Unlikely, probably KFM inspired this bit that Pharyngula kindly provides us with.]

Monday, January 22, 2007

So What Do You Do (or at least blog about) For Fun?

One of the more revealing questions my colleagues and I who were interviewing candidates for various positions in our department at the Modern Language Association annual convention over the years would ask supplies the title (minus the parentheses) of this post. It would always be the last question we'd ask (the first several would always be about teaching, to signal what kind of department they were interviewing with). The reaction of the candidates to it would tell us volumes--if they were interested in the job and taking us seriously and relaxed enough with us at the end of a long not-even-hour to level with us and say something relatively genuine, or at least be guarded in an interesting enough way, or even to take the opportunity to signal something to us none of our other questions gave them a chance to send that particular signal from, we'd end the interview on a relatively high note and gain some insight into how well they'd be able to deal with the pressures of a 4-3 teaching load (but no more than 100 students a semester and three preps) and relatively serious service responsibilities (at first, within the department; later, university-wide, as well) that go with life at a satellite school in a big state public university system.

I mention this to distinguish what I'm about to ask my new co-bloggers here at Mostly Harmless from the above MLA interview situation and question. First, they're already in. Second, this whole thing is "for fun." Third, it carries no responsibilities I can think of (unless you count signing your soul over to Astaroth and everything else to the WAAGNFNP--no biggie). Fourth, the immediate audience for your answer is the array of prospective fellow co-bloggers who are still pondering my invite (along with other WAAGNFNP "alumni" that Oaktown Girl and I have overlooked who want in)--literally nobody else would have the slightest reason to visit this blog longer than it takes to ascertain that the search engine of their choice has led them horribly astray.

OK, time to pop the question: new Mostly Harmless authors, [insert title here]

I took a shot at answering the question when I started this blog, so I hereby proclaim our first Mostly Harmless tradition and request that your first post have some discernible (however slight) relation to the question. Or not, if it's no fun. Deadline: before the GNF.

[Update: This golden oldie from BB is for you, Oaktown Girl!]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Anime and History

There's a lot of interesting historical anime--like Grave of the Fireflies (which rivals the manga Barefoot Gen for its evocation of WW II/Pacific War-era Japan), Millennium Actress (which is about as close to a classic example of postmodernism as you're likely to find outside hip hop), Samurai Champloo (which is more of an alternate history), and Inu Yasha (which is more like historical fantasy)--but that's not what I'm talking about today. What I'm interested in here are fantasy series like Full Metal Alchemist or the various versions of Dragonball and the more-or-less-coded way they participate in the process of coming to terms with the past.

With its repetitiveness, Dragonball provides a clear and stark example of what I'm getting at. Every incarnation features the arrival of a threatening outsider who's much more powerful than our heroes and out to destroy the planet; our heroes' desperate training and alliances with former enemies; and the eventual defeat of the threat against all odds. The parallels to Japanese history and national self-image should be obvious. If you look at the character level rather than plot, you might be tempted to draw parallels between Saiyans and the discourse of "the Yamato race." Just like in American war propaganda, the Saiyans living on earth are either dismissed as laughably weak and inferior (often in explicitly racist terms, as by Freeza, particularly before his defeat in DragonballZ) or portrayed as capable of transforming into giant, rampaging, super-powerful apes (see John Dower's various books for the history beind this image). And just like in Japanese critical looks back at their imperial history, the Saiyans are represented by the aristocratic, ruthless, arrogant, militaristic Vegeta and the low-status, kind, humble, and peace-loving (though intensely competitive) Goku--not unlike Trigun's similar dichotomy, now that I think of it. As the series evolves, the implicit connections between the Saiyans and the Japanese are developed in various directions, which I won't go into here.

But to me Full Metal Alchemist is the more interesting example. Not only does it eventually draw links between the fantasy world it portrays and an alternate history version of early 20th C Europe, its themes revolve around militarism and imperialism and their costs for both victims and aggressors. Over the course of the anime series, the two protagonists, Edward and Alphonse Elric, uncover more and more of the hidden politics and history of their country, come to question the very power structure of their society, and eventually help lead a revolution against the militaristic state and its leader. As in Dragonball, former enemies become allies, characters we thought we knew grow and change, and victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat. And it too can be faulted for indulging in a certain kind of historical revisionism, in this case positing a small conspiratorial clique manipulating the masses for their own selfish and inhumanly grandiose ends as the ultimate cause of the militaristic imperialism. Yet Full Metal Alchemist doesn't dodge issues of responsibility and complicity. And it's much more ambitious in the sense of engaging a whole range of philosophical and theological debates. The changing portrayal of Scar and the Ishbalans is one of the grittiest depictions of a colonized people I have seen in anime outside of Stand Alone Complex (on which much more later).

So for those who still believe the "science fiction=progressive, fantasy=regressive" trope all-too-common in sf studies or who only know Akira and Ghost in the Shell, this is for you. But this is old hat to blogs like bookofdays or scholars like Matt Thorn. If I missed your take on this, let me know!

LPGA Blogging

OK, so Michelle Wie did not rock the Sony Open in Hawaii and was upstaged in the local media by Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old amateur who shot his way into contention going into the final round. It looked to me from her stats she was playing hurt and her wrist was bothering her much more than she was letting on. I still expect a big year from her on the LPGA tour, but an even bigger year from Ai Miyazato, now that she has a year's worth of experience under her belt. I don't think Karrie Webb (onechan's favorite golfer!) will continue to play at the same level she did in 2006, but I do think Lorena Ochoa will pass Annika Sorenstam and gain a #1 world ranking before the 2007 season is over. Check out the current world rankings here--Annika's competition is as close as it's been in a very long time. What I'm trying to say is that the LPGA is going to be the tour to watch this year. Oh, and onechan's old enough to go to the driving range this summer. Look out!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Anything Happen While I Was Out?

Minus the jet lag and the sore throat, it feels good to be back in Fukuoka. My body is still in its own time zone, so I've been catching up on the doings of blogoramaville in 2007. Looks like I missed the final party/brunch over at Berube's old place (start at comment 71 for the fun). And the opening of voting for The Poor Man Institute's 2006 wingnut awards. Oh, and norbizness is now doing weather. I did get my nominating over at the Koufax Awards done before I left, but looks like they're taking nominations until the 21st. Even better, k-punk has been blogging post-apocalypticism, which I read as his tribute to the WAAGNFNP. [Update 1/24/07: via Slant Truth, I just found out that Sly Civilian, following a tradition started by brownfemipower, proclaimed 19 February 2007 to be Radical Fun Day. I hereby proclaim every day is Radical Fun Day here at Mostly Harmless!]

But enough about off-site fun. Have you checked out the comments from WAAGNFNP "alumni" in my next-to-last post? Maybe, just maybe, Oaktown Girl of the Party's Ministry of Justice will join Mostly Harmless as an author. And maybe, just maybe, Mostly Harmless will become a safe house for Party faithful, or a party house for the faithful safe--either is fine with me, so long as it doesn't become a faithful house for the safe party. Stay tuned, as they say.

And as long as we're doing shout outs, I have a request from onechan, the Uh-Oh Diva Girl herself (not to be confused with her imoto, Happy Grabby Science Girl). You see, back on the 17th (in Japan, although it was still the 16th in the US, I think) we were stuck on a 5-hour layover in Kansai airport (on an artificial island of its own off the coast of Japan not far from Osaka--never mind that it's sinking faster than expected, or that it's horribly mismanaged, or that they're not getting as much air traffic as expected, they're building another runway!), and by hour 3 we bit the bullet and headed to their too-pitiful-for-words "play area" (really, people, check out the Nagoya airport for ideas), where for more than a half-hour my wife and I desperately ignored our older daughter's demands that we remove the big-alligator-doll-thing from said area, when, lo and behold, our salvation came in the form of a pair of sisters (perhaps 4 and 1), who entertained her for the next half-hour or so (and her imoto, who had a great time watching the jumping and the falling and the sliding and the chasing). Well, it turns out our onechan had such a great time with the other onechan in particular that she was really torn up when her mom called her and her sister away. So sad that instead of continuing to play she first ran in the direction they left, then, when she couldn't find them, posted herself at the windows overlooking the runways and (I kid you not) called out periodically at the top of her lungs, "Yumi-chan! Doko i-chatta?!" ("Yumi, where have you gone?!") and muttering "Taihen!" to herself (roughly, "oh no!") between cries--for much longer than they actually played together. By the time we boarded our plane, she was crying so intensely that she fell asleep in my arms during take-off and basically stayed asleep until 8 am the next morning. Now, I don't know if the girl's name really is Yumi (which is the real name of a 3-year-old girl my daughter plays with at the playground near her baba and gigi's house in Chiba whom we'd been mistakenly calling "Minami" for months, off and on), but let's say it is, and let's say that her mom reads English and finds this post. On behalf of my san-sai musume, I would say to her, "If you and your super-cute daughters were at the Kansai airport play area near Gate 20 from about 6:00-6:30 pm on January 17, 2007, please get in touch with me so our daughters can write each other. Arigato gozaimas."

All right, the Diva Girl has her first day at hoikuen (kind of like day care but more like school) in a few hours, so I should try to sleep a little. Don't expect much from me here the next couple of weeks, as our fall semester is in its last throes, as they say. Maybe Oaktown Girl, or other WAAGNFNP faithful, will want to join in the fun--such as it is--here. We'll see!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back to the U-S-...uh...A

So in honor of my impending visit to U.S. soil, I thought I'd post a couple of links to my political blog that together convey something of my conflicted feelings about being an American. Just keep in mind I'm The Constructivist.

A modest proposal for rethinking immigration and adding new states to the U.S.

A fair and balanced review of the Bush administration's achievements.

Both are from the spring of 2006, but they hold up pretty well even today, if I do say so myself. What do you think? When I get back to the States (hopefully not for good) in August, should I run with this gig? Or run away from it?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Long Live the WAAGNFNP!

At least until the GNF comes!

This one is for Michael Berube's We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now Party, courtesy of Paule Marshall's Merle Kinbona from The Chosen Place, The Timeless People (yes, here at Mostly Harmless, we don't make arbitrary distinctions between high and low culture; so what if literature and academia are relatively unpopular parts of popular culture, I say!):

"Oh, God, to kill the boy one month and shut down Cane Vale the next! They must really be trying to finish us off down here in Bournehills..."

At the thought of that double tragedy, something in her, the last vestige of her reason perhaps, gave way, and a darkness, as complete as on those nights in the village when there's no moon and the over-sized Bournehills stars are hidden by clouds, seemed to close over her mind, over her eyes, snuffing out all the light and sanity there. "Kill! Destroy!" The words issued shrill and incoherent out of the darkness. "That's all your science and big-time technology is good for. Don't think I don't see it for what it is. Why, you've even smashed the rose window in the church. Everything and everybody blown to bits, the whole show up in flames because you couldn't have your own way anymore. Everything flat, flat, flat. No--wait!" She paused, her demented eyes filling with another image. "No, they'll use that other one I read about someplace that they call the neutron or some damn thing, that they say only kills off the people--the people, everybody, just vanish into thin air, but everything else, the buildings and so are left standing right where they are. Yes! That's what the brutes will use. All the buildings will be there but there'll be nobody inside them. Empty. The cars and buses right where they were on the roads when it dropped but not a driver in sight. No passengers. Not even a dead body to be seen in the streets. The houses with the curtains at the windows like people are living in them but not a soul inside. Every living thing gone from the face of the earth. Oh, God, the silence! You can hear a pin drop the world over. Everybody gone. All the poor half-hungry people who never had a chance. The little children. The baby's gone. Everything in place but both of them gone. Oh, how could he have done that to me? I see it, you hear, I see it. The whole world up in smoke and not a fire to be seen anywhere!"

Her eyes were so filled with that apocalyptic vision, her words, reechoing endlessly through the empty building, had made it so vivid, that Saul, struck dumb on the steps, could almost see that flameless fire raging between them on the platform.

Now, I was once a WAAGNFNP heretic, who formed a splinter cell called WAGNFNP (We All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now Party) to appeal, as I put it at the time, "to all those Captain Caveman fans out there." But thanks to the CCST (Chris Clarke Show Trial), I was welcomed back into the Party's blast area. So I also have a special message for a certain ex-fugitive from WAAGNFNP justice, courtesy of Mahasweta Devi's Puran Sahay from "Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha" in Imaginary Maps:

No, I have no right to touch you. Apparently one can still see prehistoric fish in the sea. But there was, there was a pterodactyl somewhere, the world didn't know, I am silent, I am defeated. I won't go near to see if there are feathers, if the toes and nails of the front feet are truly long.

Puran's eyes put a question.

--What will you eat?

What do its eyes want to tell Puran?

This body made of the grey dusk or this liquid darkness is quite still. Only an unfamiliar smell, sometimes sharp sometimes mild. When Puran or Bikhia stands, the smell becomes mild. Is this the instinctive feeling for self-protection against unknown animals?

There is no communication between eyes.

Only a dusky waiting, without end.

What does it want to tell? We are extinct by the natural geological evolution. You too are endangered. You too will become extinct in nuclear explosions, or in war, or in the aggressive advance of the strong as it obliterates the weak, which finally turns you naked, barbaric, primitive, think if you are going forward or back. Forests are extinct, and animal life is obliterated outside of zoos and protected forest sanctuaries. What will you finally grow in the soil, having murdered nature in the application of man-imposed substitutes? "Deadly DDT greens,/ charnel-house explosive bean-pods, monstrous and misshapen / spastic gourds, eggplants with mobile tails / bloodthirsty octopus creepers, animal blood-filled / tomatoes?"

The collective being of the ancient nations is crushed. Like nature, like the sustaining earth, their sustaining ancient cultures received no honor, they remained unknown, they were only destroyed, they are being destroyed, is this what you are telling us?

The dusky lidless eyes remain unresponsive.

Have you come up from the past to warn us, are you telling us this man-made poverty and famine is a crime, it is a crime to take away the forest and make the forest-dwelling peoples naked and endangered? Are you telling us that it is a crime to grasp in the stranglehold the voice of protest, and the arm of combat?

The eye says nothing.

How grey. What amazing news. It wants to say something, to give some new, Puran does not understand. No point of communication. Nothing can be said or written.

Is there a message in the smell of its body? Why do its eyes remain open? In the inner shrine room (the worshipped and the worshippers are gone) of the family god of a poor tribal (who is dead), you are sitting unmoving, oh ancient one, what do you want us to know?

The grey eye does not respond.

You have come to me for shelter, and I don't know how to save you, is that why I'll see your death? I don't know, if I knew I could have saved you, I don't know, if I knew I could have saved you, you would have left again on your flight, you would have searched out water, food, a resting place. I don't know, if I knew.... In this shrine room of stone and earth in the last years of this century an urgent message like this arrived and the news could not be given because human beings do not know or understand its language.

The grey eye wants to tell Puran something.

Puran shakes and shakes its head.

Don't you go following Berube's example, Myers, is what I'm saying.

[Update (1/21/07): He went and did it. Well, not quite: he's still posting at an insane rate after this announcement. Expect a cold turkey announcement soon.]

Monday, January 8, 2007

Mourning the End of an Era

OK, I've been putting up a brave front in the comments over at Le Blogue Berube's final post, but really I feel about as bad as I did around the times when I found out that Rage Against the Machine, At the Drive-In, and The Tea Party had broken up. Especially because all along I thought this blog retirement (what, not even a leave?) motif was another extended inside joke on an always entertaining and convoluted blog. But the Nile isn't just a river in Egypt, or so I've heard.

Why is it that people who are really good at what they do decide to stop doing it? Why can't Berube try the Radiohead reinvention thing? He's been complaining about repeating himself lately, but for Ashtaroth's sake, he's a drummer! [Update: But he can spell better than me--thanks, Oaktown Girl! Wouldn't do to get on that demon's bad side.]

Time for bargaining. Hmmm, what to bargain with? Ah, of course, a golf challenge! Seeing as I haven't played regularly since the summer of 2003, it should be a fair bet to offer to play him on the course of his choice at my own expense, and if I win, he has to do one LPGA blog post, while if he wins, he has to do one "We Are the Champions" post. One should be all it takes to reactivate his addiction-like relation to blogging.

Is it time for acceptance yet? Nope, apparently I have to hit depression first. OK, done. And done.

Tomorrow I'll start telling my kids stories about the good old days back when Berube was blogging.

With Apologies to All the Other Douglas Adams Fans Out There

...who have already used this name for their own blog, I'm going to be stubborn and use it myself. I already have a professional/personal blog and a political blog, but whenever I find myself compelled to leave a comment on someone else's blog, I invariably write about things I like: animation, fantasy, gaming, golf, movies, sf, tv, and the like. So that's what this blog is going to be about. Whenever I feel like it I'll post on whatever interests me that doesn't belong on my other blogs. Why? Because the bloggers I like most to read are the ones having fun with the medium. I'm having fun with my other blogs, but I want to have a different kind of fun here. Of course, being an academic, my version of fun may not match everyone (or anyone?) else's. That's no problem to me, as easily amused as I am. And it turns out that writing on stuff that amuses me has done me well in the past.

Yes, even back in the days when listservs were relatively new (gather round, grandkids!), I found myself making silly interventions like telling a story on the postcolonial listserv about how my brother liked Batman and I liked Spider-Man when we were kids as a set-up for the devastating observation that the whole Spivak vs. Bhabha thread going on at the time reminded me of our fights over which superhero was better. Or the time in a postcolonial theory course back in grad school that I was lucky enough to be taking from Bhabha himself and I go and make a Douglas Adams/Salman Rushdie comparison out loud in class (ah, the memories!). Somehow people forgave me that post (and people in the class never held the comment against me) and eventually I got two invitations to submit essays to collections people were editing based on my activity on that listserv (only one of which ever made it to publication).

From listservs I moved on to a web site, in part because I felt that the very interesting things I was learning about in grad school were being actively ignored or completely misunderstood outside academia (and inside much of it) and in part because I felt there might be people out there who could be interested in those things if I linked them to other things that they already found interesting. So for instance I wrote a long post on the OJ Simpson case, which now you'd need to find in The Internet Archive, that also served as introduction to critical race theory. If you scroll to the right on my home page, you'll see more now-dated attempts to use new media and popular culture to bring things of academic interest to a wider public.

So blogging is a natural evolution, so to speak, from my earlier work/fun internet/web activity. And if you think I'm kidding that I enjoy popular culture and have fun writing about it, I'll now post here something that I wrote a very long time ago but which I can't bring myself to delete from my current web site. More power to you if you can find it there.


OK, So I Like Beavis and Butt-head.... Well, Beavis, At Least

Let me explain. It's not just because of the brilliant parody of Rush Limbaugh in that episode. It's not just because of ejaculations like "Stop, in the Name of All That Which Does Not Suck," or the times they say, "Huh, huh, he said 'ejaculations.'" It's not just because many of their comments on videos make a lot of sense when you think about them (like when they had no idea what that Johnny Cash video was and Butt-head said, "It's, like, uh, gangsta rap."). It's not just because every time Butt-head says "we" Beavis says "me too, me too" because he thinks Butt-head isn't really including him (and he's right). It's not just because of that early episode where they almost drown in gym class and Mr. Buzzcut asks Butt-head if he has any consideration for his friend Beavis's life and Butt-head says "no"--and then you hear Beavis repeating quite happily, "yeah, yeah, no." It's not just because episodes like that provide a plausible reason why Beavis has become more assertive over the years (or at least passive aggressive--remember the show where Butt-head is choking on a chicken nugget and Beavis keeps getting "distracted" as he looks for help?). It's not just because of those little dots that pop up around Beavis's head when he loses it, or his sugar-high/"crappucino"-induced Cornholio episodes.

No, it's more.

Yes, as heretical as it sounds, there's more to like about the show than simply the character/plot level, as good as that often is. For instance, I love the way the show takes the notion of the "MTV generation" to such an absurd extreme. And don't think Judge doesn't know what he's doing here--remember the episode where the anthropology graduate student chooses B+B for his documentary "Generation in Crisis" and then has to pay them to do something? OK, that may be more impressive to someone like me who's quite critical of the resurgence of generation talk since Douglas Coupland's Generation X showed target marketers everywhere how to create a whole new set of identity categories, and who liked Green Day's previous album because, like B+B, it was making fun of those categories. But it may not float your boat.

How about, then, the subtle homoerotics of their relationship? No, no, I'm not saying B+B are gay (although you heard it here first if they do eventually come out); I'm saying look at some of the pictures Judge draws! (Like during that episode where Mr. Buzzcut makes them lift weights in the school gym....) So what Judge is doing is juxtaposing their dumb-ass homophobia not only with the fact that they are inseparable, but also with how they interact physically. Not in every episode. But in enough to make a recognizable pattern. Just watch for it. You'll see what I mean.

I could go on--Burger World as window into/parody of Coupland's notion of "McJobs" and all the talk (and reality) of America's new postindustrial/service economy; Cornholio as broaching Texas racial politics and Mexico/US relations (recall that what set Beavis off was the hippie teacher doing a history lesson about U.S. imperialism); B+B as representative/parodic white males and all that entails for a rethinking of whiteness; the show's playing with "political correctness" as an index of just how successful right-wing critics of academia have been at defining popular conceptions of the academy (a perspective perhaps shared widely by B+B's fans, to their loss).

But I'll stop now. Wouldn't want to take a cartoon too seriously, right?

[note: this was written circa 1996, back when MTV would play some videos; I've moved on to Daria, Dr. Katz, and South Park because they show fewer repeats (and, truth be told, they're better than B+B and the Simpsons, which once was good), but I'll always remember B+B with a mildly embarrassed smile.... (1998)]

[p.s.: this whole thing is horribly dated--Green Day's Dookie is now ancient history, for one thing, and Daria is no more--but I can't bring myself to delete it or update it; so I'll just leave it hidden here as an alternate introduction to my current website! (2002)]


OK, so with that blast from the past now past, I'll be back here whenever. Hope you will, too.

[Update: for more on B&B, check out their playground for a link dump.]