Friday, August 29, 2003

Judge Roy Moore is from Alabama. I am from Alabama. He had the 10 Commandments monument. I have a 10 Commandments blog.

1. Let me do my thing, whatever that happens to be.
2. Listen to whoever has the floor.
3. Don't shop at Wal Mart.
4. Don't buy an SUV or other big truck unless you intend to actually do a fair amount of sport and or utility driving.
5. Don't kill people.
6. Eschew factory farming and agriculture.
7. Don't make and/or sell weapons (this applies to governments and industries: if you whittle a shiv, you are in the clear).
8. Think critically.
9. Put the Cubs and Star Trek on regular tv in Mexico.
10. Buy me drinks.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

U.N. Factoid-Finding Mission Discovers Liberia About The Size Of Tennessee

tee hee!

I hear "The Letter" by Joe Cocker.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

everyone else, Democrats
Circle I Limbo

General asshats, SUV drivers
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

nationalists, Bill Clinton
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

The New York Yankees, Republicans
Circle IV Rolling Weights

Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

people who think Bob Hope was funny
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Circle VII Burning Sands

Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

George Bush
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Hi there!

It turns out that I have 10 students in that class, and that is good. In my history class, meanwhile, the textbook showed up late and is not the one we thought it would be. Oh well.

But that's not why I'm blogging now.

Roger Ebert has reviewed the new Bob Dylan vehicle MASKED AND ANONYMOUS and didn't like it. I like this thing he said about Dylan, as it sums up my feelings pretty well:

"Bob Dylan idolatry is one of the enduring secular religions of our day. Those who worship him are inexhaustible in their fervor, and every enigmatic syllable of the great poet is cherished and analyzed as if somehow he conceals profound truths in his lyrics, and if we could only decrypt them, they would be the solution to--I dunno, maybe everything.

In "Masked and Anonymous," where he plays a legendary troubadour named (I fear) Jack Fate, a religious fanatic played by Penelope Cruz says: "I love his songs because they are not precise--they are completely open to interpretation." She makes this statement to characters dressed as Gandhi and the pope, but lacks the courtesy to add, "But, hey, guys, what do you think?"

I have always felt it ungenerous to have the answer but wrap it in enigmas. When Woody Guthrie, the great man's inspiration, sings a song, you know what it is about. Perhaps Dylan's genius is to take simple ideas and make them impenetrable. Since he cannot really sing, there is the assumption that he cannot be performing to entertain us, and that therefore there must be a deeper purpose. The instructive documentary "The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack" suggests that it was Ramblin' Jack Elliott who was the true follower of Woody, and that after he introduced Dylan to Guthrie, he was dropped from the picture as Dylan studiously repackaged the Guthrie genius in 1960s trappings."

Yeah. It ain't me babe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Today was the first day of school. I have five groups of World Civ I and one group of Economy and the State (which is basically just intro to social science). I'm tickled pink about teaching history again after a year of teaching other (not unrelated) stuff. Funnily enough, though, the best news so far is in the E&S class:


That is soooooo cool. I've never had a small class before. In my 3.5 years at WVU I never had less than 40 students in a class (except for one discussion section I lead which had 25), and so far here I've had at least 25 per class. So, needless to say, I'm excited about having so few. This should open up all sorts of discussion opportunities and allow me to do all sorts of things I couldn't do with a huge class.

It could suck, of course.

I hear "Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin.

Friday, August 08, 2003

I want to try all sorts of different foods while I'm here in Mexico. I like most of what I've had so far, and have ruled nothing out for certain, except for what I just saw on a tv commercial.

Please picture a cob of corn, shucked and cooked so that is is so juicy and sweet looking you want to sign it up for a modeling contract. Now picture a squeeze bottle hovering along the length of said corn cob. It is being squoze. What is coming out of the bottle? Could it be butter? Butter is pretty much the only thing you could add to make this corn even more tasty-looking. But no. Not butter. How about margarine or some other sort of butter substitute? Some folks, after all, have to hold the butter. Sorry. 't'ain't margarine or anything of the sort.

What could it be? Are you sitting down?



The editor of The Progressive magazine has a brief, but spot-on argument in favor of recall elections. I know the California race seems silly. Here are some problems I see with it:

-- over 500 candidates? That's potentially problematic, but I like the feel of it.
-- All you need is a plurality to win? That's bad.
-- You can buy your way onto the ballot? That's bad (see the 500 candidates).
-- It is too easy to get a recall: I figure you should only get a recall if something like 30% or 40% of registered voters sign the petition, and I don't think a recall drive should be funded like the one in Cali was.
-- If I understand correctly, when people go to the polls they will 1) say "yes" or "no" to a recall AND 2) choose the candidate of their choice IF they said yes. Surely that's not right.

I could dig it if there was only one question, going something like this:

"Who should be governor? 1) Gray Davis (incumbent) 2) Gary Coleman 3) Arianna Huffington 4) Darryl Issa 5) Arnold Schwartzeneggar 6) etc."

That would be nice and simple and democratic. If no one candidate gets over 50% of votes cast, run it again one week later with the top 3 or so vote getters. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

To really work correctly you'd need some of the things I mention above plus hardcore voter-education programs (so that, for example, people know what the word "incumbent" means: I'm sure lots of people don't). Also, the polls would have to be convenient: perhaps open for 24 hours with NO reporting of results at all until all polls are closed.

Given the state of things in the US, we need more of this sort of stuff, but it needs to be done correctly. The Cali deal is, pretty clearly, another example of the Right trying to subvert the system we have, but with any luck this one will bite them on the ass.

By the way, is Jello Biafra running? If not, why not?

I'm listening to a Ben Elton comedy album, by the way.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I was filling out a form just a few minutes ago and recalled that I have written some things which may be of use to people interested in history. With that in mind, anyone googling the following subjects should feel free to request a copy of my work (and a bit of academic info about me, if you are skeptical).

“The Movement to Abolish Convict Labor” in The Encyclopedia of American Social Movements, forthcoming

“Convict Labor” in The Encyclopedia of Appalachia, forthcoming

“Couch Burning and ‘an Explosion of Pedigreed Bunk’: Student (mis)behavior at West Virginia University in Historical Perspective,” conference paper

“In Defense of the Lecture,” conference paper

“Immigrants, Miners, and the Monongah Disaster,” conference paper

“Satisfying the Claims of Offended Justice: Politics, Profit, and Change in the Alabama Penal System, 1819-1928,” Masters Thesis

“A Walking Mass of Moral Contagion: Jails and Criminal Justice in Alabama Before the Penitentiary,” conference paper

“Life and Work in the Convict Mining Camps of Alabama,” conference paper

“Convict Labor in the Coal Mines of Central Alabama,” Honors Thesis

I also know (and have written) about US and German labor history in general, and other sorts of history. Looking for research tips? Look no further (at least until I tell you to).

I hear "Same Time Tomorrow" by Laurie Anderson.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

You know, if J-Lo and B-Fleck can't make their relationship work, what chance do the rest of us have?

As long as Dubyah has got the lawyers looking into codifying shit, perhaps he should consider banning celebrity marriages as well as homosexual ones. In fact, why not ban all marriage?

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

This song says much about my US ennui (but it ain’t all there was to it):

Frank Zappa’s “I’m the Slime”

I am gross and perverted, I'm obsessed 'n deranged
I have existed for years, but very little had changed
I am the tool of the Government and industry too
For I am destined to rule and regulate you
I may be vile and pernicious but you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious with the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get. Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin' out from your TV set
You will obey me while I lead you and eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you. Don't go for one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled: It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told until the rights to you are sold
That's right, folks.. Don't touch that dial
Well, I am the slime from your video, oozin' along on your livingroom floor
I am the slime from your video. Can't stop the slime, people, lookit me go

While I was in the US, I saw ads for “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” (in which a group of gay fellows out of central casting do a makeover for a straight fellow out of central casting), “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” (in which I shoot myself), “Boy Meets Boy” (in which a gay fellow seeks a mate among a group of guys who may or may not be gay), “Stripperella” (in which Pamela Anderson is the voice of a stripper/secret agent), “Scarborough Country” (in which a former congressman with the smallest eyes I’ve ever seen boldly seeks to forward the fascist agenda), and “the WWE” (which featured a tiny one-legged hero versus the owner of the franchise).

Why do “they” hate “us”?

I propose a new reality show: “Who Wants to Guess Why I Feel Like Puking?”

By the way, I’m listening to Jello Biafra’s “I Blow Minds for a Living”. Over 10 years old, and right on topic. Odd? I pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday . . .

Also by they way: leafcutter ants are the coolest things ever. I am fortunate to be surrounded by them.

I just read on the BBC site that the leader of a Philippine rebel group has died. The name of the group? MILF. Too Rich. Praise Jeebus that their webmaster lives on!

Hello to one and all. I spent the last month in Alabama. I am in Mexico again. My time in Alabama can be described with one word: ugh.

As some of you may know, I owe lots of money to several corporate and governmental entities. They call my parents (since they don’t have my telephone number in Mexico or choose not to call it). They call often. My parents have their own debt issues. They get calls, too. I have no money (well, “no” money). I don’t know what the deal is with my parents. I got a call, as it happens, from Sears today. The lady on the phone said that the local Guadalajara Sears location would be happy to accept my payment. I drove halfway across town and found out that this is not the case. Oh well.

I did a bit of math, by the way, and figured out that given my debts I have no economic incentive to move back to the US and make more money. Any difference in pay would be eaten up by my debts (you can’t garnish wages if there are, effectively, no wages). Mind you, I have nothing in particular against the idea of paying my debts, but it is a funny situation to be in.

As some of you may know, my brother has [ahem] an alcohol/drug problem. He also has a fuckhead problem which surfaced long before he knew anything about chemicals (I tried to tell the people as early as 1978 that he was not to be trusted). He was in jail when I left town. He may still be. This does not make for a happy mood around the house (and the parents have cut him loose: it is my aunt who keeps his shovel sharp so that he might better dig his grave).

My cousins are breeders. This confronts me in two ways: 1) I am pressured to breed 2) children annoy me in many ways (although some children sometimes are ok). My cousins, and pretty much everyone associated with my family, are married, too. I see no reason to marry (other than citizenship/work permit stuff). Plus, the “news” in the US is full of marriage stories right now, both gay and straight. How slow-on-the-uptake do you have to be to say “that’s an awful long time to wait” when told that Birgit and I have been together almost 9 years? Ask my mom’s cousin (who is, otherwise, quite funny and nice).

I spent a week in Panama City, Florida. I went with my parents, who were going for a conference my Dad had to attend. I have relatives in PC, and we spent one night with one of them: my aunt, Josephine. Aunt Jo was born in Austria to a well-offish family (she knows the von Trapp kids from “The Sound of Music” personally) and married my uncle in the 1950s. He has been dead since 1994 (my last visit) and her house (and the town) seems to be stuck in that year. Profoundly weird. I wanted to snorkel and/or go fishing but it rained.

I was distressed by the general state of things in the US. It is hard to put a fine point on this, but I got a serious eve of destruction vibe from the TV and radio. I hope I’m wrong.

I found myself unable to contact certain friends. I was in the US, so phone calls would have been in order. At the end of the first week I lost my little address book. At the start of the last week I found it again. The missing address book is, however, no excuse for my lack of friendliness. The funk I was in isn’t really, either, since this is part of the funk. If any of the uncalled friends are reading this, please accept the forthcoming email apology.

I DID (on a positive note) get off of my ass and in touch with four friends: Austin (I am her godfather, by the way. Did you know that I was a godfather?), Chris (sorry for the lack of hyperlinks: I’ve linked him before and he has a nice blog. Also, I met his wife, who is one of the real heroes of the US as she teaches in a difficult school district for the love of the game.), and Dawn and Chad. I enjoyed being with them all. My time with them was not enough to pull me out of my funk for more than a few hours, however. Harumph. Gloom, despair, and agony on me! (a NoPrize to anyone who can identify the source of that)

Not least of my funk contributors was the decided Birgitless wasteland that is the Western Hemisphere. Birgit is in Germany. She will be coming home soon.

Being back in Mexico has reduced the funkiness, but I just learned that Shelley’s father has died. Shelley is one of the best people I’ve ever met and I can only assume that she is what she is in part because she had a good father. I only met the man briefly, but I recall him fondly.

As of this moment I no longer feel the slightest bit sorry for my whining self.

Sunday, August 03, 2003


I just got back to Mexico (or, as we say in Mexico, "home") and have lots to blog. Christopher Hitchens has distracted me, however, for the moment. Read this: (I have yet to download the thing that blogger has come up with for Mac users, so no hyperlinks).

While watching a Bob Hope memorial bit on the TV with my dad, I remarked that it didn't seem to take much to get the soldiers of old to laugh. He observed that war was rarely funny, and that even Bob Hope could pass for humorous. I noted that he (my dad) was confined to a rather small ship and was, therefore, more starved than most for entertainment.

Fuck Bob Hope (not that I wish to speak ill of the dead, mind you).