Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thinking Outside the Box

Local nut Kevin Barrett taught the first day of his class on "the religion and culture of Islam."

"Barrett, a part-time lecturer, sparked controversy this summer for advocating the theory that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an inside job, and for planning to teach the theory in his fall class on Islam. Since then, enrollment in the class has swelled to capacity, with some students signing up hungry to hear his views.

"'It induced me to take the class,' a molecular science major with a pierced eyebrow said of the controversy. 'I'm inclined to believe we killed our own people.'."

For those of you who don't follow current events in south-central Wisconsin: In addition to indulging in cranky Loose Change-inspired ranting about 9/11, Barrett has denied that Islamic terrorism even exists to any significant degree and that such phantoms are, of course, merely a pretext to wage a global war on Islam and its adherants.

But students don't seem to mind.

"Courtney Schiesher, a senior from Chicago, said Barrett was a lively lecturer. She said his personal views on the terrorist attacks do not sour her toward him.

"'If he thinks that far outside the box, he also has some other interesting ideas to provoke student discussion,' she said. 'I'm looking forward to attending the rest of the classes.'"

Barrett and his particular brand of screwiness was the subject of one of Cathy Young's Boston Globe columns a few months back.

"According to [University provost Patrick] Farrell, 'We cannot allow political pressure from critics of unpopular ideas to inhibit the free exchange of ideas.' Would he use the same kind of reasoning to defend a Holocaust-denying course or a course in 'creation science'? When it comes to those issues, it is widely understood that even to open up an academic 'debate' about certain crackpot theories is to give them a legitimacy that will be corrosive to genuine scholarship. It is one thing to say that professors should not be penalized for whatever views they preach outside the classroom; it's quite another to say that they have the right to poison the well of the college curriculum.

"Mir Babar Basir, a recent University of Wisconsin graduate and former president of the Muslim Students Association, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Barrett had many supporters, which was not surprising since 'Madison is fairly liberal.' But what exactly is 'liberal' about the belief in bizarre conspiracy theories? If one wants to promote tolerance toward Muslims and counter the stereotypes that equate all Islam with terrorism, denying the link between Islamic fanaticism and Sept. 11 is hardly the way to go about it."

Is Barrett a "liberal" scholar? Here's a passage from Barrett's website, taken from an essay about "Traditionalism."

"Besides reconnecting me with monotheism, the Traditionalists helped cure me of a certain kind of left-wing dogmatism based on unexamined faith in the eternal progress of free-thinking, secularized humanity, liberated from the obscurantist shackles of religion. Such naivete! On this point the neocons are right: the human being is a religious animal, and progress is an illusion. But they are wrong about religion also being an illusion, a tool for elite manipulation of the masses. Real religion—for example, the Islamic discursive tradition—is a valid body of knowledge, an approach to truth that works...When folks get fed up with the neocon lies... will have been starved for truth so long that they will be truly ravenous. They will hunger for truth, yearn for truth. They will be dying, both figuratively and literally starved for truth, craving it with an attachment deeper than their attachment to life."

Why did this passage pop into my head just now, only moments after completing a post that referenced Ahmadinejad's assault on "free-thinking, secularized" education, William Dembski's disdain for "secular scholarship" and David Horowitz's contempt for, well, higher education in general?

No reason, I guess...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"He told a group of students that they should organise campaigns to demand that the liberal teachers be sacked."

So says President Ahmadinejad.

"Mr Ahmadinejad said it was difficult to alter secular influences that had been in place in Iran for 150 years, but added that such a change had begun.

The move echoes campaigns of the 1980s, when hundreds of liberal university teachers and students were sacked.

"'A student must yell against liberal thoughts and the liberal economy,' the AFP news agency reported Mr Ahmadinejad as saying.

"'A student must ask why a secular teacher gives low marks to a student that does not have the same ideas as him.'"

Alex the Inactivist makes what, to me, is an obvious connection.

"Mahmoud, you might want to talk to David Horowitz. And William Dembski, another outspoken opponent of secular scholariship, has this great new idea called 'teaching the controversy...'

"This might not play too well among the chai-sipping elitists of Tehran, but it will probably go over well in the Red Provinces."

Marvel Strikes Again

I've been a comics fan and collector for most of my life. I've always preferred Marvel to DC. Even when DC is actually cranking out better books - a not uncommon occurrence - the Marvel Universe simply feels more like home to me, like an old, comfy chair that's permanently settled into the shape of my butt. Probably this is due to the fact that I started reading comics waaaay back in the late 1970s; then, and for a while after, the House of Ideas still radiated with a hip, modern sensibility left over from the glory days of the previous decade. (DC, conversely, was still stuck in the pre-Crisis rut, tangled up in a convoluted mythology that had been carelessly improvised over the course of 40 years with no particular concern for consistency or even sense. While there were certainly some interesting comics being published by DC back then, the whole enterprise felt very square and staid: there was no reason that even their best stuff (the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans, Keith Giffen's Legion of Superheroes) couldn't have been published in the 1950s.)

No matter how great their comics are, however, I never fail to be amazed by the Marvel's business acumen, which can charitably be described as astoundingly stupid. I strongly suggest picking up the latest issue of The Comics Journal, which has a pair of fantastic articles detailing how the company's perpetual muddle-headedness inadvertantly created and nearly destroyed the direct market. This is just the tip of the iceberg - seemingly every mention of Marvel in the business press that I've seen is a breathless report on some new and innovative way they've come up with to waste money or squander goodwill. Despite their considerable success over the years, Marvel remains a lovable loser; it is oddly comforting, as a fan, to know that any measure of success they stumble upon will soon curdle into some manner of near-catastrophic embarrassment.

The latest example of this comes from Virginia Postrel, who's latest piece in The Atlantic is an examination of superhero movies. The mag's art director thought, reasonably enough, that some bit of comic art would make a good illustration. Since the latest X-Men movies is still fresh in everyone's mind, they decided to go with a recent example of that series's cover art. Sounds perfect, right? The Atlantic gets a nifty graphic, Marvel gets to advertise for free - everyone wins, right?

"But Marvel dragged out the permission process until the day before the issue was supposed to go to the printer. As a condition of permission, the company's lawyer then insisted that the article treat the word superhero as a Marvel/DC trademark, spelling it Super Hero. Fortunately for me, The Atlantic declined and went with Superman.

"As is so often the case, aggressive IP lawyers trumped smart business strategy--good fodder for a future
Forbes column. Marvel is supposed to be promoting second-line characters, including Storm, and The Atlantic is clearly not trying to publish a superhero comic in competition with the trademark holders."

Keep up the good work, boys!

Mighty Inoue & Higo Hamaguchi vs Spike Huber & Rocky Brewer (7/25/80 IWE)

Boy, for a hate-filled blow-off match this sure was dull. The heels here bored me silly - their offense was dull, they weren't terribly evil and they barely even usd the 2x4 that Gypsy Joe went through the trouble to smuggle in. It was nice of them to run face-first into the cage like that, but I find myself much less impressed with 'em than the rest of you. Hamaguchi wasn't a whole lot better, only becoming interesting at the end when he could be a pissed-off old man; otherwise he was all bodyslams and leg-drops. Inoue was his usual fun self, but then again I'm a sucker for fat little guys who can come up with wild bursts of energy. The only other parts of the match that I really liked were 1) all the biting (Dunno what it is, but I really love how people used to bite each other on the forehead in old matches. I get why they don't do it anymore, but I wish they did; there's something really expressive about it, like you hate the other guy SO DARN MUCH that you'd do something that was not only probably quite painful but also very animalistic and weirdly intimate (its almost a KISS for gosh's sake!) as well as pretty gross.) and 2) the fact that all four guys bled. I know - cage match, what do you expect, right? But when we went for more than 10 minutes without even ONE guy bleeding (not to mention the generally calm and overly polite nature of the match as a whole up to that point), I started to worry. Crowd wasn't too into it either, but I may have been spoiled by the drum guy from the last match. Anyway.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Shozo Kobayashi/Haruka Eigen vs Mighty Inoue/Isamu Teranishi (6/29/80 IWE)

[I'm participating in the massive Death Valley Driver Best Matches of the 1980's jamboree; for details on this, head over to the 80's Forum at the DVDVR board. Currently, I'm going over the matches on the "Other Japan" ballot (for those of you who have no earthly idea what "Other Japan" could possibly mean: in the 1980s, Japan had two major, multi-million-yen, arena-selling-out wrestling promotions - All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Most of the big stars and classic matches from that era occured under the banner of one of these two groups. Meanwhile, a few tiny, bush-league groups managed to eke out a living under the ankles of these two giants. These are the "other" groups, they're in "Japan", hence" "Other Japan." The official list of nominated matches can be found here.). For no particular reason, I'm going to post daily reviews of the nominated matches here as well as on the DVDVR forum. So enjoy.]

I had no idea who most of these guys were for most of this match, except for Mighty Inoue - I'd read somewhere that he wore funny-looking multi-colored shorts. Plenty of jumping and slapping and weird submission moves - I especially liked the odd leg scissors that Kobayashi had on Teranishi (oh you remember - the one where he picked him up with his legs and dropped him repeatedly on his butt. It looked like something someone'd do in a Hanna-Barbara pro-wrestling cartoon.). Man, what was with Kobayashi's missing left nipple? Did someone give him a shining purple nurple? The first fall was the longest and best, and I'm excited to see the next match, which appears to be a score-settler with the guys who disrupted the third fall. Fun match, although I think I liked it better than I might've due to it being the first on the set. I really dug the drums in the crowd, and the sudden highspots right before the screwy end were a nifty little treat given the submission-y nature of much of what preceeded it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

eBay Auction of the Day

Sure, I've got the Fuse LP, I've got the Samurai Rock N Roll boot, but one thing this Cheap Trick fan doesn't have is Rick Nielsen's high school yearbook!

Opening bid's at $125.00. Its never too early to do your Christmas shopping, you know...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Somebody Else's Bad Mood

While hunting all over for that Alan Moore quote, I came across an old interview from (hey!) The Onion which is well worth checking out. I was struck by this bit, which gives voice to something that's been rattling around in my head for a few months:

"I think that what a lot of people saw when they read Watchmen was a high degree of violence, a bleaker and more pessimistic political perspective, perhaps a bit more sex, more swearing. And to some degree there has been, in the 15 years since Watchmen, an awful lot of the comics field devoted to these very grim, pessimistic, nasty, violent stories which kind of use Watchmen to validate what are, in effect, often just some very nasty stories that don't have a lot to recommend them. And some of them are very pretentious, where they'll try and grab some sort of intellectual gloss for what they're doing by referring to a few song titles, or the odd book. They'll name-drop William Burroughs here or there. Just like MAD comics, which was a unique standalone thing, it's almost become a genre. The gritty, deconstructivist postmodern superhero comic, as exemplified by Watchmen, also became a genre. It was never meant to. It was meant to be one work on its own. I think, to that degree, it may have had a deleterious effect upon the medium since then. I'd have liked to have seen more people trying to do something that was as technically complex as Watchmen, or as ambitious, but which wasn't strumming the same chords that Watchmen had strummed so repetitively. This is not to say that the entire industry became like this, but at least a big enough chunk of it did that it is a noticeable thing. The apocalyptic bleakness of comics over the past 15 years sometimes seems odd to me, because it's like that was a bad mood that I was in 15 years ago. It was the 1980s, we'd got this insane right-wing voter fear running the country, and I was in a bad mood, politically and socially and in most other ways. So that tended to reflect in my work. But it was a genuine bad mood, and it was mine. I tend to think that I've seen a lot of things over the past 15 years that have been a bizarre echo of somebody else's bad mood. It's not even their bad mood, it's mine, but they're still working out the ramifications of me being a bit grumpy 15 years ago."

Don Federico, of the great, great new blog The Pop Ark (linked at left, and which I visit each day praying for a new post (yeah, like I'm one to talk)) nails it even more precisely (and I suppose I ought to spell out here that I don't just have comics on my mind...) (I've corrected some of his more egregious typos and format sloppiness):

"I think this dark age era of Batman ushered in by Dark Knight Returns and finally killed off in Identity Crisis will be seen in the long run as a temporary aberration, not the real Batman. As I mentioned that aberrant vision of Batman does have it's fans, typically maladjusted young men with serious social malaise....These young men of course have no historical context or understanding of what Batman really is, all they know is the garbage DC pumped out in the 90's; that's what they think is good. As such I really sincerely feel sorry for them, they were conditioned to accept a substandard and largely negative vision of an iconic figure in modern mythology, until such time as they get over trying to act 'cool' on the internet then they are going to miss out on great stuff. There the kind of wankers who go to discos and stand around looking ridiculous, expecting people to come and fall all over them, then go home bitter and angry when no one talks to them and they are too insecure to actually go and introduce themselves to anyone. The internet caters to this kind of wounded narcissist, suddenly he imagines he has an audience, and so he has a place to present his ego-centric world view...believing his opinion to be absolute and unique and utterly correct. Of course they can't communicate in complete sentences, or anything more then one paragraph, when pressed they have nothing to tell, when asked to elucidate or expand their opinion, to back it up with any kind of historical context or objective criteria of any kind, they become very quiet or launch into personal attacks. They are nothing more then whimpering hollow men. Their sexual repression and social ineptitude pour through in every word they write, in what they deem laughable, in what they deem erotic, in the fascist power fantasies they find so appealing, and in the art that celebrates and dignifies humanity that the find so repulsive.

"I'm not seeking to put down comics fans or internet fans in general, the average comic book fan is a good guy, and picking on the stereotypical nerd is something that I find to be the worst kind of bullying. That's not what I'm trying to do here at all. My basic point is that if you don't like the new...Batman then you are probably a sad bitter socially inept sexually repressed little compulsive masturbator."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Snap Into It!

What I always find so incredible about The Onion is not its much-noted pants-splitting hilarity, but rather its writers' unnervingly deep knowledge of whatever subject it is they're lampooning.

My new favorite example: Make-A-Wish Recipient Now Wishes Macho Man Randy Savage Would Go Away

You have to be a little bit more than a casual fan to remember this: "Savage, who told Tyler his acute lymphocytic leukemia reminded him of the time he wrestled Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat and 'crushed that pip-squeak's larynx,' said that he enjoys helping less-fortunate fans."

But this is fairly astounding: "'I don't like when he sings his songs,' Tyler said, referring to Savage's impromptu performance of songs from his rap album Be A Man. 'They make me sad.'" I'd forgotten all about Be A Man.

(I know - how could you possibly forget Be a Man?

Hot diggity damn Hulk I'm glad you set it off (set if off)
Used to be hard Hulk now ya done turned soft
Doin' telephone commercials I seen ya
Dancin' in tights as a ballerina
I knew all along you had those tendencies
Cuz you've been runnin' from Macho like I got a disease

Go ahead.)

As for pants-splitting hilarity, this is hard to top:

"The Blashocks said they were initially relieved when Savage sprinted out of the room at 10 p.m., but his absence was short- lived.

'We thought it was the end of the ordeal,' Mr. Blashock said. 'But sure enough, 15 minutes later, we hear, "All right, Tyler, let's clothesline this cancer," and we knew tomorrow was going to be another day that our son wouldn't be able to swallow any food.'"


Bob Burns and the Breakups play tonight at the Glass Nickel on Atwood St. - in fact, they're probably pretending to tune up right now as I write this. I've always been curious about this group as 1) what little I've heard of their hyperactive garage-y hit-and-run-style sonic whoop-de-doo seems like it might reward further analysis, and 2) they all appear to be products of the Steven's Point Area Senior High, and thus (as I am a proud lifelong Lumberjack), my eternal hated rivals. I'd go see 'em tonight, but that would involve leaving the house and...well...I'm not as good at that as I used to be. I'm sure you understand. Alan Moore does ("...I tend to just stay here in my kind of - well, I wouldn't say it was normal - my slightly unusual terraced house in Northampton. I don't venture far outside. I mean, even the other end of the living room is a bit of a mystery to me, so I tend not to hear much of that.")

So for all my fellow shut-ins, here's a taste (via Killed By Death Records) of what you're missing out on.

From Bob Burns and the Breakups Hydrostatic Heart EP (Plastic Idol)"
Hydrostatic Heart
Losing My Head
Acid Reflex

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


What could be more American than the Ramones? Happy 4th.

A Question...

Who has worse taste in music, Bob Dylan or the guy from the Flaming Lips? Ann Althouse inadvertantly raises this question in two separate posts.

First she links to this:

"Legendary rocker BOB DYLAN has thrilled R+B singer ALICIA KEYS by name-checking her on his highly-anticipated new album. Dylan, 65, references Keys, 26, on the title track of his latest disc MODERN TIMES. The album is his first in five years and is released in August (06). Dylan sings: 'I was thinking about Alicia Keys, couldn't help from crying / When she was born in Hell's Kitchen, I was living down the line / I'm wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be / I been looking for her even clean through Tennessee'."

Alicia Keys, eh? Jeez, Bob, even Joan Baez was better.

Then: not to be outdone, the guy from the Flaming Lips demonstrates his questionable musical preferences not by ill-considered endorsement but via unwarranted dismissal - of Bob Dylan!

"[The guy from the Flaming Lips] on Bob Dylan:
'What can an eighteen-year-old possibly care about a wrinkled-up old man with a pencil-thin mustache hunched over a keyboard?' he asks incredulously. 'I mean, have you seen Dylan lately? You can't recognize a single song he plays anymore. It's like you order a pizza and Dylan brings you a pile of dog food, and you're like, "What's this? I ordered pizza." And Dylan says, "This is my version of a pizza."'"

I guess "Love and Theft" wasn't exactly Highway 61, but at least it wasn't "She Don't Use Jelly". Flaming Lips guy loses! Er, wins!

Two Wisconsin Bands

Today I picked up Hot Nuggets, the new split LP from The Modern Machines and IfIHadAHiFi, out on Madison's own Crustacean Records. Swell stuff, as I expected, and it warms the cockles of my otherwise frosty heart to know that such sounds are emanating from my home state. If you're not familiar with either of these groups, check out some free samples - Modern Machines here, IfIHadAHiFi here. Pick up the split, see 'em when they come to your town, etc. etc....

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Jews Mess Up U.S."

Oop, sorry, mis-typed. The headline of Karl Weiss's letter in today's Capital Times was actually "Bible Followers Mess Up U.S.":

Dear Editor: Everything Sen. Joe Lieberman says or does is for Israel. The man is a Zionist. Jews and evangelicals like Bush just love this person and it ALL goes back to that make-believe book called the Bible.

Our government has been taken over by people who believe in fairy tales and mankind has been set back hundreds of years because of this. Stem cell research, birth control and cancer cures have all been stopped by these idiots. Ignorance rules in these United States.

Mr. Weiss put in some pretty remarkable work in the end of his letter, broadening out the scope of his criticisms to include all, er, "Bible-Followers", not just the ones who set the good book aside 3/4ths of the way through (for additional laffs, see the paper version of the Cap Times. I don't happen to have my copy handy at the moment - left it at work - but today's Sound Off* featured a caller who used the word "parasites" to describe the Israeli government. I thought these sorts of pleasures were reserved for Guardian readers. No fair!).

Mr. Weiss probably believes that his skepticism keeps him honest, insulating him from prejudice, received ideas and sloppy thinking (not like those sheep who blindly follow the Mosaic injunction against cancer cures!); too many secularists allow themselves to get carried away by mindless rancour for this reason. I'm a secularist - heck, I'm an atheist - and I've done it myself more than once; more than twice, even. Usually the worst thing that comes out of it is that you look like a colossal fool.

But not always. Progressive ideas can warp your humanity and common sense as much as the stuff those nasty, god-bothering right-wingers believe. I hope that Mr. Weiss isn't giving voice to feelings that other progressives and liberals are too polite to say in public; I hope he's just another grouchy, know-it-all 15-year-old.

[*For those of you who don't live in south central Wisconsin: the Sound Off is a daily feature on the Cap Times's editorial page which reprints the anonymous phone messages of every crank, imbecile and ignoramus who rings up a special phone number. It seems to be fairly common wisdom around here that the opinions found in the Sound Off are usually good for nothing more than bursts of derisive laughter.]

Monday, June 26, 2006

Howdy Neighbor!

I think Hak Mao must've moved in to my old place on Langdon Street...

"There is a certain sort of young man, who seems to think that leaning out of a balcony window at 02.00 waving a beer can, alternately screaming the same four lines of a Bob Marley song...over and over and over and over again, and baring his buttocks and wiggling the nipples on his ample man-tits at passersby is attractive to women.
He is wrong.

Never Trust a Hippie

When she's not making a living as a professional talking ass-crack, Ann Coulter apparently likes to listen to really lousy music.

(via The Daily Dish)

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