Wednesday, April 30, 2008


BB is home again today with a recurrence of strep throat. It's frustrating all around. I've been trying to kick start my work and now I find myself trying to entertain a sick boy. But there's not much I can do about it. Herewith, BB's picture of the day.


Plaintiff reincarnated Dick as a robot

As I know from a previous version of myself, the law (and judges) can sometimes be hilarious. From a recent summary judgment in the case of the missing robot head comes this wonderful example:

"Plaintiff David Hanson has lost his head. More specifically, Plaintiff has lost an artistically and scientifically valuable robotic head modeled after famous science fiction author Philip K. Dick. Dick’s well-known body of work has resulted in movies such as Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly, and a large group of admirers has grown following his death in Orange County, California, in 1982. His stories have questioned whether robots can be human (see, e.g., Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)), so it seems appropriate that Plaintiff reincarnated Dick as a robot which included the Head, valued at around $750,000."

Sadly, Plaintiff lost his case against the airline that misplaced the Head.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Radiohead's "Creep" sung big band style by Frank Bennett. I actually owned a cassette tape of this early Radiohead album. Chorus: "What the hell am I doing here / I don't belong here."

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Little Better

My current fav on Gnarls Barkley's new album.

A survival song in the best tradition of the soul diva. The lyrics at the end:
I wanna thank you morning sun
I wanna thank you lowly dirt
Now I know I'm not the only one
I, I wanna thank you friendly ghost
When all the calls were close
It seems like you cared the most
I wanna thank you Mom and Dad
For hurtin me so bad
But you're the best I ever had
I, I wanna thank you...

Black Keys - Psychotic Girl

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What we know

We know our new dog does not like going to PetCo, which he graced with an ugly yellow pee.

We know that our new dog likes to go on hikes. He was thrilled to trip on down the trail through the woods, nose to the ground.

We know that the new dog has a redneck meter. We passed two parties of middle-class type people, and he was pleasant and friendly, just as he is around the neighborhood. But we encountered a group in hunter garb (i.e., orange hats, camo pants) carrying fishing poles and the dog completely freaked out. He growled and barked and refused to walk by them. What happened to this dog in the past?

We know that LB can walk about 3/4 of a mile (about half of the hike). He was also thrilled to be tripping on down the trail.

We know that both boys can talk at the same time for the entire hike, BB about the Pokemon nesting grounds around us and LB by repeating what anybody else said. "Cold hands, cold hands, cold hands . . ." "Good dog, good dog, good dog . . ." AO and I can usually carry on a (somewhat stilted) conversation over their heads.

We know that spring is absolutely glorious. The woods are alive with the scent of budding trees.

White people like PhDs

From the blog Stuff White People Like comes this insight about higher education:

After acquiring a Masters Degree that will not increase their salary or hiring desirability, many white people will move on to a PhD program where they will go after their dream of becoming a professor. However, by their second year they usually wake up with a hangover and realize: “I’m going to spend six years in graduate school to make $35,000 and live in the middle of nowhere?”

After this crisis, a white person will follow one of two paths. The first involves dropping out and moving to New York, San Francisco or their original home town where they can resume the job that they left to attend graduate school.

At this point, they can feel superior to graduate school and say things like “A PhD is a testament to perseverance, not intelligence.” They can also impress their friends at parties by referencing Jacques Lacan or Slavoj Žižek in a conversation about American Idol.

The second path involves becoming a professor, moving to a small town and telling everyone how they are awful and uncultured.

It is important to understand that a graduate degree does not make someone smart, so do not feel intimidated. They may have read more, but in no way does that make them smarter, more competent, or more likable than you. The best thing you can do is to act impressed when a white person talks about critical theorists. This helps them reaffirm that what they learned in graduate school was important and that they are smarter than you. This makes white people easier to deal with when you get promoted ahead of them.

The Breeders

It occurs to me that I should be listening more to The Breeders. The Pixies just wouldn't have been the same without Kim Deal, and The Breeders continue to create solid new music (unlike the Pixies). This video is from the early '90s, when I used to fantasize about dating rocker chicks like them.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Saved the Rainforest Today

BB gave me this wrist band for earth day. I've been wearing it all week. The wristband is especially perverse because it's a piece of junk plastic purporting to save the rainforest, but BB has been engaged enough with earth day to school me on recycling and forest regeneration.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "Killing the Light"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Doggy rhythms

Having a new dog is kind of like having another kid. Thank goodness he came to us house trained. I now know more about his bowel movement habits than I know about my own. Other things I know. He likes to lift his right leg when he pees. He doesn't like going in the yard, but if he needs to go bad he'll do it at the beginning of a walk (once we get a fence, he'll have to do it in the yard). He can hold everything in from about 8 p.m. until the next morning.

He has other tics and habits. He likes to sleep on couches and chairs, like a cat. As I write he's asleep on the same couch as one of our cats. He gives me a little head flip look when we start walking again after a pause, an adorable gesture I've seen in other dogs. He can get wound up if you encourage him, but generally he's calm and well-mannered. He's been sleeping at the foot of our bed at night, completely quiet (unlike the cats). He only gets up in the morning after we do. If he's trying hard to hear something he tilts his head to the side just enough to move a big, floppy ear away from his head. He uses his paws to turn things and hold them, and also like a cat he likes to push his paws against you when he's getting pet. He always kneels down or rolls over when I try to put a leash on, a gesture I don't quite understand.

One of our cats (whom he's sleeping by) seems to like having him around. The other cat needs some time.

Friday robot blogging

Robots with skinny legs, 1950s style. The cover story is by none other than Philip K. Dick.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


New logo for a gov't department in the UK. Tilt your head left to see why it's being reconsidered.


Mindless Self-Indulgence

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Personal ad

I was imagining a personal ad that our dog might write:

Enjoys long walks, good food, and lazy naps in the afternoon. Hobbies include chasing chipmunks and squirrels, harassing cats, and any smells related to effluviant and human wastes, especially drain pipes and manhole covers. Favorite spots are couches and beds.

He's whole-heartedly adopted us. He's simultaneously mellow and enthusiastic. He wants to please and be involved. I don't think we could have picked a better dog. Being a beagle, and essentially a nose with legs, he also has his own agenda, which keeps him busy when nothing else is going on.

BB adores him. The dog slept on his bed last night while BB went to sleep. Simply perfect.

Steve is not happy

Charlie Rose interviews himself in this psychotic take on the tech industry.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Plugging in

Cool fixture art.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Now it's your turn

The Rude Pundit (who I always turn to around election time) commenting on McCain's sunday morning performance on This Week:

But by far, the biggest dickish moment was when Stephanopoulos was asking McCain about health care, pointing out that the Senator had pretty much had his health care paid for by the government for his whole life. Said McCain, "It’s a cheap shot, but I did have a period of time where I didn’t have very good government health care. I had it from another government." And then he laughed that mad, chilling laugh he gets when he's reminding people that he was a prisoner of war. Oh-ho, so self-deprecating. Get it? He had five years of North Vietnamese health care and it sucked. Or, as McCain said after laughing, "So, look, I know what it’s like in America not to have health care."

Yes, John McCain knows your pain because he was tortured. Maybe his campaign slogan should be, "John McCain: Now It's Your Turn, Motherfuckers."

What should we name the new dog?

AO and I thought we had settled on Zander, but BB never really got on board with the name. He woke up this morning, on the day we're supposed to pick him up, saying that Zander wouldn't work for him. "I want to like Zander, but my brain," he tells me, "says no." He was pushing for a Pokemon name, but they're either too cutesy or weird: Shuppet, Mudkip, Smiffy, Dialga, Aipom, Magby, Cherubi. Then he proposed techy and sci fi type names, like Electro, Laser Beam, or Storm Trooper. No, no, no.

BB has a history of idiosyncratic naming. After LB was born and we had chosen a name, BB for the longest time wanted to rename him Chocolate Ice Cream. We said that he could add this as an informal middle name. Indeed, we've been trying to get him to settle for naming the dog's middle name, but he won't be tricked this time. So, before school this morning, we ended up with a couple of Star Wars possibilities: Yoda and Jedi. It's a little dog, so Yoda might work. I like Dante, Hermes, Troy, and Ceasar. The beagle is traditionally English, so maybe Basil, Bertram, Emmet, Godwin, Kent, Ozzy, Sidney, or Toby.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Acid King

Stoner doom metal out of San Francisco. It has the shoegazy feel of the best of Black Sabbath. Acid King has the distinction of being fronted by Lori S. - yes, a metal band led by a woman. All the live versions on YouTube have sound that's too muddy, so here's a studio track.

Black Mountain

The song "Druganaut." They are on the indie label Jagjaguwar, located in Indiana. Apparently, some of the members of Black Mountain work in an innovative inner city program in Vancouver, BC, which provides basic services for the poor and the addicted.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"They turn out in great numbers"

I can't help reproducing Clinton's comments following her losses on Super Tuesday. Suppress the activist vote!

"We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday robot blogging

Celebrity robots, on a T-shirt produced by chopshop. Can you name any of them?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brought to you by Disney

I don't even watch TV for the news (OK, I watch The Daily Show), so my expectations are pretty low. But in a moment of weakness I turned on the Clinton/Obama debate last night. I'll admit that there's a certain car crash mentality to my interest. Given all the recent "gotcha" moments in the primary campaign, I wondered how things were going to go for Hillary and Barack. What I saw, though, shocked even me. Clinton slung as much mud as she could Obama's way. Obama took the high road, criticizing the very process that had created mud slinging in the first place. This I expected. But the moderators from ABC news (i.e, Disney), Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, jumped the shark. I expected gotcha, one-note political questions, but when Gibson suggested the Obama wasn't patriotic or when Stephanopoulos brought up Obama's association with a former member of the Weather Underground, it was practically laughable. Clinton was falling all over herself to try to keep scooping up all the mud they were throwing her way. Obama just looked more and more weary. Even when they gave him an opening to criticize Clinton for some recent untruths, he refused, suggesting that maybe this wasn't a substantive way to pick a president. If I were him, I'd leave the political process to those shallow people who thrive in it.

The only question I have left is whether ABC news' bottom-feeding performance is more related to their chase for ratings or their fear of political change.

From a journalist's perspective, Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News responded to the debate this way:

Quickly, a word to any and all of my fellow journalists who happen to read this open letter: This. Must. Stop. Tonight, if possible. I thought that we had hit rock bottom in March 2003, when we failed to ask the tough questions in the run-up to the Iraq war. But this feels even lower. We need to pick ourselves up, right now, and start doing our job -- to take a deep breath and remind ourselves of what voters really need to know, and how we get there, that's it's not all horse-race and "gotcha." Although, to be blunt, I would also urge the major candidates in 2012 to agree only to debates that are organized by the League of Women Voters, with citizen moderators and questioners. Because we have proven without a doubt in 2008 that working journalists don't deserve to be the debate "deciders."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The state of my academic career is in tension. On the one hand, I'm missing the deadline for defending my dissertation. Around here they require one to finish in seven years (so biblical) or else one's candidacy expires. This means I have to recertify my comprehensive exams. So, I'm just about to blow by my seven-year anniversary. On the other, I found out today that I've won a departmental prize they give to the "best graduate student." At least in this little world, it's some serious recognition (or, at least, it testifies to the generosity of my dissertation committee).

I've been wondering if I am even going to finish, which is complete foolishness. Over and over the ante keeps being upped, and it says over and over, you must finish. The ways of the universe may be mysterious, but I know what I have to do.

The Last Poets

The Last Poets were active in the early seventies, precursors of hip-hop. This clip seems to be taken from more recent work with the jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Go poop

Saw this comment highlighted on the NYT's website, regarding a contest for the best advice for kids.

"Advice mom always gave when we weren’t feeling well for any reason: 'Go poop.'"

This is pretty much AO's advice to BB most of the time. And you know what, it usually works.


A live version of "Queer."

The best line is "Let me dirty up your mind." But there are many others, including: "I hate to see you here / You choke behind a smile / A fake behind the fear."

Monday, April 14, 2008


I developed a cold over the weekend. I'm foggy-headed with a wet, deep cough.

Time for some pissed-off grunge from L7. I saw them at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco in the mid 90s. They sing: "Get out of my way or I might shove. GET OUT OF MY WAY OR I'M GONNA SHOVE!"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Uppity negro

The brouhaha over Obama's comments about small town America is politics at its most cynical, what we should expect from the right wing in the General Election, but what I hoped not to see in the primary. Clinton is using the code words "elitist" and "out of touch" to scare non-urban white America about Obama. Her comments aren't really meant to be about class at all (who really believes that Clinton is less upper class than Obama). It's race baiting. "Elitist" means that he's an uppity negro. "Out of touch" means that he's a scary, urban black man. We should all feel bitter about Clinton's tactics.

Aesop Rock

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Eddie Hazel

Covering "California Dreamin." Hazel was one of the guitarists for Funkadelic, which like James Brown's bands was a post doc program for amazing musicians. Hazel died in 1992 at exactly my present age.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another reason to like Obama

Obama responding tonight to the latest distortions from Clinton (and McCain). They accuse him of being an liberal elitist. (Fuck! McCain is the real elite, and Clinton isn't far behind. McCain comes from a dynasty of admirals; there's a military base named after his grandfather.) What's burning me up is that Clinton used a quote from Grover Norquist (a racist, libertarian, right-wing lobbyist) in her campaign literature today to discredit Obama. Norquist was one of Abramoff's buddies. Link. Clinton has lost all legitimacy for me.

Obama just seems smart in this response, at a rally in Terre Haute, IN.

Nightmares on Wax

"Flip Ya Lid." Reggae-inspired house music. Great video.

Friday robot blogging

From the Mangobot column at

"If you've noticed an unusually large number of utilitarian humanoids hailing from Japan in the last few years, then you probably won't be surprised to hear about the country's official robot initiative. Right now, Japan is in the midst of executing a grand plan to make robots an integrated part of everyday life. To compensate for the shortage of young workers willing to do menial tasks, the Japan Robot Association, the government, and several technology institutions drafted a formal plan to create a society in which robots live side by side with humans by the year 2010."

There seems to be a disjunction between robots being "workers" and living "side by side with humans." I mean, most anthropomorphic visions of robots seem to implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) expect robots essentially to be slaves. That doesn't approach the utopianism in the phrase "side by side." I have noticed that Japan tends to be more interested in (or more comfortable with) humanoid robots. I wonder why this is?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Book of the Machines

From Samuel Butler's "The Book of the Machines," written in the 1860s and later included in Erewhon. It was first published in New Zealand under the title "Darwin among the Machines." I came across this incidentally; it should be required reading for steampunk aficionados.

"But who can say that the vapour engine has not a kind of consciousness? Where does consciousness begin, and where end? Who can draw the line? Who can draw any line? Is not everything interwoven with everything? Is not machinery linked with animal life in an infinite variety of ways? The shell of a hen's egg is made of a delicate white ware and is a machine as much as an egg-cup is: the shell is a device for holding the egg, as much as the egg-cup for holding the shell: both are phases of the same function."

Machines and animals are the same. And then he goes further by suggesting that everything has a form of consciousness. The potato, for example. "Even a potato in a dark cellar has a certain low cunning about him which serves him in excellent stead. He knows perfectly well what he wants and how to get it. He sees the light coming from the cellar window and sends his shoots crawling straight thereto. . . . The potato says these things by doing them, which is the best of languages."

Butler is best known for his posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Suburban hell

BB's spring soccer season started yesterday. It was delayed twice by our heavy rains. The organization he plays with has been assigned a new set of fields by the city. And when I say new, I mean they are brand new fields. It was not so good. One has to take a gravel/dirt road to get to them and park in a gravel/mud lot. Gravel and mud is not easy for LB's stroller. The fields themselves are barely that. Uneven planes of mud with tufts of grass might qualify as open space, but they aren't really proper playing fields. Balls barely roll as the confront uneven clumps of grass and the kids were tripping as they ran. And then, when we were done, 200 or 300 cars, all with screaming, hungry kids inside, attempted to leave the mud and gravel at the same time. The whole mise-en-scène just felt like raw suburban hell. There is a new subdivision bordering the fields, with eroding new bluffs surrounding it, and an eery containment pond nearby (was this swampy land?) beckoning to small children to drown themselves. The final insult. No bathrooms.

Two observations: 1) BB is taller than everyone else. 2) Looking down the line of kids as they listened to their coach, everyone stood still with one foot on their soccer ball, except BB who was spinning around with his arms in the air imagining some future soccer glory.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Busy, busy . . .

This is going to be a busy day. I have a haircut, a paper to read, a seminar with a visiting scholar, BB's soccer practice, and a lecture to attend tonight. Normally, I'm not scheduled through 9 or 10 at night. If I'm going on the market again, I guess I need to get used to it. Must run right now. LB has a poop in his pants. And breakfast needs to be on the table if we're going to get BB to the bus.


"Where Is My Mind." This is classic rock for my generation.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cinéma vérité

We've pulled out an old Sony video camera a few times for BB. Mostly to see what he would make of playing with it a bit. Long time readers will know he's gone through some cycles of wanting to make movies and animation, mostly while he's created elaborate set ups. Now it seems he's old enough to get the concept of actually filming. All weekend he authoritatively carried the camera around, this time intending to create a video spotlighting LB's life. We have LB running, laughing, crying, spitting out food, rolling around on his head, brushing his teeth, etc. etc. LB loves the attention and BB thinks most of LB's antics are great fun. What's really funny about the whole thing is how nouveau BB is with his filmmaking style. He's been using the tripod for shots outside or in the kitchen (of himself, especially), but he favors the tight, shaky shots that have become such a staple of neo-realism. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if he's trying to copy the reality show aesthetic of shows like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs, which he adores. Next he'll be trying to get LB to bust some myths, like "Will you break your leg if you jump off the roof?"

The Fuzztones

From their 1984 album Lysergic Emanations. Even in the 1980s, the Fuzztones were a throw-back to a psychedelic-era, garage-band sound.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Water tower

BB came into our bed this morning, as we tried to sleep-in a bit. He had water towers on the mind and the amount of pressure they exert on the water. What happens, he wondered, if one doesn't open a faucet for a long time? Does the pressure build up and finally break the faucet's valve? I talked about the steady state of the water and its pressure. He still wasn't satisfied. Doesn't it go boom? (He's fascinated with explosions, which the show Mythbusters only stokes.) His mom brought up water balloons and how they will burst if you fill them too much. I then tried to talk about the relative strength of the materials used to hold water. But BB was running with his mom's thought experiment. Can we make them go boom?

Heather Headley

I don't usually listen to contemporary r & b, what a radio station back in the bay area used to call The Quiet Storm. But this song just hooks me. The video itself, not so good.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Manu Chao

The Dead 60s

Short-lived ska/punk band The Dead 60s (I hear The Clash, The Specials, Gang of Four) mixed with the intro to La Haine (Hate), a movie that anticipated the more recent violence in the Paris suburbs.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday robot blogging

Michael Jackson weirdness today. According to the NY Daily News, Jackson was hoping to build a 50-foot robot in Vegas.

Thanks to

New Gnarls Barkley

New album, The Odd Couple, which this song is from, just came out. About 2/3 through the video I love the way it gets totally psychedelic and almost a bit frightening, which (ironically?) is mostly in black and white.

This review at Salon takes them to task for not be clear about their intentions. Are they serious musicians or a gimmick? The review, unfortunately, gets bogged down in authenticity, especially of the black, hip-hop variety, and wonders why they're so inspired by indie rock lyrics and pop references. Admittedly, Gnarls Barkley probably does have a much wider white audience and the emcee in this video is a bit of a wigger. But does this make them less serious? I like them because they ARE so playful with identities (Cee-Lo's thing for sure) and popular culture.

I also think their trip-hop aesthetic (ala Tricky, but less serious) is a wonderful antidote to the whiny, three chord boredom of most contemporary indie acts. (I just saw the indie inspiration, REM, on The Colbert Show, and while they rocked out, it felt so tired.) Cee-Lo sounds so sweet singing his quasi-emo, existential lyrics, which always threaten (but not quite) to blow the playfulness up. It's pomo, baby, with heart.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No rush

Found this (through Bitch PhD) on a blog that purports to post actual IM conversations:

A: there’s no rush on this thesis anyway, since finishing it isn’t likely to help my own employment situation.
B: wont you get your phd when done?
A: Yeah
A: But, truth be told, that probably won’t help me get a job
B: and wont the phd help with employment?
A: possibly w/ some other job market?
A: but probably not academia
B: yeah, phds are a dime a dozen there
B: no wonder you’re so against capitalism…

Yep, that's been my career track as well. Self-loathing and cynicism.

The blog itself is kind of creepy. Is it right to eavesdrop on IM conversations?

If it hurts, is it real?

In a recent blog entry on The Technium, Kevin Kelly muses about the themes in Philip K. Dick's work (the basis of movies like "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall"). As Dick explained in 1978, "The two basic topics which fascinate me are 'What is reality?' and 'What constitutes the authentic human being?'" Kelly thinks that these themes will become more and more mainstream and common as Artificial Intelligence (i.e., robot cultures) becomes the norm. He calls this a human identity crisis; I would call it the crisis of the posthuman. We'll be living "The Matrix," so to speak.

Kelly writes, "the mass of ordinary citizens and net surfers -- will be pressed by a blanket of unresolved doubt. Who am I? Can there be more than one species of human? Can a robot be a child of God? Is slavery among intelligent machines acceptable? Should we extend the circle of empathy beyond animals and living things to made things? If it hurts, is it real?"

The problem is -- and as Kelly implies -- humans haven't been so good treating each other or the nonhumans on this planet (i.e,, animals) with much empathy. Kelly predicts mass psychosis and wide-scale violence, but with the rise of AI we are offered another opportunity for asking these questions.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

From Russia with love

The Leningrad Cowboys and the Red Army Chorus cover Lynard Skynard's "Sweet Home Alabama."

Seen on boing boing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Best April Fools joke

Marketplace on NPR had the best April Fools joke, at least the one that got me. A completely straight story on how the IRS is sending out consumer goods instead of rebate checks for those people likely to use it to pay down debt. They interviewed a couple who had received an air conditioner instead of a check. I'm incredulous, beginning to fume.

Ha! And almost believable in this age of Bushite bait and switch.

Eric Clapton shreds

For some more amazing licks, go here.