Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

July 31, 2006

New Op-Art Exhibition: To see or not to see the WMD?

Filed under: Iraq,News,Politics — secretmojo @ 9:52 pm

Experimental Chicago artist Canyu Sea launched a provocative illusory art exhibition at the Art Institute today featuring an Iraqi weapon of mass destruction that may—or may not—be there.

Depending on your political point of view (amongst other factors), you will see (or not see) a chemical bomb filled with toxic eggs.

“It’s remarkable,” said visitor Matt Frentelli. “My friend kept insisting that there was a bomb there, but no matter how I positioned my head, I couldn’t see it.”

Part of the exhibit are Viewpoints—little marks on the floor you and your friends can take turns standing on to conclude whether the view of the “bomb” is physical, or psychological. Nearly half of the visitors said the bomb was there, while the other half saw nothing, yet none concluded it was due to where they physically stood.

Floor Manager Simon Blade said, “We get a lot of visitors from Europe who think it’s just a clever joke because none of them nor any of their friends can see the bomb. We had a few Iraqis take a look at the exhibit, and none of them saw anything of interest either.”

It’s fascinating, explained Sea, when only one person of a group sees empty space. Sea watched, from the corner, a group of students on field trip. After some time looking and arguing with her friends, a teenager named Samantha eventually could make out a small outline of the “bomb.” By the end of their trip, Samantha was jumping up and down and pointing at the exhibit, saying, “Yes! I see it! I finally see it!”

Sea revealed only part of his method, citing “keeping a magician’s secret sacred.” He developed what he calls a Factual Ennui Distributor, which infuses a field of gullibility around the bomb area itself. Depending on one’s gullibility factor, a bomb may or may not show up. It sounds like jiggery-pokery, but it does indeed work: a non-scientific poll of the visitors entering and leaving produced a near match with the 50/50 split on the general public’s belief in the weapons in Iraq.

Many visitors could describe it in detail, with their descriptions matching others that came in later. But those who couldn’t see it would sometimes walk through it, to the dismay of those who did see. In contrast, those who saw the bomb typically tripped over it when trying to walk through it themselves.

Sea said he almost named it “American WMD,” but was afraid that no one would see his art at all.

When asked whether the bomb really was there, Sea said, “This is the most interesting part, in talking to reporters. I have said ‘yes,’ and I have said ‘no,’ but each and every time I read the paper, it always quotes me as saying ‘maybe,’ even in contridiction to the reporter’s own experience.”

So: is there really a chemical bomb at the Art Institute, and is it dangerous?


WMD, Yes or No?

Two pictures of the exhibit taken from the same camera in the same position. One snapped by my friend Missy, the other by my friend Joseph. Which one do you think you would see?


Surreal headline of the day

Filed under: Iraq,mediachumps,News — secretmojo @ 7:01 pm

This either proves that the headline writers at The Washington Times have a sense of humor, or no sense at all:

Army diverts funds to war

In other news: Microsoft allocated money to create software, American Airlines bought planes to fly, and Paris Hilton took time out to appear before camera.

Anna writes something I want to plagiarize

Filed under: Blogroll,Travel,writing — secretmojo @ 5:32 pm

If you like words like these:

the milky way is curling along overhead like a braid of smoke from some distant celestial fire.

Or like these:

The sky is amazing — the desert sky is always amazing, but tonight it’s a glory.

You hurt yourself if you do not read this post.

I’m entertaining the thought of moving all the Knit-Write posts over here, and making them look like my own. That’s not unethical, is it?

How to redefine words so you smell more like roses, and less like crap

Filed under: Humor,Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,rants — secretmojo @ 2:26 pm

Here’s a guide for those of you who, as facts come in regarding Lebanon, need stronger cognitive shielding (hat tip to Curtis, who’s always a fine read, but gets this one wrong). While not as succinct as “War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery,” it’s still a delightful romp into the benefits of self-defined cult language: Ceasefire is Surrender, Civilians are Combatants, Disproportionate is… Kickin’ Ass!

Pretty soon the semantic divergence will be so great that I’ll ask a conservative friend to “pass the salt,” but he’ll hear “appease the chemical weapon.”

Then he’ll start yelling about “taking the fight to them,” and I’ll be all, “huh?” and he’ll be like “Don’t treat me like I’m stupid,” and I’ll say, “whatever,” and reach for the salt.

Seeing the brisk movement of my arm, he’ll take a swing at me, and I’ll say “calm down, buddy, what the fuck’s gotten into you?” and he’ll be all “NO CEASEFIRE!” and I’ll again be like “huh?” and he’ll grab me by the shirt, puff up his chest, and scream “I’m sick of your ‘huh’ accusations!” and heave the table aside in massive clatter.

And the salt will explode all over, I’ll get pissed and tackle him, he’ll bite my earlobe and I’ll gouge his eyes. We’ll both be arrested, and, since he’s got a cop friend, I’ll get jail time for assault.

Then, months later, he’ll moan alone to a bartender, adjust his eye patch, and tell the sorry tale of how good our friendship used to be until, one day, I freakishly attacked him out of nowhere when he politely asked me to pass the salt.

July 30, 2006

WordPress gem collection

Filed under: blogging,Blogroll,wordpress gems,writing — secretmojo @ 6:49 pm

I dunked my head into the WordPress tags page, bobbing for gems. Here’s a sample of the tasty stuff I found:

Jennifer goes to a concert and explains how Rain King Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) seems powerfully inspired by misery.

Gaurav Mishra continues a fascination with auto-rickshaws by seeking out movies and culture that give them some limelight.

In deep nostalgia of the long-gone nineties (huh?) Walker Evans gobbles up and collects YouTube music videos starring his favorite 90’s bands.

Hina pens some tasty sentences while writing a guide to Sonic Grieving.

That girl. That seashore. That party. Rod invites you to a memory with a Ray Charles soundtrack.

Wonderful World of Disney music, the kind you can crack skulls to.

Getting Shrunk… a battered wife seeks out a shrink to curb the outbursts that get her punched (fiction).

Insomnia delivers tales to K0rs0, who discovers more of himself than he’d like in an episode of scale shock.

Mahalo takes a Red Bull- and burrito-fueled trip in the shittiest truck on the planet from Denver to San Antonio, which basically added up to a suck day, but gave me something fun to read. Thanks, Mahalo! Too bad for you.

What a random freak-out looks like.

Dionada asks, what fun is Monopoly if dirty rotten cheaters are disadvantaged?

Autumn grows suspicious, and delivers a fiery Internet jealousy rant her husband may never get around to reading…

katy2484 gives proud ignoramuses a hardcore smackdown.

The sticky heat and opressive humidity in Barcelona inspires Barcelonesa to laugh at the uselessness of fans. (in spanish)

There’s more, of course, but time is the prison we all must endure… Go read fencer if you’re still hungry for the good stuff.

Anna files some beauty

Filed under: Knitting,writing — secretmojo @ 4:06 am

Anna tells the story of the knitting needles, and writes delicious paragraphs:

I like to think in some small way I’m carrying on a lineage when I use these tools – it pleases me to imagine other hands where mine are, other fabrics in other patterns growing under other fingers.

Knitting is, at is most essential, nothing more or less then an endless chain of loops, each loop supporting and being supported by the others…

Go read all of it.

Flip-switch Editing: banning and commenting issues at The Huffington Post

Filed under: blogging,free speech,mediachumps,Politics — secretmojo @ 2:56 am

This is a follow-up to my earlier post on the Huffington Post commenting weirdness. That post is a bit too long (even by my standards); just take a peek at the comments at the bottom if you’re interested.

The Huffington Post has suffered a few scandals since launch. The most notorious was with Dr. Peter Rost, who blew the whistle on a HuffPost technical manager who trolled the comments of Dr. Rost’s blog (he’s moved elsewhere as a result). The other was the piecing together of George Clooney quotes and presenting them as a blog entry (without the disclaimer that they were gathered quotes). Another was to team up with an advertising firm, and allegedly allow them to billboard their commenting system.

All of these actions indicate something a bit deeper going over at HuffPost, but none relate entirely to the commenting/banning problem some users are experiencing.

The Difficulties

First of all, The Huffington Post has a huge backlog of comments (which I believe still continues today) they need to moderate. 15,000 was a number thrown about a while ago. This is not a political issue, but a management or technical issue. I’ve heard gripes about it, but hey, what can you do with limited staff? This may contribute to crazy comments getting through on news posts, while well-thought-out comments get censored on more prominent blogs. But in and of itself, it’s just “birth pangs,” as our illustrious Secretary of State might call it.

Secondly, because of the popularity and slant of the site, HuffPost attracts wingnuts and crazies that troll about, self-promoters who want publicity for their names or sites, or hackers who just want to cause trouble. This is of course an issue with any site that allows comments, and there are many ways to get around this, including account creation and IP logging, which HuffPost implements.

Third, I believe HuffPost wants to maintain civil discourse. They don’t want to be another (at least, I hope not). Trying to balance this with free speech is rather difficult, because arguments can get very heated over there, and stupid people really love the sound of their own voice.

HuffPost’s Solution

Ostensibly, the solution at HuffPost is unbiased moderation, treating comments as real-time “letters to the editor” that must meet certain legal and style requirements for posting. None of these are supposedly “edited” in the sense that a print newspaper would edit them, but are screened for ad hominem attacks and foul language, for example.

“Supposedly,” I said.

“liketodrum” over at DailyKos describes how he could get special treatment:

I was also told that if I wanted to “skip ahead” I could just call my new buddy and he could get my comment expiedated. Now I was not happy to hear that, and I have never taken that up. In fact I would never want to do that. That defeats the whole point of blogging in my opinion.

“whl”, as well, describes how got himself banned forever:

I was banned from there a couple of years ago for flaming a troll who had really screwed up a good post with a sequence of repetitious 2 liners. The assistant troll in control, gunned me down & let the dittohead continue a jihad for many entries.

“Steve53,” who is most interesting to me, brings up frivolous banning:

I used to post there, but now I’m apparently banned.I have not been able to post there for 2 weeks.An e-mail asking for an explanation(it could have been a tech glitch) yielded no response.

I’m a generally polite liberal,not an abusive troll.

Antichrist2” has taken up the cause, and says:

Not only has HuffPost not posted most of my comments, they have now banned me from ever commenting again.

Now, I do not know what they said to get banned/censored. Of course I don’t, because their comments have been whisked into the void. But I do know that they have interesting things to say in general, and now they will never say them on HuffPost.

In my own experience, I submitted a very short comment that linked to this page at Red State Son. In my opinion, it was not abusive. Provocative, maybe, and definitely shocking, but considering that adults read the HuffPost, not at all illegal or vindictive, at least in my interpretation of the comment policy.

So I know for a fact that content matters. Especially on blog, as opposed to news, entries. This is actually okay with me. But the parameters of acceptable content are not delineated on the Comment Policy page, nor are they implemented with any consistency at the site, and it is very possible that you can get permanently banned for no other reason than not knowing the “hidden rules.” So if you do get banned, you will never be told, and you will never know why.

I used to have an RSS feed of the Huffington Post which I browsed daily. Now, however, I rarely go there; the inconsistent comment policy is why. If I feel tempted to dispute something posted, I’m aware that I might just get myself (and all the poor suckers who get my IP after me) banned, and refrain from commenting. Furthermore, as a matter of principle, I don’t go to web sites that a) intimidate me, b) don’t tell me what’s going on, and c) have arbitrary rules.

This could be unfair or paranoid, but it seems I’m supported by other people on this, so I’ll be spending my Web time with the multitudinous other blogs out there, even though I may never comment on them.

July 29, 2006

Man, it’s all “boob this, boob that, boobie boob boob”

Filed under: navel gazing,News — secretmojo @ 6:15 pm

UPDATE: Take this, ya boob-frightened prudes.

Like we weren’t getting enough “measured debate” after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl malfunction—at an event, by the way, that also sported a (less sexy, more British) male streaker who got past security and danced on the 50-yard line until getting sacked by a linebacker. Now we must deal with Babytalk—the magazine, not the discourse—which published a picture of a baby eating:

Fast Food

I’m reticent to deconstruct the pose here. Because the premise is that a boob is always an object of desire—and let’s be honest, the lack of an Adam’s apple would also spark a little “willy shift” if women’s necks were always covered. Deconstructing why this photo may be offensive leads, nearly instantaneously, into Pervertland, where grown men wear diapers and 18-month-olds have sex drives. But deconstruct it I will, because I am fearless.

First, that’s a perfect boob. I realize stock photography is all about idealized worlds that don’t exist, and that a character-free approach to any subject is needed. But for those in the know (not me of course), porn and even fashion photography also depends on characterless, idealized situations taking place beneath fantastic lighting, complete with perfect boobs and two models locked in actorly eye contact to sell an otherwise insouciant or improbable act. So it was a photographical gaffe here, which serendipitously made use of the “vague sexual satisfaction” groove so often implemented elsewhere. “I wouldn’t mind being that baby right now,” thinks 80% of man-kind, despite themselves. Conclusion? The boob shouldn’t have been so good-looking. It should have looked like a mother’s breast, not a model’s.

Second, look at the way the kid’s going at it. It’s almost as if life depended on it. As if, without feeding, the poor feller may die. Hunger and sexual desire have been associated in the psyche for eons. Admittedly, sexual desire and babies have not—but this doesn’t stop anyone from projecting onto a little one, who can’t utter a sentence yet, the same eager bodily need, albeit from a different nexus, experienced by under-sexed sailors.

See, I told you: comprehending it leads us into Pervertland. Even Oedipus, who didn’t do it on purpose, gouged out his eyes after discovering his own defilement. But here’s this baby—obviously full aware who his/her mother is—nursing away with eyes wide open, presumably checking out his/her mother’s pleasure or displeasure on the matter. Gross!

What’s interesting is that a picture of a baby drinking from a bottle doesn’t receive the same kind of controversy. I think that’s just pure lack of imagination. We can picture ourselves (or our 13-year-old sons and daughters) in the act sexually when it’s a real breast, but are too imagination-challenged to see “baby bottle” and think “blow-up doll.”

Maybe it’s because there aren’t too many pictures of blow-up dolls on fashion magazine covers. Or maybe—just maybe—everyone’s forgotten what breasts are for. There are plenty of orifices—mouth, nostrils, ears—that have little sexual connotation. There are many protrusions—ankles, nose, knuckles, knees—that don’t either. This doesn’t mean, of course, that kissing the mouth or tickling the knee cannot be erotic. It just means that we aren’t fixated on it, because we’ve more often experienced the mouth and knee in their functional rather than sexual context.

So the real problem isn’t this picture, but all the pictures that came before it. The swimsuit issue, any picture on the cover of Vogue, Angelina’s hot spreads, and, well, damn anything on television from Good Morning America to Sex and the City. The sexual connotation behind everything is so pervasive that we hardly notice it during the beer commercials anymore. We just watch, unconsciously note that it’s all about the sex, and judge anything seen in the future upon that. Including baby pictures.

At the center of sexual connotation are of course, boobs. Guys are a rather explicit lot, and the subtleties of collarbone shape, eye contact, and timbre of voice get lost when the magic nodules sculpt the tank top. So it only makes sense that this picture grossed some people out, because it’s pedophilia on one end, and on the other, yet another woman whose boob is her most photogenic part. So of course it seems disgusting.

But solely because of our own minds, reinforced by the culture we live in. Which is probably the central, if not the most and only, disturbing thing about it.

July 28, 2006

Secretary Rice fandangles riverrun Jabberwocky

Filed under: Humor,Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics — secretmojo @ 10:49 am

Secretary Rice Canerdling with the Girmack SplenderlouslikeU.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice did some stuff in the Middle East this week. She also said shit, moved around a bit, and met with dudes.

In Rome, she delivered a speech about junk and other crap alongside that guy from Lebanon, who talked about various bullshit. Rice promised to “Do more whatchamacallit to enhance things and bring a long awaited rapeteta to the Middle Whatever.”

In the midst of an escalating war between Israel and Lebanon, and mounting civilian casualties, Rice rushed to the Middle East after 13 days of conflict to briefly meet with various Guys and Hominas and discussed a plan for “getting somebody to eventually do something when the situation has properly thingamajigged.”

Despite the U.S. demand of a “never cease firing” resolution at the U.N. Security Council last week, Secretary Rice says she “hope[s] of an eventual end to whatever is so crazy and, like, ‘birth,’ you know.”

Asked whether Rice will return to the Middle East after going to Malaysia, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow answered, “Why’s that? I think she pretty much wrapped it up over there. Weren’t you paying attention earlier?”

Next week, Rice plans to return to Washington, where she will regroup before taking a tour to South Korea to talk about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to Singapore to address human rights, a short visit to Russia to develop diplomatic relations, and a trip to France to deliver a small seminar on Financial Viability in the Modern Age to various EU organizations.

But first, she says she’s got “pivotal Middle East gimcrack to canoodle in Kuala Lumpur, and, you know, whatever.”

Question your religion, or roll your own

Filed under: religion — secretmojo @ 1:45 am

Continuing on in my own personal “why religion/why not religion” fetish:

The famous Dr. Laura letter.

Provocative quotes on religion.

Ted Williams? Really?

Someone who refrains from calling you an idiot.

Very succinct summary of atheistic principles.

Question the violence.

Question the kind of influence.

Belivers beware: DON’T CLICK HERE.

Seeking a religion that’s not so obey-me-or-burn? Try here, here, here, here, here (for geeks), the Holy Kurt Vonnegut’s Divine Revelation, or roll your own here.

Think you selected the best one? Compare.

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