Saturday, March 3, 2007

Comparing apples to spherical, reddish-yellow, sweet, edible citrus fruits

Want to know what this statue is thinking? Alright, I'll tell you:

"Don't apples and oranges have more in common than they have differences from one another? Wow, that was profound... and has profound implications for society. Once I finish this dump I'm going to tell someone... but who? I think, first I'll tell an orange. Or would an apple be best to tell first? Who'se to tell me I can't compare and contrast!!! Maybe I'll just hang out by myself tonight. I do have a lot on my mind. Don't want to burden someone else with all of this. Although, it would be cool to get stuff off of my mind. Is it lame for stone statues to go to the movies alone?..."

Friday, March 2, 2007

So are there, like, copyright rules, or what's the deal?

I don't know that much about art, but I know enough that I think some of you will agree with me that Picasso is the greatest painter of all time. He was what Mozart was to music, and what the Beatles were to, um, pop music. He was what ketchup is to any food based on protein or carbohydrate, what George W. Bush is to late-night comedy shows, and what George Washington was to the British Crown. I'm saying he was a revolutionary. The guy transformed art more times than John Kerry transformed his stance on various campaign issues (according to the swiftboat veterans, who have no incentive to say anything except the truth - interestingly enough, the boats only went about 20 to 25 knots per hour - lie #1!).

Anyway I'm trying to talk to you about Picasso, and how awesome he is. For those unfamiliar with Picasso, he had a long and multifaceted career, however his crowning achievement was probably being the best fucking painter ever.

Given this, it's no surprise that (1) someone would want to steal some of his paintings and (2) the whole world is talking about it. But yeah, two of his paintings were stolen earlier this week from Picasso's granddaughter's home in Paris (ugh, Da Vinci Code rip-off, anyone?). Depending on where you want to get your news from and what languages you like to get it in, here are a few links to different newspapers not too far from where I live.


To sum up the articles, people are searching far and wide for these stolen paintings. Because no witnesses saw the thieves, all we have is this artist's rendering of the search:

Not sure why they're looking in the water.

I don't have much else to say about this really, just think that Picasso is the greatest and that the fact that art heists are kind of en vogue (learned that from reading the French article) gives art theives no excuse. But of course, once again, we can blame Hollywood's influence for this. In fact if you ask me I think they should make George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Katherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts go look for these theives, only stopping to rest at night, which will also be a key part of the movie they can make about this. Only when these bozos recover the stolen Picassoes will they have made up for sexifying this horrible crime by (1) filming themselves stealing the fabrege egg from the Louvre and (2) being so sexy. By the way Steven Soderbergh if you are reading this, I can film this movie.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Pop, Goes the Culture

This post is in response to Virginia’s response (kind of makes me think about that song that they use to teach elementary school children about US geography about taking the Train to different US states and learning about them – VA smokes a pack a day, oh wait, that’s ME but anyway – how fitting that the name goes to a teacher!) to Cape Town’s lament (hey how’s the weather in Cape Town, by the way? Do you guys dress like this over there?) about getting older. By the way, I am always going to refer to “anxiety about getting older” as Cape Town’s Lament from now on.

So to recap from those posts, Cape Town feels American pop culture slipping away from him as he becomes a politics and Harold Bloom-loving, shitty-Aerosmith-listening-to old man. He finds himself wondering whether other 24-year-olds feel the same way as he does about his detachment from his own popular culture (evidenced by the fact that he cares more about the 2008 Presidential elections than Britney’s new do, and that he has to feign interest and knowledge when discussing American Idol). Meanwhile Virginia feels that music is worse than it was, concedes that he doesn’t watch American Idol, but takes comfort in the fact that he likes 24 and is kind of curious about how Justin Timberlake feels about Cameron Diaz having coitus with Djimon Honsou from Blood Diamond.

Now I think I’ll take the last part first and tell you what JT is thinking about Cameron Diaz and Djimon Honsou. He is thinking one of two things:

1. A dick in a box is forever: DeBeers
2. Dick in a box: she’ll pretty much have to

Now that I’ve resolved that I’d like to answer Virgina’s question with a question of my own; how many high school history teachers do you see wondering what JT thinks about CD and DH? It’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know. But I can surmise. And what do I surmise? I surmise that any high school teacher that’s thinking about what Justin Timberlake is thinking is probably thinking about it with little kids. Little, history student kids.

This leads (rather seamlessly) into my answer to Cape Town’s lament. So to comfort Cape Town, I say, fear not (lest ye be renamed Cape Fear Town), for you are not that old, yet. Sure, you are older than you once were. Younger than you’ll be. That’s not unusual. But all you are reflecting in your lament is the fact that pop culture means different things for different demographics, especially different age groups. There are different strands of pop culture for different ages, and items of a particular strand are often pretty dull to those in other age groups, while other items straddle or even transcend age groups. Harry Potter transcends age groups, as does sports.

Take me for example, at around age 9 let’s say. I freaking loved video games. Legend of Zelda, Toe Jam & Earl, Streetfighter II - you name it, I became less tan playing it. I remember noting to myself that most adults (like my parents and nearly all of my friends’ parents) did not share my passion for what I saw as the most glorious possible use of my free time, and I swore that I would never get bored of playing video games. Well guess what 9-year-old Boston Dissentator, video games, like American Idol and caring what the lead singer of N*SYNC thinks about Mary Jensen and Solomon Vandy, or caring about Britney’s new do, are for kids. So I propose that as we get older, we leave much of the pop culture of our younger selves behind, and take up the pop culture of older age groups, which is much better-suited to people of our age, like 24, or Arrested Development, or The Office, or Dave Chappelle (better not bring your kids!).

Now the great thing is that we don’t have to discard everything that we liked from our younger self’s pop culture, like Harry Potter or the New York Mets, we can keep the really good stuff forever. Of course, as we hold onto things like music throughout our old age we may at the same time exchange kinds of music, like Aerosmith for the older, shittier Aerosmith, or the Beatles for Oasis, the Shitty Beatles. Cape Town implies that we are getting older and our tastes in music are to blame (we’ve gone soft in our old age, wear Cosby sweaters, read On the Road, and listen to sad bastard music), while Virginia says he certainly feels that music is worse now. Well, which is it?

This is a very difficult question to answer, and I can answer it, but only by invoking the wisdom of the great sage known as Chris Rock. Chris Rock is a perfect example of why we shouldn't fear getting old - both because he is old and awesome, and because we like him. He’s 41 years old, yet he still loves rap music. While he still loves rap, he seems to admit that some of it isn’t as good as it used to be. Is this true? If so, why? I guess I can think of two reasons and you judge whether they make any sense. The first reason is that, for economic and technology reasons, every day it becomes easier for any idiot to make music and to get access to music. The same proportion of people listen to Elvis and Sinatra as they did back then, it’s just that now there’s eleventy billion other people listening to all kinds of stuff that didn’t exist (or we couldn't get as readily) back then and is taking center stage today. The second reason is that the entertainment industry demands that artists (at least those who aren’t already rich and can make whatever they want) produce things that will be a safe bet for instant mass sales, and this means that simplicity and catchiness reign supreme. In the words of Chris Rock, “if the beat’s alright, she will dance all night." (WATCH IT!!!!)

In a World of Pure Imagination

But what about the Oompa Loompas, what's gonna happen to them?

Below is a video that I found by way of Basically it's a list of statistics, some disturbing and worrisome, concerning globalization and the future of, I guess, everyone. See what you think; it's definitely worth a look. It's been called "eye-opening" and "thought-provoking", and if you're anything like me, it will make you wonder what it would be like set to another tune. My suggestion would be the song "Pure Imagination" from the good Willy Wonka movie.

Via: VideoSift

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Well, I Do Declare

If Thomas Jefferson were around today and loved his blogs, he may have included these complaints into his off-the-cuff, man of the people, style punditry:

"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

You tell 'em, TJ. Show me what you're working with. It seems a little to fitting that these accusations were aimed towards a ruler named George within the lines of The Declaration of Independence, though perhaps this connection should embolden us to speak out a little more -- not with useless, flailing spite, but, like Jefferson and his peers, with poised indignation properly distilled into some powerful prose. For any who might be wondering, I am not implying that we wage war against the administration or even impeach President Bush, though there certainly are grounds for such an action. Check out this video for Bill Maher's opinion on the subject:

Freakin' Sweet: Muppets!

If you’ve been reading this blog (Congratulations: you’re reading!) then you’ve heard some separate though related complaints emanating from Capetown and Boston about feeling alienated from pop culture and media. Virginia has been surprisingly neutral and upbeat for him/her/it/they. What, we’re doing THIS now Virginia? Just kidding, you’re all right. But I think I have the smooth, honeyed tonic that will salve Capetown/Boston’s bifurcated malady.

Let me take you back. I was sitting at home with my adorable and well-spoken girlfriend (sorry Capetown, I know we are supposed to appear available here, but there’s nothing really attractive about an unemployed blogger who uses words like “bifurcated”) and laughing hysterically at Boston’s diatribe on Wikipedia. The little vixen asked me what was so funny and I proceeded to narrate the relevant sections of Boston’s piece. She furrowed her expressive brow at Boston’s playful humor and said aloud “What about Muppet Wiki?” You see, her thoughts often run to puppets.

Never being too sure what the hell she is talking about, I cocked my head to the side and issued the Catholics’ ubiquitous plea to Jesus: Come Again? “Muppet Wiki,” she said “It’s a Wikipedia spin-off devoted entirely to Jim Henson’s Muppets. Anything you could possibly wonder about the Muppets, they’ll know; and they post new facts everyday!” (So cute!)

“Curious,” I thought. My fellow (Obamas) dissentators have been kanipshiting over their relationship to media and technology while my sexual liaison has been looking up Muppet facts. Perhaps she doesn’t understand.

“No, sweetie,” I said to her, “It’s about modern man’s sense of displacement in an increasingly isolated and commercialized age.”

She responded with: “Did I mention they talk about Muppets?”

Lacking a retort, I conceded the point, and suggest you do too. Muppet Wiki, dissentators. How do you argue with that?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


In response to Cape Town's lament about growing older:

I need to preface my comments on the feeling of getting old too quickly by pointing out that they are tainted by my position as a 24 year old teacher of 18 year old students. I've become old before my time, and have all kinds of father/big brother issues. Many guys my age hear about two eighteen year old girls twirling around in short skirts and respond with an enthusiastic grin. My first thought is "Jesus, ladies, this is a family show. Sit back down." Suffice to say that "barely legal" pornography is wasted on me.

Nothing makes you feel older than referencing pop culture to a clueless audience, and my senior government class is a daily exercise in aging. These are people who don't watch VH1's "I love the 80s," not because they are above commercial nostalgia, but because they don't know what a Thundercat is.

But I have to disagree with the idea that we are forcibly polarized, that "we're either left lamenting progress or shouting down any who stand in its way. " I consider myself squarely in the middle of these collective issues. I certainly do feel that music is worse, crime has increased, etc. but I fight constantly with people who suggest that "kids these days" are worse as a whole. I spend all day with these kids, and they're no worse than the people I went to school with ten years ago. I don't watch American Idol, but I watch 24 religiously. I have informed opinions regarding the possible entry of Gore into the presidential election, but I'm also kind of curious about how Justin Timberlake feels now that Cameron Diaz is banging Djimon Hounsou.

It's not the internet that's forced this public discourse on us, as you suggest (in your best old man voice.) It's us! It's the eye rolls we give each other when someone suggests that they like Ludacris. It's the look from you other merry Dissentators when I mention JT and Cameron Diaz. It's the more ridiculous look you give when you realize I called him JT.

We're not getting old, we're just as snobby as we were in college. I get the same "what a moron" thought in my head when someone references the OC (which, in case you geezers didn't know, went off the air this week) as I used to when someone admitted they listened to the Backstreet Boys.

On the subject of wikipedia as a research tool, I have to say fuck the man. If you want to use wikipedia, go right ahead. It might be wrong. In high school, you're learning more about how to write with evidence and support your arguments with sources. It's not as important that the essay be factually correct as it is that the essay shows understanding of how to form an argument. In college, if the professors don't know enough to find the mistakes in your essays that you transcribed from wikipedia, that's their fault and your grade won't reflect it. If you publish something and it turns out that you believed a user edited encyclopedia and got burned, that's you're own fault. I'll leave you with a latin phrase: caveat emptor. That being said, if you don't know the definition look it up on wikipedia. I'll bet it's correct.

Man is born free and everywhere he is in bad movies

Some people told me that "Children of Men" was a good movie, so I was interested to see it. I was surprised to find that after two hours in the theater, I hadn't seen a good movie; in fact, I hadn't seen a movie at all. In my opinion, a work has to have some sort of point or coherence or logic to qualify as a movie. "Children of Men" does not meet that criteria. "Children of Men" was a very elaborate cinematic expression of the sentiment that we know as Romanticism. If you are not familiar that sentiment, it was encapsulated by JJ Rousseau's famous quote "man is born free and everywhere he is in chains." The idea is that there is something inherently free and natural and good about humanity that we social creatures encroach upon and muck up. It is that feeling you get late at night, often encouraged by music and strong drink, that the harsh forces of the world conspire against your own tender and fragile humanity. Someone had a bad dose of this feeling one night and went out the next day to make a series of visual images that exorcised and celebrated that feeling and then called it "Children of Men." God help them.

The "movie" follows "28 Days" and "V for Vendetta" in depicting a futuristic Great Britain embroiled in political and social crisis. But unlike it's predecessors, which used a political backdrop to point up some message, Children of Men was dazzled by its own lights and forgot to ever make a point. Instead, the film makers packed their time with strange biblical symbolism and insultingly obvious cultural references (Has anyone ever heard of Picasso?). There's plenty of lefty political rhetoric and lots of classic sixties rock, but don't be fooled: it's just part of the scenery. There is no coherent political message at all- only a grab-bag of quasi-related points.

But now maybe you are thinking: "So What! I like biblical symbolism and cultural references and lefty political rhetoric, and Clive Owen is cool, and there were tons of great fight scenes, and the sound track fucking ruled. Who cares about coherence? " Well, that's all fine, Clive Owen is really cool, but you can't just throw a bunch of stuff on screen and call it a work of art. The work of art is inextricably bound up with the intent of the artist. If there is no intent, then there is no meaning, and all you have are some pretty pictures with cool music. Which is fine. And it seems to be the direction lots of cinema is going. But let's all be aware of what is happening: The hallmark of good art, meaningful representation, is being supplanted by impulsive sensory gratification, and those still looking for meaning are left dumbstruck.

If anyone is confused by what I'm talking about, just go watch "The Departed" and you'll see what I mean.

What's a Matter with Kids Today?

I think it began in high school, maybe in summer time when I first noticed it -- lazing the day away on my friend's couch, flipping channels, sneaking beers, enjoying our youth. The feeling swept over me, both forceful and vague, and it had nothing to do with the heat, and it had nothing to do with underage drinking. I was getting old. Only after these afternoons formed my memory of those summers, could I codify and isolate the sentiment, and I realized it was because of TRL, a show on Mtv for idiots, hosted by a then plumper and equally insipid Carson Daily. I didn't like the show or the music or any of it and I realized that I would no longer be the first to know the most recent Top 40 hit or be able to ride whatever cultural wave would come our way. There I was, at 16, infirm beyond my years, and this aging process has continued precipitously since.

In my last post, I discussed my affinity for Harold Bloom's views on Harry Potter, and by doing so exposed the crotchety traditionalist that I feel myself becoming. I need to know: is this what has happened to 24 year olds in each generation? Do others my age feel as I do about their detachment from their own popular culture? Was it the same when those raised on Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin watch their piers and those only years younger flock to "talkies"; when people switched from radio broadcasts to black and white television, and similarly until now, watching their friends and younger siblings shift with unsettling ease -- from black and white to color, from Elvis to Bob Dylan, from Aerosmith to shitty, older Aerosmith?

Reading about the recent debate on the Middlebury College campus, where the History Department has formally banned the use of Wikipedia for citation purposes, I found myself siding with The Man, and I have spent hours of enjoyment on Wikipedia. What the hell is happening here? Am I alone on this one? Please, fellow dissentators, mount up, let me hear you.

Perhaps these are just passing moments, only forming in my mind into a pathology by their repetition. I mean, I'm blogging aren't I? That's right, I am. Dammit, I'm all about the zeitgeist, baby. Who cares if I care more about the 2008 Presidential elections than Britney's new do, or that I have to feign interest and knowledge when discussing American Idol, or that I try to keep up my fiber intake (just joking with that one). The atmosphere on the internet and in the public discourse has forced us into taking this type of polarized stance -- we're either left lamenting progress or shouting down any who stand in its way. It's okay to form opinions without having to take sides. You can be ambivalent without being apathetic. All I'm asking is that you please turn the music down.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Intellectuals to the Left of Me, Wizards to the Right

As the reading world gears up for the final installment of the Harry Potter series, I would like to take the opportunity to do a little self-reflection concerning literary critic Harold Bloom, Harry, and me. Many are aware of the opinions of Yale and NYU professor, revered reader, and aging man of letters Harold Bloom regarding popular fiction and the "dumbing down of our culture" (see WSJ Op-Ed and Boston Globe article). Of course the obvious reaction ensued after Bloom denounced the reading of Harry Potter and its argued literary merits: rabid Potter fans went bonkers and anti-intellectuals and moderate Potter fans felt rebuffed and ambiguously insulted and thus joined the anti-Bloom mob. Where do I fit in all of this? Here is a little background about a obstinate budding intellectual and the young wizard (I'm not the wizard, just to be clear.)

Since the arrival of the first Harry Potter book, I turned a deaf ear to fanfare, hoopla, and the rest of it, believing children's literature should be read by children and not discussed at the grown-ups table. For about 6 years, I avoided all cultural ties to the Potter series -- didn't touch a book, see one of the films or even sit through their trailers, and did my best not to engage in these conversations. Now, after having read the six published Potter books, I cannot recall exactly why, but the whole phenomenon rubbed me the wrong way. Why do adults, whose intellects I respect, read children's literature, and on the other side, why do we believe that children are actually reading 800 page novels? These novels seemed to reside is some literary limbo, hefty reads for adults yet clearly aimed at children. A year ago, I fell ill to some flu and was given the books to read. I admit here and now that I read them all within 3 weeks and cried for the last chapters of the sixth volume due to the death of one of my favorite characters.

And yet, however spellbinding (excuse the pun, seriously, I'm sorry) these books were, however much I wished that I had had the seventh book to immediately flip to, I still remained unconvinced of their literary merit or what they offer kids such as my 6 year old niece, who has all six in hardcover waiting for her on her shelf. As an English major and an admirer of Bloom's I cannot help but agree with the man. Some find him a relic of literati past, in his last throws, strutting and fretting his last hour on Charlie Rose, full of sound and fury; but this is the cowards way out, the anti-intellectual, modern dismissive way out. Those who oppose Bloom's views seem to do so in defense of enjoying what they read, but this argument only exposes their ignorance of Bloom's work and the foundation of his opinions.

Bloom is one of the few academics today who expresses his love for his subject (at great length, admittedly) and has dedicated many of his recent publications to engender this same appreciation in us readers. While his demeanor may be that of an old windbag, he approaches his chosen profession like a child, with admiration for writers and the written word. So when Bloom asks, "Why read, if what you read will not enrich mind or spirit or personality?", of course he sees few other options; this enrichment is exactly what comes of reading Proust, Joyce, Shakespeare, et al. This transcendent reading experience allowed me to finish four years as an undergraduate English Major and a one year Master's program. And I can objectively say that the experience of reading Harry Potter is a non-alcoholic beer compared to the heroin shot that great literature can supply.

Increasingly, as I approach my 25th year, I sense the world of my formative years changing without my input or consent. I am at once a traditionalist and a progressive, tugged with equal force at both ends between the possibilities of the internet and the comfort and stillness of the written word. There remains an enveloping tranquility in sitting near a large, well-stocked bookshelf that no search engine or google's proposed digital library can provide. As a recent NYT article stated:

"Surely we have never read, or written, so many words a day. Yet increasingly we deal in atomized bits of information, the hors d'oeuvres of education. We read not in continuous narratives but by linkage, the movable type of the 21st century. Our appetites are gargantuan, our attention spans anorectic." (full article)

And so I cannot help but agree entirely with Bloom while also pitying the man for his inevitable existence today as an outmoded literary figure. I wouldn't mind if we had a few more left like him to keep us honest and skeptical of the world we are creating for ourselves. Will digital libraries offer the world's knowledge in a click or will it offer it piecemeal, useful only for graduation speeches and last minute term papers? Will the reader of tomorrow, being raised today, be able to sustain the attention span necessary to finish a novel, let alone Ulysses?

But, seriously, all that aside, how pumped are you for Book 7?

Also, if you're interested in a recent book by Harold Bloom that I highly recommend, please pick up his Jesus and Yahweh.

Encyclopedic Knowledge Part II: You’re an Encyclopedia and You Didn’t Know It!

My previous post was really all I wanted to say about internet encyclopedias. I was supposed to get that off my chest and be able to wash my hands of the matter and get on with my day. I was looking forward to it. Then this happened.

If you are reading my post, you’ve probably read the CapeTownDissenter’s post which mentions the new Conservapedia, a Conservative Christian version of Wikipedia. Now, after having read about how much I hate the original (and utterly useless) Wikipedia, you can probably imagine my disgust when I learned that some lunatics made another one of these things. At first, there was no consoling me. No sooner had I (quite rightly and eloquently) pointed out how ridiculous it is that we even have Wikipedia in the first place (and I did so quite ingeniously, I might add), than the amount of Wikipedias in the world doubles! I mean I was pretty angry. First I considered putting my fist through a wall, but then I remembered that the walls in my apartment are load bearing walls, which means that it was going to hurt me more than it hurt the wall. Next I considered inviting the creators of both Wikipedia and Conservapedia to a cocktail party at my apartment where I would sit them down and, – like a high school football coach who yells at the team after screwing up a big game – after giving all of them the verbal tongue-lashing that they so desperately deserve, I would then stare silently at them for a few minutes, and finally try to give them a motivational speech about how to pick up the pieces of our previous, blissful Wikipedia-free world which they so carelessly smashed to…um, pieces, and try to start anew. Next I considered making pages on both Wikipedia and Conservapedia called “Useless Wastes of My and Your Time” and then explaining (quite systematically and compellingly) exactly why we should all be ashamed of ourselves that we even know that these things exist.

After a couple of deep breaths and one beautiful little ditty by Julieta Venegas (WBUR, you never fail to comfort me during my darkest and most troubled hours) I calmed down. I started to think about it a little bit. First there was Wikipedia, I thought. Well, no, I corrected myself (politely), first there was Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky Button.” Then there was Wikipedia, a shameless rip-off of Google. And, thanks to the CapeTownDissenter who (unforgivably) broke the news to me the other day, now I know about Conservapedia. I was pretty incredulous as to the fact that not only is the original Wikipedia still in existence but that imitations are now springing up, so I went to the site just to see if I wasn’t having a terrifying nightmare (the test is that the internet never functions properly in a dream – it always takes too long to load and every link takes you to the same web site no matter what you are trying to access).

So I visit Conservapedia’s web site and it turns out that Conservapedia is the exact same freaking thing as Wikipedia except they recently started it from scratch whereas Wikipedia is about six years old and about a billion times bigger. I mean they didn’t even try to make it look different, or even change the name (they only changed half the name?! From “Wiki” to “Conserva”?!). Then I realized that Conservapedia means Conservative Wikipedia, which I guess is a Wikipedia for Conservative Christians who want to write these articles instead of whatever bozos are writing them for Wikipedia. Honestly I had no idea that Wikipedia was biased against Conservatives and against Christians (I thought it was just useless), but in any case we now have (an equally useless) one that takes an explicit effort to be biased in favor of these groups.

Now, unlike some of my co-dissentators, I don’t consider myself a member of either of America’s two main political parties, which I guess makes me a (hey voter voter voter voter) swing voter. To give you an idea of my moderateness, I often find myself farther to the right than many of my liberal friends, and I often find myself farther to the left than many of my…actually, wait…I’m not sure if I even have any conservative friends (they don’t call me the BostonDissenter just because I also happen to throw a glorious tea party). So, as a moderate open to all views (except those in favor of these ridiculous web sites existing), even I found this web site over the top. At first I was upset, I thought the “Anti-America bias” of Wikipedia claim was something of a stretch, and that maybe they should call the site “Psychopedia” (even a psycho would admit that name sounds better than Conservapedia (also conservapedia I believe is Spanish for “a whale’s vagina”)).

Then I realized something pretty amazing which totally turned me around on this Conservapedia. I did a little investigating and found out there was like nothing on it. Now, I realize it is just starting up, so this might not be true for much longer, but currently we are living in a golden age where – if we are willing to accept this thing as an encyclopedia – we know more than an encyclopedia. To give you an example of your encyclopedic knowledge, let’s start with a simple one. How about the country Spain. Conservapedia says:

“Country located on the Iberian Penninsula. Borderd by the Alantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean on the east. Portuagal is located on the same penninsuala. Is the same country as was in the medieval times. And known for its famous explorers.”

Now if you already knew all that, you have encyclopedic knowledge: the person searching should have just asked you! You maybe even know more! You maybe even know how to spell the words “peninsula,” “bordered,” “Atlantic,” and “Portugal!” Now I know this thing is supposed to favor America so things like countries, oceans, peninsulas and borders don’t really matter, but if we are supposed to be smarter than people from other countries, we should know more about their country than the know about America, which is hard to do post-Borat. So let’s try another country, Germany:

“A country in central Europe that was blamed for both Wolrd Wars and claimed to be the dominate race of mankind.”

Again, if you knew that too, you are as smart as an encyclopedia! And you probably would have called the “world” a “world” instead of a “wolrd!” I mean what is a wolrd anyway? I tried to look it up, but there wasn’t an entry for it. Then I looked up “world,” no entry for that either. Honestly I looked up “earth” and all the page said was “Mostly harmless.” Again if you know more than that about the earth you have encyclopedic knowledge. Now I know what you’re thinking: Conservapedia is pro-America so it really doesn’t matter whether there are articles about the wolrd or the world or whatever the hell that thing is that you were talking about. Well that’s why I looked up some American stuff as well. Now I know what else you’re thinking, you’re thinking what if you didn’t know as much as Conservapedia? For instance, what if you didn’t already know that Spain “is the same country as was in the medieval times”? Well don’t worry because to persuade you that you really are smarter than an encyclopedia, I have found a bunch of things that have no entry at all in Conservapedia, so if you have heard of even one, you have encyclopedic knowledge and you should start charging people to access your brain instead of those charlatans at Wikipedia and Conservapedia and whatever hell-spawned pedia’s that spring forth next. So those items are:

1. Alan Greenspan
2. Drudge Report
3. Rush Limbaugh
4. Argentina
5. David Brooks
6. John F. Kennedy
7. Supreme Court
8. Iraq
9. Mao Zedong
10. Taepodong
11. Ari Fleischer
12. CNN
13. Rolling Stones
14. Rice
15. Boston
16. Brain
17. Condoleeza Rice
18. Garth Brooks
19. Franklyn D. Roosevelt
20. London
21. World Bank
22. Wal-Mart
23. Jon Stewart
24. Harvard
25. Michael Jordan
26. New York Yankees
27. New York Times
28. Liberty University
29. Wall Street Journal
30. Education
31. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Incidentally, I don’t mean for this to be a contest between which of these two useless web sites is less horrendous, but I did find it noteworthy that while Conservapedia has no entry on the Taepodong, Wikipedia has three different Taepodongs in their encyclopedia.

In closing, I believe I’ve (quite nimbly) proven my point – that you are an encyclopedia and you didn’t know it. If for some reason you still haven’t heard of any of the above items, and you are still on equal footing, knowledge-wise, with Conservapedia, I will tell you something about Argentina. So to be smarter than Conservapedia (no one’s ever accused me of not making my readers smarter (than Conservapedia)), all you need to know about Argentina is that it gave us this.

Encyclopedic Knowledge Part I: Isn’t Wikipedia just Google with Fewer Results?

Did I miss something here? Maybe it’s just me but I really don’t see what the big deal is with Wikipedia. First of all it sounds like you are mixing something (mixing in the sense of a rick-a-re-mix as opposed to, for example, mixing sodium and chlorine together to make table salt (by the way has anyone else tried this? It’s a lot harder than you initially think!). You know, 'wiki-wiki-wiki.'

Second of all, does this thing even do anything? I really don’t see any point to it aside from maybe as like a Google alternative for people that want every letter in a single word to be the same color (you can point out its flaws all you want but sooner or later you’ll come face to face with the fact – the undeniable fact – that Wikipedia is wonderfully easy on the eyes).

Maybe I’m not making myself clear, so I will attempt to do so through anecdote. The first time I heard about Wikipedia, the conversation went something like this:

John Kerry (honestly this is the real name of the dude that works at my local video store (I also hate NetFlicks), no relation to the Massachusetts Senator): “Have you heard about this new Wikipedia thing?”
Me: Yeah I think so. It’s something DJs do right?
JK: No, not at all. It’s this web site where you type in anything and then it takes you to a page where you can read about it.
Me: Isn’t that just called…the internet? I mean I thought we already had that?
JK: Alright I didn’t mean for this to turn into an argument. By the way do you know you
have late fees?

I left the video store pretty confident that I had won the argument with John Kerry. I mean sure, he said he didn’t want to get into an argument, but isn’t that just because he knew it was an argument he couldn’t win? I mean let’s think about it, I thought to myself. Wikipedia is nothing more than a smaller, neater version of the internet. Then I remembered Google (also a silly name – Wikipedia ripped off everything!). In fact, I thought, whoever made Wikipedia probably just searched Google, read a few pages, and then wrote a nice summary and then made that the only page you can read when you put your search into Wikipedia. Then I thought, we already have one of those, and it’s called the Google “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. So not only have we all seen this before, but we all haven’t cared. Pretty much the only positive thing I can say about the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button is that if you turn your Google settings to be in Spanish, it’s a “Voy a Tener Suerte” button, but this hardly makes up for the existence of this self-congratulatory and superfluous button. Why self-congratulatory you ask? Google is glad you asked. If you’re like me you probably saw this button and thought “what (in the name of jumping Jehosaphat) is this?” The obvious answer being: “nothing.” So to make sure you probably pressed the button without typing anything into the search box. And of course this search for “nothing” using the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button yielded precisely that: nothing. And by “nothing” I mean a description of the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button (which, as we worked out in the previous sentence, is essentially; nothing). Here is their description of this ingenious button:

“An "I'm Feeling Lucky" search means less time searching for web pages and more time looking at them.”

This is great because I was getting tired of how much time it was taking me to look at the search results before clicking on them. I mean if you add up all of the times that you looked at the search results instead of going directly to the first result, you would probably figure out that it took six seconds of your life, which would be more than offset when the first result isn’t any good, or isn’t enough, and you have to go to another result. So now you are probably asking “why did they spend taxpayers dollars creating this useless button that does nothing?” And the answer (of course) would be that not only do people who access Google from their laptops while walking across a busy intersection (which they wouldn’t do unless they were feeling lucky, so…) really need that time saver, they also happen to make up one of the most tenacious lobbying groups in Washington.

The point is, I knew I was onto something with this “I’m Feeling Lucky” thing so I decided to test out my theory with the button even though I wasn’t actually feeling lucky (don’t even get me started on the fact that thanks to the entrapment tactics of Google, millions of upright and honest Americans are now perjuring themselves every day with this insufferable button). So here is what I searched for juxtaposed with what Google’s abhorrent “I’m Feeling Lucky” button provided me with:

England” – Wikipedia’s page on England
“Bill Clinton” – Wikipedia’s page on Bill Clinton
“Michael Jordan” – Wikipedia’s page on Michael Jordan
“corn” – Wikipedia’s page on maize

I think this (quite nicely) proves my point, and so I leave you with one parting reflection: How fancy do you think Wikipedia thinks it is when it gives me “maize” when I search for “corn?” I mean what a nitpicker, and what nerve to correct me – the customer! If Wikipedia had paid closer attention while they were ripping off everything from Google, they would have noticed that instead of automatically presupposing my mistakes and taking me straight to the maize, not even saying anything but rather acting as if nothing had ever happened, Google has the decency to ask me if I meant something else, and to do it politely and tactfully. In fact, it doesn’t even take any extra effort either since everyone knows that all that is necessary to be tactful on a computer is the use of italics. See, that got polite at the end, don’t you think, you idiots at Wikipedia?

Ocean's 79

I can’t let the Oscars pass without comment, so I'll say that I thought that they were well done until about 11:30. I don’t think that they got worse after that; I just decided to go to sleep. Here’s a quick summary of most of the Oscar coverage out there


- They were long

- There were some surprises

- There were no surprises

- There were plenty of international winners

- Ellen DeGeneres was good but safe

- Norbit?!

- Whitaker, Mirren, Scorsese, The Departed

The joke about Al Gore preparing to announce his candidacy but then being played off by music was predictable, but I still found myself wondering if he would actually do it. It just seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up. Not because it would have been a good political move to announce his intentions at the Oscars, but because it would have been the beginning of a disastrous Hollywood candidacy. That seems more like a typical Democratic move.

Gore couldn’t have looked more comfortable surrounded by Hollywood. The Oscars were like Ocean’s 12. Instead of watching Pitt, Clooney, Damon, etc. traipsing around Europe on my dime, I got to see Gore, DiCaprio, Ethridge discussing environmental policy on my dime. The back and forth between Al and Leo culminated in a cacophony of backslapping in which they were literally stepping on each other’s lines trying to express just how proud of each other they both were, and thanking each other for their work on the environment.

Recently Jimmy Carter has encouraged Gore to run and to be honest I think the last thing the Dems need is another big name in the heap. I would be interested, though, to see what would happen if Hilary or Obama asked him to be VP. On one hand you’ve got your southern white male to balance the ticket, on the other you have the Hollywood elite lined up behind Gore which will certainly undermine his popularity in the South and the Midwest.