Sunday, October 24, 2004

Mongolian Surnames

Here are some excerpts from an LA Times article about Mongolia now mandating that its citizens choose and use surnames. They used to have clan names, but the Mongolian communist government back in the 20s got rid of them to help in resttlement policies, to wipe out religious affiliation and aid in tax collection and such matters:

"My research suggests most original Mongolian surnames were bestowed by neighbors in the village," Serjee said. "These include 'Thief' and 'Family of Seven Drunks.' "

To get some sense of the confusion that single names can engender, take a peek at the Ulan Bator telephone book, where page after page is filled with identical single-name entries. "We have all kinds of problems trying to give people the right numbers," said a directory assistance employee who identified herself only as Operator 14. "It's a real headache."

or those who didn't give it much thought, and even some who did, the most obvious choice for a surname was, is and always will be Borjigin, the clan name of Genghis Khan, the 12th-century warrior and native son who put this north-central Asian nation on the map.

"It seems like half the population is named after Genghis," said Ganaa, a 30-year-old mother whose family initially considered Borjigin before settling on Aldar, after their ancestral village. "It's good we're adopting surnames, because there's been lots of confusion. But with everyone choosing Genghis' name, that's also confusing."

Others have followed Serjee's advice and taken a more free-form approach. Gereltuya, a 20-year-old student, and his counterparts cite friends who have taken surnames that mean "Lord God," "Astrologer" and "Exhausted Beast."

Also, Mongolia's population is only slightly larger than Portland's, but its landmass is larger than either France's or Germany's. Shit.

For more, here's the article:,1,1813399.story

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Jon Stewart Roxors

Hey everybody, follow this link to watch Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire, wherein he absolutely crucifies Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala's pathetic excuse for political discourse. Jon's obvious self-righteousness aside, he's completely right, and this is a humdinger of a clip. A fun game to play while you watch is to try not to projectile vomit at the sight of Tucker Carlson's neverending cavalcade of oleaginous smug-fuck passive-aggressive chuckles.

Oh, also, does anyone else feel especially compelled to root for the Red Sox this year? They're a raucous bunch, and these last few games have been heart-pounding. Tonight they pounded the Yankees 4-2 in New York to make it 3-3; they became the first team in baseball history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a game 7. Curt Schilling's getting officially deified tomorrow on the Boston Common, I think.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Ballot measures

Not sure how many of you are still counting yourselves California residents, but I'd like to hear thoughts on them if you've got them. Hitme.

By the way, my quizzes (with solutions) are posted on my webpage. Do take a look at them, if you would. I've got a bone to pick with some high school math teachers. I'm sure now that HW was probably worth the money--certainly Inanchy and Metzger.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

John Woo: Prophet


Also, not that this has anything to do with anything, but I love Joanna Newsom.

Monday, October 11, 2004


Hey everyone. Just wanted let people know that I've finally started updating my blog again.

Also, watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force on mute is ill-advised for reasons of it even makes less goddamn sense.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Jacques Derrida, Abstruse Theorist, Dies at 74

Cameron beat me to the punch with Derrida, but the above obit headline from NYTimes seemed a bit Onion-esque to me. Who wouldn't want to be remembered, above all, as an "abstruse theorist." Odd, methinx.

As far as the last 2 debates go, my impressions are similar to Cameron's - and I don't think the media concensus was too far from our thoughts, either. I was a little disappointed by Edwards - I think he came out too strong and then overcompensated - but I think he did alright, which is what everyone seemed to think he needed to do going against someone who had presidential debate experience before. A draw, but the expectations made it an Edwards victory. I also thought Kerry kicked ass last night - the clearest victory yet - and I was pretty amazed by how pro-Kerry the questions and questioneers seemed to be. It seemed almost set up...

Meanwhile, I went and got my "Get Out The Vote" Carry Oregon training today. Oregon is all vote by mail, with ballots going out on Oct. 14. Beginning the 15th, every 4 days, I go around to registered democrats in my neighborhood, remind them to vote earlt, and offer to collect their ballots. That's right - I take their ccompleted ballots from them. Does this not seem like it should be illegal to anyone else? But, hey, that's how they do things here. Apparently, if 80% of the registered Democrats in the Portland metro area vote, then the election in Oregon is over, regardless of what happens elsewhere. And, because of early collections, that quantity is knowable well in advance of the election, meaning that Bush might abandon Oregon early, best case scenario. Or is it better to keep him spending here? I'm excited, either way.

Ethan and I got extremely drunk last night after making borscht, then pairing the soup with a whole bottle of vodka I brought from Russia a year ago. We had fun. Ethan then had a rough night. I had a rough day - never had a hangover like this before.

Go volunteer! It's nice to be back in Portland...cary

Speaking of the dead

I don't know just how close to y'all's hearts was Jacques Derrida. He died today. Strange that he should go now, when we are at a decisive moment and looking hard at Orwellian disaster etc.

Meanwhile, I've got the impression that my impressions of presidential debates have nothing at all to do with America's. I thought Edwards was really shaky on Tuesday (though managing not to lie outright could be considered a victory of some kind), but the word I heard was that he did a pretty good job. 0/1. I thought Kerry ruled yesterday, and George seemed petulant and moronic. But I learn today lots of folks think George made a good showing, despite not knowing that he has a stake in a company that does indeed produce timber. 0/2. What's the deal...

Friday, October 08, 2004

Punk Is Not Dead

Ninny extraordinaire Hilary Duff was on Conan O'Brien last night, and mentioned that she's recorded a cover of "My Generation" for her piece-of-shit new movie soundtrack. Although, she said, that line about "I hope I die before I get old" has been changed, you see, to "I hope I don't die before I get old." Confronted, she explained, "it's a little more positive."

Man, this decade's off to an awesome start.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Crazy-Monkey-Talk, Part 2

I was cyber-leafing through the archives of this blog today when I happened upon Cameron’s philippic against Alan Keyes. Here’s a little follow-up, in the form of block quotes from Keyes himself, transcribed from a recent episode of Fresh Air on which Obama also appeared (with interstitial commentary from yours truly).

On Obama’s supposed “slaveholder’s” position on abortion:
“It’s logical. It’s just rational. It’s an argument. Because the slaveholder position, as reflected in, say, the position of somebody like Stephen Douglas – he was a pro-choice candidate … on slavery, he said he didn’t care whether it was voted up or voted down so long as it was done by popular sovereignty, which meant the people’s choice, and Abraham Lincoln came forward and excoriated him because of the stance of indifference to our fundamental moral principles, and Lincoln referred to the Declaration of Independence … the same indifference exactly [italics implied by tone] is involved in the issue of abortion. The notion that somehow you can look at the life in the womb and say the mother’s choice determines our respect for it, when our principles say that every human being, regardless of circumstance, development or condition – the worth of that human life comes from the creator. That’s what the Declaration states. So just as the slaveholder and people like Douglas were willing to disregard the worth of black Americans on the basis of their choice, so we have people like Obama today saying we can disregard the God-given worth of that baby in the womb because of our choice, and, in doing so, they reject the fundamental principle that Lincoln asserted, that Martin Luther King asserted, that Frederick Douglass and others asserted, that we must respect the conscience shaped by the Declaration on which this country was founded. I believe that, and I think that’s it’s clear that Barack Obama does not. And so I’m not calling him names or anything, I’m just saying, look, the principle at stake is the same, and his position is like the position of Stephen Douglas, and others who were the slaveholders’ favorites in those days.”

Conservatives, particularly those belonging to that extra-colorful band of fundamentalist wack-o-paths known as the “religious right,” have always baffled me with their grasp of the abortion issue, i.e., their assessment of why abortion is an issue in the first place. Not a one of them understands the nature of the pro-choice argument. They seem to take it as a given that we all agree the fetus is a human being, and they surmise that the debate rages over whether or not this particular sub-class of human being is endowed with the same kind of rights as the rest of us. Hence Alan Keyes’ inclination to liken the slave-class, during their time of oppression, to this comparatively recently emerged, and no less oppressed, fetus-class. If this given really were taken as such, his argument would be pretty well airtight. Sadly (happily), the debate over abortion takes its root not in morality, but in science; it’s not a question of whether a particular kind of human is entitled to the same freedoms as other humans, but whether a gestating clump of matter is a human at all. And I’m afraid this has just a squinch more scientific merit than any bygone slaveholder’s belief that the humanity of his slaves was a matter of dispute. Because no method exists for determining, to anyone’s satisfaction, where life begins, the question is left to the horribly chaotic and capricious world of human belief systems. I personally am pro-choice not because I sincerely feel that fetuses are not alive, but because, given that the issue rests on nothing firmer than individual belief, it is not my place to impose any belief system of mine on others. I know that you already know all of these things, and yet I feel personally compelled to articulate the argument.

Anyway, the interviewer, whose name escapes me (it wasn’t Terry Gross, it was her substitute host), wisely avoided that whole hornet’s nest, and instead focused on the hostility of the term “slaveholder” and Keyes’ obvious racial bid in introducing that kind of language:
“Well, his position on abortion, it seems to me, is at least colorblind, and when you bring the rhetoric of ‘slaveholder position,’ it seems to me you’re bringing a racial element into that conversation.”

Keyes’ response:
“That’s nonsense. I’m sorry, I have to be very blunt. One of the things I learned – ‘cause I had slave ancestors, and I, as I said, have deeply looked at and thought about [and] meditated on the injustice involved in slavery. Slavery’s not a racial issue. It’s an issue of human justice. And that means that when someone is enslaved in violation of this fundamental premise of human dignity, we are turning our backs on our decent humanity. That’s not a racial issue. And abortion is not a racial issue, but the principle involved is the very principle that lay at the heart of the kind of arguments that the slaveholders made in denigration of black Americans; but it was not race in fact that caused that denigration, it was an utter disregard for decent humanity.”

Wow. Slavery had no racial motivations, was premised on no racial prejudices, and engendered no racial aftereffects. I mean, I assume that’s what he means when he says that slavery’s not a racial issue. I had no idea. Slavery was, instead, apparently, a practice that demonstrated an utter disregard for decent humanity in no specific way and for no reason. Just a gross injustice that was implemented willy-nilly, adhering to no principles or internal logic of any kind, I guess. This is like arguing that movies are a money-making enterprise, and nothing more. And if a counterargument were to be presented suggesting that, specifically, movies are an entertainment commodity, the response would be “nope. Movies have nothing to do with entertainment. They exist purely to pull in revenue for the studios.” And the counterargument would say, “well, yes, their purpose is to make money, but the specific service that they provide in exchange for money is entertainment.” And the response would be “no way, Jose. Sorry. Contextual specifics are irrelevant. In fact, there is no such thing as context. The essential argument is what matters.” Again, I don’t have to tell you this, but this kind of intellectually bankrupt discursive style is not only laughable; in the political arena, where the stakes are human lives, welfare and liberty, it’s mega-insidious. Diabolical. You can’t talk about movies without discussing entertainment, and you can’t talk about slavery without at least mentioning race.

But what really peeves me is how eager Keyes is to deploy such racially loaded language and then how furiously he backpedals when someone actually has the courage to call him on it, and how self-righteous and indignant he becomes at the implication that his racially-charged words exist to paint his opponents as hateful bigots. Basically, this was just an extraordinarily long show of support for Cameron’s original contention that Alan Keyes is a total nutjob assface. I thought we might profit from getting a better sense of exactly what it is that’s wrong with him.

The Way Politics Should Sound

I for one was very pleased with the debate and feel more confident in calling it a Kerry victory than you dudes seem to be. I thought he stayed on the offensive - a consistent problem the whole campaign - was as concise and clear as he could be while still having nuanced positions, and seemed, for lack of a better word, "presidential." Even the few Bush supporters I've seen today conceded they thought Kerry won the debate. The fact that we all felt he did a good job is probably the most important index in that the Kerry base was encouraged and energized.

Any of you dudes volunteering in any capacity? I'm feeling very motivated in this capacity and want to do more.

In other news, I am reading "1968" by Mark Kurlansky - of "Basque History of The World" "Salt" and "Cod" fame - a popular history of that year. In it, I read a Bobby Kennedy quote which I honestly think is the greatest, most poetically inspiring thing I've ever "heard" from a politician. Course, that whole authorizing spying on MLK, among other things, wasn't great, but he could've been quite a president:

"We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads...It includes...the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.

And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials...The Gross National Product measures neither or wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America - except whether we are proud to be Americans."

Pretty good, huh?

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Debate

Up here we also thought the debate went pretty well, but could have been better. Problems: Kerry not looking straight into the camera nearly at all except in his closing statement; the contrast (at the beginning) of the president's "ordinary guy-ness" with Kerry stiffnes; etc. By the end though, Kerry came out pretty well. Bush seemed to get tired and frustrated and therefore a little "Al Gore". Also, somehow, the issues were complicated enough that Bush was forced to speak in complete sentences that had facts in them, which can do nothing but hurt him with one of his main target demographics (and one of the most import demos in the election): idiots.

Basically it was a tie with a possibly a slight Kerry edge. And in presidential debates, a tie goes to the challenger. Since so many Americans had probably never really seen Kerry before, this can't but push his numbers up.