Wednesday, December 31, 2008

iPhone Blogging Test Número Dos

Just beyond our backyard here in Pacifica is Highway 1, and just
beyond that (sort of) is the ocean.

It took about half an hour last night before my last post went up. I
decided to go to bed instead of wait, and this morning I finally saw
it update. I guess what this means is that I won't be "liveblogging"
anything -- well, maybe with the Internet-equivalent of a tape delay.

Testing The Mobile Blogging

Can't talk much. Got an iPhone for Christmas and so now I'll
permanently have bad neck alignment. But that means I can send little
gems like these, almost instantly. Hooray?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Out of Context

A few days ago, I called up my mom to ask what we were supposed to wear for Thanksgiving. Usually my grandma has us wear a particular color, if only to look good in family photos. Almost always is that color red, but we're not exactly sticklers for tradition in my family (some of the time).

"Well," my mom said. "The theme this year is Moroccan, so I guess you could wear something red. Or brown."

"Oh," I said. I began to think about what I could wear. I have a brown sweater, and I guess since it's Thanksgiving, I could wear my TA-ing chinos and look kinda semi-formal.

"Tita Telly is bringing costumes for the girls, so just wear something in the theme," she said.

It took me a whole day to realize that my family what "the theme this year is Moroccan" actually meant: we were taking a holiday -- which by definition already have themes -- and doing something that had absolutely no relationship to what that holiday is about. In other words, my family was about to commit (and I mean that in the "perpetrate" sense) a non-sequitur of the most illogical order. What did it matter if I wore red or brown or chinos or jeans or shorts? We were commemorating a meal between Pilgrims and natives by dressing up like belly dancers.

Oh and yes, there's nothing like Filipinos doing their best impression of "the oriental". My aunt from Vegas made up costumes for other aunts and my girl cousins that involved some sort of jangly waistband thingy and what I can only call a "forehead necklace" and my mom made "turbans" (think Lawrence of Arabia, but in flashy colors) for the guys in the family. Even my grandparents got into this stuff -- my grandma was all color coordinated in blues, jangly waist thingy included. And even my teenage girl cousins went for it (though one wore her jangly thing with pleather pants).

Of course, I was too cool for school and just gave my mom funny looks when she tried to put my "turban" on me. My brothers and my stepdad were wearing theirs all up through dinner, and so eventually I decided to put mine on. "Just for the pictures," I told myself. And since I didn't really figure out how to put it on because I was running away from my mom, I ended up looking like a cross between a pirate, Aladdin, and a Catholic Cardinal. In other words, totally sweet.

Later in the night, my brother commented that "this was the shortest Thanksgiving ever! We spent more time setting up than eating." And it was true: we took the entire day to put up streamers in the living room to make the dinner table look like a "bazaar", an undertaking that involved nearly 200 yards of monofilament fishing line from my uncle's deep-sea fishing pole, endless duct tape, and lots of up and down on short ladders, with the requisite straining to reach up that short ladders entail. To top it off, none of our food was "Moroccan" -- it was just Thanksviging food. Of course, calling my family on any of these discrepencies would elicit some strange justification that, if it were me (I'd assume at least), I'd be told I was being lazy: "oh, do you really want couscous for Thanksgiving?"

So once we sat down to eat and then took our family picture, I realized that I must be genetically-programmed to be random and to be absolutely unapologetic for it. My family might be all observant Catholics, and we might have all the similar oddities that Filipino families share, but I think that every person comes to the realization when they watch a video of their mother dancing with the dancers on a riverboat tour, and hearing your grandpa and uncle sing karaoke just as off-key (and just as dramatically bad), that being cut from the same cloth means that deep down in your bones, you've inherited this stuff in the blood.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Planes Are Made For Sleeping, Not Classes

Good news (for now!) My Summer course was approved, and so pending various approval steps and enrollment, I'll be teaching "Social Change, Democracy, and Dictatorship", meaning (1) I'll have to put together a syllabus (which works out doubly-nice since I need sample syllabi for my teaching portfolio) and (2) I'll be making money, which means I'll be able to eat this Summer. Though, if I end up blowing my savings on just trying to get to Brazil this June, who knows if there'll be enough of me left to feed.

Of course, all of this means I'm going to have to essentially condense a semester's worth of material into two months, spread out over three, 3-hour classes a week (or five, 1-and-a-half hour classes, or whatever bad math you can come up). In any case, it'll be all democracy, all the time for me and at least 10 students. Hopefully there'll be some inspiring and motivating going on.


I'm in Houston, getting some use out of the $8 I paid for internet access for the day up on Detroit. After not having slept at all Monday night, and hardly sleeping at all last night, I've been sleeping on my flights. As is typical of me and moving vehicles which I'm not driving, as soon as I sit down -- and as soon as I figure out that no one will have to cross over me to get to their seat -- I'm out like a light, or whatever metaphor about falling asleep quickly you'd like to use. I think I might stay awake for this last leg, if only to be able to sleep at a reasonable hour when I get to San Dimas, though I wouldn't bet on it, or take the points.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Oslec is an annoying person, but a good TA" and Other Things People Say to Me

The past few days, I've come across some good leads on a couple things that might keep me off the street next Fall. The first is a visiting assistant professorship at Roger Williams University here in RI in comparative-historical sociology; and the second is a teaching-oriented, two-year postdoc at Grinnell College in Iowa. There's also a longshot (and I mean looooongshot): a tenure-track comp-hist position at Duke, but without pubs and not much to show on my diss, this one looks like it's very much out of my reach.

So, I've been researching a bit about those prospects, working on some cover letters and trying to piece together a teaching portfolio. I looked over my evals from my past few classes, and as usual, some people loved me, some people thought "[I was] an annoying person, but a good TA" and others just didn't like me. I was feeling pretty down yesterday, but our former department chair happened to be around when I was kvetching and calmed me down a bit. He said, "the only things that matter are faculty evaluations anyway," which was kinda helpful, but I did think about a billion ways to improve myself. I e-mailed my friend Brian at U of Florida and he talked me off the ledge, and really, a couple bad reviews do not the scholar break.

Still, I started plunking away at a sample syllabus for a summer course I proposed (probably not gonna get it), and I wanted to take a look at a course I took at Conn many moons ago that Prof. Gay had taught. So I e-mailed him, went to bed, and this morning he wrote back:

What the [expletive deleted] are you doing up at 1am? Get some sleep!

Well, he wrote more, but that was the best part.

Today, I tried to find something to keep me off the streets this Summer, and looked into adjuncting at RISD. I e-mailed a contact my friend Jen had in their History, Philosophy and Social Sciences department, but they're all full for this Summer. They said they'd keep my e-mail "on file", though, so that's sort of all right. Still, without really knowing if I'm going to get that Summer course I proposed, I need to either make money or plan to be in the Philippines or Pacifica this Summer.

After all that, I feel all right. I feel like I'm moving along, despite not having anything truly tangible, and a bit tougher after being rejected a few times -- and in a few different ways. Bob, after telling me I need to go to bed, said that it's par for the course to be a visiting prof for a couple years now before you "really" go on the market, which in a way means that I'd be disadvantaged going on the market now, since I'd be competing with a bunch of people who've incubated as visiting profs somewhere. Of course, it's also par for the course for no one to tell me that it's not always a straight path from PhD to tenure-track position. Ahhhh confidence.

* I eat bad idioms for breakfast, and write them for dinner.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Write MOAR

A few months ago, I happened upon a yard sale around the corner from our place. I got there just as they were closing up, so everything was going for free -- clothes, kitchen shit, board games, etc. Of particular interest to me were a collection of early to mid-90s alt rock (I took both Gin Blossoms cassettes) and a kind of crappy usb keyboard.

As soon as I got home, I put in New Miserable Experience and cleaned and plugged in the keyboard. Part of my excitement was that now I had something to type my dissertation on. Well, I mean something that look more officially "established" than squatting over my laptop over a coffee table in Venezuela or hiding out in my room in Ecuador, hoping that the lightning won't fry anything. I got so excited over the prospect of this new apparatus that I made Andrew drive me to Staples so I could buy a mouse.

Of course, since I've been using a laptop for the past ten years of my life, getting my wrists to remember to use a separate keyboard and finding and using the mouse (it's cordless, so it runs and hides from me) are a task unto themselves. I'm currently debating whether or not I'm going to give myself carpal tunnel from the position of the keyboard and the mouse on the tiny sliding keyboard table in my desk. Then my mind wanders to college and I realize I did have a keyboard, but I used it nearly as much (never).

So fast forward a few months and here I am, half-typing my dissertation on not-so-new keyboard. Admittedly, it's still slightly more "official" and slightly more motivating than typing on my laptop, and I need whatever extra pushes I can get at this point. I'm not yet at the point where I'd welcome a healthy shove off a cliff, but I could use some dangling over the precipice.

Now, the reason why I've somehow convinced myself that writing yet another egotistical blog post is that I need to get the cobwebs out of my writing machine (read: "me"), and since I really don't care too too much about what ya'll think (actually, I care a lot), I'll just write like the middle-class person I am without having to be the middle-class person trying to be some other class in my dissertation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Old Red Shirt

I got rid of all but 8 or so t-shirts before I left for the Philippines two years ago, and over the course of the next few months of fieldwork, I picked up a couple more. T-shirt wear in the field is an art, I submit -- it requires some sensitivity to the state of irony in the country you're in, as well as some attention to important shit, like politics. For example, my "Middle Class" t-shirt worked pretty well in the Philippines, mostly because people speak English and that, after awhile, I wore it out of tiredness of my topic. I wore it again in Ecuador a few times, too, but only when I was out in La Mariscal -- of course with the hope that some gringa would think it was funny. Sadly, no one really found it that funny.

All of this rumination and reminiscing is because I unearthed my one red t-shirt. My cousins gave it to me many years ago as a Christmas present, and it's been a pretty faithful t-shirt -- ya know, covering my torso, exposing my arms, etc. But the reason why I "unearthed" it is because I chose not to wear it while I was in Venezuela. My Venezuelan host family insisted that wearing red would be akin to "talking about politics", which you shouldn't do in public. Though I did meet quite a few people who had no qualms about talking about politics in public, I wasn't going to draw attention to myself for no reason. And of all the things my family told me about Caracas -- don't go out with a watch, don't go out with money, etc. -- the one I really followed was not to wear red in public, lest I be thought of as a Chavista.

But strangely, I hadn't worn it until now. What can I say? I look like a socialist, but I'm a crass middle class intellectual. Oh the troubles of the armchair intellectual.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Filipino Food: Keeping Captives Alive Everywhere

I'm looking for a link, but this morning I was awakened by the dulcet tones of BBC World Service, analyzing the recent capture of a Saudi oil tanker by Somali pirates. While interesting in and of itself, the analyst noted that these pirates employ (in the "use" sense, since I can't clearly remember if they were captured or paid) Filipino cooks to make food for captives. One would assume that they feed them Filipino food, meaning that if anything, if you're a-hankerin' for some adobo, just get yourself on a tanker heading past Eyl.

In other news, while I've caught up with grading, I've also caught the wrath of my diss adviser who pressed me for "actual chapters". And with that, we're really writing the dissertation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So Slow, So Not Steady

I've reached "that" point in my life where I feel guilty for writing on the ol' blog when I should be writing my dissertation. At least I've got a nifty title for my Philippines chapter, but that should have been done about a month ago. Instead, I've got half an intro and half a theory chapter, which I guess isn't too too bad, but far behind my more optimistic setup for the sem.

Otherwise though, I got through a big hump last week for the class I'm TAing -- had to do up 50 or so research proposals and hand them back. I felt so motivated correcting papers, I just kept correcting through the weekend and realized what it was that grad students should do: not have fun, so they can have peace of mind. But who am I kidding?

But another thing sort of laming out this blog has been facebook's "share a link" thingy, which makes posting shit up for all to see so lazily fast that, well, I just abuse it. But, I abused it only because there was news to abuse it with: the leadup to the election was sweet, with all the Obama news. But now, I'm just posting links to Slate, which is what I did here anyway. I figure that commenting on the blog about the posts makes me "a better writer" -- in quotes, since you can see how stream-of-consciousness all this crudupucularness is.

So, let me make a promise: I'm going to find something worth doing a Video Fix on, and I'll do a Video Fix for ya'll. I figure that lets me be a different kind of awesome.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This Week's Instead of Writing, October 13th

Ah Pistol Pete. Since most sounds in the condo reverberate through all three floors and across to the other units, I'm doing this drill over my bed, along with another one involving flipping the ball and... it's complicated.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Your Video Fix #6

Six is in the mix. Linkity.

By the way, this is all important relaxation between writing words and commas in my dissertation.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh Boy, Wasilla...

Cross-posting this on facebook, too. Apparently all that extra footage from the Couric-Palin interview really was horrible: Sarah Palin could not name another Supreme Court case other than Roe vs. Wade. Now, I dunno about you, but that's "damning" as they say in the media game.

You can say it's all biased since it's a DailyKos diary citing a Huffington Post article. Shit, I mean, it couldn't be any more biased than a Sociology grad student from York citing Lenin, but I digress. As it seems that us libs have been right for the past few months, I think this one will pan out to be only diffusable by a shotgun wedding... Now, who could possibly get married?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trying, Among Other Things

Two nights ago, I pulled an all-nighter to finish a conference paper. Let's just say two things: my paper sucked, but for reasons I won't say, I don't think I needed to try so hard. But in any case, that little rush of fun gave me a tiny, tiny break and I decided to clean my room a bit today and wire the cable connection to my computer. I will never have to leave my room ever again.

But I feel like I've been letting you (all three of you) down. Hardly anything insightful here as of late (as if you came here for insight), but I'll try to give you a paragraph's worth of stuff more regularly. Sadly, now that I'm back in Providence, the likelihood of me having any sort of adventure or seeing anything really "new" is pretty slim now. So I guess I really AM back.

As for the election, last Sunday I phonebanked for MoveOn with Jen, and donated $100 to Barack a few days before that. I sorta don't want to turn this blog fully into a bad DailyKos diary, so that's why I've been hesitant to say much. I have, however, been posting links to my facebook page, which is the quick-and-dirty way to get the point across.

But I'll cross-post this one. From the DailyKos, a chemical irritant was sprayed into a mosque in Ohio where children were waiting for their parents at prayer. The diarist linked that incident to the distribution of an anti-Muslim scaremonger DVD in swing states, with the tacit support of the McCain campaign. For whatever reason the attack occurred, I agree with the diarist: this is American terrorism, which I guess here we call that shit a "hate crime."

Ohio. I've driven through you once. You can't be that bad.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator

Stolen from DailyKos. Find out your Sarah Palin baby name here!

If Sarah Palin were my mother, I'd be named
Fleck Rookie Palin

Well Hello, Please Donate to Obama!

Hi. So it's been awhile. Let's get back to work.

I've been stretching and stretching out a due date for a conference paper, so I've felt a little guilty about blogging. Of course, I've been dicking around on DailyKos (I signed up so I could make comments and to start a diary, but I've felt guilty about doing that, too). Sliding around on the surface of the liberal blogosphere for a bit got me pretty riled up, more on that later.

But I've settled into a pretty reasonable rhythm back here in the PVD, minus of course the moments when instead of waking up at 8, I get up at 11:30. I'm TAing every day of the week, more or less -- class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and office hours in the mornings on Tuesday and Thursday. Conceivably, I should have a lot of free time to work on my dissertation, but well, you know (or you will know, I guess). I set up a "schedule" with Jose, where I'd finish a chapter or two each month, with January off (probably to finish all the crap I didn't finish). That plus going back to a free gym and my basketball friends, things are rhythmic.

Last week, I got pretty fed up with the McCain campaign, and really with McCain and Palin. It started with this story from the sfgate politics blog about how McCain released an ad called "Factcheck", which cited then proceeded to factcheck the ad, and found out that they lied about I can only assume that the reason why they pulled that shit was because both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report were off last week, because they couldn't have made that stuff up. That and how they continued to repeat some pretty idiotic lies -- lies that if you knew how to google (which isn't hard) -- that you could poop on.

So I talked to Patrick about making a "cheat sheet" to e-mail out with the claims and a link to disprove each of them. I figured that somehow this wasn't going to get picked up in the media and I wanted to do my part to help Obombs, especially considering how he was polling poorly against McCain, too. We got a few things listed (I'll put what we got at the bottom here), but it looks like that the "MSM", as they call it on DailyKos, has picked up on the lies, turned it into a meme, and following the lead of "The View", they're all abandoning the McCain ship pretty quickly.

Well, sort of quickly. Even if Karl Rove admits that McCain is going too far, he did manage to get in a "...on both sides", which plays into the grad-student-like insecurity about "balance" with the media. Just to be sure, when people call Obama on stretching the truth, he fixes himself, and really, he's not even close to McCain. Really, "on both sides" is stretching the truth: McCain is turning pathological, and compared to that, Obama looks like a typical politician.

Anyway, look, here's some stuff we can do. McCain now has $84 million dollars in federal funds for his campaign and can't spend or collect any more, unless it's through the the GOP. Because Obama didn't opt in to the federal system, he can collect and spend a whole shitload more.

The thing is, we're short a bit. The last funding update from the campaign from last month said that Obama collected $77 million. So to make sure Obama has a financial advantage, we've got to donate, especially in this last stretch.

Here. I made it easy for yas. I did it.


Crap, I can't find the list! Ok, I'll dig a bit on my desktop.

Friday, September 12, 2008

35 Years Since The Coup, Chileans Make Out More

Thanks New York Times. A solemn rememberance of Augusto Pinochet's bloody coup against Salvador Allende would be great, and appropriate. But it's ok, you've turned Chile into some sort of pedophile's dream, with 18-and-under parties and "making out" running rampant.

It's too bad that Bristol can't study abroad in Chile. 'Cuz she'll be raising her child.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Well, "My Dad Worked in a Mill" Didn't Work

As it's seemed to be once again, this election is about empathy vs. biography. Now after how many years of being beaten over the head with "narrative" from the Republicans, one would think we'd finally understand what it is that narrative does so well. Since POW vote isn't so big, we keep assuming that John McCain the War Hero should have no bearing on what really matters -- "the issues."

But the thing that the Dems and maybe even the blogosphere don't quite get is that McCain was telling a redemption story as a means to describe two things. First, he was trying to show that he's a different kind of leader, not simply someone who was a POW (which is what we're all fixated on, his characteristic of being a POW), but someone who's POW experience humbled him -- humbled him enough to return to the states and give his life up to public service. This allows him to contrast his biography to Obama, who cames from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of "celebrity", and to basically make him appear as St. Paul: a man who was born into status, but was cut down by his own pride, saved by the kindness of others, and then returned to serve, to reform -- in his own words (well, let's assume that he wrote it), he was "anointed by history" to "save the country." While it sounds fairly egocentric, the redemption story is pretty familiar to Americans as the "American Dream" story, and like I said yesterday, it's the political equivalent of Bush's born-again/rehab story: a man born into privilege, fucks up out of his own arrogance, gets saved by those who teach him what's really important, and emerges both a servant and warrior for the cause. And what it says about McCain is that his path to leadership, to his anointing by history to save the country, allows him to see things differently -- he is purified by his POW experience, not exhalted by it -- and as such, he will be the ultimate servant -- a contrast to his assertion that Washington does not serve the people, but itself.

And look, think deeply enough about it, and it suggests that this purity through humility allows him to overcome both wonkishness and elitism. This recalls for me the narrative of the pasyon as used by Philippine revolutionary movements at the turn of the century. If Ileto was right about how movement leaders believed only through purity could one bring ilaw (light) to others, John McCain made his case for why he was not only the ideal Republican leader but also why he was a maverick -- because his moral compass was set to true north by his POW experience.

But secondly, McCain's biography is a metaphor for the Republican Party this year. If Washington serves itself (and though, unspoken, Washington might as well be synonymous with the Republicans), the downturn for the Party this year is its Hanoi moment. That's why their platform is filled with this stuff about grassroots Republicans taking back Washington, because for them, this isn't about multiplying a thousand points of light, but conversion and purification, of multiplying a thousand St. Pauls. Of course, in the framing of this projection of McCain's story, we've already come back from Vietnam and divorced our first wife, so the only way to go from here is up. It's not simply an underdog story, it's a story of purification -- perhaps not unlike the 1964 convention where they basically told the moderate Rockefellers to fuck off.

Now, when I say "purification", I do not necessarily mean ideological purification. Again, this is why McCain's campaign manager keeps saying it's not about the issues. Narrative, as Francesca Polletta points out, is open to interpretation, and as such, it can unify people with disparate beliefs as they take different things away from the story. Now, not explicitly dealing with policy in his speech helped -- the more vague the narrative, the more people can come up with ways to identify with it. But pace Polletta, the plot itself can do as much work to convince as the process of identifying with it. What McCain's purification narrative signifies perhaps across interpretations is his moral leadership -- literally (literarily?) his "character", and, when projected to the Republicans as a whole, their agency-through-purification in the midst of recent history hating on them so badly and the RNC was their revival meeting. When McCain says he is anointed by history to save the country, he suggests his story is not over, and when projected to the Republicans as a whole -- regardless of their beliefs on the issues -- the point is that the journey is not over.

Does this then make Palin look a political decision, not a narrative one... Or, well, it's both. Palin's story hews much closer to testimony rather than redemption, which is why we see her as "telling a story" (i.e. screeching on about nothing, or at worst, lying). It feels particular to lots of us because of how she's being presented as an empathy candidate, versus a narrative one. But, don't discount what her narrative attempts to do: it's a right-wing Obama-Clinton mash-up. For one, it's the American Dream narrative, but explicitly drawn to a smaller scale than Obama's. This has the effect of making Obama's Harvard-lawyery-confusing-Kenya/Kansas goodness a liability by showing a pretty much the lower-middle class White (I mean, seriously, hockey?) version of the same story. Second, it's the feminist politician narrative, and it's had enough of an effect to get even progressive feminists to question their own assumptions.

Now, the Democrats from what I can see, have been a party of empathy at least since FDR. Empathy is not quite biography, though they're related a bit: empathy focuses on more characteristics than on plot, it's not about twists or drama per se, but about identifying with people (and connecting them) through a shared condition. It's forming common cause. As you can tell by the first day of the RNC, the Republicans kinda suck at empathy. But, the Democrats are pretty good at it. Even when they deploy narratives -- for example, Obama's American Dream life story -- it's used to show that there are muliple paths to the same condition (i.e. "I'm an American like you!") All the stories might be different, and that's the point: the only thing in common is the last line of the plot, and that's what matters. Why trot out four or five different people talking about their lives under Bush if ultimately the point is to show that life under Bush sucks for everyone? Or, why suggest that Joe Biden go at it in Pennsylvania: his roots, his narrative, allows him to connect to people who's narratives might be similar to his.

Empathy as it's deployed by the Democrats also lends itself to being about "issues", and the battle for Democrats has been to frame these issues in such a way as to build some sort of consensus around them (the economy, the environment, etc.). Of course, consensus requires deliberation, knowledge of the facts, and the great mystery of rational thought, which is why we get so pissed off when we assume that "Kansas" is not voting for its "rational self-interest" when it votes Republican. All this is not to say that Democrats don't care how you got to be poor, but just that you're poor. Rather, what I'm suggesting is that when Obama talks about "change", it really is the progressive, liberal image of equality he's pushing for -- a state in which everyone has the opportunity to achieve some standard of well-being and dignity, which is always lower than it should be, lest "change" or "progress" mean nothing. It's equifinality, to use a horrible term from comparative history (that always reminds me of horses...) When Obama says "we are the change we've been waiting for", it means our agency is built on collective action, and when (or better said, "if") we get our act together, we can move "the story" forward.

And so the ultimate frustration for Democrats is essentially their modernism. When they (I should say "we") see biography, we see characteristics so particular that it cannot be abstracted to others -- "so what?" in other words. So what if John McCain was a POW? What Eugene Robinson in the cited piece in that link, and Kos diarist teacherken who linked it (and, maybe even sadly Joe Biden too) can't grasp is that stories have the potential to provide more than just dressing to a salad, no matter how stale the lettuce is -- they put you right in the middle of things, in a sense. Time will tell if McCain's narrative works, but we really miss out when we assume that biography has no pull, no effect, and -- worst of all -- "dupes the masses".

Like I said, there's a relationship between empathy and biography, but it's not just putting one's characteristics into plotted form. The plots have to be familiar, and they can change to fit one's needs, but they have to have some grounding in plots already existing. What we still haven't done as social scientists is figure out under which conditions do particular plots work the best. Will we (this time, the Democrats) be able to trot out our single-plot empathy narratives with enough force to counter the McCain biography of self and collective redemption and purification?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Asleep at the Podium

Apparently people still notice that I pooped out 15-20 pounds back in January. My new roommate Kenny has a scale in the bathroom and today's fun-with-negative-body-image fact is that I'm 140.5 pounds. The thing is, I feel a whole crapload better at this weight and all its attendant not obsessing over eating and gaining weight. Plus, when you can outlift bigger dudes or are proportionally relatively as strong, your penis doesn't feel as tiny.

Without snark, I have to admit that I could not figure out what "Country First" meant at the beginning of the week. Now, with snark, I think that "Country First" means that the Republicans hate themselves. I mean, I could be thoughtful about it and say that there's some sense of promises unfulfilled from 1994, but there's something strange that if the original intent of "Country First" was to emphasize John McCain, some liberal arts major decided to shoehorn the title into everything and now it seems so weird to see the convention essentially saying "que se vayan todos" -- a pretty common refrain in the ole LA among right-wing "anticorruption" parties there too.

So America's problem is that we know how it's done, but we've elected idiots. McCain is the self-proclaimed "anointed by history" to save us. If we elect him, he'll make government more accountable by making it less effective. I love liberal democracy. Someone is an idiot, and it's never me (or you).

Or Obama is the idiot. If McCain puts country first, then Obama puts himself first -- the "uppity" kinda guy he is. Voting for Obama would doom us, not so much that he's inexperienced, but that he'll act just like one of these other self-serving folks. So the battle is over the narratives, and not about the issues.

Case in point: Charlie Rose asked one sympathetic-to-McCain-dude if the election was about issues or personality, and the response was, yes, it's about personality and that's the way it should be. That entirely explains why the policy stuff -- or rather the explanation about McCain's maverickiositousness -- falls by the wayside for stories about his POWness. So he's trying to appeal to us by a redemption story. If Sarah Palin is "King Ralph", John McCain is "It's a Wonderful Life" with evil Asians (but we're friends now)?

So a quote from Judith Warner, who's quoting Doris Kearns Goodwin

... in the past, it was possible to fill that need through empathetic connection. Few Depression-era voters could “relate” to Franklin Roosevelt’s patrician background, notes historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “It was his ability to connect to them that made them feel they could connect to him,” she told me in a phone interview.

The age of television, Goodwin believes, has made the demand for connection more immediate and intense. But never before George W. Bush did it quite reach the beer-drinking level of familiarity. “Now it’s all about being able to see your life story in the candidate, rather than the candidate, with empathy, being able to relate to you.”

And just as Warner suggests "We’re not likely to get a worthy female president anytime soon," based on those criteria, we're not likely to get a minority president, either. Until, of course, we speed up our already-insidious plan to turn America brown (I'm comin' to get you, Sam Huntington!)

But seriously, if all this shit about narrative is true, then when we say that "John McCain just doesn't get it", we've already lost the battle. His POW story is nearly political equivalent of Bush's born-again-rehab story, and we're not looking for him to empathize with us ('cuz fuck if either of them do). Why else would we find the Daily Show so funny, or watch failed American Idol auditions, or go to a convention to hate on yourself? Hubris is funny, but with a side of redemption, is sexy.

(in regards to McCain's "I'll do this, Obama will do that" and the boos)
krunkle: sounds like a baseball game
Teh Bosslec: boooo!
krunkle: i will kiss babies, he will eat them!
Teh Bosslec: hahahaha

(on McCain's rousing "stand up" conclusion)
krunkle: stand up for puppy chow
krunkle: and healthy puppies
krunkle: stand up for fabreeze and the freshness it brings
krunkle: fight for extra meat for the hamburger helper
krunkle: finally this shit is over


Teh Bosslec: i'm not sure what this speech accomplished
Teh Bosslec: at the end of it
krunkle: you have to fight efor everything
krunkle: wehter its health care, a chic fil a sandwich or a code red mountain dew
krunkle: you have have to stand uip
Teh Bosslec: haha

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

RNC Message: Sarah Palin is a White Jock and You Can Be Too

I've been back in Providence for about a week, with nothing too amazing to note. Well, maybe except the bachelorette party-goers who asked for my underwear at a bar in Portland, Maine ("why won't you give me your underwear? Do you have really expensive underwear or something?").

And there's Sarah Palin. I heard about her nomination while I was in Venezuela and did as much hand-to-forehead-slapping as any Obamaite could have done. Viscerally, Palin reminds me of my mother (pro-life, religious, homeschooled my brothers, does it all) except not as smart (my mother voted Green the past two presidential elections). She makes McCain look cynical and calculating, which in the Clinton-Gingrich-Rove world, isn't a bad trait for a politician. If "maverick" means doing things that no one expects you to do, then there might be such a thing as a bad maverick.

But as much as we're laying into her for justified reasons (and for unjustified, but deliciously ironic ones, too), she embodies one vision of the American Dream that will certainly resonate with a lot of people, not just Republicans: you can overcome any obstacle -- gender, children, not having gone to Harvard, childbirth, etc. -- with stick-to-it-iveness. nails it:
More subtly, Palin embodies a notion that Republicans can create a society like Alaska—where the culture has a heavy working-class influence, state taxes are nonexistent, economic prospects are good for people regardless of formal education, and bricklayers can make the same money as urban lawyers (and have more fun in their spare time)
In short, the American Dream for White People, a dream easily shattered when us immigrant kids manage somehow to do better in school (or do worse); when our parents "take all the jobs"; and when language, race, and all those other hard things to think about get in the way -- and to which the current response is "build a fence".

It's also the American Dream for Jocks -- vigorously engage nature or face the wrath of knowing that your college degree means nothing if you can't skin a moose (after killing it... to death!) No wonder that Palin wanted to ban books, hadn't "thought about Iraq," and wished that someone "would tell her what the VP does" (i.e. have someone else do her homework for her). I guess in some way she taps into the narrative of the young black person who leaves the projects to go to college, then goes back only to have to dance-off with Wesley Snipes.

But back to serious shit. As a Filipino nerd, I have nothing in common with Sarah Palin. Her story is of all the idiot jocks that my own mother told me I could finally beat when I went to college. Her "narrative" (which even Peggy Noonan thought was "bullshit" [thanks Patrick]) which, when she tells it, involves a list of her children, spoken in reality-show-makeover voice, isn't inspiring: I want kids, I'll raise cain at a PTA meeting, but that will never make me uniquely qualified to be President. That, I think, is a delusion for Hollywood (King Ralph, to be exact). I've also disliked sports parents, especially since my mother begrudingly allowed me to play sports, and after seeing some great 8th graders get ground into the ground by their dads.

But to all those families out there that over-schedule their kids' time -- an outcropping of overscheduling their own time, which is an outcropping of latter-day capitalism -- which is the new, fun trend in America, even they aren't the same kind of hockey families of which Palin's is the archetype. The relentless pressure to succeed, the music lessons, the sports, the tutoring, the SAT courses -- I would not be surprised if in Palin's family does not do this. After all, in Alaskamerica, it's not achievement that matters, but values (and values like to do it young).

But ok, let's assume that I've been taken over by the hegemon and I'm convinced that my, you know, nearly-completed doctorate in sociology from an Ivy League school is going to lead me to a world of frustration and that I'm just all mind-warped. Why shouldn't I be cheering for the sort of equality that Palin's place on the ticket represents? Because, unlike Alaskamerica, the rest of America does have poverty, it does not have people gleefully prancing around some middle-class dream, and partly because we aspire for more, even if we are searching for serenity.

But with both Palin and Giuliani smacking Barack around for being a community organizer -- for helping poor people make claims on government -- most of all insults me as a sociologist (and even if I'm an armchair sociologist, it still pisses me off). And, I think she might have forever gained the emnity of every single Americorp, Peace Corp, and Teach for America volunteer for a generation. Here's a better rant.

Let Patrick and I take you home:

krunkle: she sounds like simcity
krunkle: we're gonna start with coal
krunkle: then go to nuclear
krunkle: then explore wind and solar
krunkle: did she read that off gamefaqs?


krunkle: mccain remidns me of mumma
Teh Bosslec: momia?
krunkle: kinda of gets up and yellows
krunkle: mum-ra
krunkle: from the thudnercats
krunkle: gets up and yells
krunkle: but runs out of energy and has to leave
Teh Bosslec: and is Palin Mumm-Mutt?
krunkle: well she did comapre hockey moms and pitbills
Teh Bosslec: this is very true
krunkle: I thought an ancient evil coming out of pyramid and being mostly annoying douche was an apt comparison
Teh Bosslec: and obama is clearly lion-o
Teh Bosslec: so is biden pantro?
krunkle: yup
Teh Bosslec: and michelle is cheetara
Teh Bosslec: and the kids are the twins
Teh Bosslec: so who's snark?
krunkle: hmm
krunkle: dennis kucinich?
Teh Bosslec: that works

Friday, August 29, 2008

Senator John Kerry at the 2008 DNC

From a couple days ago. Damn, where the hell was this Kerry four years ago?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Almost There...

Well I finally made it out of Caracas with a couple hours of sleep here and there, but feeling all right. I guess I was a little more nostalgic for my trip than had expected and spent a few minutes running through the news from Quito, then checking the ever-exciting dollar-bolivar exchange rate. And, of course, I picked a *great* time to leave: today dollars were selling for Bsf 4.05 and if I wanted to buy bolivares, 3.95 -- a .75 bolivar difference from when I arrived.

Anyway, I'm in Atlanta for a few more minutes before I finally head back to Providence. Andrew called up to confirm I'd be back, and I got a few e-mails and wall posts welcoming me back in various ways. I've got a haircut tomorrow at 12:45, and then in the evening I'm heading to Conn to do backup percussion for Vox at the orientation concert. And then for Saturday/Sunday, I'm heading up to Maine to see Greg before he heads off. It should be funtastical.

Oh and there's work: good old, actual work. TA excitement starts up next week, and I've got a deadline for a conference paper on Thursday (but will somehow turn into Friday...) So far, the stress of being a dissertation writer hasn't smacked me in the face yet, but with some jobs wanting materials by the 20th of September, and me with nothing to show... well, I can probably mine that little stress molehill into a cavern.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Outta Heres

I had a couple glasses of wine with Luchy and Pablo, finally talking to them after four months. We talked about politics, language, a whole bunch of stuff. I'll miss them for sure.

Today I had my last interview, and it went really well. Of course, after walking through a torrent from Ciudad Universitaria, a few false leads, and then through Santa Monica to find "Quinta LACSO." It was great, though: a good end to my work here.

And well, if you've been keeping up "work" is sort of a weak term to use to talk about my time here. But I've got these data sources that haven't seen the light of day in English -- and in very few places in Venezuelan social science -- and so I think I've got a bit to work with in terms of original data.

So I'm off tomorrow. Sr. Juan is coming to fetch me at 4:30am, giving me a long, long day of travelling before I get back to Providence at about 8:30pm. I intend to sleep a bit on the plane, despite whatever arm of Hurricane Gustav we'll be flying through. I hope that we don't get canceled tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sharpton! Helicopters! It's OK, Really!

Some thoughts going into tonight's DNC fun: Here's Al Sharpton saying something about helicopters. If you think my sentence didn't make any sense, neither did his: "I hope that she takes the roof off, but takes a helicopter off and hits the streets." I assume he means that he expects her to give a good speech, and then personally go to her supporters everywhere and tell them to vote for Barack. Or, he's saying something about like how Diana Ross got airlifted out of Super Bowl XXX (towards the end) - she blew the roof off then took a helicopter and hit the street? The stadium didn't have a roof though, but I guess the helicopter part is even figuratively the harder of the two to pull off.

I'm trying to keep track of the claims of the rogue Clintonite holdouts as I listen to tonight's proceedings. Here's what I've got so far:

- The DNC (national committee) rigged the election, specifically with Michigan and Florida (both delegations are now fully seated at the convention)
- The DNC will rig the election.
- The caucuses were rigged
- Obama "race-baited" by turning Bill's comments against himself
- The media loved Obama, the media was sexist, ergo Obama was sexist
- Obama is just sexist
- He didn't come up with enough titles for Clinton fundraisers when he tried to incorporate them into his horizontally-organized fundraising structure.
- The onus is on Obama to unify the party, not Clinton
- Obama has not done enough to recognize Clinton's achievements
- Superdelegates gave him the nomination, not the state delegate count
- Obama is too inexperienced (I like this one, only because if Clinton apparently convinced people to believe that, and now she's supporting him, that means Clinton followers [1] believe independently of Clinton, and if so [2] she can't do squat to convince anyone at this point)

A few days ago after CNN cajoled its sources to leak the VP choice (my favorite part was how they kept saying how "secret" it was, even after they leaked it), the first caller to Larry King Live said that he was a Clinton supporter and could not vote in good conscience for Biden: "I can't stand in front of my students and say that I voted for a man who plagiarized." And there's all the people who are basically switching parties. I have to say, though, even if they do decide to vote McCain, "it's OK, really" is really a funny way of saying "honestly, did you think the election would matter anyway?"

What will make tonight hilariously bad is if Obama does not secretly show up in Denver at the end of Hilary's speech and they hug it out, but instead they play the awkward version of Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert at the end of the Daily Show via Barack-o-Vision. At this point, I'm not sure how much Barack can do other than start making out with Clinton on stage and admitting they've been having an affair. With Bill.

The fun thing about liberal democracy are all these ways of "aggregating preferences" that always manage to piss enough people off to make all democracies imperfect. Funny how at the same time all the dissension in the party swells back up again, the Pakistani opposition splits up. And how in hundreds of other democracies in the world, parties fracture so they can become electoral vehicles for individuals.

Here, of course, instead of forming some splinter party, we punish politicians by not voting or by switching sides completely. Though, this did happen. The problem is that the Progressive Party was borne of a serious ideological split in the Republican Party -- other than how universal their health care packages would be (and I would assume now that Barack would be amenable to fully universal coverage), there's no important ideological differences between the Hillary Camp and the Obama Camp. If there are, then I bet they were hatched after she lost the nomination. Note too that all the fun stuff in our history happens after one of the parties hemorrhages and the President gets a funny split in the electoral college vote.

So what's the deal? I think the Dems might be fucked. The problem with Obama is that he hasn't convinced anyone hard enough that the stakes are high -- nor has Clinton. What seems to be happening is that while people surely mind having to muddle through the economy as it is, Iraq, incompetence in the executive branch, etc., they don't mind nearly enough to vote for someone who stands at the complete opposite of the other dude on those issues -- even if both of them are putting out smeared shit on construction paper and calling it "a plan", those shitstains still look conspicuously drippy towards the left or the right.

This election is for everyone symbolic, not substantive. Change is symbolic. Electing a woman is symbolic. Having a POW commander-in-chief is symbolic. And in that sense, Clinton and McCain are just as charismatic in the Weberian sense as Obama is (which explains why evangelicals still haven't given a full-throated endorsement of McCain and why party-switching is running rampant on both sides) -- Obama is just better at it. But it's probably more Habermas right now: mass media, destroying the public sphere, massification of a bourgeoisie pasttime. And really "pasttime" as if voting for one or the other "is OK, really". We're either incredibly patient or incredibly stupid.

But sadly in liberal democracies, you have to be smart. In order for shit to get done, you have to act like a rational actor and hold your damn nose (fuck, the French literally did it when Le Pen made it to the last round of voting). Opting out fucks up the game, and as all of the money-making political science tells us, everything's a damn fucking game. I hate liberal democracy.

Outside Looking In... CNN, Charles Barkley, and Obama

Consider this one of the sporadic "liveblog" posts on the DNC. Well, more like CNN International's coverage of the DNC. Today's spot-o-fun: a very serious interview with Charles Barkley about why he's voting for Barack, about the Georgian crisis, and why Clinton supporters should vote for Obama.

I'd let it speak for itself, but I must have been gone for too long. Did Barkley become that important in the past eight months? Considering how Schwarzenegger became governor, I shouldn't be too incredulous, and celebrities have been giving political opinions since way back when, but the anchor treated the interview with dignity and respect and not the sort of half-serious treatment that celebrity interviews get, and was in strange contrast to how unprofessional CNN International anchors usually are.

So all of this interview was strange. In any case, with all seriousness, CNN discovers:

"We've got to intervene at some point" - in regards to Georgia

"The reason why I'm voting democratic and for Barack is that I don't like the economic situation going on here in America" - why he's voting against his party.

"I don't feel in good conscience to vote Republican in this election" - because he doesn't believe that poor people can achieve very much in this economy

He also believes that Clinton supporters should "shut up" and vote for Barack. I have to give him credit, he's a straight-talker. He's not like Schwartzenegger who peppers his speech with really terrible puns and references to his acting career. Barkley doesn't talk about making a "slam dunk" or "throwing an elbow" to Russian aggression. Plus, I guess no one gave him the talking point sheet (which I can only assume tells you when to laugh at certain questions) that's going around the DNC.

So the most surprising thing about my surprise is that I was surprised at how informative that interview actually was. Despite the fact that, currently, Charles Barkley is politically irrelevant.

OK, Um, Never Mind

So despite how much Barack pissed me off with his txtacular VP search, and despite how much I didn't want to watch the convention, I feel a little better after seeing Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama. Just a little though: CNN was annoying as hell (I can only watch CNN International, which, by default, went to Wolf Blitzer's show), and there was a quite a bit of boring shit last night, especially Jim Leach. If you think Obombs is professorial, shit, Jim Leach was like reading a demography paper. A demography theory paper.

Let it be known that CNN's wonderful comment that Michelle and Barack must have some sort of "rhetorical DNA" in them could be construed as saying that Black people can preach -- though if Jesse Jackson Jr.'s speech was any indication, that is definitely not true.

In other news, I tried to pay a visit to Ediciones UCV yesterday to buy some books, and unfortunately, the whole campus was on vacation (even CENDES). The cleaning crews were out in full force, using high-pressure water on the concrete (lots of it, mmmm modernism), cutting the grass, etc. There were a few students around, I figure doing some summer courses, but for the most part, the campus was empty. Strangely enough, the UCV campus looked fairly interesting devoid of people, which is, I guess, the moment of wonder in modernist architecture when all the cogs are gone and you can just look at the shell of the machine -- and the machine is a giant high school. Wait, I think I got the metaphor wrong: the students are the product of the factory that is UCV. I still can't believe that place is on the same UNESCO register as old Quito.

Anyway, enough armchair architecture. I'm off to try to find more books, just so that it looks like I've done more data collection. Tomorrow I have my last interview and then, all packed, I will try to sleep a bit before leaving at 4:30am to the airport.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pick Someone Funny

I'm not quite sure what Obama has planned with this hypetastical VP search. Tomorrow, the made-for-24-hour-news saga will finally be over and I know -- I know -- we will be underwhelmed. The fact that Obama's camp has grown adults waiting for text messages is the political equivalent of seeing Venezuelan MILFs, or Dina Lohan, or moms in general saying "cool". Actually, it reminds me of Crazy Frog, paying for cellphone ringtones, and Juicy Couture sweats with the "Juicy" on the ass.

If you're not already into "buzz" for buzz's sake, and you like the internet, but not every contrivance found on it, then you're probably turned off enough not to even care about the damn convention because of this idiotic shit. I think the lowest point today was CNN camping outside the houses of the prospective VPs, as if they were going to crack, jump outside in their pajamas and reveal the special dance that she or he will do with Obombs in Springfield tomorrow. The AP is all over it -- thanks AP.

I see some pretty rough patches for Obombs in the next few months, partly because McCain is doing all too well with being subdued -- which apparently Americans think he's really like, and that they assume a President should be -- and because Obama is turning his campaign into the world's most annoying MySpace page. Some dude suggested that Obama start speaking in short sentences -- might as well start speaking in txt cuz its whr hes going nw. Both of them are aiming at a pretty low denominator, though not "common", it still plays with some stupid assumptions on how stupid both candidates think we all are.

So who should Obombs pick? Usain Bolt. Michael Phelps is McCain's pick -- proven, but boring.

Vanities and Vacating

Sticking around 3/4s of a week longer than expected means some of my long-run purchases are drying up a couple days early. Today, I used up the last of my protein powder (clearly for research) and so I asked the dude who works the shake bar at the gym how much their packets of protein were:

"So how much is one packet of protein?" I asked.

"Which one?" he responded.

"There's different kinds?" I asked.

"Yeah, there's [whole bunch of brand names that blew right over me]," he said.

"Ok, um, which one is the cheapest one?" I asked.

"Well, they're all the same price," he said.

He went back to smashing a plastic bag of ice with a large metal tube.

Anyway, last week I had to purchase a new ticket out of Venezuela. Mom had sent me some quotes from cheap fare sites, but while they were cheap up front ($675!), they had fun little fees ($220 for taxes! $50 for membership!) that made Travelocity relatively cheaper. I say "relatively" since they offered travel insurance that was $80 cheaper than the cheap fare sites, which made the actual price a couple dollars higher, but technically I'd get more for just a few more dollars.

Booking flights was an adventure in and of itself, as the Travelocity system would present me with flight options, but then reveal that the flights themselves didn't have any available seats -- after, of course, I had entered in a whole crapload of contact and billing info. Ultimately what that meant for me was that I couldn't be sure I'd get out of Caracas on the 31st, so I had to search for flight options with available seats for earlier in the week. Eventually, I got myself a ticket on the 28th -- next Thursday -- and I'll be back in Providence at about 8:30pm. Whew.

So now that I knew when the dance was, I needed to find a date. And by "date" I mean "do as much research in a week as I possibly can, maybe even collecting more data than I had done in the past four months." On Wednesday, I made my last, hour-long trip to the Biblioteca Nacional with the intention to snap some digital photos. For those of you who might be considering taking some digital photos in the BibNat, be forewarned that their digital camera has been broken for awhile (they took the pictures for you, then charged you), and so for "Derecho de Archivo", you need to make a Bsf 3.40 deposit in a nearby bank for a day's permission to take photos.

As you would expect, going to the bank to make a deposit is as annoyingly long as it is anywhere in the world. I thought it kinda funny that I was depositing small change, while everyone else in line had wads of cash to deposit into multiple accounts. And of course, when I got back to the Biblioteca, it turned out that the secretary in charge of verifying the deposits was "taking a test" (tomando una prueba, for what, I have no idea), so I went and ate my homemade lunch in the Biblioteca's canteen, which, let me say, has seen much better days (no people, no food, and literally for both).

Yesterday, I had an appointment to use the digital archives at one of the major dailies here, El Nacional. I ended up teaching the archivists how to use the boolean operators in the search engine (well, one particular operator), then spent six hours cutting-and-pasting articles onto a word document. The archivists charged .80 Bsf per page, but abetted me when I suggested that I just change the font size to "absolutely unreadable" -- "well, you're the one who's gotta deal with it in the end," one said. Of course, that meant that I could stuff in a billion articles, have in come out in 54 pages, then get home and just change the font back (or even change the font to 24 for all I care). I like to think I cleaned up there.

That plus the 10,000-plus entry qualitative data set on protests I got from a very famous, very busy, and very nice scholar makes it all seem like I did some real dirt-under-the-nails fieldwork. Really though, I was just looking at all the MILFs' boobs.

This, stolen from the borev. New Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo and Hugo Chavez sing at Lugo's inaugural party, with I believe Chavez singing pretty much out of key (he's the dude with the off-pitch baritone). Somehow this reminds me of when Cory Aqunio announced she wasn't going to run for re-election in 1992 by changing the lyrics to "My Way" (or something like that) and singing them at some event. All of this makes Colin Powell dancing at that foreign minister's meeting a few years back seem like small-fry politics.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Now With Even More Stuck

Now only fearing the worst with my ticket out of Caracas, I checked the Delta flight listings today and found out that their flights are overbooked through early September. This of course means that I can't fly out on the 31st with my Delta ticket, and if I can't do that, I've got to buy a ticket or get back to Providence very, very late -- something that I can't do, actually.

So, I had to begrudging e-mail my mom and my tita to see about a subsidy. I'm not quite sure yet what I can say about this leg of my trip that's been unambiguously good.

Excellent review of the polling numbers from Bolivia's referendum last week (stolen from BoRev, who stole them from Inka Kola). In Otto's final analysis, it's not the department of Santa Cruz that wants autonomy, it's its capital city. Santa Cruz. Interesting stuff.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dogs Ate My Brains

Ouch, my brain. Sfgate posted this story about a couple who were arrested after breaking their dogs out of Animal Control. But, wow, the first sentence was just a brain buster:

A couple who received a $210,000 settlement from the city of Richmond after police shot and killed their pit bull are in custody after two of their other pit bulls - abducted from a Sacramento County animal shelter after attacking a utility worker - were shot and killed by a sheriff's detective.

When you read the rest of the story, the whole ordeal is pretty crazy: a couple had a dog, the police shot it, the couple get a big settlement, their new dogs get impounded for attacking a utilities worker, they break the dogs out of jail, the cops come after them for robbing an old lady, their dogs attack another maintenance worker, the cops shoot the dogs. So I guess that sentence is as close as you can get to a summary of what happened.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Well, missed these guys. Luckily, I know someone who knows someone who knows someone in that group. Otherwise, today I'm gonna run it backwards and hit the gym before running up some more false leads.

Today's ruminations take us back to the Philippines, or rather, all those phrases that people tritely use to describe some sort of trait that we collectively share. Actually, I could only come up with two that I find fairly annoying:

- Filipino ingenuity (this is good, "we're not lazy!")
- Filipino mentality (almost always bad, "we're impatient, etc.")

If you think hard enough about it, Filipino ingenuity sometimes abets the Filipino mentality. In other words, we're too smart for our own good. Ah but for a nation whose bureaucratic elite speaks in pedantic, outdated mixed metaphors, this is par for the course.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Church Shows Up To the Party

Well, I mean, there were always sorta hanging around, but now that Ecuador is ready to approve a draft constitution next month, the Ecuadorian Catholic Church is flexing its muscle, calling the new constitution "abortist." Still, when you look at how involved the Catholic Church is in the Philippines (or, for some people, how it should be involved, which speaks to its clout in politics), the Ecuadorian church seems a little lazy.

What is more interesting to me in that article is that the Vice President went out of his way to reassure people that the new Constitution actually supports the Catholic view of life -- "I invite those who don't understand to defer [fuck, how do you translate "acudir"?] to a science book. Conception begins from the moment in which the sperm fertilizes the egg, and if the Constitution declares that from that moment it will protect life, there's no turning back." For the Church's part, they want the thing to say something far more explicit, since they believe without specific anti-abortion language, the door is still left open.

Again, this Ecuadorian "Revolucion Ciudadana" is significantly different from Chavez's "Revolucion Bolivariana": when this issue came up a few months ago, it was Correa himself that tempered (or gave in to the Church, depending on who you ask) the calls for pushing the document in directions that would completely piss off the church (gay marriage, abortion). Also, if I can find the opinion piece, the opposition nailed him for being a flip-flopper. Now, for what I can tell, the Church is just being the Church. But for what it's worth, this document picks its fights fairly well.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Race To The Pooper

Sundays have been my "splurging" days since I started my fieldwork -- there's nothing like hearing about the immorality of excess at Mass, then eating until you're about to burst. Though today started out like a research day: head to a bookstore in Paseo Las Mercedes, buy a ton of books, go home and sleep on said books until you have to actually open them in three months when you finally get off your ass and start writing your dissertation.

Anyway, after carefully plotting out my Metro and Metrobus routes (which, of course, turned out to be wrong), I made it to Paseo Las Mercedes and found out that (a) the place looks like the inside of a Chinese restaurant and (b) nearly every shop in there was closed, including the bookstore. So, figuring I might as well make a day of it, I hopped on the next Metrobus I could find and decided to go on a little cruise.

That cruise ended up being nearly an hour long, but I did get to see some parts of Las Mercedes, La Trinidad, and a couple more malls before the bus actually went back over its own route, then branched off to head to the Altamira Metro station. I was half-asleep when we stopped, jolted to life since the Metrobus drivers are the most meticulous drivers in all of Caracas, and thus must stop exactly at their well-designated bus stops (he backed up and I did sort of a snort-tip-back move).

Plaza Altamira was abuzz. "Abuzz" because the Chavez youth had a noisy speaker setup, rallying tens upon tens of people to support Evo Morales in his recall referendum (he won!). I thought this was a fairly strange place to hold a rally, especially since Altamira is like enemy territory for the Chavez crowd (which would explain the paucity of people). I hung around for a bit, but there wasn't too much to see: significantly more kids with dreadlocks than emo haircuts, older people decked out in their Chavez red, and some ladies carrying wiphalas.

I started wandering around somewhat aimlessly, looking for something extravagant to eat, but at a place where they'd be unlikely to give me dirty looks for speaking strangely-accented Spanish and looking like a Peruvian or Ecuadorian or any other "darker-skinned" Latin American. I settled on a pretty popular burger joint in CC San Ignacio where, damning the dollars (er, bolivares), I ordered their most horribly gigantic burger with all the fixings -- sauteed onions, mushrooms, a pretty sizable slab of cheddar cheese, and bacon. When the cashier asked me how I wanted the burger done, I fought with myself: should I order it well-done, but without knowing exactly how to say "well-done" in Spanish; or should I order it medium, since I can say that, it'll taste better, but I might die of salmonella? I ordered it done medium.

After my vibrating coaster called me back to the counter, I saw that they didn't skimp on the toppings, and I noticed that once you got your burger, you then went through what was basically a salad bar, adding as many vegetables as possible to your already-overloaded sandwich. Figuring the sad-looking lettuce sitting in a few millimeters of water wasn't gonna help too much with the flavor, I skipped ahead to the pickles and the jalapenos (lots of em). After trying to smush the burger down so I could hold it, I just went with a strong grip and before I knew it, I had wolfed it down in less than 5 minutes. There were a few condiment casualties, but I could only imagine what the people who stacked their burgers up with three inches of alfalfa sprouts were dealing with. Actually, after eating, I had a moment of middle-class anxiety, as I noticed some ladies who had piled on the veggies on their burgers, eating with a fork and knife. Luckily, my status fears were relieved when I saw the people behind me chowing down like the barbarians us middle-class people really are.

Fast-forwarding a bit, I made it back to Macaracuay with enough time for a 10-minute catnap before I had to leave for Mass, and as per tradition, I did some grocery shopping on the way back home. Today's impulse buys: fruits, and lots of (lotsuv) them. After a strange moment with the checkout lady and my tub of yogurt, I made it home, cut up my papaya, washed my grapes, then proceeded to eat said grapes for dinner -- one pound (more or less) in about 15 minutes.

So the question is, which one of my water-wasting, land-destroying meals will make me have bad stool -- the medium-done burger or the pound of grapes? Or, will they meet in my gut and create an alliance so unshakable that the only way to defeat it is to read War and Peace on the toilet? Only time will tell.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Oslec Puts Logic In Jail

Somehow I stumbled upon this. If you know me, then you know what I'm doing right now. Problem is, this is really way out of my league. Let's see how long it takes me to get something that looks like it down.

Also, I stumbled upon this. Um, this makes me want to do other things.

Also, I'm sorta torn about this vid. It's of a Laura Branigan song, but it's pro-GMA. If anything, it proves that once the opposition loses the support of the Church, then you lose the support of the "Dancing Inmates" (mmm exploitation), and then you lose the support of the world.

Not Cool Venezuela, Not Cool

So it's been awhile. I made it up to Boston and felt re-invigorated, rejuvenated, etc. then made it back here to the Vz. After a day of strange jet lag (Venezuela is 30 minutes behind East Coast Time), I tried to scheme my quick-and-dirty last two weeks of data gathering and came up with a reasonable plan to smash the bookstores, order copies, and grab data sets.

Then, I got an e-mail from the organizer of the APSA panel I signed up for back in December. This prompted me to check up on my flight outtasheres and back to the PVD, and my worst fears came true: for nearly three weeks straight, Delta's outbound flights from Caracas are overbooked.

I'm stuck here until at least August 31st -- a week more than I'd like, and a good day after the APSA panel. I e-mailed the organizer to apologize, and here I am now, trying to figure out how I'm gonna get out of here. Granted, it's just a week longer, but as you already know, I sorta want out, AND there's a few logistical things I want and need to get done before classes start up again (e.g. buy pillows, go to meetings, etc.).

Pillows are important.

Anyway, knowing I have an extra week isn't exactly "liberating", though now taking out extra dollars before I left Boston is turning out to be a pretty big deal -- though it's sorta putting a damper on the idea that I was gonna use that money to buy books. A week more of work (provided I work) might turn out to be game-breaking for my diss. Who knows?

In any case, I hope the torture doesn't extend itself by default.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Going to Boston, Ecuador Makes Me Happy

So two good things to look forward to: (1) I'm going to Boston for ASA, and (2) Ecuador's constitution is reflective of its middle-class origins, which means I'm suddenly more relevant.

The ASA trip is (well I hope it will be) a real "rest" and a good time to refocus with three weeks left in the Vz. I'm staying with my cohort-mate Laura and her husband Ken outside of Boston -- which means I'll have friends again! My social calendar is filling up as if I were trolling the streets of La Mariscal again. That plus a low-key roundtable presentation on Sunday morning and meeting with Jose (my diss advisor) means I have time to be the dilettante that I want to be.

As for Ecuador, I'd link you a couple links, but take it from me: while the foreign press is nailing the newly-approved draft as another notch in the tree of socialist populism, it's fairly moderate for all the socialist hype, Correa has had to lay the smackdown on people's pet projects (the right to women's sexual pleasure), and I think the innovative institutional move of letting presidents dissolve congress, but also immediately putting themselves up for re-election as well. And, they can only do that once.

The critics lambasting the document for its re-election clause immediately link it to Chavez's failed amendment for indefinite re-election, but such calls are not endemic of "socialist" countries: Colombia's Uribe has been trying to put himself up for re-election, with little to no concern on the part of the foreign press. What, of course, would be truly neat is if Correa chooses not to run again -- which, if his popularity drops, he might actually do, since he's an avid poll-watcher -- something that Chavez does not do, unless its in his favor.

But all of this is the medium-term result of the "Revolucion Ciudadana" that began with the Forajidos and the self-assertion of Ecuador's middle class. For what it's worth, the Ecuadorian middle class (its emigrant and Serrano strands) have been left-leaning for quite some time now -- "leaning" because they're still fairly racist, but suffered in dramatic ways during the late 90's dance with neoliberal reform. Their "Que Se Vayan Todos" attitude -- perhaps borrowed from the Argentines -- is far more explicitly anti-political class than Venezuela's right-leaning "anticorruption" middle class. And while it remains to be seen if they'll be happy with the possible new institutional regime, they appear more willing to keep an eye out on Correa than to give him a free pass. For his part, Correa will be watching the polls.

It brings up some differences in how academics describe the manifestation of modern middle classes in Venezuela and Ecuador. Granted in the Habermasian sense, both the failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and the Rebelion de los Forajidos in Ecuador in 2005 were extra-institutional responses to government unaccountability, both were tinged negatively with racist and certainly classist undertones (well, overtones), and both were moments of Durkheimian "collective effervescence", you could not see two more different manifestations of class in the academic literature. Short form, Venezuela's middle class was (is) disempowered, shrinking, leaderless, needing to be revived, and thus, unable and unwilling to participate in the political life of the country (read: the source of instability) -- explaining for many the end of party politics and Chavez's "blank check" -- while the Ecuadorian middle class is revolutionary, self-conscious, emergent, and a manifestation of "civic republicanism" as a response to both oligarchical politics and neoliberal economics -- reviving the term "ciudadano" as a person not only with rights, but with responsibilities. Perhaps had Chavez been removed permanently after 2002, we might see more adulation, but from what I've read, the opposition was not fawning over its middle-class base, nor has there been anything but lament.

Anyway, that was more for me than it was for you and subject to lotsa change. But, it's fairly interesting. To me. And maybe whomever God made for me to marry.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"In Sudden Shift to Center, Obama Calls For Troops To Come Only Halfway Home"

I should put a linky to Don Asmussen's Bad Reporter on the blog. I've talked about his stuff before -- especially the one about the Runaway Bridge being found in a cup of Wendy's chili. Don't remember that? It's topical humor!

Anyway, here's today's Bad Reporter:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

California -- And America -- Laught at Rhode Island (Again)

A quickie: the RI State Police caught a dude from North Providence with a BAC of .491, or, just shy of not actually being alive. Of course, where did I learn about this? Sfgate through the AP.

Rhode Island continues to be the New Jersey of New England.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Too Much Slate, Not Enough Feist

Because I hate doing work now, all I do is read Slate. But, Leslie Feist's bangs have made me less guilty: Slate linked a vid of Feist singing "1, 2, 3, 4" on Sesame Street. Aside from me thinking that Feist and I should make out (soon, preferably), I thought of a little more awkward rendition of pop-songs-with-numbers-translated-into-counting-songs-for-Sesame-Street.

In between not working and levelling up Strikebird on City of Villains, I'm arranging "One Evening" for Vox, as per my non-denial of my a-cappella past. Clearly, I'm contributing to society.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More A-Cappella Nerds Hate Themselves

So if you recall a few months ago, I talked a little bit about an upcoming book by GQ editor Mickey Rapkin on collegiate a-cappella. I haven't been back in the country yet to get a copy, but so far I've found out that at least two people have read it: Bill Hare, producer extraordinaire; and Nina Shen Rastogi, yep, you guessed it, a writer from

Nina's piece from Slate touches on that strange self-denial that apparently lots of people go through from being part of a collegiate a-cappella group, woven into her criticisms of Rapkin's book. Nina admits begrudgingly that she "snapped [her] fingers on the downbeat" with Yale's Mixed Company. By the by, the RARB review for Mixed Company's 2000 album "Change of Plans" is still one of my all-time favorites for RARB snarkiness.

But Nina picks up what does suck about collegiate a-cappella: "Perhaps most damning of all is the fact that a cappella is so painfully earnest, so distressingly eager to please" As I've mentioned before, collegiate a-cappella's song selection shows us how terrible our taste in music is (Guster about a billion times, Staind?) But Mixed Company, by way of a relevant example, expects people to pay $20 for a concert recording (and a recent one, at that) of such overdone songs as "One Fine Day" and "Walking In Memphis" (which the CoCoBeaux deemed so good nearly 10 years after it debut for them, they sang it in their first losing appearance at ICCAs). In other words, the vast majority of collegiate a-cappella doesn't take musical risks -- unless I'm missing some sort of dangerous experimental arrangement of "Just Once" -- and when it does (Staind), it just pales in comparison to the original song. Then you have your "supergroups" who can do basically just about anything, because they define the genre for its purists, for lack of a better term, but for the most part can be shrugged off by lots of groups since "we want to sound pure" (i.e. suck). But why?

To the extent that Nina admits the suckiness of a-cappella as a genre ("The bands most frequently covered on the circuit are uniformly schlocky: Coldplay, Maroon 5, Billy Joel, Journey"), she suggests that what Rapkin sorely misses is a-cappella as camaraderie: that as a nerd from the suburbs who didn't know all the New Yorker bylines (now that she works for Slate -- the idiot's guide to being too cool for school -- I bet she knows all of them now), she basically felt a-cappella was a cushion for middle-class people moving into the rarefied air of elite Yale. Is the short life of being an "a-cappella singer" determined by its nerdiness or by how your particular group related to class distinctions in the school as a whole? Mixed Company proudly touts itself as a feeder group to more prestigious ones. Once you "get it" -- that is, you've figured out how to maneuver among elites -- why recall your rise to the top? This is collegiate a-cappella we're talking about here, not professional; the dynamics of class (and race and gender) are still completely ignored.

Now that's a little brutal, but why not be subversive? Why not join a group to say "fuck you" from the inside? Why aren't their politically-themed groups, other than the ones who emphasize particular cultural or religious traditions -- do Christian a-cappella groups sing pro-life songs (I'm guessing no). How many groups sing Rage Against the Machine? How many groups sing poorly on purpose (at least I hope so...)? The point is, if you're in a group to say "fuck you" in some way, shape or form, I think you might have a better recounting of your a-cappella days than if you were part of one that proudly displays its inferiority non-ironically. If you've joined a group to fit in, then maybe we've lost you to Slate already (which I read...)

But the point of denying collegiate a-cappella, I think, is to show how you've "come so far," that beyond maturing, you've figured out a certain degree of comfort with the habits of social class, which all those goddamn wine-and-cheeses and free trips to Japan can do to you. It's an interesting filtering mechanism, if we look at it this way.

So, of course I assume that my experience with Vox was a big enough "fuck you" to warrant my continued interest in its welfare. Indeed it has. Though on the class side, I did manage to learn how to read music, and have achieved the greatest of the great Bourdieusian scams -- convincing people I have a "natural" talent for things musical, when seriously dudes, I don't. Such is how I both proudly display my Vox colors and helped me move up in social class.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Slate Reporter + Absinthe = Accessible Coolness for Everyone!

A quick one for now: Slate Magazine, if you've never read it, is for college-educated people who ask earnest questions at parties, then do non-threatening and accessible things on dares, wonder how to be a "connoisseur" without even trying (connoisseurs don't try. Thanks Bourdieu!), while trying to out-crackpot each other with logical-sounding conspiracy theories (i.e. "contrarianism") that are still conspiracy theories. It's sort of Jackass plus Weekly World News, but for people who are "totally done" with college, and who are cool enough to acknowledge that they're "open" to "other" views while drooling over Obama. It's the young dilettante's New Yorker.

Of course I read it.

Anyway, Slate often does these video reports which can be snarky, can be youtube-y in their "regular-people-doing-things-you-could-probably-do-but-would-rather-have-other-people-do-it-an- say-it's-interesting" way. Today's experiment: what happens when a post-college person drinks absinthe? The answer: an interesting-enough report wherein said reporter learns enough to talk about "the purists" while she and her friends toast to turn-of-the-century frenchies and then either (a) do actually get drunk or (b) should never, ever be hired to play drunk for TV. Though, they kinda look like they're having fun. You can learn to be stylish!

If you recall an earlier post from last year (I think around this time), my cousins and I went to a bar in Makati called Absynthe where we drank absinthe. That night ended with me singing Hey Jealousy in an ex-pat bar in front of a live band. Anyway, one of my cousins whose parents live in Sakhalin Island in Russia (!) discussed how instead of the sugar-cube-on-fire/sugar-cube-with-water-drops method of serving absinthe, the Russian bar he went to lit the cube on fire underneath a tumbler, with a straw sticking out. You then took a hit off the straw, then drank your drink. I wonder if the purists would shake their heads.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cold Showers

The water heater attachment to my shower busted itself a couple days ago (how's that for Spanish translations to English? Pass the blame onto the object. Actually though, I did nothing). Not to say it worked well before, but lukewarm water is better than cold, cold water. Actually, I think the reason the water wasn't cold before is that it warms itself in the pipes. Anyway, there's a nifty little middle-class preoccupation for you.

Trinity College sent some undergrads down here for some research. Aside from the e-mail we LASA-Venezuela people got, they sorta stuck out like a sore thumb: one dude wore his Trinity lacrosse practice jersey in the middle of the Plaza Central. It didn't look like he had any pockets, so I guess there wouldn't be much to steal from him.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Conspiracies I Want to Believe, Jumper Lahiri

While my leftist inclinations usually lead me to sympathize with Chavez's sympathizers, I think sometimes they grasp at straws, for the sake of grasping. As you probably already know ('cuz I imagine that intelligent, well-read people read this blog), Ingrid Betancourt and a few other people, who, in the minds of anyone but their families -- aren't important were rescued from the FARC with no shots fired, no lives lost, with only cameras a-blazin'. Betancourt was greeted by her children, and I imagine that after six years, by now she's probably gotten around to telling her son to get a haircut.

In any case, the coincidence of her rescue with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's call for a national referendum to verify his 2006 re-election (among other things) makes me stroke my stubble. Now while I can be cynical, I don't think I can pull enough cynicism out of my butt (since I'm using it all up on Venezuela's fake boobs) to call shenanigans on the rescue just yet. Yes, while it seemed incredibly strange to have those cameras going, to manage to fool the FARC so badly, and strange the political timing, my leftist friends have to do a better job of trying to convince me.

My favorite snarky blog,, from speculates that the whole thing was a ransom payment gone right (here and here, in English for all us imperialists). To summarize, they speculate that Uribe paid a $20 million ransom to the FARC for the exchange, then dressed it up as a rescue to divert attention from his political scandals. In response to one report claiming just that, the Colombian defense minister is blaming the Swiss. Yes, it's as funny (ha-ha) as it sounds, but I'm not sure if it's funny in the "hmmm" sense.

Of course, as is typical of the English-language leftist reporting on the situation, not everyone subscribes to the same conspiracy theory. Venezuelanalysis says (after, of course, telling us in two earnest-sounding paragraphs not to read any other news but the pro-government Diario Vea), following a Diario Vea story (!), that
According to the article the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) had agreed to turn over Ingrid Betancourt and the other hostages to Swiss and French negotiators who agreed to arrange to pick up the hostages from various locations in two helicopters. The Colombian military got wind of the upcoming release and took control of the helicopters
So while we still have the Swiss involved (and interestingly, they're all over Latin America, usually doing social work), now it's not a $20 million bribe, but a negotiated prisoner exchange that got hijacked by the Colombian military. While we could still speculate that this was all Uribe's doing, the facts still don't come together so cleanly.

Does this mean we shouldn't read these news sources? No, but it does suggest that these news sources aren't reading each other very well. And of course reading the "mainstream" press will just get you the same account, which, while inspiring, is now boring to me and looking pretty fake. Just not "fake" in the ways that other people claim it is.

My landlady's son (the dude who changes my dollars for me) gave me a bunch of DVDs when I got here for my viewing pleasure. I never got around to watching any of them, 'cuz they're sorta "eh" on first glance. But, he did include a copy of February's smash hit Jumper, starring the worst actor of our generation, Hayden Christiansen, and the mildly boobtacular Mila Kunis, er, I mean Rachel Bilson. I got through about 30 or 40 minutes of it, until it started to play like a kid's movie. Even Samuel L. Jackson sucked in it, which is hard for him to do, maybe except for that movie where he develops super pot, or something like that.

Anyway, coincidentally, the Onion AV Club just did a feature on Jumper in their "I Watched This On Purpose" segment. At the end, the dude sorta liked it, but the best part, as always, are the comments. Before the comments section turned into a serious discussion about what makes a good film, people discussed two things: (1) whether or not Billy Joel sucks and (2) the title of the next film in the Jumper series. The former was a non-sequitur within a non-sequitur (a metanonsequitur), based on this observation by reviewer Josh Modell:
Before I even pressed play, anticipating watching Jumper infected my brain with the chorus of Third Eye Blind's horrible anti-suicide song "Jumper." ("I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend.") That song, in turn, always makes me think of the even more horrible "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" by Billy Joel, which features one of 1985's most annoying God-complex videos—a guy is having a bad day, so Billy Joel sings him a jaunty song, and he doesn't want to jump off a bridge anymore. And to think, people whose opinions I respect have some admiration for Billy Joel
And the latter, well, it was borne out of ironic acceptance that the boulder of sequels is going to roll down the hill again. Among some of the "entries" to Sysyphus' Jumper sweepstakes:

- Jumper 2: All Nude Revue starring Hayden Panetierre (the best one)
- Jumper II: 2 Hours of Rachel Bilson Nude (not nearly as good. Points for using roman numerals in the title)
- Jumper 2: The Nudening
- Jmpr 2: Here We Go Again!
- Jumper 2: I'd Jump 'er!
- Jump and Jumperer
- 2 Jump 2 Jumpious
- Jumper 2: This Time, It's Different Pyramids
- Jumper 2: Now Even Jumpier
- Jumperstar Galactica, Battlejump Galactica, Battlestar Jumpactica, Battlestar Galactajump
- Jumping Miss Daisy
- How To Jump A Guy in 10 Days
- Jumper II: The Wrath of Khadigan
- Jump/Off
- Runaway Jumpy
- Jumper 2: A Heartbreaking Jump of Staggering Genius
- Jumper 2: A Series of Unfortunate Jumps
- Jumper 2: Dreams from my Jumper
- Jumper 2: The Audacity of Jump
- No Jumping For Old Men
- Jumper 2: Pig in the City
- Thus Jampe Zarathustra
- Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Select Jump
- Indiana Jump and the Jumperdom of the Jumping Jump

And the list goes on. All of this produced the Jumper Sequel Title/Billy Joel mash-up post:
Storm Jumper
River of Jumpers
Piano Jumper
An Innocent Jumper
Songs in the Jumper
2000 Years: The Millenial Jumper
I leave you with this: a list someone had the time to write up and code in Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Shirts-Off Venezuela!

So July is here, and with it comes the expiration of my debit card, meaning, I guess, that I can't spend as much money as I could -- if I had money to spend. Actually, in commemoration of its death, I took my card out for a spin on Sunday and took out about Bsf 200 (roughly a little less than $100), then proceeded to make calculations in the mall about what food I could buy that wouldn't go bad in two months, probably confusing the crap out of the sales staff as I darted in and out with a pen and paper in hand.

Yes, all I can still think about is money. And honestly, that's not too far from the mindset of the people I know here in Venezuela. I'm still amazed by the incredibly full shopping carts people push around in the supermarkets (which I'm now convinced is not because of shortages.... more on that in a bit), and how people have traded in the suits and pantsuits of Quito for fake Abercrombie and tank tops with plunging necklines. I'm close to calling the Caracas lifestyle crass, but maybe even that's too generous.

I was telling Daniel yesterday about more crazy antics at my superficial gym, which, by the way, has finally decided that instead of Latin American MuchMusic playing the same songs within a 5-minute span, they'd instead play DVDs of Fatboy Slim concerts and the ubiquitous "Classic Project" video mixes, so ever present in your local Latin American bar. Anyway, one of the MILFs who works out in only a sportsbra because she's got great abs and likes to show off wanted to take pictures. She and this bodybuilder dude with a bad haircut (as most of the guys have) started to pose, but then all the other bodybuilder dudes kept telling him to take off his shirt. Of course, he obliged, and so two half-naked, over-worked out, and probably vain (probably) people took pictures of themselves at my gym.

Anyhoos, this link's from the BoRev. While BoRev's pretty funny, he's a little shouty in this post, but the point is in the chart: Venezuela sucks. So while it's not "inflation," it's "% increase in prices from the previous year", which still suggests that in the late 90s, in relative terms, prices were rising faster than they are now. So if we assume that 1997 is our index year, then in 1998, prices were 35% higher than they were in 1997, in 1999, they were 25% higher, etc. But the king of all points is that things cost a whole shitload more in this country as compared to the rest of LA.

But of course, it's not just that this country's economy has been horrible for unfunded helicopter gringo researchers, it's that the politics get kind of annoying after awhile. As a student of politics from the social side, I should have a thicker skin. But, what I dislike is that both sides -- pro and anti-Chavez -- are simply, simply messy at their work to the point where -- I will admit to the detriment of my own work -- I believe hardly anyone anymore.

Take for instance one of the more important events in the past year, other than the Referendum: the closure of RCTV in May (which as you know I feel has really risen to the challenge...). While I am in agreement with the flimsy, but comfortable response of OAS General Secretary Jose Maria Insulza (it was legal, but poorly carried out), the move appears so clearly politically-motivated that you cannot argue against it -- RCTV and Chavez weren't ever friends. And, RCTV did incite riot in 2002 when it aided Chavez's temporary deposition. So coincidentally, their license runs out, Chavez claims having to form a national channel, and they go and claim repression and the end of freedom of expression in Venezuela.

In response they've put forth two main arguments. One is that the whole deal was constitutionally-mandated and it was merely coincidental it was RCTV. The other is that RCTV's actions in 2002 justified its non-renewal of its license because of bad-faith journalism -- actions, which many gringo sympathizers point out, would never fly in the US or any other country. Problem is, these two points are ever presented in the same breath and when they are, they're not inherently compatible. Which one is it? Non-political or politically-justified?

Stuff like that frustrates me. It makes me think that there are good arguments for Chavez, but that the Chavistas haven't made their points very well and that the gringos are starstruck.

Another day in the life of get me out of here please.