An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

August 10, 2010

Conservapedia: Propaganda or Performance Art?

Is there anyone among us who hasn’t gotten a little tipsy at the club, stumbled home safely, and spent an hour or two laughing their nether regions off at Conservapedia?

I didn’t think so.

I know I’m a little late to the party with this story from Talking Points Memo, which relates the tale of Conservapedia founder and second-generation douchebag Andy  Schafly’s inability to remember the difference between general relativity and moral relativism. Whatever, I’m sure even after someone explains the difference to him, he’ll still believe that understanding deep physics leads people away from Jesus (which, ok, there may be some correlation/causation there), and that that means Einstein must have been wrong. Luckily, Conservapedians were able to snark right back, with this mathematically & logically sound bit of self-referencing on their main page:

Counterexamples to the Bible 0
Counterexamples to Evolution 60
IQ of Atheists 0 divided by 60

Oh, snap! Zero divided by 60! That’s gotta be less than regular zero!

But there’s so much more to love about the internet’s most fake encyclopedia. You could go for the obvious, reading the reality-challenged articles on feminism, atheism, gay rights, Obama’s birth certificate, or other far-right hobbyhorses. But the real genius is the care with which they’ve fabricated delusional alternate-universe explanations for  innocent seeming topics.  Did you know that liberals lie about certain species of North American cactus being endangered, so we can up the supply of peyote? (to be fair, they seem to have deleted the entire article on cacti to hide their shame on that one) Or that Dodos might have gone extinct all of their own? Or that the bible proves the existence of unicorns? Unicorns, people. Normally I’d say don’t feed their egos, but this is some seriously worthwhile comedy reading. Just look at today’s top pages:

Most viewed pages
Main Page 8,067,661
Atheism 4,940,958
Homosexuality 3,565,061
Barack Hussein Obama 1,429,644
Wikipedia 924,932
Adolf Hitler 822,325
Sarah Palin 771,927
Liberal 721,863
Examples of Bias in Wikipedia 688,911
John McCain 585,396

Barack Hussein Obama! Adolf Hitler! Sarah Palin! In that order!

Hours of crying while laughing (followed by laughing while crying) are at your fingertips, thanks to the magic of the internet. Welcome to the future.

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July 29, 2010

Never Saw it Coming

I was reading this editorial about the Shirley Sherrod debacle at the Nation by Melissa Harris Lacewell, when a little thought crossed my mind. Breitbart* must have assumed, on some level, that this would work. Riding high from his attacks on ACORN, and having suffered little blowback when his minions tried to tap a freaking Senator’s phone, I doubt he expected his frame-up of an obscure Obama administration official to backfire. There are a lot of variables there, most of which he correctly calculated–that the administration would react out of fear immediately (see Van Jones), that the media would give him press. There were only a few places where things didn’t go as expected: Sherrod stood up for herself rather than back away quietly, and the family she was accused of discriminating against stood up for her.

A lot has already been said about this whole thing, more completely and eloquently than I can say it. But reading Harris-Lacewell’s article, one thing stands out. Brietbart must have assumed that the poor white family in question, the Spooners,  wouldn’t come forward. That either they were redneck Georgia nobodies who wouldn’t notice they were being used in a blogospheric/inside-the-beltway scandal, or that they would stay silent if they did. What he did not anticipate was that they’d put their human decency and friendship with Sherrod ahead of racial loyalty, and call up CNN to tell the nearest reporter what was what.

In the Teabagger Mythos, it’s basically unthinkable that anyone with such impeccable Real Americans ™ credentials as the Spooners (Farmers? Check. White? Check. From an especially Real American state? Check. And so on)  would have a 20 year friendship with a federal official. It’s impossible that they would regard a woman of color who had any sort of power over them with anything but the rankest contempt, no matter how she used that power–even if it was to save their asses in a time of crisis.

Now, I don’t think they deserve endless reams of praise for this. I doubt there was any risk for them in doing so. And between Brietbart’s outright lying and everything Sherrod had done for them, it’s more like they would have been horrible people for not stepping forward. And it’s not fair that their word should carry so much weight, above Sherrod’s own, and even when the unedited video of her actual remarks is readily available.

But I will say this: When poor white farmers in Georgia build relationships with their black neighbors, and when they put defending those friends ahead of letting some white guy across the country exploit them for political gain, the conservative movement in America will be fucked. I dare say they never saw it coming.

*I am assuming Brietbart intentionally posted an edited video to attack Sherrod. The subtext, of course, insinuated that under the Obama administration the USDA would discriminate against white farmers, when in fact the USDA has a long history of discrimination against farmers of color, and moreover Sherrod was working for an independent group when she helped the Spooners find the bankruptcy lawyer who helped them keep their farm.

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July 19, 2010

Rainbow Cocktail

Filed under: DIY,media and pop culture — Tags: — Ethan @ 9:53 pm

The Craft Magazine blog shared this lovely mix drink–a simple enough mix drink poured over rainbow-colored ice cubes. This may be gayer than mint juleps. My summer drinking plans have just changed.

Also, this could go great with some lovely 6 layer rainbow cake

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July 17, 2010

Periodic Table of Profanity

Filed under: funny,media and pop culture — Tags: , , — Ethan @ 6:02 pm

Those of you who know me well or are on the receiving end of my Google Reader barrage have noticed that I like periodic tables. Especially ones composed of things other then elements. This is my favorite of the week:

It’s a magnificent, apparently British thing, from the Interrogative series to the variations on Sodding. My only complaint is that the color-coded series only correspond loosely to their content.

And in all fairness to my content-thieving, I should mention that you can buy print over this away, and that I saw this first on the excellent blog Man Made DIY.

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July 5, 2010

Zombies and the Collective Unconscious

Filed under: funny,media and pop culture — Tags: , , — Ethan @ 7:58 pm

I was hanging out with a friend tonight, and at some point I somehow wound up mentioning my recurring zombie dreams. I have a lot of different dreams about zombies, one every month or two.  Mostly, I’m being chased by zombies. Once or twice I was a zombie, one of which ended just as I was being sentenced to 6-8 years in prison for ‘attempted zombification’ of someone I’d tried to take a harmless little chunk out of.

My favorite is also the most elaborate. It spans several years. Basically,  a RAGE-virus style zombie apocalypse hit Athens. Lots of people became zombies, even more fled, and I managed to hold out with a couple dozen people, promptly availing ourselves of the nicest abandoned houses and cars in town. After a few months, the zombies got bored or hungry and wandered out of town. We planted gardens. Had picnics. Began to rebuild.

And then the zombie-virus epidemic waned out. After a few years of bloodthirsty brain-eating, people’s immune systems were able to fight it off. Pale, scabby recovering zombies started wandering in to town, not remembering much, but apologizing like hell for what they could remember. “Dude, I…uh…I’m sorry I ate your sister. I just couldn’t stop. I feel terrible.” And the survivors, who had been gleefully popping off any shuffling corpse that came this side of the horizon felt wave after wave of guilt. No one had really stopped to question if the zombies had lost their humanity for good. Many people had killed their own undead loved ones. It hadn’t taken very long at all to even stop thinking of them as former people.

We had to process with the zombies. It was fucking awkward. More than a few of the survivors started muttering that we should spare ourselves the trouble and see if we couldn’t kill the rest before they recovered.

My friend seemed to think this is one obvious permutation that hasn’t really been done before, and was prodding me into writing it up as a short story or something.

There’s the I Am Legend thing, where the zombies are supposed to be intelligent, but they’re certainly not *people.* We talked for a bit about the ways it’s telling that zombie attacks are the pop culture trope of the moment.

Alien attacks, and monsters, are perfectly cold-war. You have an adversary who’s sentient, malicious, and totally not human. A perfect chance for straight-up good guys vs bad guys, no ambiguity, and the sides are clearly demarcated. Plus, with aliens, it’s a good bet the humans are gonna need some pretty spiffy weaponry, to stand a chance against shockingly well armed, diplomacy-disinterested invaders.

But zombie movies are all about having the masses of people around you turn against you. You get to have to open fire into the crowd, inure yourself to killing your neighbors at any chance, and leave modern society behind.  I love zombie movies as much as the next guy, but seriously. There is some creepy shit under there.

And on that note, it’s past my bedtime. What do y’all think?

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July 4, 2010

World Cup Storytime

Filed under: funny,media and pop culture — Tags: , , — Ethan @ 11:17 pm

I love storytelling. I’m a connoisseur and shameless plagiarist of anecdotes, and lately, I’ve started writing them down here and there. This one comes from Len. I suspect the reporter bit is bullshit, but it was fun to listen to.

Sometime in the late 60′s, early 70′s,* West Germany and the UK were facing off at the World Cup final. The game teams were well matched, and the game was tied (2-2) and not going anywhere fast as they headed into extra time.

Until  the UK team kicked a goal. Almost. The ball hit the underside of the goalpost, bounced straight down to the ground, and ricocheted clear of the goal.  The ball hit hit West Germany’s goal, but it hadn’t exactly gone into the net. The British fans were alternately thrilled and crushed, and the Germans waited nervously for the ball to be officially called out.  The swiss ref was baffled, looking around to his linemen in the hopes someone had had a clear view.  Right away, a Soviet ref called it–in. Point to Brittan. The fans go insane, with the Germans trying to fight the call from the stands, and the English settling in for some preemptive celebrating. The clock ran down. England scored another point over the dejected Germans, and won what is still their only World Cup. The German team left, angry and dejected.

After the game, a reporter from the BBC managed to corner the ref. “That was certainly a controversial call. Many of the fans are questioning your judgment, saying it’s not possible the ball could have gone into the next before bouncing out. Tell me, what did you see from your place on the field that was different, that convinced you to make that call?”

The ref nodded along intensely with the reporter, watching his lips and trying to follow his English over the background roar. But when the correspondent finished his rambling question, the ref turned away from him, looked straight into the camera, and said

“Stanlingrad.”

******************************************************************

The national stadium of Azerbaijan is named after him. Purportedly, Queen Elizabeth later gave him a golden whistle for his “services to England.”

*It was 1966. Details of the game in question are entry #2 here.

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June 4, 2010

Propaganda for your Pants

Filed under: feminism,gender,media and pop culture — Tags: , , , , , — Ethan @ 7:31 pm

A little while ago, I got the chance to tour parts of the CDC. While waiting for our contact to come and lead us through the impressive maze of the place, we killed a few moments wandering around the main attraction of the Visitor’s Center: the CDC’s museum to itself.

At the time, their temporary exhibit was a retrospective of STI public health campaigns. It was fascinating stuff, from the now-quaint syphilis scares to the deep, deep disgust with women’s sexuality.  (Note: all these images are from Mother Jones recent retrospective of military propaganda The Enemy in Our Pants, which inspired this post. Check it out)

Yeeeeah. I love a good pun, but seriously. Booby Trap? Are you fucking kidding me? There are pulp novels from the same time period with classier covers. This is a hairs breadth away from suggesting that woman’s vagina is a spear-lined pit covered in palm fronds. And they go on like that, one after another, warning innocent men of the horrible, horrible things that could befall their precious wieners, should they get too close to any of the local ladies.

Well, except maybe for this one. Made for the British public just before the US sent a massive wave of troops in to prepare for D-Day, it puts the blame squarely on the hoards of apple-cheeked, sex crazed GI’s.

The other thing that really caught my attention was the  stark difference between a lot of the first-generation PSA’s and the ones that came later–the first syphillis treatment ads basically just said “Hey, did you know you could stop having syphillis? Ask your doctor!” Which, given all the havoc untreated syphilis can cause, was probably all they needed to say.

Similarly, the posters from the pan-African smallpox eradication campaign all translated to variations on “If you go to your local clinic and get vaccinated, you won’t ever get smallpox. Bring the kids!” with matching illustrations of a friendly-looking man in a lab coat holding a minimally intimidating vaccine gun, followed by happy families celebrating their smallpoxlessness. I mean, that shit pretty much sells itself, right?

But by the 60′s, one US ad for the oral polio vaccine mentioned its ‘great taste.’ Which is nice and all (I’m guessing it was for the polio vaccine carried on sugarcubes ) but seriously? Even if it tasted like rotting shark asshole, it keeps you from getting polio. There’s no question about whether it’s worth it.

Yeesh. Americans.

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June 1, 2010

The Baffler Rides Again

Filed under: media and pop culture — Tags: , , — Ethan @ 1:40 am

I started reading The Baffler magazine when I was in middle school. It took all my directionless, smug youthful cynicism and molded it into the carefully honed cynicism I carry with me to this day. Their unique mode of business culture criticism taught me to think clearly about when and where capitalism played into my own adolescent longing for subcultural authenticity. To admire the activist efforts of generations past, as well as their baroque snarkiness. But more than anything else, that magazine probably saved me from the lifelong humiliation of having had a full-blown, Ayn-Rand-reading  libertarian phase–I was the exact sort of too smart for my own good, but not smart enough to realize my flaws, brat who falls for that sort of thing for, oh, 2-50 years.

And, well, 14 year old me thought the whole catching the NY Times printing fake ‘grunge’ slang thing was pretty funny.

Of course, after the building that housed the Baffler’s office burned in 2001, the magazine was put on a wobbly hiatus  (I actually only recently discovered they’d published atall after the fire), which seemed likely to last–it seemed fitting to me that the magazine’s coma began just after the dot-com bubble burst. I remember thinking ‘Well, what would they write about now, anyway?’

Plenty, as it turns out. They’re back in semi-annual business, they have some full articles online, a blog full of fucking novella-length goodies (including some worthwhile reprints), and they’re selling subscriptions. Go do it. I will.

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April 23, 2009

Adorable Bioluminescent Puppies will Haunt your Dreams

Filed under: funny,media and pop culture — Tags: , — Ethan @ 11:20 am

Researchers in South Korea have cloned a beagle, complete with an added gene that makes the dog glow bright red under UV light.  Why? Well, it’s mostly a proof-of-concept; bioluminescence genes are commonly used as markers in genetic research, since they’re fairly easy to work with and can be added without interfering with other cell functions. Head researcher Byeong-Chun Lee (his name may be familiar, as he was caught falsifying results in other cloning studies) says this is the first step toward engineering dogs that are better subjects for human disease studies. Which, frankly, sounds a lot less cute than glow-in-the-dark labrodoodles.

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May 17, 2008

The Right Wing Says Soy Makes You Gay

Thanks to Bria for sending this my way. The article is old, but it’s some pretty amazing fear-mongering from a popular right-wing news blog thing. I’d never heard of ‘em before, but Wikipedia says it’s big. The guy says he’s warning parents about the risks of endocrine disrupters, but he gets it all wrong. For starters, apparently soy foods are the only source of estrogen mimics out there. Not biphenol-a, not DDT, not whatever DES might still be floating around out there. Just soy. Take a look:

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t homosexual.” No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can’t remember a time when excess estrogen wasn’t influencing them.

So, what is all that hippy food doing to our children? He mentions the toll endocrine disruptor can do to one’s fertility, and the sharp uptick in cancer amongst people who have been exposed to synthetic estrogens (not naturally-occurring phytoestrogens, like those in soy) early in life. But all of that pales in comparison to the fear of effeminizing little boys. And, apparently, here’s not difference between beingintersex, being a ‘feminine male’ and being gay. No matter that the assertion that gay men have a testosterone deficiency/estrogen surplus was disproved the moment someone developed a handy way to test hormone levels. Giving gay men extra testosterone just makes them want to have more gay sex, since testosterone tends to up your sex drive.

Honestly, I couldn’t stomach reading all 5 parts. I have a short attention span, and I’d need to artificially extend it to wade through all that psudoscience. Plus I can’t even figure out who this guy’s misinterpreting, because all his citation either lead back to the home page of the site, or to a 404 error. Which I guess says it all.

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