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Sunday, 30 September 2007

Rabble, Roused

Friday, 30 September 2007, on Ohio University's College Green, a number of concerned faculty and students raised community awareness regarding the racist sentiments expressed in Chris Yonker's recent editorial for The Post. At one point, two young men drove by and the driver hollered, "It's called free speech," overlooking the fact that the protest was also an exercise of First Amendment Rights.

Left to Right: Johnnie Wilcox (aka mistersquid), Amanda Nolacea Harris, and George Hartley
Photo taken by Dinty Moore

In all honesty, I do feel that the petition circulated at the protest which called for Yonker's termination opposed free speech. I did not sign the petition, but I did feel a need to draw awareness and visibility to the lack of political diversity on the editorial board of The Post. I do commend the editorial board for choosing to print criticisms of Yonker's piece, but I am disappointed Yonker and his superior Matt Zapotosky did not offer an apology. Rumor has it that there was a contest among the staff writers to see who could draw the most responses with an upcoming batch of editorials and articles.

I have no trouble believing Yonker's piece was what is known in Internet-speak as a "troll." I suspected it might be after reading the article. What drew me out, however, is the casual racism of Yonker's piece. As a side note, one of the most negative aspects of online journalism—which encourages reader contribution and which receives revenue based on traffic—is that inflammatory and uninformed reporting is financially rewarded. Notoriety is taken for success while journalistic integrity becomes so much sentimentalism.

At the monument just East of where we were gathered, a group of AFSCME-affiliated employees and reporters the Ohio University Students for a Democratic Society had gathered to protest Ohio University's implementation of "Free Speech Zones". On his way to that gathering, one fellow stopped by and asked Fernando (a student who was part of our gathering) about our motivation. Fernando explained that he was (paraphrasing) "We are asking people to sign a petition to get Chris Yonker fired. He calls Mexican people 'scum.' I am Mexican and I don't feel like I am 'scum'. " The young man turned away and continued on his way toward the monument.

The young man Fernando had been talking to was, in fact, Yonker. end of article

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

back to back

The zombie is a loa.

end of article

Saturday, 22 September 2007


US out of Iraq.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Editorial Board of Ohio University's The Post Thinks Racism Is Funny

Photo of Chris Yonker
(Image source)

On 7 September 2007, The Post, a student newspaper funded by Ohio University, published an editorial by Chris Yonker titled "Broad Stripes and Bright Stars" which features, among other things, a photograph of Yonker striking a mock-supercilious pose which in the end amounts to genuine superciliousness, or arrogance to use another word.

In that editorial, Yonkers never bestows the dignity of the name Mexican to the immigrant population he writes about. Instead, he refers to them as "party crashers" and "scum" who "are clogging up the corners asking for handouts," one of whom Americans might "employ cheaply" as "a Mariachi-playing maestro."

The rhetoric Yonker uses to advance his meaning would be worthy of as much serious consideration as the photograph which accompanies it, except for the fact of Yonker's persistent racist undertones. The Athens and Ohio University communities have condemned Yonker's racism in the form of editorials by The Latino Student Union at Ohio University and a number of concerned faculty.

Some people are calling for Yonker's resignation. As a proponent of free speech, I do not go this far, but I do think Ohio University and the editorial board of The Post should condemn the racist sentiment driving Yonker's piece, one that is poorly written, ill-conceived, and institutionally embarrassing. Instead, Matt Zapotosky, editor in chief of The Post, offers the weak suggestion that "readers are missing the point of a humor column that [i]s not anti-immigrant." I agree the article intends to be humorous, but its humor is targeted directly against immigrants, which means Zapotosky has bad reading comprehension, is lying, or both.

I have received permission from my friend and colleague George Hartley to post a version of his response to Yonker's editorial, published in The Athens News on 17 September 2007.

The Post, Racism, and Genocide

George Hartley, Department of English

This is a sad time indeed. Just as I was sitting down to respond to the racist ignorance behind Post staffer Chris Yonker’s reference to what he calls the “Mariachi” scum trying to crash the party of honest, hard-working Americans invited over by their partying Native cousins, I saw that his name calling and xenophobia pale in comparison to his companion in violence, Post staffer Joe Vance, who is calling for our government to muster the determination to carry out his genocidal vision for the Middle East.

Vance longs for a return to the days when—unlike today under the weak-willed George Bush, held back by his “Christian” morality and “democratic” sentimentalism—the United States ruled the world with an “iron fist.” He sees the situation in Iraq as hopeless, given that, for him, the “Iraqis are a primitive people who have no genuine desire for liberty” and must be “carpet bombed” in order to save Western civilization from “Islamofascism.” Then we must move on to Iran, Syria, and Pakistan, at the same time giving Israel “permission” to “eliminate the Palestinian terror regime.” Vance is correct when he writes that “All of humanity’s finest achievements—moral, intellectual, technological and otherwise—are threatened by a bloodlusting barbarism determined to extend its shadow across the globe.” The problem is that he doesn’t recognize the greater force of barbaric bloodlust in our own culture.

And that lack of recognition is not accidental. They have been taught all too well. Both Yonker and Vance are products of the unrelenting campaign of intolerance and hate that has characterized our national discourse since colonial days, with its recent virulent form claiming its legitimacy as a response to the September 11 attacks. That day provided just the “New Pearl Harbor” that the neoconservatives had been calling for for a decade, giving rightwing militarists all the steam they needed to roll over both the oil fields of the Middle East and the rights of citizens here at home.

Yonker’s racism is clothed in humor, Vance’s in “reason.” They have learned these strategies from public figures such as Christopher Hitchens, Rush Limbaugh, and George W. Bush. They see the politics of hate taking physical form as the wall that is to separate Mexico from the U.S.—keeping the victims of U.S. colonialism in both countries from joining together against their common enemy, the global capitalist forces that use racism and hate as a divide-and-conquer strategy. The poor of the U.S., Mexico, Iraq, and elsewhere have much more in common with one another than with the likes of George Bush or his good friend Osama bin Laden, both oil billionaires exploiting the masses of two cultures whose poor youth kill each other in order to keep the rich in power. Both exploit the religious needs of people in pain in order to keep the oil flowing.

We must ask ourselves why a college newspaper wants to model itself on Fox News and rightwing talk shows. But then again, the mainstream liberal press has always provided a similar model, propagating the vision of the world that best suits the board members of their media giants. In 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. marveled at the mainstream press’s ability to champion him when he called for nonviolence towards racist whites, only then to be so quick to attack him when he called for nonviolence against brown Vietnamese babies. It is no surprise that he was shot down exactly one year later.

Yonker and Vance are students at our own university, but more importantly they are students of our culture of hate and intolerance—an education that allows their “voices of reason” to call for racist immigration laws and genocidal wars of aggression in the name of freedom and democracy. They are our national legacy. When will our muted culture of peace, understanding, compassion, and love speak up?

end of article
Claussen, Nick. "Post Editor Says Paper Will Back Up Staffer Accused of Racist Column." 17 September 2007. The Athens News. 18 September 2007. <http://athensnews.com/index.php?action=viewarticle&section=news&story_id=29275>. (Archival PDF.)
Grant, Judith. "America's Party Has an Exclusive Guest List." Letter to the Editor. 13 September 2007. The Post. 18 September 2007. <http://thepost.baker.ohiou.edu/Articles/Opinion/Your%20Turn/2007/09/13/21165/>. (Archival PDF.)
Hartley, George. "The Post, Racism, and Genocide." 17 September 2007. The Athens News. 18 September 2007. <http://athensnews.com/index.php?action=viewarticle&section=opinion&story_id=29283>. (Archival PDF.)
Lopez, Velma K. (on behalf of the Latino Student Union at OU) "Column in OU's Student Paper Insensitive to Latinos, Native Americans." 17 September 2007. The Athens News. 18 September 2007. <http://athensnews.com/index.php?action=viewarticle&section=opinion&story_id=29282>. (Archival PDF.)
Yonker, Chris. "Amreica's Party Being Crashed Since the First Settlers Left England." 7 September 2007. The Post. 18 September 2007. <http://thepost.baker.ohiou.edu/Articles/Opinion/2007/09/07/21054/>. (Archival PDF.)

Sunday, 16 September 2007

I Walked With a White Woman

The motive force of vodou is asserted by Paul and Wesley's mother, Mrs. Rand (Edith Barrett), who confesses to asking a houngan to zombify Jessica as revenge for being unfaithful to her son. Though Dr. Maxwell (James Bell) dismisses Mrs. Rand as an "imaginative woman," the scenes which follow testify to the power of vodou to corrupt white women. In these scenes, a crouching dark-skinned man gestures in such a way that a small white doll on a string draws closer to him while drummers play in the background. The doll is meant to represent Jessica, and in the cutaway a stupefied Jessica listlessly attempts to leave Fort Holland. With Paul and Betsy on one side of the estate's gate and a returning Wesley on the other, however, Jessica is prevented. Wesley asserts the power of vodou, asking "Why did she come out here? How can they make her move, do anything they want? They can make anybody do what they want."

I Walked with a Zombie. Dir. Jacques Tourneur. 1943.1
(01:00:33 - 01:02:25)

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The juxtaposition of Mrs. Rand's confession, Wesley's conviction, the houngan's actions, and Jessica's zombified compliance insinuates that Haitian religious practice is at the root of Jessica's behavior. Mrs. Rand's "revenge," then, can be read both as a blacking of Jessica's identity to punish Jessica for having violated her marital vows and as an after-the-fact placing of Jessica under the power of vodou to motivate her infidelity. end of article

1 Footage has been deleted from the excerpt and replaced by text indicating "FOOTAGE CUT".

I Walked with a Zombie. Dir. Jacques Tourneur. 1943.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

If America Were on Arrakkis


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end of article

Saturday, 08 September 2007

Chump Change

In June, they were calling it the God Phone. On Thursday, it was the Chump Phone.
— "iPhone Owners Crying Foul Over Price Cut"
Katie Hafner and Brad Stone

The first two sentences of Katie Hafner and Brad Stone's "iPhone Owners Crying Foul Over Price Cut" humorously (and mockingly) point out the folly of crass materialism. The theory many technology analysts and aficionados use to explain the intense consumer backlash triggered by the $200 price drop in the iPhone is that it is the collective anger of a technical avant-garde to their premature regression. Basically, when Apple dropped the price of the iPhone by more than a third, nearly one million people who had paid for the privilege of being known as people who had paid for the privilege found that their materialistic elitism was revealed for the hollow consumerism it really was.

Undoubtedly the situation is more complicated for many individual iPhone owners. Generally, however, iPhone owners upset about the price drop are experiencing buyer's remorse, where the remorse is not only about having "overpaid" for a consumer product. The remorse is also affected by the realization that self-esteem predicated upon conspicuous consumption means one wants (and so deserves) to have one's money taken for no reason other than having it taken. When Apple dropped the price of the iPhone by $200, iPhone owners no longer were separated from the chintzy hordes by the velvet rope of consumer elitism. Now, they can only claim they had once belonged to a club that cost $200 for a two-month, one-time-only membership.

What interests me in particular is not the chumpiness of these angry iPhone owners, though chumpy they are.1 I am much more intrigued by the schadenfreude evident in, for example, the first two sentences of Hafner and Stone's article. This mocking attitude to me seems to be a symptom of a much more important feeling, one that is in part driven by disgust for consumer culture. It is a disgust that I share, making me deeply ambivalent about my own participation in that culture.

iPhone Triumphalism

Triumphant Apple customer.
(Image source)

People who know me well, have heard me complain that the obsessive attention to consumer culture evident in the dozens of websites dedicated to tracking and promoting the products and services of publicly traded companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Yahoo!, and so on, can be compared to the mythical figure of Nero fiddling as Rome burned. Such venues promote the illusion that in the face of global strife exacerbated by multinational corporate interest, some people have nothing better to do than to build monuments honoring the very conglomerates responsible for degrading our shared existence.

Some part of me can't help but be sympathetic with writers who nurture such dark pleasure for the minor misfortunes of others, especially given scenarios such as the one depicted in the photo to the right. A young man holds up before a crowd of Apple employees an iPhone box as if it had been a fiercely contested prize. And so it was. He has won the competition to spend his money on a mass-market consumer product and is congratulated for his efforts by retail employees. Months or even years later, he might even see this photo and recall the trials he endured to be the worthy recipient of such congratulation.

Or maybe a different feeling will pervade his consciousness, some equivalent to the embarrassment I feel for everyone involved, including myself. end of article

1 To be absolutely clear, not all iPhone owners (or even all the upset ones) are chumps. In this case, chumpiness depends on the sense one has been cheated or deceived. There are undoubtedly some iPhone owners who do not feel cheated and accept the cost of their consumerist actions. Very wealthy iPhone owners, for example, may be among this population.

Work Cited
Hafner, Katie and Brad Stone. "Iphone Owners Crying Foul over Price Cut." The New York Times 7 September 2007. (archival PDF)

Friday, 07 September 2007

Project R

This entry contains spoilers.

One of the problems I'm addressing in Zombie Nation is the way in which North American racial history is cinematically encoded into George Romero's Living Dead Series. There is little dispute that classic zombie cinema (prior to Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead) deals with issues of North American and European imperialism in the Caribbean. However, the transformation of cinematic representation in postmodern zombie cinema (which begins with Night of the Living Dead) introduces a more subtle encoding of contemporary racial history, so subtle in fact that some critics argue that Ben's (Duane Jones) race is not important to the meaning of the film.

One such critic is Kim Paffenroth, who just last year published a single-author monograph on Romero's Living Dead series. At one point Paffenroth observes that "Ben's race is never the subject of approval, disapproval, judgment, innuendo, or even remark" (37). The suggestion is that because Ben's race is not mentioned within the diegesis, race is not important to the meaning of the film. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Among the many ways in which race is encoded into the Night of the Living Dead is in the cinematic representation of Ben's demise at the hands of McClellan's posse. This point is eloquently made by Adam Simon in The American Nightmare, a documentary on American Horror film after 1950. In the following excerpt, the featured speakers are (in order of appearance) Dr. Adam Lowenstein, who is presently Associate Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and John Landis, director of films and music videos such as Schlock, Thriller, and The Blues Brothers.

from The American Nightmare. Dir. Adam Simon. 2000. (00:12:07 - 00:13:28)

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end of article
Works Cited
Paffenroth, Kim. Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2006.
The American Nightmare. Dir. Adam Simon. 2000.
The Blues Brothers. Dir. John Landis. 1980.
Night of the Living Dead. Dir. George Romero. 1968.
Schlock. Dir. John Landis. 1973.
Thriller. Dir. John Landis. 2000.

Thursday, 06 September 2007

Back to Business

One of the windows that Tinderbox gives me to my current project.

screenshot of Tinderbox Window for Zombie Nation
end of article

Paste Clipboard Contents as Plain Text: An AppleScript

The MacOSXHints community has responded to the script I provided in my last entry with two excellent observations.1 First, it doesn't make much sense just to transform the contents of the clipboard. Better would be to paste the transformed contents. Second, my script did not preserve Unicode text, a serious shortcoming for non-English character sets.

The following addresses both issues. I hope you find it useful.2

end of article
1 They also demoted the ranking of my hint from 4.5 to 3.5. Suckers.
2 Line 7, key code 48 using {command down}, and Line 8, key code 9 using {command down}, are respectively Command-Tab and Command-V, OS X keyboard shortcuts codes for switching to the previous program and pasting the contents of the clipboard. Switching programs is necessary because invoking the AppleScript causes the program from which the Applescript is invoked to lose focus. To discover the corresponding Unicode key codes for any key, one can use the freeware Ukelele.

Wednesday, 05 September 2007

Convert RTF Clipboard Contents to Plain Text

Much of the work I've been doing recently involves moving information between PDF and RTF documents. Often, the information I'm copying is formatted and Mac OS X presently copies that formatting by default. As a result, pasted text retains the formatting of the original copied text. This is usually unnecessary and often undesirable, especially if the formatting makes the text difficult to read in its new context.

As many of you know, however, converting RTF-formatted text on the clipboard to plain text is a nightmare. My old standby used to be to switch to BBEdit, open a new window, paste the clipboard contents, copy the pasted text, and switch back to the document I wanted to paste the text in. This is fine for a few pieces of information, but not when your workflow is built of shuttling bits of information back and forth between two RTF-sensitive contexts.

There are many solutions to route around this Mac OS X "feature", some of which cost money and others which are free but don't work reliably.1

With frustration pracically flowing out of my eyeballs, I scoured Google results until I found a blog post by Nobumi Iyanaga which has an AppleScript at its end called "clip2pure_text". I modified the script so that it copied the results back to the clipboard like so

saved the script as a run-only application, and set up a keyboard shortcut with Keyboard Maestro to invoke the AppleScript application.2

The result is pure plain text goodness. end of article

1 I used to use Carsten Blüm's Plain Clip, but the program seems these days to run once, after which it seems to do nothing at all.
2 I submitted a version of this post and its AppleScript to MacOSXHints. At the time of this writing, my hint is rated 4.5 of 5 stars.

Saturday, 01 September 2007

I see London. I see France.

This morning a for-profit blog whose RSS feed I paid cash money for linked to a commercial and, now, I'm furious.

I know. The obvious question is "who cares what I think?" My reply is that this point is bigger than my penny-ante ego and my satisfaction with a well-trafficked technical website. This is about a dream that we (whoever "we" are) stop multiplying the presence of commercials in our lives.

If you have a blog that even pretends to entertain, inform, or educate and you are a blog (and not one mouthpiece of a many-mouthed for-profit corporation), don't build content by linking to advertising.

If you have something to say about that advertising, some analysis or even corroboration, fine. I don't think product advocacy is a problem. But if your link to an advertisement is motivated by the idea that you enjoyed watching the advert and you think others might, too, you have become a tool of corporate interest, so hypnotized by consumer culture you no longer can tell the difference between fill and content.

At the very least, explain what you find interesting about the advert. Analyze its visual frame, comment on the technologies used to produce it, consider the emotions the advert elicits. It's not so hard to do. When you link to a(nother) company's commercial and stop right there, you've done nothing except extend an advertiser's reach. end of article

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