Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Grateful Undead

A tribute to Jerry Garcia and George Romero, two American icons!

Like it? ~ Get the t-shirt | postcard @

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Great News for Fans of "Bloom County"

Not subscribing to a newspaper I rarely have occasion to read the comics these days -- but my childhood and teenage years were spent devouring "Calvin and Hobbes", Trudeau's "Doonesbury" and Berkley Breathed's "Bloom County" (circa 1980-1989). For those who don't recognize the latter, IDW Publishing has announced the launch of The Bloom County Complete Library -- "a five volume collection featuring every daily and Sunday strip in chronological order, many reprinted for the first time."
The Bloom County Library will also contain a series of "Context Pages" sprinkled throughout the volumes, providing perspective for the reader and presenting a variety of real-life events and personalities that were contemporary at the time of original publication.
In a recent interview with Los Angeles Times' "Hero Complex", Breathed describes the circumstances that led to his decision to relenquish cartooning:
“When you’re young, you miss things, you just don’t see them,” said the 52-year-old Breathed, who walked away from comic strips last year because the Digital Age had eroded his newsprint audience and, worse, his artistic vigor and sense of whimsy. [...]

“Not to sound like someone swinging their cane, but in the 1980s there weren’t a thousand other voices screaming to be heard at the same time,” Breathed said of the decade when his “Bloom County” was featured in more than 1,200 newspapers and he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. “There was a quiet in the room that made being a commentator very exciting. There was no Web, there was barely any cable TV. If you were looking for humorous topical commentary, you would go to the Johnny Carson monologue, ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Doonesbury.’ That was it. After you have the silence of that room, you get really weary with the screaming it takes today. There’s also this bitterness in the public square now that is difficult to avoid. I never did an angry strip, but in recent years I saw that sneaking in.

Breathe goes on to discuss Peanuts' Charles Schulz ("The major regret in my cartooning life is I didn’t get to know him"); Doonesbury's Garry Trudeu ("He came as close to a hero for me as I was going to have in the comics world") and Calvin & Hobbes' Bill Watterson ("Breathed’s fan, friend and rival").

Having departed from the world of comic-strips, Breathed now writes and illustrates children's books.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

“It’s the technology,” the roofer said. “They don’t know how to deal with a human being. They stand there with that text shrug”—he hunched his shoulders, bent his head down, moved from side to side, looking anywhere but at me—“and they go, ‘Ah, ah, um, um,’ and they just mumble. They can’t talk any more.” This inadequacy with physical space and direct interaction was an affliction of the educated, he said—“the more educated, the worse.” His poorer black customers in Bedford-Stuyvesant had no such problem, and he was much happier working on their roofs, but the recession had slowed things down there and these days he was forced to deal almost entirely with the cognitively damaged educated and professional classes.

“They hire someone—this has happened several times—so they don’t have to talk to me,” he went on, growing more animated and reddening with amazement. “It’s like they’re afraid of me! So they hire a guy who’s more comfortable dealing with a masculine-type person. I stand there and talk to the customer, and the customer doesn’t talk to me or look at me, he talks to the intermediary, and the intermediary talks to me. It’s the yuppie buffer.” He wasn’t slurring gay men—he described these customers as mainly “metrosexuals”—nor was the problem all yuppies, some of whom had been his customers for years. It was a new group who had moved from Manhattan in the past few years, and who could not detach themselves from their communications devices long enough to look someone in the eye or notice the source of a leak. This was a completely new phenomenon in the roofer’s world: a mass upper class that was so immersed in symbolic and digital cerebration that it had become incapable of carrying out the most ordinary functions—had become, in effect, like small children with Asperger’s symptoms. It was a ruling class that, out of sheer over-civilization, was quickly losing the ability to hold onto its power.

The view from a roofer's recession, by George Packer. New York Times

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Selling Your Own Advertising Campaign as News

CNN has tried to spin its disproportionate coverage of this “Twitter duel” as relevant to the growing importance of “new media” in breaking down barriers between celebrities and the public. Yet this obscures the real story: namely, the amazing ease with which traditional news outlets can create “news” that is useful to their marketing purposes, and then use “new media” platforms (and other networks’ gullible coverage of the pseudo-event) to spread their advertising gimmick “virally.” Indeed, with unnerving efficiency, CNN staged an event that put its brand-name front and center (i.e., “Kutcher vs. CNN”); hyped this as news-worthy on its network and website; recruited a famous dupe to ensure that its content was pumped throughout the blogosphere and reported in the MSM; and - in its most shameless act yet - broadcast “Kutcher supporters” wearing CNN-branded “Kutcher hands CNN its lunch in Twitter feud” t-shirts, which, naturally, are available for $15 apiece on CNN’s website!

In turn, CNN’s bold fabrication of the news suggests that “new media” isn’t necessarily “democratizing” the flow of information. Rather, insofar as the MSM is still responsible for determining what counts as news, “new media” platforms have provided traditional media outlets with enhanced capabilities for packaging - and broadly disseminating - their own advertising campaigns as “news.”

Eric Trager, "CNN Invents the News" Contentions 4.18.2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The great NYU Kimmel Food Court Occupation comes to a bloodless end. (Or “how NOT to spend your college tuition”)

Last week a group of "student-empowering, social-justice-minded" students and assorted ragamuffins and rabblerousers from neighboring colleges (many affiliated with TakeBackNYU) had the stunningly-brilliant idea of barricading themselves in a food court in New York University's Kimmell Center, "in a historic effort to bring pressure on NYU for its administrative and ethical failings regarding transparency, democracy and protection of human rights."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eugene Edward Blosser 1917-2008

* * *

Eugene Edward Blosser (March 27, 1917 – June 8, 2008), career missionary in China and Japan cited in The Mennonite Encyclopedia (1955+), died Sunday morning at Parkview Manor in Wellman, Iowa, following a long respiratory illness. The son of Perry and Ada V. Lahman Blosser of South English, IA, Eugene was the eighth of nine children. In 1932, he discontinued his education at South English High School in order to help his father farm. During WWII he served in the Civilian Public Service corps in Nebraska and Wisconsin. After passing his General Education Development exams, he was admitted to Goshen College in Indiana, from which he graduated with a Bible major in 1949. He later continued his studies at Goshen Biblical Seminary and post-graduate work in Far Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

In the summer of 1949, Eugene was commissioned by the Mennonite Board of Missions to serve as a missionary in China. Upon arriving in Hong Kong that September, he was married to Louella Gingerich, whom he had dated at Goshen, and who had preceded him to China as a medical missionary in 1947. They served together in Chengdu, Sichuan, from 1949 to 1951. Their efforts continue their work following the Maoist takeover of Chengdu on December 30, 1949, are chronicled in Dorothy McCammon's We Tried to Stay (1953). In March 1951 they returned to the U.S., and were reassigned to Japan in 1953. They planted new churches in Hokkaido (Taiki, Sapporo, Hiroo), served established congregations (Obihiro, Kushiro), and administered a boarding facility for missionary children attending Hokkaido International School in Sapporo. In 1981 they returned to the U.S. after Luella was diagnosed with brain cancer. She died in 1982. After serving as interim pastor in Oregon and Nebraska, Eugene married Elsie Zook of Wellman in 1984. The couple lived together in Wellman for 24 years, where they continued active involvement in the local Mennonite church after retirement.

Eugene was preceded in death by his first wife, Luella; and adopted son, Thomas Yoshiro; his parents, and all of his siblings, including six brothers, Wilmer, Aquila, Dwight, Menno, Oren, and Amos; and two sisters, Abbie (Zook) and Mary Kate (Yoder). He is survived by his second wife, Elsie; his children, Philip, Rachel (Derstine) and Meiko (Schoemig); eight grand-children (Christopher, Jonathan Benjamin, Nathaniel, Hannah, Katherine, Elizabeth, and Julia); and four great-grandchildren (Augustine, Ambrose, Cyprian, and Raphael).

Friday, February 22, 2008

"A Critical Look at Energy Drinks"

Pure Energy: A Critical Look at Energy Drinks
What follows is a listing of the drinks I partook of, their manufacturers, and a few facts about their history where applicable, along with descriptions and grades given in two categories - flavor and buzz. I consumed a full can of each product, with several hours in between each drink in order to separate the effects. Of course this is not a scientifically sound test - this is strictly my opinion, but after drinking thirteen different cans of energy drinks over the course of a long weekend I am convinced that my opinion is completely awesome and I could - if needed - run completely through the living room wall into the neighboring apartment. . . .

Monday, December 31, 2007

Politics As Usual . . .

DES MOINES: In an act of political jujitsu, Mike Huckabee has halted a negative ad that he was about to broadcast on television Monday against his Republican rival, Mitt Romney. But while claiming the moral high ground, he proceeded to show the ad to a roomful of reporters, photographers and television cameras who are repeating his anti-Romney message for free while Huckabee declares that his hands are clean.

The display unfolded at the Marriott Hotel here to the mirth of the media who watched Huckabee's legerdemain even as the media itself became the conduit for his attacks against Romney.

At the same time, he pointed to media cynicism as the reason he felt compelled to show the ad, saying that unless he showed it, reporters would not believe that it really existed.

Source: International Herald Tribune December 31, 2007.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Facebook: The New Narcissism

Today’s online social networks are congeries of mostly weak ties—no one who lists thousands of “friends” on MySpace thinks of those people in the same way as he does his flesh-and-blood acquaintances, for example. It is surely no coincidence, then, that the activities social networking sites promote are precisely the ones weak ties foster, like rumor-mongering, gossip, finding people, and tracking the ever-shifting movements of popular culture and fad. If this is our small world, it is one that gives its greatest attention to small things. . . .

The world of online social networking is practically homogenous in one other sense, however diverse it might at first appear: its users are committed to self-exposure. The creation and conspicuous consumption of intimate details and images of one’s own and others’ lives is the main activity in the online social networking world. There is no room for reticence; there is only revelation. Quickly peruse a profile and you know more about a potential acquaintance in a moment than you might have learned about a flesh-and-blood friend in a month. As one college student recently described to the New York Times Magazine: “You might run into someone at a party, and then you Facebook them: what are their interests? Are they crazy-religious, is their favorite quote from the Bible? Everyone takes great pains over presenting themselves. It’s like an embodiment of your personality.”

It seems that in our headlong rush to join social networking sites, many of us give up one of the Internet’s supposed charms: the promise of anonymity. As Michael Kinsley noted in Slate, in order to “stake their claims as unique individuals,” users enumerate personal information: “Here is a list of my friends. Here are all the CDs in my collection. Here is a picture of my dog.” Kinsley is not impressed; he judges these sites “vast celebrations of solipsism.” . . .

. . . The hypertext link called “friendship” on social networking sites is very different: public, fluid, and promiscuous, yet oddly bureaucratized. Friendship on these sites focuses a great deal on collecting, managing, and ranking the people you know. Everything about MySpace, for example, is designed to encourage users to gather as many friends as possible, as though friendship were philately. If you are so unfortunate as to have but one MySpace friend, for example, your page reads: “You have 1 friends,” along with a stretch of sad empty space where dozens of thumbnail photos of your acquaintances should appear.

This promotes a form of frantic friend procurement. As one young Facebook user with 800 friends told John Cassidy in The New Yorker, “I always find the competitive spirit in me wanting to up the number.” An associate dean at Purdue University recently boasted to the Christian Science Monitor that since establishing a Facebook profile, he had collected more than 700 friends. The phrase universally found on MySpace is, “Thanks for the add!” . . .

We should also take note of the trend toward giving up face-to-face for virtual contact—and, in some cases, a preference for the latter. Today, many of our cultural, social, and political interactions take place through eminently convenient technological surrogates—Why go to the bank if you can use the ATM? Why browse in a bookstore when you can simply peruse the personalized selections has made for you? In the same vein, social networking sites are often convenient surrogates for offline friendship and community. In this context it is worth considering an observation that Stanley Milgram made in 1974, regarding his experiments with obedience: “The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson,” he wrote. “Often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.” To an increasing degree, we find and form our friendships and communities in the virtual world as well as the real world. These virtual networks greatly expand our opportunities to meet others, but they might also result in our valuing less the capacity for genuine connection.

Excerpts from Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism New Atlantis Summer 2007

Monday, September 03, 2007

Poetic Justice

If he didn't believe in karma before, Piers Morgan must surely do now.

The ex-newspaper editor, now a columnist for The Mail on Sunday's Live magazine, took great delight in making fun of President Bush for falling off a Segway - the two-wheeled, motorised, gyroscopically balanced scooter that, its makers promise, will never fall over.

His paper, the Daily Mirror, ran the headline in 2003: "You'd have to be an idiot to fall off, wouldn't you Mr President." It added: "If anyone can make a pig's ear of riding a sophisticated, self-balancing machine like this, Dubya can." So, it seems, can Mr Morgan.

He broke three ribs after falling off the Segway at 12mph in California - just three days before he was due to make his biggest TV appearance to date, as a judge on the grand final of reality show America's Got Talent.

"The moment Piers Morgan broke three ribs falling off the Segway he said was 'idiot-proof'" Daily Mail UK Sept. 2nd, 2007.