Friday, May 09, 2008

Brain Dead

Ok, people: enough! My brain is fried and, like you, I'm looking to summer. It's been a great year, but this semester has left me feeling like a baby seal in the clutches of a polar bear. I'm just glad to get out alive. (Oh, wait, I better not count those chickens [or baby seals] until they hatch [or escape from the jaws of the polar bear]. After all, there are still two days of school and some exams.)

But I'm thinking about summer. I've earned it too. I've taught overloads and I've been on more committees than you can shake a laser pointer at.

Without further ado, and in the fashion of the Pillow Book, here are some things I'm happy about:

  • Giving money to Obama--more than I can afford, actually. I'll be Obama blogging more as the year goes on. Go Obama.
  • Using Google reader. My daily news is much more closely linked to my brain now. How did it take me so long to get those RSS feeds coming in (and going out!). Rss is awesome. It provides for my glutonous cravings for news from France, Asia, and Africa; it brings Open Left and Firedoglake to my screen; it is seemless and fast; it is me; I am it.
  • The Language Lab Photo Contest. We will have student art in the lab. So easy--why has no one ever done this before? (I'll put up a link to our web exhibit when I get the chance.)
  • Working hard. I've worked hard.
  • Moodle. I'll admit that I did not get to explore moodle as much as I wanted (because I was so busy), but, still, I've gained some insights into how to enhance some of my teaching.
  • Not using moodle. That's right. There's a time and a place.
  • Calling senators and congresfolk to lobby against torture and telecom immunity.
  • Having the restraint not to buy a new computer.
  • Walking to school.
  • Inventing the word "disappointless."
  • Going mostly vegan. (Ate meat last night. Emphasis on "mostly.")
  • Neutering some stray cats.
  • Several charitable donations.
  • I really enjoyed my teaching this year even though I am worn out.

Things I am disappointed about:
  • Not having the strength or insight to deal with personalities when the time was right.
  • Working hard to no apparent end, as in "That was disappointless."
  • Not talking to friends enough.
  • Being holed up working all the time.
  • Occasional endless pontificating in class.
  • Being such a slow grader.
  • Not writing enough. I have to carve out time more time for this activity.
  • Not always setting an example of excellence for students.
  • Not proofreading my blogging.
  • Ever thinking that Hillary would end the primaries gracefully.
  • Not getting enough exercise.
  • The state of my office.
I'm sure there are more things I'm disappointed about, they are just not coming to my mind right now. Let's just call that a healthy attitude of denial.

L'été arrive enfin. I've got something like 3 conferences this summer, so that will keep me more than occupied. I will be writing (see list above). We've also got some good old-fashioned manual labor projects that should keep me busy too, and I need some of that to keep me sane and balanced... Expect to see lots of pictures from Morocco...


B. Delong quotes a post from James Poulos that strikes me as common sense:

Globalization, in its natural, uncontrolled diversity, will be and should be an irregular process in which countries pragmatically adopt and appropriate a la carte things from elsewhere that work for them...

This view contradicts the average "proponents" of globalization as an economically inevitable, scientifically incontrovertible and longitudinally beneficial process(1). If one sees and empowers globalization as a dynamic and more or less democratic process, then I think Poulos has hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, the Fareed Zakarias (and the majority of pro-globalization forces) tend to speak in the most utopian and abstract ways about globalization and it is from this that they promote a program, not a process. The key words here are "adoption" (democratic) and "à la carte" (signaling mutual benefit and optimization of comparative advantage).

Unfortunately, it is much easier to find globalization's dreamers in our public discourse than it is those who have serious critiques and who can speak to its upsides and downsides, for there are both.

(1) JMK: In the long run, we're all dead.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Obama: Fight Mediocrity and Mediatocracy

Here's, IMHO, the most important part of Obama's victory speech from last night:

This primary season may not be over, but when it is, we will have to remember who we are as Democrats . . . This fall, we intend to march forward as one Democratic Party, united by a common vision for this country. Because we all agree that at this defining moment in history – a moment when we're facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril – we can't afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush's third term. We need change in America. [...]

Yes, we know what's coming. We've seen it already. The same names and labels they always pin on everyone who doesn't agree with all their ideas. The same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy in the hope that the media will play along. The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences to turn us against each other for pure political gain – to slice and dice this country into Red States and Blue States; blue-collar and white-collar; white and black, and brown.

This is what they will do – no matter which one of us is the nominee. The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they'll run, it's what kind of campaign we will run. It's what we will do to make this year different. I didn't get into [this] race thinking that I could avoid this kind of politics, but I am running for President because this is the time to end it. . . .

This is all about media, voice and democracy. It's about the FCC, the FEC; it's about pundits and CEOs. Obama knows this and this is the subtext of his campaign. The media know this too--and they've been fighting back.

The last three weeks have been a virtual blackout of positive Obama news, a blackout of Obama himself. Indeed, Obama was presented only through the filters of the Kristols and the Crowleys, while smiling pictures of Hillary giving motivational speeches were aired.

This period seems to be over and the media has seen the momentum shift for the final time. They saw it on Bill's face last night.

Does this mean the fight against Obama is over? Hardly--the long hard slog is beginning. We will see more of the same: Wright, few excerpts from speeches and first-person Obama, little talk of Obama's incredible and populist fundraising. The media narrative will "stay the course" in that Obama will be portrayed as elitist, disconnected, different, radical and strident, while McCain will be fluffed beyond belief.

Can they keep him off the air? Can they keep him on the defensive? I don't think so, but they will try.

The goal now, short of preventing Obama's election, is to limit his mandate and define what he can talk about.

Cognitive Heat Sinks...

Here's Shirky elaborating on his ideas in "Here Comes Everybody."

Gin, television, cognitive heat sinks... It's worth a viewing, even if you've already checked out his work.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I'm always pleased to see France leading the way again--well, not always. Case in point: this amusing list of insults. What can a French professor do? I could get mad, but instead I will just laugh and fight this battle elsewhere. Luckily for France, I think the term "blogger" is close to becoming the single most potent insult in the English language. While that does not help me, it will help France, and for that I am happy, for few other "peoples" get insulted as much, especially by those ninny-hammers on Capitol Hill.

Here's the list:


Definition: 1) To make French in quality or trait 2) To make somewhat effeminate, and 3) To contract a veneral disease (a 19th century slang).

Analysis: We have the English to thank for this word. Most people implicitly understand that it means to become more like the French, but not a lot know the second or the third meaning. We’re still not sure which is more insulting.


Definition: To spray with poo.

Analysis: Actually bescumber is just one of many words in the English language that basically mean “to spray with poo”. These are: BEDUNG, BERAY, IMMERD, SHARNY, and the good ol’ SHITTEN. In special cases, you can use BEMUTE (specifically means to drop poo on someone from great height), SHARD-BORN (born in dung), and FIMICOLOUS (living and growing on crap).

Alternative: If that is too vulgar, you can use BEVOMIT and BEPISS, which meanings should be obvious to you, as well as BESPAWL (to spit on).

Oh, and if you want to say poo without looking like you're saying it, you can use ORDURE, DEJECTION, and EXCRETA. To mean something more specific, you can use MECONIUM (first feces of a newborn child), MELAENA or MELENA (the abnormally tarry feces containing blood from gastrointestinal bleeding), LIENTERY (diarrhea with undigested or partially digested food), and STEATORRHEA (fatty stool that's hard to flush down).

Here are some words along the same line that may one day prove to be useful for you: TURDIFY (turn into turd), COPROPHAGIA (eating of feces [wiki]), and COPROPHILIA (Think 2 Girls 1 Cup [wiki - don't worry, SWF], if you don't know what this is, I shan't corrupt you any further).

Let's end entry number two with these two amazing words COPREMESIS and MISERERE, both of which mean fecal vomiting. Yes, fecal vomiting. It's a medical emergency caused by the obstruction of the bowel (source).


Definition: An unusually small penis.

Analysis: Self explanatory.

Alternative: Insulting a man’s private part is a very reliable way to put him down (if he’s smaller than you) or to get beat up (if he’s larger than you). Usually, even a dimwit can decipher the meaning of this word, after all, it’s just a combination of “micro” and “phallus”.

So, to insult a physically larger opponent, we recommend you use these words instead: PHALLOCRYPSIS (retraction or shrinkage of the penis), CRYPTORCHID (undescendend testicles), and PHALLONCUS (tumor of the penis).


Definition: Pain in the butt.

Analysis: It's a real medical term: coccydynia is pain in the coccyx or tailbone. Most people simply call it "buttache."

Similar: PROCTALGIA, PROCTODYNIA, PYGALGIA and RECTALGIA all mean pain in the butt.

Alternative: CERVICALGIA (pain in the neck), PHALLODYNIA or PHALLALGIA (both mean pain in the penis), and PUDENDAGRA (pain in the genitals).

The word "butt" is highly versatile in its vernacular use - you can say "butt face" or "hairy butt" - dem are fightin' words - but it's much better to use these instead: ANKYLOPROCTIA (stricture of the anus, the state of "tight-assity"), STEATOPYGOUS (fat-assed), DASYPYGAL (having hairy buttocks), and CACOPYGIAN (having ugly buttocks).



Definition: A fool or a silly person.
Analysis: The word "fool," unless you're Mr. T, is sometimes woefully inadequate to express the stupidity of the person you're talking about. So use Ninnyhammer. Or at least NINNY.

Alternative: The English language is chockful of colorful words meaning stupid person, such as: DUMMKOPF, IGNORAMUS, JOBBERNOWL, GOWK, and WITLING.

For mental retardation, eschew the ubiquitous 'tard - rather, use AMENTIA (extreme mental retardation because of inadequate brain tissue), CRETINISM (mental retardation associated with dwarfism, caused by the deficiency of a thyroid hormone, a person with cretinism is a CRETIN), and MORONITY (used to mean mild retardation of having a mental age of 7 to 12 years, now it's an obsolete term though we still use the word moron).

There's more!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Religious Right Tells Pastors Christianity Being Suppressed

Yes, Christianity is being repressed! It is so difficult to be Christian in the U.S. right now. If you don't believe me, watch these serious thinkers conflate religion, fear of others, and nationalism into neat little packages.

From Firedoglake:

"Hate the liberals and the gays" has a resurgence, just in time for the election. Shocking.

For the power pastors of the religious right, it's about maintaining their hold on power and the illusion of control of political dialogue. For with such control and the trappings of power come large and regular donations. And those donations perpetuate their hold on power.

PFAW's Right Wing Watch put this YouTube clip together of a Coral Ridge Ministries program designed to motivate pastors to involve their congregations in electoral politics:

On Saturday, Coral Ridge Ministries—the televangelism empire of the late D. James Kennedy—broadcast a special program to encourage pastors to involve their churches in this year’s elections. While the panelists—Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Jordan Lorence of Alliance Defense Fund, and Gary DeMar of American Vision—offered the usual admonishments that there’s no such thing as separation of church and state, the theme of the evening was that Christianity is being “suppressed” in this country by liberals and the “militant homosexual agenda.”...

This is the persecuted majority syndrome: the idea that it’s a whole lot simpler to convince people to join your political program if you convince them that their faith is “under attack.” This has been one of the Religious Right’s dominant themes over the last few years through campaigns such as FRC’s “Justice Sunday,” a series of televised, church-based rallies to support President Bush’s most radical judicial nominees, who the Right claimed were being opposed because of their religion.

Oh, please. Why do they still have tax exempt status when they are very clearly operating as a shell wing of the Republican party, motivating their flocks through fear of damnation to vote for the GOP? Personally, I find using denial of salvation as a means of political whipping offensive, and a contemptible, shameful abuse of the power of faith. And I'm not alone in thinking this.

After watching the Rev. Wright media hoohaw, why do the "pastors of the right" continually get a pass? Especially when they deliberately and provocatively insert themselves into the political process with a vengeance? Hypocrisy, much?

As Emproph at Pam's House Blend puts it:

Just like the thief who thinks everyone is stealing from them...
Just like the liar who thinks everyone is lying to them...
Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund thinks...

the ACLU and the homosexual activists, who are into coercing unwilling people to do things, and to silence them, and all of that. There is an authoritarianism to that, that they are in total denial about

Ever heard of projection, Jordan? You may want to look it up.

Amen. Having uncovered DOJ personnel decisions by political and sexuality hiring purity tests, and with an office of religious dole in the White House dispensing public funds for church programming, I think I can safely say that their version of "Christian persecution complex" is a load of election year hooey. Shouldn't the religious right be called out for lying to their flock? Or is bearing false witness no longer a sin?

Especially when their hold on power within the GOP is tenuous -- or is being honest about their declining influence not something of interest?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

Educate yourself to live.