Friday, October 31, 2008

Just like Fahrenheit 451!

toothpaste for dinner

Ha ha ha ha.

toothpaste for dinner

Those guys at Toothpaste for dinner are some funny bastards.

Funny Prop 8 Article.

Can you super-size that discrimination, please?

Dystopia Much?


Again, picture stolen from Violet. Even though I saw the thing on the sidewalk first.

In-Class Presentation

This is for my Film and Lit class:

Concerning the Fahrenheit 451 in-class presentation:

First I should say that I was lucky to have a good group. Everyone was very involved and I felt that there was a beneficial give-and-take going on. Jacob set up a message board and it proved to be a great way for all of us to keep in touch.

My specific contributions to the group included an article suggestion, a video, and a couple focusing emails.

The article I suggested is from the book “Ray Bradbury: a Critical Companion. I suggested Chapter 5, pages 53 – 62. That chapter deals directly with the plot, characters, and setting of the novel and offers perspective on the text. I thought it was a good all-purpose article.


For the presentation, I found an animation that does the entire novel in 17 minutes. I suggested possibly using it to show a new way of looking at any particular scene in the novel. I’m actually sad that we didn’t get to use it in our presentation.

Additionally, there were a couple of instances when I helped to focus the group down on point by offering specific suggestions. Again, my group was great, and we had a lot of good ideas out in the ether, and I think that I helped to organize those ideas. Last week I sent out an email suggesting to the group that we request class time to organize (thanks again for that time Dr. Wexler). I sent out a similar email the day before the presentation just to make sure that everyone was on the same page.

During the presentation I worked (as did everyone in our group, I think) to encourage a lively discussion. As needed, I took up positions contrary to my own in order to help that discussion along.

I am very happy with the Fahrenheit 451 group. I think all of its members should be pleased.

What a college degree is worth ...

Do you have a college degree? Do you like crying? If you answered YES you should read this article about how a degree actually benefits you.

On a lighter Note ...

I think this blog is a little too wordy at the moment, so here are some pictures I stole from Violet's Flickr:

This is the Koolhaas library in Seattle. It is like the future. The coolest building I have ever seen and I have seen a lot of buildings.

This is the International Fountain at Seattle Center, below the Space Needle. It was built for the 1962 World's Fair. It looks like Sputnik crashed. And then sprayed kids with water.

This is the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge. It eats VW Bugs.

Daily Lessons on Class

In my Film and Lit class we are about to read “The Communist Manifesto” and so to get us off on the right foot, we read the brief piece below:

And then what I said:

I really enjoyed this piece because in addition to being a thought provoking short piece of writing, it also uses narrative tools to show a progression of ideas over time. I think I can speak for all of us English majors when I say Hooray! It was nice to have something fun.

That being said, I’m not sure that I understood all of the ideas in play here, but some of them really struck a chord with me. The sentence, “It thus claims there is no need for revolution because, under capitalism, reform can make the unequal equal through opportunities” particularly got me thinking because isn’t that exactly what we are taught? That we can all move up if we work hard and just keep our nose to the grindstone? But the hard truth is that our capitalist system requires that there be an underclass. Without the large underclass of labor to work and then spend money, our entire system would break down. So even if one of us can claw our way to the top, we will just be standing on the backs of that labor class.

It really makes one wonder, is there any way to get ahead without getting ahead at the expense of others?

I’m excited to be getting into the Communist Manifesto because I’m intrigued by any ideas that seek to make the human experience better. And not just better, but more equitable. Though I’m sad, because I know how it always ends. The Communist experiment I mean.

Althusser, Martin, and How the World Works

This is for my film and lit class, it is a discussion of the way that various elements of society interact: economics, ideology, politics. That sounds like super fun, right?

So I understand all of the pieces that we have been talking about, but I am still struggling to comprehend the whole.

I understand Louis Althusser's Interpellation (a cop says: “Hey you!” and you say: “Yes Sir?” because you both participate in an ideological framework). I also understand Randy Martin's financialization of daily life (rather than freeing us, this finacialization has added an additional weight of labor to our off hours while we fret over pensions and mortgages). I also understand when Martin writes (and I think it is a big point) that over the past thirty or so years our society has seen a “normalization of risk embrace”.

I understand all of those things and I agree with them, however what I am not quite getting is how those things all connect together to form one seamless philosophy that explains our age.

Martin is able to eloquently connect the afore mentioned finacialization to Neocons and America’s new imperialism, but I am still having trouble believing those connections, maybe that’s why I’m not seeing the bigger picture. Martin writes, “Yet, while imperialism has returned full throated to the councils of international relations, finance is rarely seated at the table.” He goes on to explain that imperialism is usually viewed as a national or corporate interest, while the financial aspect is often ignored. I understand all of that.

So what is the larger idea? What am I missing?

Martin seems to indicate that our society got drunk on visions of the future, that we took on massive risk (debt) in order to better secure that future, but that a paradigm shift in geopolitics and finance essentially pulled the rug out from under us. Personally I don’t think that the new paradigm began with 9/11, but rather with the American response to it. So now we are a society whose future (or potential future) exists concurrently (and dependant on) our present. On top of that, as David Harvey pointed out, once our economic and cultural influence waned, we were left with nothing but our military might with which to address the world. Our government (being run not just by religious zealots, but also Neoconservatives with a very specific world view) acted in the only way that it thought appropriate and lashed out with what is generally called the new American Imperialism. We, all of us having been interpellated, went along because that is what the new American patriotism asked of us, not to mention we were all busy buying houses we couldn’t afford because we felt that a nice three bedroom McMansion was our new manifest destiny.

So maybe I do understand after all.

Or I’m just so wrong that I think I’m right.

Either way, it is all interesting food for thought.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My apologies

So I just realized that in my last two posts I kind of (but accidentally) made fun of both Japanese culture AND German accents.

Um .. sorry? I guess.

Anyway, since I seem to be on a World War II kick today, here is a picture of D-Day.

Fahrenheit 451 sounds silly.

In my film and Lit class we are reading and watching “Fahrenheit 451” and I thought that it was interesting that the actor playing our rebellious hero (in the super space-age-y 1966 film) has a German accent.

Here is a Youtube video (that someone spent way too much time putting together) with some snippets of the actor (Oskar Werner) talking. Not to offend, but I think that his accent is kind of funny and it makes me giggle. I’m not saying all German accents are ridiculous, but his kinda is.

Anyway … here’s what I said about it all:

Did anyone else find it interesting that in the film version of “Fahrenheit 451” they made Montag German?

At first I thought that it was a not so subtle allusion to Nazism and I thought it was kind of an insensitive choice, but then I spent some more time mulling it over. Since Montag actually rebels against the book burning (and since the director makes a point of showing us that they will be burning Mein Kampf as well) I started to think that maybe making Montag German was actually an attempt to redeem the Germany of its sins in World War II.

Either way, just by choosing to give Montag that accent, the film ties the character (and maybe the whole dystopian society) to the images of Nazi book burning that we are all familiar with.

To be fair, I looked up the movie and discovered that Oskar Werner (the actor playing Montag) was actually Austrian and that during the war he tried to avoid conscription, but when we couldn’t avoid it anymore, he signed up and then quickly deserted. So even if the director wasn’t making a connection between Nazism and the world of “Fahrenheit 451”, surely the connection exists in Werner’s performance.

Did anyone else feel that Montag’s accent alluded to Nazism and maybe redemption? Or am I just crazy?

MUR-DER! Kinda.

So apparently this woman in Japan was angry at her husband (for suddenly divorcing her) and she killed his AVATAR on the RPG that he was a part of!

You just know that this is a super awesomely crazy flaming piece of insanity of the sort that only the Japanese can come up with.

Anyway, just to calm your dystopian nerves, the women was not arrested for virtual murder, they snagged her for (basically) breaking into her husband’s computer.

Here is the article, enjoy:
Super Awesomely Crazy Flaming Piece of Insanity

Friday, October 17, 2008

I miss the West Wing.

As a fanatical West Wing fan, I’m not sure how I feel about this video, but I think that it is pretty funny (mostly because I like Martin Sheen), however I do think that whomever is responsible for these Paris-Hilton-for-fake-President spots has some really good ideas. Too bad that they are hidden behind Paris Hilton.

Anywhoo, enjoy:

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Whatcha' talkin' 'bout David Harvey?

For my Film & Lit class we watched an interview with a Marxist Geographer, Dr. David Harvey. He looks like Santa Claus as a younger man and I would bet that he teaches a mean Geography class.

Well first of all, I think that this Dr. David Harvey is quite an impressive fellow. He is clearly intelligent and more than simply conversant in the topics being discussed. I kind of wish that CNN was more like this, where interesting and intelligent people get to discuss history and ideas, I think that we would all benefit from that.

It made me a little sad when I realized that this clip is from 2004, because I was hoping to hear the Marxist perspective on the current economic problems. Interestingly though, he did talk about the fact that America was in very precarious economic position (in 2004) because most of the actual production of goods was no longer taking place within the country, and that America’s financial and cultural influence was waning. In 2004 that simply would have seemed like an insightful observation, but hearing in now in 2008 made me cringe a little because it is so true.

But at least we still have R&D on our side, as Harvey pointed out. However then he pointed out that the Military Industrial complex is kind of driving that train, which again made me sad.

It was fun, however, to listen to the exposition about the “militarization” of American culture. I had forgotten how afraid all of us on the left were about the PATRIOT Act. And I hadn’t heard anyone talk about Neo-Cons in quite some time. It was like listening to an old mix tape.

Beyond that, I think that quite a lot can be done by the way that Harvey marries the science of geography with the more humane elements of Marxism. I have always felt that there are many good ideas in Marxism and it is refreshing to see someone talking about it without any sort of political agenda. Perhaps I find it refreshing because I have become accustomed to the “debasement of the media” that Harvey talked about.

I was, however, laughing out loud when he said that Americans should learn to accept that it is possible America is no longer as dominant as is it once was in world politics. David Harvey is not only smart and intelligent, but also funny.

Stopping Drunk Emails


GMail now offers 'drunk email protection'.

How many of us could have used this? Well ... whatever ... you just be a Quaker then. I could totally have used this a couple of times.

Read all about it.

And this totally ties into my dystopia class, because what does it mean when we have to invent technology to restrict our OWN behavior?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Clockwork Orange Stuff

In my Film and Lit class we are watching Clockwork Orange. This is a response I posted. We have only watched the first half of the film thus far (though I have seen it before).

I think Christian makes some really interesting points about the way that criminals and the authorities have a weird, symbiotic relationship. I once worked with a guy who had a hard upbringing with some gang affiliation and he told me that he felt the cops were just another gang, but better funded. While I don’t necessarily agree, I think that this really demonstrates the kind of relationship demonstrated in the movie. Alex proves to be intelligent in a Machiavellian way when he deals with his ‘droogs’, however he also demonstrates intelligence in the way that he interacts with the authorities. He says all the right things. Even when he is bloody in the interrogation room, he is trying to convince them that while he committed a crime, it is really the rest of his gang that is more responsible.

It is in fact Alex’s intelligence that I think makes the film most disturbing. He is someone who is smart in his way, but probably feels as though he is above other people. He clearly looks down on his parents and on adults and women and really, everybody. He seems always to be working some angle, even when he is in prison he works as an alter boy and volunteers for the procedure (which we will see on Thursday), because he thinks that it will get him sprung sooner.

As for organized chaos, I’m not sure that I believe that the chaos is organized, as much as it has been operationalized. The system has adapted to accept the violence and chaos rather than address the circumstances that produce it.

Friday, October 3, 2008


So I have the totally awesome tendency of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. I am not ashamed of this.

Today I was catching up on some reading at a little coffee place called Bella Via. It has become my go-to homework coffee shop, even though it is located on that fake strip of out-door shops at the Valencia mall. That place used to piss me off because the whole street has been fabricated to look like a ‘downtown’, so that people can participate in that authentic community experience, while the actual downtown Newhall seems to just kind of quietly limp along. However, I have since gotten over myself. Whatever.

Anyway, I was having my coffee and reading and listening to these older-type guys talking about the bail out-plan and one of them (the youngest of the group) said, “There has never been a better time to already be poor.”

Totally, and sadly, true.

I was talking to my friend The Director today (he has even more debt that I do) and we agreed that we each take some small quantum of solace (ha!) in the fact that at least everyone else is going through the financial ringer too.

When we all end up in debtors’ prison I have dibs on the top bunk!

Shout Outs

Shout out to Violet! You - frankly - rock.

And to those third graders Sarah Palin was talking about!


For Dr. Wexler (or anyone else who wants to email me):