Saturday, December 6, 2003

Tim Robbins pours his anger into an anti-war play

-- just don't call it political theater

A feature on Robbins' new play "Embedded," which appears to be a dark comedy focusing on the mass media portrayal of the Iraq war.


Well-done video by the crew at GNN. Check out their own news-ticker run throughout the video. Music by The Soulsavers

Bush in 2004; The Draft Reinstated in 2005

More war, bloodshed, and misery through January 2009.

Pointing Out Bush's Many Failures is "Hate Speech"?

Give me a break!

The theme du jour this Friday appears to be the double standard. Somehow Republicans and their apologists who refer to the rest of us as "traitors", "cowards", and so on are not engaging in hate speech? Okay. What a twisted little delusional world these people live in. Praise the Lord and pass the thorazine.

Speaking of double-standards, isn't it funny how this whole Rush Limbaugh drug scandal is going down? My favorite quote comes from his lawyer, Roy Black, who asks the eternal question..."Why is Rush Limbaugh only person treated like this in America?" Newsflash: that Jesus Christ pose is not very becoming, Rush. After years of foaming at the mouth about how the government should get medieval on drug abusers' asses, it must really suck to have the government treating him like a drug abuser. Boo hoo. To read more about the siezure of his medical records, go here.

As far as the Bush family goes, they're all bad to the bone. I still love this Barbara Bush quote from Larry King Live this past October: "...don't criticize my children. . .or you're dead." Oh, boo hoo. I'm just quaking in my Doc Martens. Let's just make this perfectly clear: Dubya has been a miserable failure as a President. Take a look at what we have to show for his tenure thus far: a military that has been stretched to its limits in the pursuit of the neocons' twisted vision of paradise; a federal government spending spree that makes me wonder if the White House is modeling its spending habits and priorities on those demonstrated by Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton, and so on; blatant disregard for the very Constitution that this idiot was supposed to defend; and a penchant for pissing off and alienating the vast majority of the rest of the planet. If Barbara ever gets her moment of clarity, perhaps she'll realize that the mess her son has made is one that I, my children, and grandchildren will have to clean up. Suffice it to say, I'm rather pissed off about that prospect. Okay, so, now what? Will "Bar" personally come to my office and kill me now? I'll wait. Maybe she'll have her son talk to God and I'll be struck by lightening? Uh huh...sure. I believe that like I believe she'll ever face up to the truth about her son's performance in the White House.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Never Underestimate the Importance of Grassroots

Dean gets it.

Personal & Political: A continuation

Edgewise has a wonderful continuation of the discussion that David Neiwert (Orcinus) started a few days back. I like the approach Edgewise has: let's look at empirical evidence, and use that as a foundation for effecting positive change. If it's polarization that we want to reduce, Edgewise suggests looking at utilizing various techniques available from the social sciences (he manages to touch on linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience) that have hard data behind them.

An aside: My background has given me a keen appreciation of two components to human understanding. On the one hand, there is the phenomenological component -- our own unique personal experience, or in Lewin's terms our "life space" -- which has been written about and studied extensively by numerous psychologists and fellow travelers from the Gestalt tradition (e.g., Lewin, Kohler) and the Existential/Phenomenological tradition (e.g., Sartre, Merlieu-Ponty), as well as from the object relations theories that are promiment in the Psychoanalytic community (Mahler, Klein). Sharing our personal narratives and perceptions, and understanding something about the processes involved in forming perceptions and personal narratives is necessary. That was what David (Orcinus) did with his original post, and what I tried to do with my own rant on this blog. That said, one of the things that becomes clear from any of the phenomenological literature is that our perceptions can and often are distorted. Hence the need for the second component to understanding: empirical data. At the end of the day, I find myself giving the phenomenological cats their due, but ultimately casting my lot with the empiricist tradition stretching from Locke & Hume all the way to the more modern cats like Skinner, Popper, etc. At some point, I typically step back, and ask if there is data available that will either refute or support my perceptions. And yeah, empirical studies aren't always the most exciting reading, but they do give the astute social activist a foundation upon which to act.


Props to Pandagon's Twenty Most Annoying Conservatives 2003 list.

There are 10 rules to being a campus conservative:

1.) Complain how you're shut out of every forum on campus by going to every forum on campus and using it to complain, prominently.

2.) Complain about how your professors are liberal, even though they grade your work fairly and accurately.

3.) Complain about the use of academic "buzzwords" in course descriptions without having actually taken the course.

4.) Complain about how much everyone else is complaining about your complaining.

5.) Complain about how nobody debates any ideas while strictly limiting your debate to telling everyone else that their ideas are horrible and shut out the ideas you can't actually elucidate.

6.) Complain about how the cable system doesn't carry Fox News, and complain when you get it but someone else signed up to watch Monday Night Football.

7.) Complain about campus oppression, and then inaccurately throw activist buzzwords at every liberal you can find.

8.) Complain about how you can't get spaces or funds to bring conservative speakers to campus to complain about the lack of conservative ideas on campus, ignoring that the space you wanted was taken months in advance by other groups.

9.) Take Econ 101. Complain about everything in barely informed economic terms.

10.) Complain about every stupid thing done on campus in terms of liberalism, no matter how apolitical it is. Bonus points if you can blame oversleeping for your 8:30 class on Paul Krugman.

See how easy it is? And it takes advantage of the natural talent that every collegian has, regardless of race, creed, income level or background: bitching about shit.

"No Shit, Sherlock"

No Doubts Global Warming Is Real, U.S. Experts Say

So will the party of Bu$hco get a clue? Don't bet on it.

Do the Democrats Need the South?

Can Democrat presidential candidates win elections while losing the Southern states? Quite possibly yes. How dependent are Southern states on Federal funds? Very much so.

Things that make you go hmmmm.

The America of George W. Bush

It sure ain't pretty.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

He's Not Dead Yet...

I'm recovering from flu and bronchitis. Got antibiotics yesterday for the latter, and something called Tamiflu for the former. I'm not feeling fantastic yet, but definitely better than recently.

'fighting liberal'

Excellent post by Steve Gilliard.

Bottom of the barrel

Just another friendly reminder that oil extraction will peak fairly soon. The optimists say 2037: those more realistic suggest that we're looking at the peak to occur within the decade, possibly as soon as next year. Our current consumption is simply unsustainable. Why are we not seriously addressing the development of alternative energy sources? Will my children's generation have enough time to address a situation which mine (as well as the baby boomers and their elders) has refused to address?

Monday, December 1, 2003

[grid::brand] Some thoughts on "Brand"

(Flu or no, I will at least manage a few words for today's grid blog)

(update: okay, I'm going to clean this up a little. Still battling the flu, but life goes on)

A brand to me is something of a social category: in this case a social category applied to commerce. Brands, like other social categories are useful in allowing humans to maximize their knowledge with relatively minimal cognitive effort. We humans have been described as cognitive misers and/or motivated tacticians in the way that we seek out information. We're cognitive misers in the sense that our capacity to consciously handle information (also known as short-term memory) is extremely limited, and the more we have to consciously pay attention to, the slower we become at processing information. We're motivated tacticians to the extent that we generally have some idea of what we're seeking, and search specifically to find what we're looking for.

Brands, then, simplify the perceived world of the individual by communicating succinctly the information they seek regarding a product, with minimal effort required on the part of the individual consumer. One sees the name "Levis" and one has an almost instant idea of their jeans, their price, their quality, and so on.

There are some limitations inherent in brands (and more generally to social categories). The socially shared meaning of a brand will depend considerably on such factors as culture, subculture, socio-economic status, time, and so on. In some circles the brand may be simply meaningly, whereas in other circles the brand may be assigned a different meaning than what was once intended.

The concept of "brand" is also one that is "fuzzy." Recall Wittgenstein's discussion of the definition of "game." It turns out that there are numerous activities that could be labelled "games" that are radically different from one another. Wittgenstein refers to exemplars within a category as having family resemblances, and just as not all family members look alike (and in fact may in some cases look radically different), exemplars within a category may also be quite different. Is a brand symbolic of the company? Or is it a specific product? What about someone having a "brand" of coaching or playing basketball? Billy Joel has trademarked his name. Does that mean that he is a brand? Can a brand transcend the originating manufacturer altogether? In the case of "xerox" that would appear to be the case. Even within a brand, there may be some variations among products. Again they may have some family resemblances, but some exemplars may be rather different from others within the category. During SST's heydey during the early and mid 1980s, there's little doubt that bands such as Black Flag and Minutemen were prototypical of the SST sound. Other bands and artists fit in to varying degrees during their stay with the label, but some seemed rather odd fits: Zoogs Rift? Negativeland? Still, I imagine that Greg Ginn must have figured that there was a family resemblance somewhere and that these artists too would fit in with the zeitgeist of the label.

And of course brands, like other social categories, are fluid or dynamic. They tend to transform over time, and hence their socially shared meaning will transform over time. Blue Note, during its heyday from about 1955-1968, was well-known as a leading distributor of jazz artists in the hardbop tradition. As the 1960s progressed, label went from seeming some what hip to somewhat conservative, and the ultimately the label transformed itself into a primarily jazz-funk & fusion label (which its artists were not well-suited for, and the label folded, though its comeback in recent years has been quite welcome).

My last point is that brands, like other social categories, are ultimately limited in terms of what they can tell us, while leaving out other potentially important information. They act as rules of thumb that allow us to predict what we will get if we purchase one of the brand's products, but there is the possibility of our expectations being violated. Volvo may make high-quality cars, but the brand itself tells one nothing of the potentially of ending up with a faulty product (it happens, though rarely). Better brands, like better social categories, allow us to make accurate judgments more often (better in this sense does not refer to quality, but merely the extent to which the brand signals sufficient information to us to make a correct decision).

Sunday, November 30, 2003

From the "I've Got the Suds" Department

Apparently I have managed to come down with the strain of the flu that my flu shot does not protect me against. So, I've been quite ill the last few days. Hopefully will be back to full blogging capacity in a few days.