Archive for March, 2009


The Kills Are Awesome. That Is All.

I was looking for an excuse to publicly declare my affection for The Kills, but I couldn’t find one. Granted, there’s a month-old story about their bus driver getting arrested for the hilarious crime of “sudden snatching” (huh?), but really there’s nothing.

Why am I thinking of this, all of a sudden? I spend most days with 5 other Spaniards in a small office with one set of speakers for the computers. Normally, the guy who’s been here the longest uses them, puts on some radio station that plays lounge remixes of “Like A Virgin” (or worse), and I just bow my head in silence (and giggle fits). Yesterday, though, in said elder’s absence, a new guy snatched them and proceeded to inundate my poor ears with a cavalcade of horrible Lite FM pop. It’s not that they have horrible taste in music; it’s that they like American music, but they don’t know what to listen to.

Today has been instructional, therefore. I got in early, “suddenly snatched” the speakers (book me, Dan-O), and have been schooling these poor bastards on what America is capable of, all the while reflecting that this music thang is indicative of our problem as ex-pats in general: The exported image of the U.S. is largely not as good as the reality.

We are not all fat, imperialist, willfully-ignorant, pop-star-loving blowhards. Yes, some of us are. But some of us are also perfectly nice, kind of bright, and not at all interested in whether or not J-Lo releases another album. And it is these people of whom I’m the most proud, and who tug at my Patria-loving heartstrings when they get pulled.

So no, it’s not apple pie that I miss; it’s knowing whether or not Beth Ditto is full of shit, what Charlie Kaufman’s latest movie is like, and whether or not I should invest in Junot Diaz. Yes, I know I can find out about all that through the miracle of the online community (as I said earlier), but I miss the camaraderie of the coffee shop, the brotherhood of the travel-hungry drunks.


Zero Tolerance Of Everything Except Molesting A 13-Year-Old

In case you missed it, it seems the case brought by Savana Redding against her school for strip-searching her when she was 13 is going to be heard by the Supreme Court. If you have an aversion to horrifying invasions of privacy, please don’t read the following:

An assistant principal, enforcing the school’s antidrug policies, suspected her of having brought prescription-strength ibuprofen pills to school. One of the pills is as strong as two Advils.

The search by two female school employees was methodical and humiliating, Ms. Redding said. After she had stripped to her underwear, “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side,” she said. “They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

This was, apparently, all done in the name of “Zero Tolerance,” perhaps the stupidest goddamned idea in education since “No Child Left Behind.” What I don’t understand about this is manyfold:

1. How can you perpetrate searches like this, then send a teen off to history class, where they will learn that the U.S. is unique amongst the world’s nations for its intolerance of unreasonable search and seizure?

2. When did we devolve into a society so terrified of drugs that searching in a child’s vagina for Advil became de rigeur?

3. What exactly would they have done for “punishment” had they found said drugs? Suspension? How would it be seen as a negative for the girl if she had to go home, and away from the hands of humiliation that had just scoured her every orifice?

4. Supreme Court? This had to go to the Supreme Court??? This sounds like a goddamned easy call to me. Then again, I’m one of those bed-wetting hippie feminazis who’s against child molestation.


Sharing Ain’t Just For Caring Anymore

So let’s talk the internets.

When the internet first started blowing up, I remember being terrified of the consequences. The constant reminders that, “Your kids could have friends they’ve never even met,” just made it worse. Specifically, I was afraid that, because of the lack of necessity for us to leave our houses, it would make us a generation of mole people. And, while my pallor may perhaps be a result of my lerve of the online, I somehow think this here series of tubes has been more a positive influence on society than a negative.

The usual arguments, some of which I myself make, still apply: It makes people intellectually lazy (why memorize anything when it’s merely a Google search away?); it divorces people from the society around them and makes them more “active” electronically instead (why get the blisters from marching against something in reality, when you can just sign up for a Facebook group?); it makes people slaves to its will (I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets clammy palms from a temporary glitch in my connection). Still, the collaborative nature of the internet is what I think is the overall positive, and here’s why.

I’m actually kind of a purist when it comes to all things paper. I cherish newspaper-printed fingers and my boxes and boxes of books. And, while I am saddened that most people aren’t likewise emotionally linked to their wood pulp collections (meaning numerous journalistic institutions and publishing houses are being torpedoed by…well, people like me), I find the nature of the blogosphere fascinating and highly positive on the writing community, in that it’s a serious community effort.

What I mean is that, in order to get anyone to read your blog in the first place, you have to read other blogs. There is no existence within a vacuum in the online community; there is no take without give. I know that it should be the same way in the literary community in general, but I’ve found the bubble-creating nature of academia to be counterproductive to this. Once friends of mine who’ve entered the academic pursuit of studying literature did so, they had to specialize, to work at their craft, and to therefore somewhat abandon the explorative nature of the beast. While studying writing, you are (naturally) encouraged to write; while studying literature, you are encouraged to read. However, there is no rule that says that, before you have anyone at the magazine to which you’re applying read your stuff, you must read that magazine (and others), give criticisms/insight to them, and see if they respond. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a damned good idea to do so, but it’s not a necessity.

Yes, this encourages amateurs to get in the game. And, sure, there are talentless hacks (*cough cough*) that invade the process, but they exist everywhere in the literary community (hellooo, Nora Roberts!). I’m sticking to my guns, though: I believe bloggers will be an unexpected benefit to the literary community at large.

Plus, hey, free movies. Beat that with a stick.


My ♥(-On) For Andrew Cuomo Grows 50 Million Sizes This Day

Just yesterday I was at the U.S. Embassy here in Madrid. While waiting there for a looong time is a usual thing, I’m usually greeted at the end of it by a smiling Spanish face. Yesterday, the U.S. government employee loomed large (and less friendly), and the whole thing brought back memories of going to the Post Office in New York on April 15. Suffice to say that I was all fired up and anti-government-employee when I got into work today. Then I saw this:

Andrew Cuomo has gotten most of the huge AIG bonuses back.

Yup, the American recipients of the horrifyingly disgusting super-bad no-good bonuses at AIG have surrendered them to Cuomo, after he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

The attorney general noted that about 47 percent of $165 million in retention bonuses was awarded to Americans, accounting for nearly $80 million. All told, Mr. Cuomo said, A.I.G. employees have agreed to return about $50 million in bonuses.

Mr. Cuomo acknowledged that some bonus recipients declined to give back bonuses, especially those overseas who are outside the jurisdiction of New York State…

A.I.G.’s chief executive, Edward M. Liddy, told Congress last week that he had asked employees to give back half of their bonuses. Mr. Cuomo responded that this was inadequate.

Oh, Congress, this is how it’s done. Use legal means (meaning: Don’t fuck around with words like “attainder” and “post-facto”) to get their names, then give them 2 options: Give it back, or those bus tours terrorizing AIG houses will be parked outside your door in the morning.


Bill O’Reilly Stalks Women To Tell Them How Important Their Safety Is To Him

This is really…Hypocritical? Hilarious? Terrifyingly creepy?

After some poor female blogger pointed out that Bill O’Reilly’s upcoming speech at a rape victims’ convention is kind of odd, considering his notable history of calling a rape victim “stupid,” he had one of his goons accost said blogger on the street. That didn’t sate his appetite for womyn’s rights, though, so he had some people follow her on vacation to deMAND she apologize to victims of…well, stalking and rape.

The Stalking: Watters and his camera man accosted me at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, in Winchester, VA, which is a two-hour drive from Washington, DC. My friend and I were in this small town for a short weekend vacation and had told no one about where we were going. I can only infer that the two men staked out my apartment and then followed me for two hours. Looking back, my friend and I remember seeing their tan SUV following us for much of the trip…

The Evasion: I said that it was inappropriate for O’Reilly to imply that just because a woman may be drunk and/or dressed in a certain way, she should expect to be raped. Watters asked me whether I had listened to the interview (which I had) and claimed that O’Reilly had made the comments in the context of a commentary on Mel Gibson/drunkenness…

The blogger asked why Think Progress was being targeted here (and got the hilarious answer that it’s because they’re part of the “smear machine” that is after poor ol’ Billy Boy), but I think that’s beside the point. Keith Olbermann is part of that same machine, and he’s been harping on this bit o’ hypocrisy for a good while now. Why, then, did they target this woman?

This is part of a trend with O’Reilly. In the footage I’ve seen of his producers accosting people, I have only seen his people accost those with vaginas in private, intimate settings (at home or on vacation, rather than on the street or on a bus). One might say this behavior is…erm, predatory and plays on these women’s fears of being attacked (and might, therefore, help the producer’s elicit an apology from said woman).

Then again, just look at what Cynthia Tucker was wearing while at home checking her mail. She was totes asking for it.



Special Wingnut Report: Obama Is Laughing At Your Suffering!!! ZOMG He’s SOOOO Mean!1!!

‘Kay, so Politico is full of asshats owned by Karl Rove. Really, it’s true! You can look it up on the internets which never lie! Anyway, they were being typically asshatty yesterday in saying that Obama’s “awkward” laughter during a moment of genuine ridiculosity (see, I can make up words too, Dubya!) on 60 Minutes Sunday highlights his big problem with the Amurkin people: He’s too cool and detached. Right. His big problem is that people don’t like him. And yet he’s a cult leader. Gotcha.

Anyhow, so here’s the clip of him being horribly awkward and cavalier about our impending doom. And a Muslim socialist. Also.

So, first everyone tells him to lighten up. Now everyone tells him to forego the “gallows humor” because it’s inappropriate and serves only to show everyone how too-cool-for-school he is. Christ, man, why does anyone want this job?

For the record, the people in the world with the highest levels of stress at their professions (surgeons, air traffic controllers, members of the military) tend to have the most off-color sense of humor of anyone on the planet. Seriously, in the words of one of my friends who’s a doctor: The reason they give you the full anesthetic a lot of times is just so you don’t hear what they’re saying about you. It’s a coping mechanism, and it helps these people concentrate in otherwise distractingly-dire circumstances.

And since it is definitely one of the ways our men in uniform deal with their day, this latest bout of Freeper rage is making me wonder: Why do they hate our troops???


Colbert Stuffs NASA Into Metaphorical Locker With Space Station Contest Win

Oh, God, poor NASA. The geeks running the show there thought it’d be really cool to get people to vote on the name of the new space station. Worse: They thought it would heighten public awareness and excitement about said station if they included a “suggest your own” button. And Colbert got wind of it, called on his peeps to get shit done, and they did. So now NASA’s stuck. Why? They’re just not that cool.

For months now, people have been naming stuff after Stephen Colbert, something I highly endorse. Why not name a spider or turtle or what not after somebody who will definitely mention it to the hipster generation? It might actually drum up some excitement about your geeky little scientific project, at best, and, at worst, it…umm…may sound silly to future generations? Really, the down sides are few and far between, and I was allllmost so happy to hear about the space station naming contest. Until I heard who’s running it. *sigh*

So here’s the thing about NASA. They’re a great organization. Really. But, at the administrative level, they’re not the bastion of ironically-geeky intelligencia that is the astrophysics community in general. Don’t titter; I’m being serious. Remember the guy who kept phoning in from orbit to talk to Colbert? Or the guy who got piped in from the South Pole? Those are both the kinds of people I tend to work with. They’re funny, they lovelovelove snark, and, above all, they adore internet prankdom.


Once you go higher up the food chain in someplace like NASA, what you tend to find are less the Weezer-type geeks and more the quotes-Asimov-as-his-opening-line-type geeks. During my internship there, I encountered a lot of really, really nice guys. But they’re the real deal, nerd-wise. Like, even I was tempted to take their lunch money sometimes. Put it this way: These are the guys who get all hot and bothered about the idea of ROBOTS!!! ON THE MOON!!! DOING STUFF!!!! Not because it has any probative scientific value really; they just like robots. And they should: Their job is to sell America on Astrophysics as a worthwhile pursuit. And, let’s face it: Sci-fi-based crap is highly saleable to the American public. Jesus, über-cool Jack Kennedy even made walking on the moon a cornerstone of his campaign because of that. It sold then, and it still does.

So, yeah…catching the interview Colbert just did with the guy from NASA brought back memories. And seeing this morning that he’s won the contest just makes me feel sorry for these guys. Now they’re in the uncomfortable position of either going with a name they will hate, so as not to seem “uncool” (Make no mistake: They were hoping for some kind of H.P.-Lovecraft-inspired dreamy little name suggestion, if anything) or not doing so, and being catapulted back into high-school-era mockery for their epic nerd move.

For those about to be outed as horrifyingly socially-awkward geeks, I salute you.