Sunday, November 30, 2008

Scientologists, I've got my eye on you

Last week a 48 year old Oregon man decided to seek vengeance upon the Los Angeles Church of Scientology's Celebrity Center the only way an ex-member/ninja could: charging into the building while flailing samurai swords and thus creating his own "Battlefield Earth" of sorts. The highly angered man, also wielding "violent verbage" according to investigators, was quickly shot dead on the scene by security.

I really have been struck by the lack of reports regarding the details of the events within this "center of celebrities" of sorts. I just don't know whether or not the security officers were justified in fatally shooting this man. I do understand that seeing a man handling such swords in a "samurai-type way" (the investigator's words), would be cause for great concern and thus drastic self-defense measures. However...

I'm just going to say it you guys: I suspect foul play. If it comes down to measuring the sanity and sound judgement of the Church of Scientology vs. that of the man described below, I'm siding with the ninja dude (may he RIP). And I absolutely don't see anything wrong with that.

Florence man shot in L.A. a 'crazy freak of sorts'

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FLORENCE, Ore. (AP) — A neighbor remembers Mario Majorski, the man fatally shot Sunday in Los Angeles after wielding samurai swords at a Scientology building, as a “gentle, somewhat crazy freak of sorts.”

Nevertheless, Majorski has had a number of run-ins with Oregon law enforcement and was reportedly acting oddly just weeks before he showed up in California.

Jim Cannon, who lives in a house just across the street from Majorski’s home here, met him this spring and helped him paint his fence. Despite Majorski’s shaved head and neck tattoos, Cannon said he wasn’t “a menacing sort of guy.”

If anything, Cannon said, “I found him very comical.”

Majorski, 48, moved among rock n’ roll circles in Eugene, Cannon said.

Though a Scientology spokesman said Majorski had threatened the church in a string of incidents dating to at least 2005, Cannon said he never heard Majorski, a former member of the church, say anything critical about it.

The two men talked about Scientology, Cannon said. He got the impression that Majorski was disappointed with Scientology.

His record with Oregon police, however, describes a different man.

Majorski was released from the Lane County Jail due to overcrowding two weeks ago, the same day he was arrested by Eugene police on charges of criminal trespass and harassing a police officer at the Executive House Motel, according to The Register-Guard.

Majorski also has previously been convicted of stalking a Lane County judge, the paper reported.

In another example of his troubles with the law, Majorski was arrested in late October after threatening a man offering roadside assistance, according to Florence police.

On the morning of Oct. 26, Majorski made a call to the American Automobile Association for roadside assistance saying he had run out of gas on the road where he lived.

When the AAA driver, Doug Bushwar, arrived, he reportedly found Majorski standing next to his truck with a number of “small kids toys lined up in a row on the street” behind him.

When Bushwar walked toward the truck, Majorski yelled at him to stay where he was.

Bushwar told police that he tried to get Majorski to calm down, but when the man “grabbed a hand-held ax from his vehicle and held it in a threatening manner,” Bushwar left and called the authorities.

A police officer showed up about 25 minutes later to find Majorski walking on the road. When the officer asked him to talk with him, Majorski reportedly threatened to shoot if he came any closer.

Then, Majorski walked into his house, yelling and cursing.

After a minute, Majorski “came to a window and told me to come talk to him there” the officer reported.

Majorski then told the officer he had hostages in the house. When another officer showed up to help, Majorski threatened to shoot the officers and told them he also had explosives, according to the police report.

Majorski later came back outside “yelling and screaming for us to leave.”

The two officers moved in slowly and handcuffed him.

Police found no hostages or explosives in the house.

About a week later, police arrested Majorski again after he disrupted a Mormon Church service in Florence.

Police say Majorski entered the church on Nov. 2, “cursing and moving around a lot.”

He was asked to leave but did not, said Sarah Huff, spokeswoman with the Florence police department.

Police arrested him outside the church on charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

From TNS Manifesto

Irony and The New Sincerity

A great culture war is afoot, upon yon indecipherable horizons. Joan Didion, the NYT and others are others are declaring, as many did in the aftermath of 9/11, that irony is dead. As Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter said in 2001: "There's going to be a seismic change. I think it's the end of the age of irony."

And just today, in the NYT's "Irony Is Dead. Again. Yeah, Right.":

"A Nexis search found that the incidence of the words 'irony,' 'ironic' and 'ironically' in major American newspapers during the two-week period beginning Nov. 6 slipped 19 percent from the same period last year."

Critics point to the new-found optimism, "New Sincerity" if you will (and I will) as a side effect of all this Obama hoopla (Obopla, if you will--and again, I will).

But I really can't blame them for such a fright. This blog poster was very taken aback by the sight of 200+ hipsters in the Mission on election night, standing on cars and wearing flag paraphernalia, shouting "U-S-A!" "U-S-A!" in a completely unironic manner. Can we have a president whose mug has been sported on tote bags, t-shirts and by the graffiti artists?

Yes we can. And I do believe we must. But I think that irony is not dead. Editor of The Onion, Joe Randazzo, told the NYT:

“After eight years of the Bush administration, where irony was almost a measure of desperation — maybe now that people have seen something happen they never thought possible, their sarcasm processors have kind of gone into shock." But Randazzo also notes, "We never know what will be the next dumb thing to satirize--that's the beauty of the thing."

A former Banana Slug/student media peer of mine from Santa Cruz, Jesse Thorn, wrote a manifesto in 2006 about "The New Sincerity" movement for his radio show, "The Sound of Young America." In it, he describes the progression of the acceptance of sincerity, which is described as "being more awesome" with the lifestyle choice of "maximum fun."

However, the key caveat being that TNS is not a countermovement to irony. That is to say:

"...Think of it as irony and sincerity combined like Voltron, to form a new movement of astonishing power. Or think of it as the absence of irony and sincerity, where less is (obviously) more. If those strain the brain, just think of Evel Knievel.

Let's be frank. There's no way to appreciate Evel Knievel literally. Evel is the kind of man who defies even fiction, because the reality is too over the top. Here is a man in a red-white-and-blue leather jumpsuit, driving some kind of rocket car. A man who achieved fame and fortune jumping over things. Here is a real man who feels at home as Spidey on the cover of a comic book. Simply put, Evel Knievel boggles the mind.

But by the same token, he isn't to be taken ironically, either. The fact of the matter is that Evel is, in a word, awesome. His jumpsuit looks great. His stunts were amazing. As he once said of his own life: "I've had every airplane, every ship, every yacht, every racehorse, every diamond, and probably, with the exception of two or three, every woman I wanted in my lifetime. I've lived a better life than any king or prince or president." And as patently ridiculous as those words are, they're pretty much true."

Irony and The New Sincerity. Long live both.
A Performance

Warning: Before viewing the following footage of the inhumanly awesome Ms. Tandi Iman Dupree, bare in mind that there will be two questions that you will soon find yourself asking...yourself: what was my life like before I viewed this dance routine from the 2001 Miss Black American competition; and what was it like after.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

I can't find much about this tranny dancer on the internets, but there does seem to be a fair amount of talk about her being deceased--I do not know how. And I do not know if she won this competition. By god I hope she won.

(Oh thank you, my god thank you John W. for introducing me to this).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

O'Reilly wants to turn San Francisco into salt

Today I saw this pseudo-mentary about my beloved City By the Bay, courtesy of the Bill O'Reilly show: "O'Reilly Factor."

It made me mad you guys. My grandmother, among others, will watch this trash and think that my city is nothing but a village of homeless crackheads, Rastafarian anarchists and transvestite hookers; a melting pot of heathens. I mean, any "reporter" can go to any major city in the world and talk to people that seem like they're messed up on drugs and--through the magic of documentarian art--transform them into representatives and spokespersons from the aforementioned metropolis.

This both angered and troubled me immensely. Then I remembered how absurdly bigoted and asinine Bill O'Reilly is, and the anger seemed extremely wasteful.

(From 2005):

O'REILLY: Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

Yeah, can't wait for you and Dennis Miller to turn us all into salt, MORON!!!!

Monty Python's 'Dead Parrot sketch' turns 1600

From The Telegraph:

A classic scholar has proved the point, by unearthing a Greek version of the world-famous piece that is some 1,600 years old.

A comedy duo called Hierocles and Philagrius told the original version, only rather than a parrot they used a slave.

It concerns a man who complains to his friend that he was sold a slave who dies in his service.

His companion replies: "When he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

The joke was discovered in a collection of 265 jokes called Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which dates from the fourth century AD.

Hierocles had gone to meet his maker, and Philagrius had certainly ceased to be, long before John Cleese and Michael Palin reinvented the yarn in 1969.

Their version featured Cleese as an exasperated customer trying to get his money back from Palin's stubborn pet salesman.

Cleese's character becomes increasingly frustrated as he fails to convince the shopkeeper that the 'Norwegian Blue' is dead.

The manuscripts from the Greek joke book have now been published in an online book, featuring former Bullseye presenter and comic Jim Bowen presenting them to a modern audience.

Mr Bowen said: "One or two of them are jokes I've seen in people's acts nowadays, slightly updated.

"They put in a motor car instead of a chariot - some of them are Tommy Cooper-esque."

Jokes about wives, it seems, have always been fair game.

One joke goes: "A man tells a well-known wit: 'I had your wife, without paying a penny'. The husband replies: "It's my duty as a husband to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?"

The book was translated by William Berg, an American classics professor.

(Thanks Shawne F)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Canuck cowboys? Not quite, but nice try!

Amity and Bobby plan a birthday trip

(Note: My birthday is coming up in less than three months. Me and my friend Bobby discuss. )

A: I think I want to go to New Orleans, where the people will be more depressed than me. Plus, there's Mardis Gras around that time.

How about a train trip through Canada? We could go to the most eastern region we can afford, and then take a train trip back to Vancouver.

A: Why don't we just do that in America? There's more diversity, and cowboys! I mean, the only cities that I would want to go to are Montreal and Vancouver. I've already done Vancouver and it was boring.

B: Yeah, when I think about it, I went to a lot of Canadian cities with the airlines and I wasn't excited about any of them.

A: But you want to take a weeks-long train trip through all of them.

B: Yeah. It's just that...who does that? You can tell people you did it, and they won't know why you did it.

A: You raise a good point.

B: Put that in your hat and sit on it..

A: You want me to sit on my hat?

B: Yeah, sit on your hat and think about taking a trip through Canada.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This is what a stupid apathetic hipster looks like

Walking around Dolores Park a few hours after an anti-Prop 8 demonstration at city hall.
(Sign reads: OMG WTF SRSLY?)
"William Ayers, in the age of terrorism, will be Barack Obama's Willie Horton."
--Former counterterrorism official Larry C. Johnson, The Huffington Post, Feb. 16, 2008.

Ayers Can Speak For Himself

On Friday Bill Ayers, along with his wife and fellow Weather Underground member, Bernadine Dohrn, sat down to talk with Democracy Now! to actually explain their relations (or lack thereof) with Barack Obama, the Weather Underground, and the progressive movement in general.

Obviously, Bill Ayers did not turn out to be Obama's Willie Horton. And Karl Rove is no Lee Atwater--the puppeteer behind the Willie Horton ad believed to have cost Michael Dukakis the presidential win in '88. Further, Ayers and Dohrn are not present-day terrorists. They may have committed questionable acts that did not kill or harm anyone--performed while Barack Obama was in grade school--but to say that their current day association with Barack Obama in any way indicates that Obama is radical isn't just irrational, it's racist.

To hear Ayers and Dohrn speak today is both inspiring and enlightening. Dohrn gave critical contextual information about the political climate that her organization was responding to--namely the slaying of members of the Black Panther Party at the hands of a corrupt police force; a corrupt justice system. And Ayers is truly inspiring when speaking about his hope for the future of education and this country.

I hope Palin and all the other right-wing naysayers keep bringing Ayers up. I hope his name conjures images of a '60s radical turned progressive pioneer one day, rather than the myth that this professor, activist, and father is somehow a danger to society.

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue with our Democracy Now! exclusive, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, in this first joint interview with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn since the Obama campaign has ended. They joined us from a studio in Chicago. Bill Ayers spoke about being at Grant Park the night Barack Obama was elected president.

BILL AYERS: It was an extraordinary feeling. I’ve been in a lot of large crowds in my life, but I’ve never been in one that didn’t either have an edge of anger or a lot of drunkenness or kind of performance. This was all unity, all love. And what people were celebrating was this milestone, which was sweet and exciting and important. But they were also celebrating—there was—you could kind of cut the relief in people’s feelings with a knife. I mean, it was the sense that we were going to leave behind the era of 9/11 and the era of fear and war without end and repression and constitutional shredding and scapegoating of gay and lesbian people, on and on. And there we were, millions, in the park, representing everybody, hugging, dancing, carrying on right in the spot, forty years ago, where many of us were beaten and dragged to jail. It was an extraordinary feeling.

I don’t think at this moment we should be getting into at all the business of trying to read the mind of the President-elect and see where we, you know, might do this or that. The question is, as Bernadine is saying, how do we build the movement on the ground that demands peace, that demands justice? This is always the question. It’s happening—the question is being raised in a new context. So how do—you know, I often think, thinking historically, Lyndon Johnson wasn’t the civil rights movement, but he was an effective politician who passed civil rights legislation. FDR wasn’t a labor leader. Lincoln didn’t belong to an abolitionist party. They all responded to something going on on the ground. And in a lot of ways, we have to get beyond—progressive people have to get beyond the idea that we’re waiting for a savior. We’re not waiting for a savior. We need to transform ourselves, transform our movements, reach out to one another and build an irresistible social force for change...

...JUAN GONZALEZ: —and talk a little bit about how you evolved from the period of Weathermen. Obviously, you were fugitives for awhile, then you came above-ground and settled your problems with the law. You became a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a leader of the reform movement in education in that city. This whole issue of public education and what you see as what needs to be done in public education to revamp our public school system, and what you would hope an Obama presidency would address?

BILL AYERS: You know, I think we’ve suffered so much in the last decades, really, under the wrong way of thinking about education, education reform, foreign policy, the economy, so much of the kind of meta-narrative, or the dominant discourse, is so mistaken and so misplaced. And a lot of what I’m—what I have fought for and what I am struggling for is simply to say, let’s change the frame on education.

I can give you a couple of simple examples. When somebody says, as people said in this campaign, “We really need to get the rotten teachers out of the classroom,” I mean, immediately we all kind of nod dully. But if somebody said, instead of that frame, somebody said, “What we really need is for every child to be in a classroom with a thoughtful, well-educated, caring, intellectual, well-compensated and well-rested teacher,” we’d all nod to that, too.

So, the question is, who gets to set the agenda? To me, the agenda for education in the last couple of decades has been so wrongheaded, because it’s been based on the idea that we do our best with a lot of competition, which is very narrowly conducted and highly supervised and surveilled. That, to me, is the wrong model for democratic education. In fact, the way I think we have to ask the question is, since all of us, no matter—educational leaders, no matter where they are—the old Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, medieval Saudi Arabia—we all agree that the kids should do their homework, not do drugs, be in school, learn the subject matters.

So what makes education in a democracy distinct? And I would argue that what makes education in a democracy distinct is that we don’t educate for obedience and conformity; we educate for initiative and courage. We educate for imagination and hope and possibility. And we recognize that the full development of each person requires the full development of all people. Or another way of saying it is, the full development of all is the condition whereby we can educate each. And that shifting of the frame is so important. And frankly, I’m hopeful that in this period of rising expectations, of rethinking so much, that this is where we can go.

The second half of the interview will air tomorrow on Pacifica Radio.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Great American Civil Rights Leaders

The Daily Show's John Oliver, on the Obama victory, via The Bugle:

I’ll tell you the real unsung hero here: President Bush. He has managed to screw up the country so badly that America is now ready for a black president. There is no way that would be happening if he wasn’t so absolute in his incompetence.

In many ways, he’s a pioneering civil rights leader. He’s like Rosa Parks, if Rosa Parks had instead of refusing to go to the back of the bus, had become a poorly-qualified bus driver, had crashed almost every bus in Montgomery into a ditch, to the point where no one wanted to ride the bus anymore, and black people were therefore free to sit where they wanted.

They each had their methods; but they each did great things.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama apologizes for "messing up your game"

Palin at her Wasilla office homecoming

The Storm After the Quiet

The good news about Obama has at times seemed completely unreal. A part of me has had such a difficult time believing all the good news: Palin's shaming, Lieberman's shaming, the potential closing of Guantanamo, the 200 some odd Bush policies to be overtured immediately including stem cell research and the gag rule on international family planning ...I still have a difficult time believing it. Every time I see Obama on tv, I imagine McCain up there, continuing the Bush tradition of posing and doing absolutely nothing to advance the nation. It's mindblowing to think that we could have a president that will try to help our country, and the world, rather than harm it.

But my concern about all of this good news (not to be a complete killjoy) is that a lot of issues--both domestic and international--may fall by the wayside or become outright ignored by the US media. One such is the refugee problem. Today I decided to blog about Iraq refugees as part of the Bloggers Unite effort to raise awareness for refugees.

Remember "Operation Iraqi Freedom" --yeah, perhaps not the most apt title, as some two million Iraqis have had to flee their country since it began in 2003, and 2.5 million have become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

Bloggers Unite

From Reuters:

Tens of Thousands of Iraqis may come to U.S. in '09

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has surpassed its goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees this year and expects more, perhaps tens of thousands, next year, the State Department said on Friday.

The United States expects to admit a minimum of 17,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal 2009, which begins October 1, the department's senior coordinator for refugees said. Thousands more Iraqis and their family members could arrive through a special visa program for people who worked for the United States or its contractors.

"I think you'll see the U.S. government admitting over the course of fiscal 2009 tens of thousands of Iraqis into the United States," coordinator James Foley told reporters.

Up to 3,000 could come from Baghdad, where the United States began interviews this year, he said.

So far this year, 12,118 Iraqi refugees have arrived and 1,000 more are booked to travel to the United States by the end of this month, when the U.S. fiscal year ends, he said.

That marks a huge leap from just 1,600 Iraqis admitted in the previous year. That number drew widespread criticism from refugee groups that said Washington should do more to help millions of Iraqis who have fled instability and violence since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

The number is still lower than what some other countries have taken. Sweden, a country of 9 million people, has admitted over 40,000 Iraqis since 2003...
(more here)

Please watch the following excerpt from "The Party After the War," a documentary about Iraqi refugees:

Camelot Revisited

A haunting, ethereal tour of the White House with Jackie O:

Monday, November 03, 2008

On Kicking Ass

My friend Jon W. wrote me from Portland, Maine the other day. He says he is there to work on computers for the Obama Campaign, "all for one tiny electoral vote." For a nerdy computer dude (which I mean here as a high compliment), I'd say that working for Obama is like the equivalent to "kicking ass for the lord":

(From Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive")

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pictcha Tyme!

From CSM:
Pakistani Sunni Muslim devotees returned home on a packed train after attending an annual three-day religious congregation in Multan, Pakistan.

I'm so glad I'm not religious. I don't have public transportation issues like this.