COLLISION

Posted in Quick Hits on May 15th, 2013 by Ed

This week has been and will be a bit spotty (rest assured that there will be an NPF, though) for a number of reasons. The academic year ends today, so there have been mountains of grading. And Monday I woke up feeling like lukewarm death. The baseball I apparently swallowed late Sunday evening is still lodged firmly in my throat. On Wednesday evening I devoted my energy to The Jimmy Howard Show Western Conf. Semi-finals Game 1. It involves some yelling at the TV – not attempting to reason with it, just the ordinary "YES!" and "FUCK!" variety – and in my febrile state it turned out to be a rather draining experience. Fortunately it had a happy ending thanks to, hands down, the best Kenyan-Swedish defenseman in hockey today.

HIVE MIND

Posted in Rants on May 15th, 2013 by Ed

Many years ago I was a mildly active Wikipedian, a hobby I discontinued once I didn't have as much idle stare-at-internet time once I began grad school. Oh, and because most of the other people actively involved were horrible.

That is unfair. I don't honestly think they are terrible people, but something about the anonymity of the internet combined with high opinions of their own intelligence brings out the absolute worst once they gather in the same (electronic) place. These days Wikipedia has taken on a life of its own and has become bigger than anyone could have imagined back in the day. Now, vote-up sites like MetaFilter and, more recently, Reddit are getting the most attention, probably because voting things up and down is quicker and more definitive than endlessly debating things in Wikipedia forums.

One of the most irritating things about these sites is the tendency of the fan bases to be overwhelmingly composed of people like…me. White males with a lot of education. And we're pretty annoying, especially when protected by the anonymity and distance provided by the internet. So people can really be dicks in these forums, and there is plenty of groupthink on display.

Regular readers know that, sometimes to a fault, I am not the type to go around shouting "Sexism!" But my god, these things are sexist. Really obviously. In a way and to an extent that the amount of willful ignorance required to pretend it isn't there is staggering. Another blogger took the time to compile a perfect example for the skeptical.

A male Redditor posted a picture of himself lying in a bed with the comment, "This is me the being dope sick when i quit heroin. 6 months and counting of being clean." The post was up-voted by other users 1150 times, and here are the first five comments, also in order of votes received:

1. Congratulations man. Thats no easy feat. Heroin has taken many a life. Good to see somone beat it
2. "6 months and counting of being clean Datestamp 3/16/11" Was there a relapse in there?
3. I know that look. I’ve made it myself…I am consumed with respect and admiration for you. keep going.
4. Awesome job! I have 4.5 months clean. Just remember: that’s the last time you have to be dopesick. Ever.
5. I don’t know you, but I love you for staying clean. It gives me hope for my brother.

Aww! Look how nice and supportive people can be, even in an environment where people are usually pretty heartless.

More recently, a different, female user posted a picture of herself with the comment: "Been clean from heroin for 2 months and this is me today". After receiving about half as many up-votes as the male's post, here are the top five comments:

1. I've never done heroin, here is a picture of a pair of old shoes.
2. Reddit just upvoted some girl's mirror shot to the front page Holy fuck, guys
3. I've been clean from heroin for 24 years, nobody upvotes my mirror pics.
4. I don't get it. This is just a picture of a person. What is interesting about this picture?
5. 9 outta 10 would bang. With protection.

Go ahead, attempt to explain how this stark difference has nothing to with gender. I could use the giggles.

Here's the kicker. While the second post itself received less than half the up-votes of the first (male) one, the asshole comments on the woman's post received more up-votes (2200+ for the #1 comment) than either the post itself (650) or the first post (1150). So users appeared far more interested in being a dick to the woman for posting a picture of herself (Reddit Law states that this is attention-seeking behavior when women do it) than in either of the posts themselves.

Just another day on the internet. Move along, there's nothing to see here.

IS IT? IS IT REALLY?

Posted in Rants on May 13th, 2013 by Ed

Many years ago a student submitted a research paper that I continue to use (without personal information, obviously) in classes as an example today. Unfortunately it's not a positive example. The paper is a ten-page treatise on how the American presidents who died in office were all secretly murdered by the Freemasons.

The student was quite unhappy with the (failing) grade this mess of internet conspiracy theories received. "I did research and cited all of the sources", s/he stated. It was true; the paper was exhaustively cited and clearly represented a good deal of research. The problem – and we/I did cover this in class repeatedly throughout the semester – is that not all "sources" are made equal. Some are legitimate, some are questionable, and some are flat-out nonsense. And back when I was still learning how to teach, it surprised the hell out of me to find that a non-trivial minority of students cannot tell the difference.

In the students' defense, it's difficult to explain how to identify a garbage source. TO some extent it's like the old Potter Stewart "I know it when I see it" obscenity test. My best advice, I think, is to err on the side of caution when the objective is to cite supporting research. Sure, government or major media outlet sources will not always be correct and may be flawed. But if the choice is between the Benghazi story on CNN or a post on something called WheresTheBirthCertificate.com, it is in students' interest to play it safe. Even if the CNN story is not entirely accurate or comprehensive, no one's going to think you're nuts for relying on a mainstream media account.

This is not a problem limited to students, of course. A sizable number of our fellow citizens have problems smelling bullshit even when their noses are buried in it. To put it charitably, the proliferation of news and information on the internet has exposed an uncomfortably high level of credulity among the public. It's problematic enough that a lot of us intentionally seek out information that confirms what we already believe (and discount or reject contradictory facts) but those of us who do make a real effort to inform ourselves about issues can't tell if what we're reading is total garbage.

Most of you know better than to argue with people in internet comment sections or on Facebook, but tell me if the following sounds familiar. A friend who spends a lot of time on websites with words like "healing" and "wellness" in their name shares this must-read link on Facebook. The article explains how vaccines upset the body's natural rhythms and chakras and enzymes. Vaccines also cause autism and leprosy and gingivitis, according to some really fascinating new findings from Jenny McCarthy. It concludes, based on an argument along the lines of "As a mother, I know what is best for my child", that children should not be vaccinated.

You try to point out politely – perhaps offering your own link that gently debunks this monumental pile of baloney – that the information your friend has provided is not entirely accurate. As you know from experience, this rarely has the desired effect of actually informing the recipient. Instead, your friend says something along the lines of "It's so hard to know what information to trust anymore" or "It looks like there are a lot of good arguments on both sides."

This is one of those classic red flag statements – not unlike "I'm entitled to my opinion" or "I guess we'll have to agree to disagree" – that means "I am clearly wrong but I have no intention of changing my mind." It must be, because taking the statement literally is difficult. "It's so hard to know what to trust." Is it? Is it really? No. It's actually pretty easy.

No, doctors and experts and scientists are not infallible. They and we believe things to be true that later turn out to be wrong. But is the American Medical Association a safer bet than the Spiritual Holistic Wellness Center or the Crunchy Moms tumblr? Yes. Ten times out of ten. People argue that it's healthy to be skeptical of consensus and the establishment in any field, and that's true. However, their skepticism appears to end where the blogs and message boards and pseudoscience collections begin.

I've learned my lesson now. We cover the common characteristics of denialism, pseudoscience, opinion, frauds, and plain old bullshit. Hopefully students leave knowing how to identify those things. Unfortunately this prepares them for a lifetime of frustration from dealing with the millions of Americans who can't.

NPF: HOVEL FINDER

Posted in No Politics Friday on May 10th, 2013 by Ed

There is a new – and I mean brand-spanking new – Tumblr called The Worst Room dedicated to one person's online search for decent and affordable (by NYC standards) accommodations in Brooklyn or Manhattan. Granted, s/he is looking in what is likely the most expensive market for rental quarters in the United States, but it is nonetheless staggering to see how substandard some of these places are – and at what price. If you doubt that these would-be landlords will find eventual takers for these hovels even at these inflated prices, befriend some young, marginally employed New York folks and they will set you straight. Sure, perhaps the guy asking $1900/month for a loft bed in Lower Manhattan might be overreaching, but I wouldn't put it past any of my New York comedy friends to live in these places. Hell, they'd probably try to fit multiple people in the $300/month breakfast nook.

There are many, many advantages to living in NYC, including nearly unlimited access to entertainment and cultural opportunities. The rest of us miss out by comparison. That said, it's pretty nice to pay under $800/month for a giant two-story house built in 1911 rather than $1200/month to share a third floor walk-up with two weirdos I met on Craigslist. I know, I know, the costs are low here for a good reason, namely that there is no demand. Nonetheless, every time I've looked at the costs of living in places like New York I've been floored to say the least.

Two quick anecdotes. First, I was once shown an apartment in Madison, WI in the attic of a house with a sharply angled roof. The ceiling was approximately 5'10", or approximately 4" shorter than me. The realtor continued to make her pitch, as if I would be renting this apartment in which I could not stand. Second, an old acquaintance moved to Brooklyn in the early 2000s and ended up paying a couple hundred bucks per month to live (illegally, of course) on the roof of an apartment building under a tarp. I mean, at that point I'd probably forgo the NYC dream and settle for Chicago.

THE FOUNDATION IS OPTIONAL

Posted in Rants on May 8th, 2013 by Ed

With the possible exception of psychology, no field of academic study is more faddish than education. Every few years another round of assessments and surveys show us that the vast majority of students – just like the vast majority of Americans – have knowledge and skills that cannot even be described as minimal. "Minimal" implies some understanding of a given subject, and often that is not the case.

Armed with the latest Look How Dumb Everyone Is survey, new educational techniques and tools are developed to join the long line of failed techniques and tools that were supposed to solve this problem in the past. One of the most dramatic paradigm shifts occurred when it was collectively decided that fact retention and rote learning (which remains the foundation of the educational systems in places like China and Japan) were ineffective. Instead, we were to focus on building students' higher order intellectual skills – critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and so on.

In my view, this is a shining example of one of the worst tendencies of academics – using jargon-heavy theories to explain away why students are so bad something. What is this shift toward the almighty "critical thinking" talisman but an effort to excuse students' woeful lack of facts, information, and basic skills? If the students demonstrably cannot write well, do math, or remember facts, we have to say they're good at something. What better than an abstract concept that proves remarkably difficult to measure? Sure, we can't prove that students have Critical Thinking skills, but…you can't prove that they don't. Voila.

The dismissive attitude toward facts and information has gone off the deep end in the last decade. Now that everyone has a smartphone, there's no need for students to know anything at all. Any facts they will ever need can be looked up in thirty seconds. What's important, we're told, is that they know how to interpret and Think Critically about things. This has always struck me as dubious. We are to believe that students who know next to nothing about entire fields of knowledge somehow have good analytical skills in those same areas. There's no foundation, but somehow there is a mighty edifice built on top of it.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the futility of many kinds of rote learning that were popular a half-century ago. A student does not really gain anything from being able to name all nine Supreme Court justices or knowing the capital of every nation on Earth. However, surveys continually show that students don't know things that are relevant either. Are we to believe that people who can't explain who Napoleon was or don't know which side the Russians were on in World War II can somehow think usefully and critically about history? That someone who has no idea which branch of the government holds which powers can understand and analyze our system? That someone who can't define "baroque" and doesn't know when or why Impressionism became popular has a useful grasp of art in the context of culture? Most amazingly, we are asked to believe that the ability to look any of these facts up on an iPhone will enable students to skip the knowledge step entirely and launch right into critical analysis. OK.

The underlying problem – and I'm sure some fad will pick up on this eventually, perhaps in another decade or two – is that the act of learning facts and information forces students to engage the material. Learning which powers belong to Congress requires one to read some stuff about American government, as memorizing who painted various works of art requires one to look at works of art. The hidden cost of the "Who cares, they can google it" mindset has been the "Why bother?" attitude with which, studies show, students now approach all of their academic tasks. It's not like they're spending less time on rote learning in favor of more time on other academic tasks; they're just spending less time learning anything.

No one in chemistry would argue that students can skip the Periodic Table, nor would anyone in math say, "Sure, skip algebra and trig, just go directly into calculus." Yet in the soft sciences and the humanities we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot by requiring students to learn – actually learn – less and less. We wrap up their ignorance in academic babble and explain how it's acceptable, or even good for them, to know so little. We come up with new "curricular enhancements" and pedagogical theories that, lo and behold, do not eventually bear fruit in the form of a generation of students with great thinking and reasoning skills despite being almost completely devoid of knowledge.

Shocking, really.

Tags:

SERVING TWO MASTERS

Posted in Quick Hits on May 7th, 2013 by Ed

Just a couple of quick hits:

1. The Washington Post's resident 1950s schoolmarm / right-wing scold / skeksis (Jennifer Rubin, not Charles Krauthammer, and how sad is it that it's necessary to clarify which skeksis) says that "the GOP has to get over Ronald Reagan." Briefly sidestepping the hilarious irony of one of Romney's biggest cheerleaders chiding the party for Reagan Idolatry, the problem is that she does not explain which Reagan the party needs to get over. Is it the imaginary one Republicans started worshiping in the 1990s or the actual one who was president for eight years?

2. Conservative media favorite Rep. Jason Chaffetz (you know, that one House Republican who's under 55 and does not have the appearance and mannerisms of a gargoyle) is officially off the Benghazi deep end. No, not because he repeats the word "Benghazi" like he has a unique form of Tourette's. We know he's off the rails because the hard-hitting journalists at Fox & Friends don't appear to be buying his shtick. The lesson to learn here is that when fawning right-wing media made by and for Authoritarian-Follower personality types has to choose between sucking up to their chosen political party and high-ranking military leaders, the medal-wearing men in uniforms win. Although, we can assume that there was no small measure of cognitive dissonance involved. Steve Doocy – torn!

BUT IT'S CHEAPER, RIGHT?

Posted in Rants on May 6th, 2013 by Ed

Children born since the year ~1995 will need to have the concept of a pension explained to them. It will be about as relevant to their lives as the carburetor, the telephone switchboard operator, and the Victrola. And we will have to explain that after St. Ronnie descended from heaven and a lot of people in expensive suits spent ten years doing blow, corporate America came up with this great idea: rather than having a defined benefit, why not have defined contribution retirement plans? It would cost employers far less, sure, but it would benefit the working stiff, too! Why be saddled to a defined benefit when you can invest your money in Mutual Funds (remember when those were all the rage? Gosh, I Love the 90s!tm) and watch it grow, like, 10-15% per year! Hell, maybe 20%.

The internet came along at just the right time to make this seem plausible. Look! Websites! E-Trade! You can be your own stockbroker! Sure, nobody really understands any of this shit, but…Mutual Funds! A trained monkey could pick those, and our Investment Professionals take care of the rest. You just get a drink with an umbrella in it, sit back, and watch your money grow.

Now that this new era of capitalism is mature – if any aspect of such a scheme can be so labeled – it turns out that the estimates of future gains may have been slightly exaggerated. Maybe we all were a tad optimistic. So maybe it has been more like 5% annualized, if you're lucky. And then there's the Investment Professionals. Boy, we should maybe have screened them a little more carefully, or supervised them a little, or maybe not incentivised gambling with your money for short-term gains. And then there was that whole real estate thing, which no one could have foreseen. Everyone knows that real estate is a good investment! OK, OK. Lessons learned.

Here in academia, we're one of many professions currently bemoaning the sluggish job market and pointing to Aging Boomers Who Won't Retire as part of the problem. Having almost completely abandoned the defined benefit in favor of defined contribution plans 20 years ago, apparently it never dawned on our social betters that people won't necessarily retire when we (collectively) might like them to if we give them a retirement plan with a value that changes, quite literally, by the second. Oddly enough, they seem to be hanging on "just another year or two" hoping that The Market will increase the value of their savings – savings that are, even among responsible savers, often pretty meager.

"I guess they should have saved more!" we say with wagging chins and scornful glances. Well, thanks to another invention of the 1980s – constant downward pressure on wages, temp-ification of the profession, and so on – even people who saved rather aggressively might have amassed comparatively little over their working lives, given the cost of living as they cross age 65. It turns out that if a worker's retirement savings is a percentage of their earnings and you pay them jack shit, they reach their late 60s and can't necessarily afford to retire. Contrary to the propaganda, most people in higher education are not making a ton of money. And then people in the profession wonder, gee, why won't all these old people just retire? Well, saving 20% per year on a salary that topped out at $68,000 after forty years isn't going to be very reassuring to a 65 year old. What if I live another 20 years, they think. Better work just a few more…

Everyone in this country tells you that things like communism only work In Theory, and they are right. What they neglect to mention is that most of the things about the system we have in place – and actively endorse at all levels of society – only work In Theory too. Sure, 401(k)s sounded great, if the market gave 10% annualized returns and if one's income increased steadily over the life course. That's two Ifs too many, and the end result has been a predictable trainwreck: too many elderly people end up having to retire on Social Security and little else, or they simply work until they drop waiting for their 401(k) of magic beans to grow another 10 or 20 percent.

With no disrespect to the older readers, watching a 77 year old perform most jobs is not an inspiring sight. Someone pushing 80 has no business being in a classroom, for example. Yet here they are, still teaching, still doing any other profession in which a mandatory retirement age can't be (or isn't) enforced. For years (not coincidentally, the years I was desperately searching for a job) I wondered what was wrong with these people. Why won't they retire? Are they selfish? Senile? Delusional? Over time I learned, though, what three decades of stagnant salaries, increasingly expensive health benefits, and the "slight" under-performance of the ol' Employee Retirement Plan can do to one's definition of the right time to retire. Meanwhile, the real under- and unemployment rate for people in their twenties is, what, 50%?

But hey, it saved our employers money. So it's a win, according to the gospel of American economic wisdom (St. Friedman version).

NPF: A SHORT HISTORY OF FOREIGN PLACEKICKERS WITH FUNNY NAMES

Posted in Skip this if you hate sports on May 3rd, 2013 by Ed

Like any sport, American football has evolved dramatically over the years due to changes in rules, equipment, and technique. The invention of the forward pass, for example, was coupled with the development of the easier to grip oblong ball used today (previously, a more rounded, rugby-style ball was used) to revolutionize the game. Other major changes followed advances like the West Coast offense (the timing-based passing game), the blitz, and so on.

Maybe the most significant rule changes for the modern game is totally foreign (foreshadowing!) to most fans today. True fact: even the worst kicker in the modern NFL is better than the best kickers of 40+ years ago. Today, kickers routinely hit 80%+ of their field goal attempts, whereas for most of the game's history field goals were a 40% proposition or worse. There are two reasons for this. First, kickers were rarely specialists before the 1960s. Someone who played another position usually pulled double-duty as a (lousy) kicker. Hall of Famers at other positions, like Lou Groza, Paul Hornung, and Bob Waterfield, were also kickers for their teams.

The second change was the development of the Soccer-Style kick. The SSK was to football what the Fosbury Flop was to high jumping. Kickers used to approach the ball straight-on and kick it with their toe and the bridge of their foot. Accuracy depended on how squarely they hit the ball, which is to say they were not very accurate under game conditions. The ball also left the foot at a very high angle, meaning that lateral distance was limited.

Then along came two Hungarian brothers – Pete and Karol (Charlie) Gogolak. They started playing football when their parents immigrated to the U.S. Having grown up playing soccer they kicked the ball with an angled approach and the instep/arch of their foot, like a soccer ball. Everyone noticed that the ball went much farther with much more accuracy. When Charlie took the NFL by storm, other teams were so desperate for their own soccer-style kicker that Peter, a kicker at Princeton, became the 6th overall pick in the 1966 draft.

Since American-born kickers couldn't shake the straight-on habits they had been using for years, NFL teams had to look overseas for soccer-trained Europeans who could adapt to the NFL game. (Trivia note: the last straight-on kicker, Mark Moseley of the Redskins, retired in 1986). That's how the NFL, representing a quintessentially American game with few if any foreign-born players, was suddenly flooded with Europeans, Latin Americans, and others who did not look like football players, had no skills other than kicking, and had funny names.

This became a punchline in the 1970s and 1980s – it seemed like every team had a foreign kicker (remember Homer Simpson's line, "This country was built on immigrants. We need them. Without them, who would train our tigers and kick our extra points?") Their contributions greatly improved the game by turning the kicking game into a strategy rather than a crapshoot. One of them, Norway's Jan Stenerud, is still the only kicker in the Hall of Fame.

Here is my tribute to some of the scrawniest, most lovable foreign players to enliven the NFL during the Soccer Style craze and beyond.

More German Than German: Horst Muhlmann – A part-time bricklayer and soccer goaltender, Muhlmann was imported by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969. No, he did not have a handlebar mustache and he put up with plenty of Colonel Klink jokes. Honorable Mention: Uwe Von Schamann, whose name is more fun to say and who absolutely nailed the mustache befitting a German.

Adorable Little Fella Award: Garo Yepremian – Most Americans don't even know where Cyprus is, but football fans remember this Cypriot kicker. First, he looked less like a football player than anyone who ever lived.

garo

Even non-fans recognize a line Yepremian shouted after kicking one game-winning field goal – "I keek a touchdown! I keek a touchdown!" – when it became one of Johnny Carson's favorite catchprhases. And finally, fans remember little Yepremian making one of the most embarrassing (and decisive) plays in Super Bowl history in 1973.

Polack of the Century: Czezlaw "Chester" Marcol – Packer fans fondly recall "the Polish Prince" for the time he ran one of his own blocked kicks in for a touchdown, which he later admitted he was able to do because he was high on cocaine. Look at this fucking guy!

Chester Marcol

Safety specs AND the single-bar facemask!

So British It Actually Hurts: Mick Luckhurst – If you're going to have a kicker from Redbourn, England, he better be named something as stereotypically British as Mick Luckhurst. Quite the handsome chap, too!

Speaking of Micks: Cornelis "Neil" O'Donoghue – Cardinals fans certainly remember this fucking twat, whose career highlights include missing the field goal that would have put them in the 1984 playoffs and the game in 1983 that ended in a 20-20 tie because O'Donoghue missed three (!!!) FGs in overtime.

The Flying Argentines: Bill and Martin Gramatica – After stellar college careers, these tiny sprites had only decent NFL careers. Older brother Martin, aka Automatica, kicked decently for Tampa and several other teams, while Martin is remembered solely for blowing out his goddamn ACL while celebrating a routine kick.

Colombian Superstar: Fuad Reveiz – This former Viking and Dolphin makes the list solely on the basis of his incredible nickname, "Fuad-o-Matic", and Chris Berman's habit of referring to his kicks as "Fuad Shots".

Rolls off the Tongue: Raul Allegre – Such a happy sounding name on this 1980s New York Giant hailing from Mexico. Dishonorable Mention: Cowboys Mexican kicker Rafael Septien, whose name wasn't as fun and who somehow avoided prison after pleading guilty to molesting a kid.

Not Just Europeans Award: Obed Ariri – How fun is it to say "Obed Ariri"? The pint-sized Nigerian kicked briefly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he apparently drives a taxi in St. Petersburg today. Honorable Mention: Donald Igwebuike, who idolized Ariri, replaced him on the Buccaneers, and eventually got busted swallowing balloons of heroin and trying to smuggle them into the U.S.

How Can I Only Pick One Swede? – Ove Johansson? Bjorn Nittmo? Ola Kimrin? I sure as hell can't pick just one. When I was 10, I was convinced that "Bjorn Nittmo" was the kind of name that takes you places, even if you're not talented (he wasn't).

Insert Hitler Joke Here: Austrian trio – Anton "Toni" Fritsch, Toni Linhart, and longtime 49er Ray Wersching all hailed from the land of the Fuhrer. Fortunately for them, I doubt most football players actually know Hitler was Austrian and not German.

The trend lives on today, with foreign kickers like Lawrence Tynes (Scotland), Sebastian Janikowski (Poland), and Shaun Suisham (Canada) currently kicking away. As the NFL becomes a bit more popular around the world, non-American players are hardly a surprise (Germany's Bjoern Werner was drafted in the 1st round last week). This is a great development for the league and for the game, but I have to admit that I could use the simple pleasure of the occasional lovably-accented placekicker named something like Olaf.

(Super Honorable Mention: Former Charger Rolf Benirschke was born in the U.S. to German parents, but he deserves mention because he retired after 9 seasons to become the host of Wheel of Fortune.)

CROWDSOURCE MY DOCUMENTARY, "THE SLAPPING OF AMANDA PALMER"

Posted in Rants on May 1st, 2013 by Ed

Sometimes the stars align perfectly.

Actor/smirking chimp Zach Braff has brought renewed attention to the practice of wealthy celebrity assholes using Kickstarter to fund their for-profit endeavors by soliciting donations to film a sequel to the unbearable Garden State. Braff, who makes over $350,000 per episode (!!!) on his sitcom and netted over $36 million in box office revenue alone for Garden State, admits that he has traditional funding offers for the sequel. But why spend your own money when you can spend someone else's? Braff claims to want "artistic control" over casting and editing, hence avoiding studio funding. And then he offers speaking roles to anyone who donates $10,000.

Palmer, whose own Kickstarter crimes are extensive – claiming that she needed $100,000 to record an album, raising $1.1 million, and then soliciting unpaid volunteer musicians (to play shows people would pay to get into) because she claimed she could not afford to pay them. Wow, you'd think a successful recording artist with a multimillionaire author spouse could afford to pay a couple of touring musicians! But you just don't understand the music biz.

Now, Palmer is back in the headlines with her latest desperate grab for attention, a "poem" called "A Poem for Dzhokhar," about the Boston Marathon suspect. She shared this masterpiece on her website, closing with a donation button "for her time and effort" despite admitting that it took "about 9 minutes" to write.

Since Ms. Palmer is such a fan of crowdsourcing and brazen internet attention grabs, I'm sure she'll be the first to donate to my experimental documentary film project, The Slapping of Amanda Palmer.

What it is: A short film documenting the planning and execution of a journey across the country wherein I locate Amanda Palmer and slap her across the face with a glove. As a contingency plan only, I may slap her with an open hand if the glove fails.

Fundraising goal: $100,000

+$15,000 for first class travel and luxury hotel accommodations
+$35,000 for high end cameras (operated by volunteers)
+$10,000 for handmade artisanal calfskin slapping glove
+$20,000 for six months of slap training with certified masters in slapkido and Advanced Combat Slapping (ACS)
+$20,000 for my time and creative efforts

Reward levels (the Kickstarter page is still being verified)
$100: A signed photo of Ed plotting to slap Amanda Palmer.
$500: A non-slapping role in the film. Donor must pay for own travel costs.
$1000: Donor will receive the opportunity to pose for pictures behind the slapped poetess/artist/musician after I subject her to slapping.
$5000: A private dinner and one-on-one slapping session with the director/star/producer of this documentary. Donors are guaranteed at least one clean, unobstructed slap.
$10,000: Six weeks of intensive training in Slap-kido and Advanced Combat Slapping (ACS) with master practitioners at their desert retreat near Kingman, AZ. The music of Enya plays over loudspeakers at all times throughout the experience.

Thanks in advance for your support! I'll send you a link as soon as the Kickstarter is processed and approved. In the meantime, buy some artwork or a bumper sticker! No matter what, just keep sending money. People like Amanda and I are important and we deserve it.

SATURATION. AND BEYOND.

Posted in Quick Hits on May 1st, 2013 by Ed

OK.

I tried the polite version of this argument last week – reminding everyone that, all things considered, the terrorist attack in Boston was handled well and did minimal damage – but a few days in airports, standing among CNN-blaring monitors, broke me. Why are we still talking about this? Let me qualify that; why are we still talking about this 24 hours per day?

Is it a story? Certainly. But jesus tap-dancing christ, watch a half-hour of CNN and witness the raw banality, the extent of the overkill being inflicted upon us at this point. It's a strange combination of wild speculation, Grief Porn, and countless interviews with individuals of no importance who do little more than idly chat about things already reported in the preceding weeks. Oh yes, let's hear from another of the attacker's college classmates. Another Marathon spectator and was kinda-vaguely near the bombing. Another important guest who will make blanket statements of dubious utility about Chechnya. Just shut up. For fuck's sake, even Fox News has moved on to something else at this point.

Look, I and the rest of the world are terribly sorry for the families of the three dead victims and the many survivors whose lives were changed forever. But my god, things of this magnitude happen every day. Here and abroad. When three people die in a freeway accident, we don't devote three weeks to it. When three people are gunned down in Chicago's South Shore, it's a blip on the screen. We pay almost no attention, here in 2013, to people who come back from Afghanistan or Iraq with a missing leg or disfiguring wound. Three people died, and for that we are all sad. But it was nearly three weeks ago, and the "manhunt" portion of the show is long over. Let it go.

What is CNN even going for here? Are they drawing out the coverage to overcompensate (and do penance) for how horribly they botched the real-time reporting? Are they trying to flank Fox News on the right, baiting viewers with more Islamophobia and Keifer Sutherland-like tales of clandestine terror, Enhanced Interrogation, and Russian secret agents? This has turned into a D-list Tom Clancy novel, and it's approximately as entertaining.

At this point it is almost interesting to see how long they can hold out before they stop doing 24-hour Boston coverage. Almost.

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