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BestOf2006

Why I want to stab MySpace with a rusty knife in the ear canal

photo by Paul J Whaley via Flickr
To think, I had somewhat gotten over my insane hatred of MySpace. Well, that is over. Look, I understand that MySpace is "cool" and it's "social networking" and, no offense to my girl danah boyd, but yes, it's a relatively safe place for kids to have their own, well, space. I get that the design is somewhat intentionally ghetto. But my current frustration goes beyond web design snobbery. Answer me this simple question: how can a site that's all about social networking and communication make it impossible to send messages to people????? GOOODAAMMIT I HATE MYSPACE SO MUCH RIGHT NOW!@#!@#!@# I cannot find a simple way to COMPOSE an email message within the system. Sure, I can look at someone's profile and "send a message," but how do I find their profile?! especially if they have a common name, like John. Oh my god, I can't even explain how asinine the system is, it's gotten me so upset. To all those people who say MySpace is superior to good old email, you can suck my postage stamps! Let me try again from the beginning. I want to send a message to a MySpace friend of mine. How do I do this? Here's what I tried. I went to the "Mail" tab, which showed me my inbox. I looked for an option to "create" or "compose" or "send" a message. I clearly ask too much of a messaging system. There is no such option. I click on something promising called "Address Book." I think, "this must be where all my happy socially-networked MySpace friends are!" I am wrong. According to MySpace, my address book is empty. I have 417 MySpace friends, but my address book shows zero. Please explain to me how this is "cool" or "hip" or "Web 2.0" or "indie." It's neither of those things. It's pure crapola. So then I think, "well, I've sent this person a message recently. I'll just check my 'sent' folder till I find that, click on the profile and send a message that way." Wrong. According to the rotten placentas at MySpace, "Sent mail is automatically deleted after it is 14 days old." Wha??? Why would they do that? There is no good reason for this. This is not cool. This is dumb, and don't tell me it's about saving space on their hard drives. We're talking about simple text-based messages. Meanwhile the company is hosting, probably MILLIONS of hours of audio and video files. I go back to the Home page and look for other possibilities. There's a section that's all about my friends. I choose "Edit Friends." This takes me to a page showing my first 20 of 417 friends. There is no apparent order to the listing (though I've been told they're ordered by their sign-up date with MySpace). There's no way to sort by name or even search. So I'm supposed to manually flip through my friend list, 20 at a time, for all 417??? So, the more friends I have, the HARDER it is to communicate with them?? It's way too late for this bullshit. I swear, all these statistics about how much time people spend in MySpace is not a positive thing. It's an indictment against the whole structure of the service. I mean, people spend MAD time in line at the DMV. That doesn't mean the DMV is the hot new place to kick it. That means they suck at what they do. My short term love affair with MySpace is over. I want them to die a horrible death. Now.

Ziploc BODY bags

ziploc BODY bags!
photo by baratunde via flickr
There is no legitimate, psychologically sound, non-criminal reason to make a ziploc bag this big. None. what uses can you think of for these ziplocs? leave em in the comments!

I called McCain on his B.S. SIX YEARS AGO!

(Photo by Heather via Flickr)
Stephen Colbert did a great thing last week when he called out John McCain on his change of heart regarding Jerry Falwell and the "Reigious Right." Much has been made of the fact that McCain called Falwell an "agent of intolerance" in 2000 but spoke at Falwell's university recently However, back in March of 2000, I not only cited McCain's more agressive dis, but I documented his flip flop even then. Check it out:
(originally posted in NewsPhlash on March 3, 2000) McCain "Punks Up" for Bauer John McCain made waves earlier this week when he referred to hate-mongering Christian conservative types as the "forces of evil" that they are. Wednesday, he was crushed by those waves as he rescinded his comments and apologized in order to placate Gary Bauer. Who the hell is Gary Bauer? Good question, readers. He is what we in the parody business refer to as "a nobody." You'll probably not recall that he ran for president, threw in the towel and endorsed McCain. After McCain's comments about the Religious Wrong, Bauer (who loves to play "Pin the head on the Coon") with these goons, demanded an apology. McCain, the upright Republican soldier that he really is, followed orders like a good prisoner of political warfare. In laymen's terms, he was punked! Way to lead Senator! Is this how you were in Vietnam with those gooks?? No wonder you were a friggin prisoner!
This brings me to the larger issue of these military men seemingly losing their cajones once they've left the field. I've already hated on Colin Powell for talking meaningless smack out of office that he should have been using in office. John Kerry was another example -- a war hero that wouldn't even fight for the job of president when people accused him of being a coward and when his own Church turned against him (see my Nov 4, 2004 analysis which really set off this blog).

If you could send a message to the driver behind you, what would you say?

Image from PerpetualKid.com
A year or two ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing a genius concept: what if you could put an LED display in your rear-view window to send messages to the car behind you? Well, Perpetual Kid hacked into our conversation, clearly, and came up with a LED display on a license plate. According to the website:
Scrolling License Plate Flash Frames are an incredible new accessory for any car! Featuring a lighted, scrolling message display built into a license plate frame. Flash Frames allow you to express yourself while on the road or stuck in traffic. Simply create and enter up to 5 messages (up to 120 characters in length each) using the included wireless remote control. Then select from 3 different scroll speeds. The super-bright LEDs ensure that your message is seen day or night. You can announce to everyone on the road that you�re a fan of your sports team, advertise your business or tell the person behind you they don't know the first thing about safely operating a car!
Here are my top 10 things I'd like to say to drivers behind me:
  • FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TURN OFF YOUR TURN SIGNAL!
  • IF YOU DON'T KILL THOSE HEADLIGHTS, THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON
  • TODAY, YOU DIE
  • I HATE THE TROOPS
  • OSAMA 2008
  • MY CHILD BEAT UP ALL THE KIDS ON THE HONOR ROLL
  • HONK IF YOU'RE A FOLLOWER
  • BABY IN TRUNK
  • BRING THE TROOPS HOME, BUT ONLY IF THEY HAVE OIL WITH THEM
  • We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promo
What would you say on your customized LED license plate driving distractor device? Leave `em in the comment section.

How can anyone still be a Republican?

(photo by Todd Klassy via Flickr)
There's a battle brewing in Internet politics over the concept of "network neutrality." Some broadband companies want to be able to charge content companies (like Google, Apple) for faster delivery of their service. Many folks fear that this will undermine the Internet, kill innovation and other nasty things. What I think doesn't really matter. I'm writing this post because of something I read. Today a democrat in the US House (Ed Markey from Mass.) introduced a bill to preserve "net neutrality" by preventing the network companies from this extra charging system. I was reading about the news on Digg.com, and a Republican commenter said this:
"I'm a Republican and despite the fact this has been submitted by a Democrat, I still support the bill."
Someone then reacted like this:
"How can anyone still be a republican? Are you a corporation?"
Ha ha! Good one!

Why is Colin Powell still talking #$@!???

This is the first news I heard today:
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell advised President Bush before the Iraq war to send more troops to the country, but the administration did not follow his recommendation, Powell said in an interview broadcast today.
Monday morning quarterbacks are universally annoying. Some guy, who can barely walk up his own house stairs without losing his breathe, waddles into the office talkin smack about "If I were in charge during the game, this woulda been and coulda been, blah-de-blah-blah. Now imagine instead you have the actual quarterback from Sunday's game rollin by your watercooler: "Man, what a messed up game that was yesterday. If they put me in, I woulda done this and coulda done that and blah-de-blah-blah." That's Colin Powell right there. I swear, if this unprincipled, cowardly, trash-talking mo-fo doesn't shut up, I'm gonna find a way to go Oops, upside his head. More than any of us out here in the streets, Colin Powell had the ability to at least bring attention to America's efforts to manipulate ourselves into an unnecessary war. He went in front of the U.N. and sold a bunch of bullshit about trailers and robotic planes and whatnot, gutting his own credibility in the process. But what did he DO about it? When things were really heating up, and generals were saying we didn't have enough troops, and analysts came out questioning the intelligence and the post-war strategy was looking a bit non-strategic, this bastard didn't say a god damned thing. I will NEVER forgive him for that. As the election of 2004 approached, he defended the president. He stood up for bullshit over national security and common sense. He deserves nothing. I don't want to hear him utter another word, unless those words are a protracted, weeping, groveling, desperate cry for forgiveness. And even that would make me sick. I wish this biatch would consider running for public office, just so we can remind him, that he had his chance to be a real leader and blew it. God, I hate that man.

How Opal Mehta got DISSED!

opal-mehta-burned-tags.jpg Man o man! First off, I completely missed my daily blog posting goal, but whatever. I was on public radio, and as soon as I turn my back, another writer is getting hated on! Check out the image above. It's from this Amazon page for the book, "How Opal Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life." It's amazing to see the crowd turn on this kid. America loves to see people rise to the top, but not nearly as much as we love to see them fall, no, get TOSSED, down onto their ass. The reviews for this book turned on a damn dime, people! Ouchie. Doodoo. I don't have too much to say, but I've read some interesting articles, including ones that talk about a "packaging firm" called 17th Street Productions that might have ultimately been responsible for the plagiarism, former teaching fellows dissing the author online, Harvard "gathering information" on the matter and Random House, publisher of the plagiarize-ee, rejecting the student's lame-sounding explanation. So when am I gonna get my $500,000 book deal??

Me. Public Radio. Monday Apr 24. Racism In America.

I'm going to be on Christopher Lydon's show, Open Source, next week for real! I'm interested in sharing my views and getting your input on modern racism, preferably before the show, but anytime is good. What has been your experience with racism? What do you think of affirmative action? What do you have to say about race in America? So read on for more if you have time. Christopher Lydon used to run one of the most popular NPR shows in the country called "The Connection." This show actually got me through college as I cleaned bathrooms, and it had the hottest theme music ever! He left a few years ago and started a show called "Open Source" They transmit via regular radio, satellite radio, internet streaming and podcasting, and their show topics are determined by listeners and readers over at their website. They've invited me to be on Monday's show as part of their series on Race and Class in America. The topic of this show will be, essentially, modern racism. The main guest is a woman named Jane Elliott who did a remarkable experiment showing the socialized nature of racism, by dividing her all-white class into brown v blue eyed students after King's assasination. Here's a blurb from the site:
"In this hour we’ve invited Jane Elliott and others to talk about racism and discrimination in America today. Have civil rights legislation and affirmative action made a difference? Has the veneer of political correctness only made racism harder to detect? Are we hardwired to discriminate? Are our expectations for change unrealistic? Are we prepared to recognize that the road to true equality is paved with stumbling blocks? What are your experiences with racism and discrimination?"
So, I have a couple of theories on this whole thing which I will outline below, but for this email, but I'm also interested in your take on this stuff. What do you think of those questions above? My point in asking you is not because I don't have my own thoughts. Clearly I do or they wouldn't want me on the show. But yall are people I respect, and I want to do the subject justice. Here's a somewhat random sample of my thoughts: Americans are utterly confused about race today On the one hand, political correctness has made everyone very touchy, sensitive and terrified of offending someone. Is it even ok to mention that someone is black? On the other hand, pop culture has blurred the boundary between cultures, making everyone feel like they're part of the IN group. For example, white people saying Nigger because so much hip hop says so. I often find myself playing the "was THAT just racist??" game and second guessing my judgements. It's like thinking you saw a ghost. When a white guy decides to give me a "pound" instead of just shaking my hand like he's supposed to, is that racist? Presumptuous, mos definitely. Is it worth it for me to "falsely accuse" someone of racism? Do I sacrifice my integrity if I DON'T call someone on racism though? Tough questions. Racism is different today, but it's not harder. People like to look back on history and say "the problem was clearer in the past. You had laws to break down. Black people were hosed and forced to sit in the back of the bus. Today, racism is more stealth and harder to discern." I think there is some, but little, merit in this position. I wasn't around in the 1950s and 60s, but I can guarantee that the people fighting racism then didn't consider it "easy" or "clear." If it was so much easier and clearer, why were they getting hit upside the head and hosed in the first place? Because society as a whole didn't see it as a clear "problem" to begin with. Remember, we're in a nation where slavery, child labor and women-as-property were ALL the prevailing wisdom. Just because we think things are difficult today doesn't mean they were any easier in the past, and that attitude sort of insults the people who had the courage then to stand up back then. Racism today: Lack of Positive can be as bad as a negative. Notwithstanding what I said above, I do believe that on some levels, racism is less overt than in the past, at least from today's perspective. A company can no longer get away with saying "Coloreds need not apply." However, they can effectively exist with the same policy by not actively recruiting black people. It's about what they don't do where the racism comes through. Many businesses would never consider recruiting from a black college, or expanding locations into a black neighborhood. So, it's true that they aren't saying "NO" but they also, noticeably aren't saying "YES" because the assumption is that these people aren't worth their time. Ok, time for white people to do some work. For 387 years, the oppressed people of this country have borne the burden of liberating this society. We had to fight. We had to resist. We had to pull the establishment, kicking and screaming the whole way, toward this less imperfect union. Well, the jig is up. Racism is not solely black people's problem to solve. It's WHITE PEOPLE's! So far, most of their efforts have been to check a list of oppressive actions off the list, but there's been no real effort to eradicate the underlying attitudes of supremacy that still pervade the culture. If the analogy is Latin dancing, it's time for white people to lead. The oppresor has as much, if not more, responsiblity for undoing the oppression as the oppressed party does. One of the breaks that white people continue to get is to simply not be aware of race. Because of the lack of direct, oppresive experience, they often have the luxury of ignorance. It's just indicative of how much the eradication of this disease requires everyone's conscious participation. Sexism provides a useful comparison. I recently attended the SMT Conference, and met an incredible man named Cedza Dlamini from Swaziland in southern Africa. He was speaking on a panel about HIV/AIDS on the continent and had this to say, paraphrased:
"We have to challenge the social norms and patriarchal structures that are contributing to the problem. We, as men, need to be involved in the fight; to have a redefinition of manhood. Men can no longer feel entitled to women's bodies."
An analogy from my own life made this super clear. I've been dating the same wonderful woman for nearly six years. Because of the amount of time we've spent together, I'm way more aware of issues facing women than I ever was, even though most of my close friends in life have been women. What I learned was this: I am never, ever concerned about my personal safety. I'm a dude. I'm pretty strong. I have a (relative to the average) imposing physical figure. I'm cool walking anywhere, anytime, pretty much. But that is absolutely not the case for a woman, so when I say something like, why don't you meet me five blocks from your home, and it's damn near midnight, that's a stupid ass suggestion. Something that's an afterthought or no-thought for me, can be absolutely terrifying and absurd to a woman, but I would never know because I never thought about it. Even though I'm not actively oppressing her, that's kinda sexist. I can't say this enough: White people need to think about racism and what they're going to do about ending it as well. My theory of citizenship breakeven. Race in America: the The point is related to finance. In the business world, there is a concept of "cashflow positive." where your business may have been in the red early as you invested in growth, then you started generating positive cashflow and coming out of the whole, then you broke even, fully recovering your investment, and finally you're really in the black. This is a helpful way to think about racism in America. From the moment slaves were brought here in 1619, this country started accumulating a debt; call it a citizenship debt or Freedom Debt, since "freedom" is the new black apparently. So then let's say 1965, the voting rights act, is when we stopped digging the whole. We're VERY negative at this point. 346 years Freedom Negative, to be precise. As of 2006, we're still 304 years in the Freedom HOLE! We won't be Freedom Breakeven until the year 2310! And that's still not dope enough. Because what you're saying then is that we are Freedom Neutral, but neutral sucks. We want our society to be positive. We don't just want the absense of non-Freedom or the end of Freedom-Debt. We want Freedom-Wealth, positive freedom, where people don't just not-hate each other, don't just "tolerate" but actually work positively together. That won't happen until 2656, btw. This is obviously a rough approximation, and human experience and change may not be linear. The period could come sooner, but it could also come later! The point is, either way, we have a long way to go, baby. I'm talkin bout that man in the mirror. Black people have been understandably focused, maybe even obsessed, about what white people are up to. How and what they did to us and continue to do. However, we haven't dealt with our own internal ish. Whenever the body experiences a trauma, it necessarily goes into a healing and recovery mode. Cells repair themselves, resources are marshalled, an assessment takes place. We have not undertaken this much needed mission. We have not tried to heal the wounds of oppression. We have tried to stop the ongoing attacks but have yet to repair ourselves. There is something socially, psychologically and emotionally traumatic about being ripped from your home, tossed to the sea, told you are worthless, raped, flung far from your family. And anyone who doesn't see a connection between this traumatic history and the problems facing black people in present-day America is sadly lacking in cognitive abilities. They are very much connected. Culture, history, attitudes, expectations are all handed down, inherited across generational lines. We have work to do, as black people, among black people on this healing process. This has nothing to do with white people, per se. It's not about what "they did to us." It's about what we've been through. Now, white people have a similar struggle to undertake. For centuries, they believed, were taught and continued to teach they they were inherently superior, that thay had divine rights of power over others, that their poo didn't stink. This too is damaging to their people because it's been passed on from the 1806 slave master who killed a "worthless" black slave to the 2006 executive who avoids recuiting the "worthless" black worker. This disease may be falsely interpreted as a positive. Who doesn't want to feel superior?? But it's quite damaging and corosive to the soul. It's unhealthy and, in its own way, it's a trauma that white people have endured which requires healing and recovery. Again, this has very little to do with what "they did to black people." It has to do with what they've been taught and what they've been through. Are positive stereotypes ok? NO! I'll keep this one short, but black men should be allowed to have small penises. Asians should be allowed to fail math. And white people should have the freedom to NOT dominate the friggin globe! It's a serious burden. Can a black person be racist? Can a white person tell a black person NOT to be racist? Yes and no. I was taught many years ago that there's a key distinction between racism and prejudice. It goes like this: racism = prejudice + power; black people have no power; therefore, black people cannot be racist. This is not universally true because depending on the context of the situation, black people can have power and thus, can be racist. Consider a scene I've witnessed countless times. A group of young black men get on a sparsely populated bus / train. There's a white guy there. He gets uncomfortable. The dudes know this and exploit it. They harass the hell out of this man who really didn't do anything to them. They call him names, maybe fake punch him. He leaves terrified. They leave feeling like they had a good laugh and feeling pretty good. In that situation, they had power over that man, and I think their actions can be referred to as racist. Now, we can argue about whether the power they had over a single white man compares to the power to hire and fire, the power to launch missiles, the power to set policy, but I know I have to acknowledge that what they did was wrong on some level and involved racism. That second question -- can a white person call a black person racist -- is interesting to me and is related to the first part. A friend of mine is a teacher in a charter school which is pretty much all black, and she's pretty much all white. She told me recently that these kids were horribly racist toward other ethnicities, especially Asians. She was having some challenges with how to deal with this and teach the kids something. But the situation is admittedly awkward. "Uh, Dashon, you're being racist." followed by "Uh teacher, your great great granddad owned my great great granddad." It's like the Catholic Church giving out child care advice. I asked her if the kids were just being kids, but she thought there was more to it. They refer to all Asians as Chinese and are really, really terribly racist. This is clearly a problem, and especially in a school situation, requires a "teaching moment." My own thought is that you have to find a way to show the kids what they're doing, so that they see it and logically come to the conclusion that it's some horribly racist ish which needs to end. I know that's easy for me to say because I don't have a room full of sugar infused, malnourished, MySpace junkies looking to me for daily educational guidance and counseling. However, one great lesson I've taken from standup comedy is that the best jokes are those that you let the audience figure out for themselves. You just have to set it up right, but explaining a joke is just bad comedy. Screaming on a black person that they're being racist is just bad comedy! Finally, have I ever been racist? Have I failed to stand up for others? YES! I will never forget this. I was apartment-hunting with another black friend for our first post-college apartment. The rental agent was driving us around and warned us: "You don't want to live there. Indian people live there and you know how bad they smell. All that curry and weird body smell really leaves a stink in the place. Know what I mean?" We both looked at each other like, "can you believe this dude?" But then we kind of laughed it off because really, getting an apartment in Boston is hard work, and we couldn't afford to alienate any rental agents. Well karma is a biatch, because wouldn't you know we actually ended up rooming with an Indian dude that year!!?? Finally we had to fess up to him. "Yo Praveen, we need to tell you, we kinda hated on your people out of selfish cowardice. We're sorry." By not standing up for him, we sold ourselves out. This is how, ultimately, holocausts and genocide happens. Most people aren't for oppression, but they're all-too-happy to look the other way if there's no direct impact to their lives. As black people, we should have been extra sensitive to this sort of thing, but we failed. Never again. If you read this far, congratulations. That's more than I expected. I'm sorry if the ending feels a bit non-closing, but this wasn't designed to be an open and shut essay. I'm just working out some thoughts. I'm also shocked at how many friggin words there are here! Someday I'll have to make this funnier. Please, please, contribute your thoughts, comments, questions, links etc. I'm turning off comment moderation until the radio show airs Monday April 24, so excuse any SPAM that comes through, but I want feedback with the quickness. peace peace. - Baratunde Thurston UPDATE: I didn't quite capture everything here. Will be adding notes on 1. My experience with racism, especially something that happened at Sidwell Friends School 2. My explanation of the need for affirmative action to a 50 year old, bald-headed, conservative, white man from Wisconsin who was my roommate for a week in California. No lie. 3. (thanks to a friend reminding me) The role that an increasingly MULTI-racial America means for New Racism. That is, "THE BROWNIES ARE COMING!!!" 4. (more thanks to that same friend) We don't actually talk about race anymore, much less racism. Look at Katrina. Blown opportunity.

Ann Coulter is such an illiterate skank

Of course, I mean skank with love, if you define love as the desire to have someone submerged in pig feces like that scene in Rambo. The GOP just sent me this "personal" email from Ann Coulter advertising subscriptions to a newsletter called human events. This is a verbatim copy from a woman with three bestselling books out!! There is no justice in this world. V for president I say!
Make liberal even madder by subscribing for 70-weeks and also get bestselling book The Politically Incorrect Guide Islam (and the Crusade) in a hardcover edition not found in stores -- absolutely free.
How did this woman get degrees???

Right Wing radio had me fooled

Today I left Austin, TX on my long journey home to Boston. It can't be a simple flight because my life isn't simple. The return requires a stop in San Antonio and then New York and then I rush to a radio interview in Boston Wednesday evening. Anyway, I was driving South on 1-35 in my rental car (BTW in Texas, "Intermediate Sedan" means "GiNormous Ford F-five-billion pickup truck" when you translate it into Chicken Fried English), and I turned on AM radio.

I couldn't find any Air America, so I settled on my other diverse and competitive local radio choices: conservative political talk or conservative religious talk. Thank you, relaxed FCC media ownership rules!

I stumbled across a call-in segment where a man was explaining how Muslims actually worked on behalf of the devil. The host, a minister, agreed then took the next caller. This guy began to recall his earlier years when he worked in a gun store in San Antonio and remembers selling guns to Palestinians. The host reigned him in: "Sir, please get to your point. I don't like when people launch into vague stories like this." I was hopeful.

So the caller got to his point: "I think these Palestinians need a lot of help. They're consorting with the devil--"

And the host/minister jumps in: "Now wait a minute sir. Please don't paint them all with a broad brush like that. It isn't fair."

I was so impressed. This dude was gonna make sure the caller didn't judge all Palestinians for the actions of a few.

He continued. "It isn't fair to judge them all. Some Palestinians are Christrian! And we need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ to make sure they maintain their strength and don't succumb to the pressures of their culture or evil religion surrounding them."

Nice.