November 30, 2003

Writer's Commentary

A woman waiting to buy a DVD player for $29 in a post-Thanksgiving sale at WalMart was trampled to the ground by other shoppers Friday, in a scene that brought new meaning to the phrase 'survival of the fittest'.

Patricia VanLester was pushed to the ground and knocked unconscious as eager bargain hunters swarmed around her, seemingly oblivious, despite cries from VanLester's sister of: "Stop stepping on my sister! She's on the ground!"

Even once the paramedic crew arrived, shoppers continued to ignore the scene. Meanwhile, that stupid yellow smiley face from the WalMart adverts floated in the background, cackling maniacally.

A WalMart representative later called the VanLester family to apologize, and to assure them that one of the discounted DVD players would be kept on hold until Ms VanLester was able to return and purchase it. Apparently, being almost killed in a WalMart is still not enough to warrant even $29 store credit.

A WalMart spokesperson had this to say: "We are very disappointed this happened . . . We want her to come back as a shopper." The spokesperson then began mumbling 'money money money!' to herself.

For the full story: BBC NEWS: Woman crushed in rush at DVD sale

November 29, 2003

Oh, Go On Then...



Okay, I give in. Maybe I am a little cynical about it.

November 28, 2003

Life Imitiating Art

From CNN.com: Bush makes surprise visit to Iraq

US troops stationed in Baghdad gathered in a remote hangar at the Iraqi Airport Thursday evening to enjoy a Thanksgiving Dinner and a written message from the President...

As US Civilian Administrator Paul Bremer got up to read the speech to the troops, he said, "Let's see if we've got anybody more senior here who can read the president's Thanksgiving speech. Is there anybody back there who's more senior than I?"

"IT'S BEHIND YOU!" The gathered troops squealed in glee.

President Bush then appeared on stage to a roar from the crowd. The shocked troops jumped to their feet, whooping and clapping at the surprise visit. Bush told them he was 'just looking for a warm place to have dinner', then launched into a speech.

"You are defending the American people from danger and we are grateful. You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq," said the President, adding that the terrorists are "testing our will. They hope we will run."

Bush wrapped up his speech by saying, "We will prevail. We will stay until the job is done." The mood was electric at the airplane hangar in the middle of the desert, as the President threw his hand in the air and shouted patriotically: "Today, we celebrate our INDEPENDENCE DAY!-- er, I mean, Thanksgiving Day!"

Speaking to reporters on board Air Force One as he returned from Baghdad, Bush discussed the visit and the reasoning behind it.

"I could see the first look of amazement and then look of appreciation on the kids' face . . . I think Americans understand that we have a bunch of kids in harm's way, and that a president-- if it can be done safely-- owes an explanation of thanks and thanksgiving to these kids."

A spokesperson from UNICEF was later heard to remark: "What?!"

November 25, 2003

Sitcom Writers Take Note

An American woman who was born and raised in Indiana has mysteriously developed a cockney accent following a stroke, despite never having been to Britain or driven a black London cab.

"When I first realized what had happened," explains the woman, "I thought 'cor, blimey' this is a bit of a bugger, innit?"

Actually, that's not true. The accent has, in fact, been causing her trouble amongst her fellow Americans, who refuse to believe that she really is American. "I became very conscious that a part of me had died during the stroke . . . The loud, obnoxious, American part of me."

The woman is suffering from a rare condition called (rather unoriginally, I think) 'Foreign Accent Syndrome'. The condition occurs very infrequently in stroke victims, and causes them to speak in an accent that they have usually had no previous contact with. Scientists believe it is caused by minute damage to areas of the brain that control some aspects of speech; in this case, it is also suspected that a region of the brain known as the "Dodgy Geezer Area" has become hyperactive.

For the real story, see: BBC NEWS: Stroke gives woman British accent

November 24, 2003

To The Anthropology Chair, Robin!

Well, as I'm sure you are all well aware, I would rather die (or, you know, be ethnocentric) than complain about my Intro to Anthropology class. But the comments I got back with my midterm were just too much for me to resist.

The midterm was a take-home exam consisting of one essay question and two short answer questions. My first problem was that they told us we would be marked down for going over the length limit and then gave us two different length limits (3 pages or 750 words; and 750 words is two pages). So I played it safe and aimed for the lower limit, and let me tell you, writing a coherent essay with an introduction, conclusion, and answering three major points in 750 words is quite the challenge. I struggled for two hours and managed it in 746. Which I thought was quite a feat, really.

Of course, the thing about squeezing so many anthropological concepts into so few words is that it requires some pretty concise use of language. You really can't take any liberties in terms of using two sentences to make a point when, with a few grammatical flourishes, you can make the same point in one (and the three or four words you save might not sound much, but believe me, it is).

I'm not saying that I sacrificed clarity for the sake of my word count. The end product was still something that read pretty well (I even had Alison read it, to make sure). It wasn't something that any idiot could read just like that, but compared to—oh, I don't know— Derrida, Adorno, Althusser (all those authors that are about as easy to read as wallpaper) it was a work of some remarkable precision. If you're a native speaker of English.

Except that the TA who marked my exam wasn't (and still isn't, I expect) a native speaker of English. She's a very lovely Chinese lady, but after having sat through a conference with her I can say quite authoritatively that English is not one of her strong points. And since all but one of the comments she made about my work concerned her ability to understand what I was saying, you can understand why I feel a little jilted at the 70% she gave me.

Look, I know that it's a large class and there was a problem finding TAs for it, but let's be reasonable here: is it too much to ask that my work be graded by someone who speaks English competently? I feel an official complaint coming on...

November 22, 2003

You Know He's So Dangerous

I was just watching an interview with Michael Jackson, who was being asked about the children that stay with him sometimes:

"Oh, we have guest units here, but none of the kids ever want to stay in the guest units. They all want to stay with me. They say 'Michael, can we stay with you?', and I say 'Yes, if your parents say it's okay, you can'."

Let me ask something: what kind of parent would say yes to that request?

"Hey, mom, you know that alleged child-molester who dangles babies over balconies? Can I spend the night with him?"

"Only if you do your chores first, honey."

Come on, people! Think!

November 21, 2003

The Department of Homeland Security Strikes Again

From Netscape News:

Following an investigation by the US Dept. of Agriculture, it has come to light that there is a large risk of deadly biological agents being stolen from colleges and universities across the country:

"One lab outfitted for a researcher working with some of the most high-risk biological agents was found in a building 30 yards from the university's football stadium, open for bathroom use during night games.

Another lab that held a pathogen that causes a severe and often fatal contagious disease in swine never had a complete inventory and could be accessed at any time by graduate students without documentation.

The inspector general's office recommended the White House impose new standards to:

Create a central database of all biological materials stored at an institution.

Write procedures for checking backgrounds of lab workers and report missing pathogens.

Study potential risks at all labs and improve security based on those assessments."

In a statement, Jeremy Stump, the department's acting homeland security director smacked his forehead comically and said brightly: "Oh, YEAH! That IS a good idea!"

Bush State Visit Wraps Up

Today, George W Bush ended his official state visit to Britain with a visit to Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency. He was met there by another 500 members of his unofficial fanclub, the Stop The War coalition. From the coalition, spokesperson John Rees seemed pleased with the protester turn-out during the President's entire visit to the UK, saying:

"We have made a mockery of this visit and it deserves to be made a mockery of because they wanted to make a mockery of us."

Mr Rees was then hit in the head with a thesaurus that had been thrown by one of the crowd.

Other protesters were also pleased at the success of their efforts this week. One anonymous woman in London had this to say:

"Standing here outside Downing Street amongst all these protesters makes me proud to be British. We don't do many things right in Britain but this time we've really come through . . . No one here is happy and it's not just anger at George Bush. I voted Tony Blair in and I won't be doing that again. The Liberal Democrats have got my vote now."

Back at LibDem headquarters, party leader Charles Kennedy responded, "YES! FUCKING RIGHT! THAT'S ONE, PEOPLE!!!"

Meanwhile, the President was rounding off the trip with a relaxed pub lunch, accompanied by the Prime Minister. The visit was meant to give the President an idea of traditional British culture, but failed miserably since Bush had non-alcoholic lager with his meal, and the other guests delicately sipped at soft drinks. The pub's proprietor was later heard to remark: "This has made a mockery of us, a mockery of pubs, and we must now make a mockery out of them, the mockers."

November 20, 2003

A Royal Mess

So, President Bush is in London, staying with the Queen. I saw a clip of them at a banquet while I was watching the news earlier, and I thought to myself:

What on earth could those two people possibly have to talk about?

And, well, then my imagination got the better of me and it all went a bit down hill from there... (Note: this is really a lot funnier if you imagine the Queen talking in that disdainful British accent she has.)

QEII: It's lovely to meet you, Mr Bush.
Bush: Ah'm the president.
QEII: Er.. Quite.

[awkward silence; secret service agent nudges Bush in the ribs]

Bush: Wha? Oh, I, uh... Thank you for invahting us into your home, Mrs The Queen.

[secret service agent nudges Bush again]

Bush: Ah'm sorry... I mean, thank you for invahting us into your home, Mrs of England.
QEII: [shakes head and sighs] It's my pleasure, Mr Bush.... Tell me, how are you enjoying London?
Bush: It seems very nahce, ma'am. Although... [confidential whisper] I think you maybe have a few too many policemen around here.
QEII: [would be staring incredulously at Bush if she wasn't the Queen of England] I'll look into it.
Bush: Ah have a country to occupah if they need somewhere to go.
QEII: That would probably be the Prime Minister's decision.
Bush: The who?
QEII: [sighs] Mr Tony.
Bush: [giggles] Oh, yeah! Where is that little son'bitch tonaight, anyway?
QEII: He won the coin toss.

And so forth.

Depressing

Seen on an advert for Wellbutrin XL, an anti-depressant:

[Voice-over]: Other side effects include dry mouth, nausea, and trouble sleeping.

[Cut to] Woman: I finally feel like myself again.

...Just, you know, tired and nauseous.

November 07, 2003

"Sarcasm"

I was in yet another anthropology class being told how to write essays this morning; the professor was going over some final guidelines for writing the take-home midterm we have to do over the weekend ("The introduction goes at the beginning", "Using someone else's ideas without credit is PLAY-JA-RISM", "No, that number refers to the year of publication", etc., etc.).

Then, to finish up, he said something like: "The use of derogatory terms is not acceptable, I'm sure I don't need to tell you . . . Unless you put them in quotation marks."

Now, how is a cynical bastard like myself supposed to pass up an opportunity to use such a delightful meta-textual device like that, especially coming from a lecturer whose torturous overuse of the word 'then' has been the bane of my existence for the last two months?

So, I would just like to say to my professor:

Your class makes up the most "banal" and "frustratingly idiot-proof" three hours of my week. Your lectures are "mind-numbingly dull", and your lecturing is "completely uncompelling". I am counting the days until I am free from your "horrific" class once and for all.

Oh, sweet, sweet release. And the best part is, nobody can get offended because I used *sly chuckle* quotation marks. Ha!

MTV Comes to Edinburgh

The world's hottest recording stars visit Edinburgh for the first time! What are their initial reactions?



Pink is having some trouble with the quaint Scottish tongue... Easy there, girl!



And REM's Michael Stipe seems a little put out...


Thank you, I'll be here all week.

November 06, 2003

Ah, Arts Students

I don't really have time to write much because I'm exhausted and have to get up at 7:30am tomorrow, and Alison's out with her cousin and will most likely be stumbling in drunk in a couple of hours (look, honey, I mentioned you!). But I felt I had to relate the following story to you all, first.

I was in class the other day, being told how to write an anthropological essay. The teacher was going through the part about citations and provided a few examples to illustrate; along the lines of:

"Blah blah blah" (Finch, 1954)
Finch says: "Blah blah blah" (1954).

At which point, a girl in the front row put up her hand and said:

"Now, how do we know what number to put in the brackets? Will it always be 1954?"

It was all I could do not to laugh loudly and club her over the head with a Chicago style manual.

Ahem. Good night.

November 03, 2003

Under the Influenza

It's been a while since I've updated, but not for lack of trying. Blame the vacation; not only was I away for three days, but for the preceding week I was working like an obsessive-compulsive janitor trying to get everything that I needed to done so that I actually could go away.

And what do I have to show for it? After a week of fervent studying, a weekend of gluttony and debauching, and less sleep than an obsessive-compulsive janitor (wow, that is an amazingly versatile simile), I am sick. Miserably, sore-throatedly, headache-ishly exhausted and sick.

It wasn't all bad, though. I can now say with a great deal of authority that you haven't lived until you've taken the Green Line T on Allhallows Eve. I saw dinosaurs, punks, sharks, the Ghostbusters, Superman, two Supergirls-- I even saw The Ambiguously Gay Duo, all crammed into one tiny, creaky, streetcar. It was the most surreal and entertaining experience I have ever had on public transportation (except for that one time with the obsessive-compulsive janitor).

I also had several fabulous meals (for free!), stayed in a truly gorgeous Beacon Hill apartment, and saw all the wonderful people who I'd forgotten I missed.

And now, despite being sick, the only appropriate ending after such a weekend:

*Contented sigh*