June 3, 2006

Well, yeah, but

Oliver links approvingly to the story of a 13-year-old from a public school in New Jersey winning the National Spelling Bee. Unfortunately, I think he misses the point in his argument here.

I�m only pointing this out because the fact that the last few winners have been home-schooled has been used as a talking point by the right-wing in order to both slam public school and flaunt the alleged superiority of home-schooling (a practice I find odd, personally, but I�m not going to totally get down on what is generally parents striving to have the best educational environment for their kids).
Kerry Close's education had nothing to do with home-schooling versus public schooling. It had to do with rich schooling versus poor schooling.

Close attended a 300-student school in Spring Lake, NJ: a tiny town with a population of around 4,000 people, and located in Monmouth county- one of the more wealthy, and nearly all-white, regions in the state. According to the last census, the median family income in Spring Lake was just shy of $100,000.

I'm sure some people are rolling eyes when I mentioned race as a factor, but it's a direct correlation to individual wealth and the interest in financing the school system. As Jonathan Kozol, author of Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, pointed out a few months back:

Nationally, overwhelmingly non-white schools receive $1,000 less per pupil than overwhelmingly white schools. In NYC, to give a dramatic example, there are kids in the South Bronx who get about $11,000 a year towards their education while right next door in the white suburb of Bronxville, they get $19,000. Kids that I write about are treated by America as if they were worth half as much as children in the white suburbs.

I often hear privileged white people say, �Well, that doesn�t sound quite fair, but can you really buy your way to a better education for poor kids?� Typically people who ask that question send their kids to Andover and Exeter. And still, the parents who spend $30,000 a year to guarantee their child a royal road into the Ivy League have the nerve to look me in the eyes and ask me about buying your way into a better education.

When a 13-year old minority student from Newark, about an hour's drive north and one of the poorest cities in the nation, wins the National Spelling Bee, I'll consider it a landmark acheivement of the public school system; until then, we have nothing to celebrate in what is honestly just another example of the apartheid of public education.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:10 PM


Richard Corbett provides a handy 10-step guide to every article about women playing video games ever written.

It�s important to set the tone for your feature, and make it welcoming for any girls who happen to pick up a copy. Don�t worry that the tone is inevitably aimed at guys, and full of words like �we should� and �female gamers are�. You can compensate by putting your words on a lurid pink background, and covering it with hearts and lipstick kisses. Puppies are optional. Pictures of attractive game groups like the Fragdolls are not. Find the photos with the tightest T-Shirts, preferably on a very cold day, and express your shock and outrage via the magic that is �the sardonic caption�. This should not stop this being the largest image on the page, preferably re-used throughout.
It just gets better from there. Enjoy.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:58 AM

June 2, 2006



Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:06 PM

June 1, 2006

I'm freakin' Nostradamus

Zachary Roth recalls that interesting Washington Monthly Piece piece from before the 2004 election, where various pundits explained what would happen if (at the time of the question) Bush won re-election. As expected on Kevin Drum's own site, it was noted that Drum had the most accurate prediction: that the White House would become engrossed in scandal.

Roth also notes the booby prize, and that's actually what I want to talk about, because as I've mentioned a few times already, I was the one who pretty much nailed it back in 2004 that Grover Norquist is absolutely bonkers.

So, as I have oft-noted, both then and now, I ask once again: why in the hell does anyone with even the faintest shred of common sense consider Grover Norquist a valid resource on political debate? It's like treating B-list bloggers like Jeff Goldstein and John Hindraker as Nobel Prize winners.

Let's try it one more time: Grover Norquist is simply wrong. Almost everything he says is wrong. And it's not wrong in the sense of, "okay that was a logical argument that didn't pan out," he's just wrong all the time about everything.

Conservatives dismiss John Zogby because he predicted Kerry would win the election based on accurate and understandable research. Grover Norquist predicted the Democratic Party would cease to exist and he has not yet been fitted for an ankle bracelet, let alone not have his calls returned from most cable news booking offices.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:25 PM

The wrongest thing ever

Via Jeff Rowland, a candidate for the most wildly disturbing thing I have ever seen in my life.

This is the "Oozinator," Hasbro's new toy squirt gun, which does not actually shoot water but a bio-degradable soap (they refer to it as "ooze") that sticks to the targets. To quote their ad, "drench your opponents with globs of gooey bio-ooze!"

To emphasize: it is a gun that lets children shoot globs of sticky white ooze on each other.

Here is the actual television advertisement for the gun.

Words fail me.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:24 AM

Your useless information for the day

Several people wrote me about their experience with Fanta. My friend Josh, for example, explains the drink is wildly popular in Europe, and others sourced that with a fascinating history of Fanta, such as its creation because of the lack of access to Coca-Coca in Europe during World War II, and the ongoing rumors that it was the choice beverage of Hitler.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:18 AM

May 29, 2006

Latest comic - "Chick food"

You know, Memorial Day sort of has me thinking about how the national mood for every other war was a call to individual service, no matter how minute. Considering the sacrifices of our troops overseas, to do anything to help was considered a patriotic duty- victory gardens, rationing supplies, meatless Tuesdays. In contrast, the Burger King Corporation chooses in today�s War on Terror to remind they penis-equipped portion of the nation that failing to gorge on their food makes them a homo.

I�ve rarely, if ever, seen an advertising angle more alluding to sexual orientation challenges than food consumption. Using hot women to sell food is certainly no new thing (side note: has anyone in the universe actually had a Fanta? Have you seen anyone ever drinking one? Who actually �wanta� one?) but this is a new direction- rather than saying a product will get you girls, Burger King now goes further ahead and says if you don�t like the Texas Double Whopper you�re a pansy-ass girly boy and honestly, no girl wants that. (Except, you know, the girl in the ad I would assume was his girlfriend who he easily would have been able to sleep with that night had he not spontaneously burst into the street to sing about fast food.) I�m actually amazed at this; you�d think cars or beer would easily take the top honors in the �buy us or you don�t like women who only like you for having this� competition.

Another ad that inspired this week�s is the one for one of those tchotchke-grafted-to-wall restaurants advertising their new entr�e of various meats. Three men, again, proving their masculinity and heterosexuality by bursting into melody, each sing the praise of one of the meats until the last of the quartet praises his vegetable medley. The implication is in no way subtle- he has essentially said �hey guys, you know whose balls I had in my mouth last night?� Immediately, he rejects his much-loved vegetables to sing the praises of sausage, and the equilibrium is again pure. You can only imagine him on the phone later in the evening, whispering softly to the vegetables he cannot be seen with in public how much he wishes he could quit them.

I used to think American culture was merely gluttony, but I think it�s becoming more than that. What we�re seeing is a misogynist theme of suggesting that men are symbolic of dominance and excess while women are told to prove their subservience by withholding themselves food. As I can actually hear the sound of many of your eyes rolling at that sentence, allow me to offer two words as evidence: Lean Cuisine.

Contrary to Burger King�s celebration of men being revered for shoveling food into their mouths, Lean Cuisine molds women as such: a group of women brag to each other about how shitty their dinner was last night. �Last night I had a half bag of microwave popcorn.� �I ate three leaves of lettuce.� �I just ate right out of the cat�s litter box.� But lo- the uppity one deigns to speak- �I had a delicious meal that actually tasted good.� Astonished, she must then pacify her friends, ready to eviscerate her for her audacity. �Relax, girls! It was just a Lean Cuisine! A shitty frozen microwave dinner. I mean, Jesus, you don�t think I�d actually enjoy eating, would you?� And then they all giggle and discuss the latest corset styles and what it would be like if they had the right to vote.

Burger King wants to shame men who choose not to be gluttons; Lean Cuisine wants to shame women who don�t starve themselves. That pretty much sums up the hypocrisy in the expectations of each gender to be physically appealing to the other, doesn�t it?

This isn�t to say I challenge the physical differences between men and women. As a female comedian whose name escapes me at the moment once said, �it�s easy for guys to talk about dieting when they can drop five pounds by taking a shit.� I will acknowledge my membership in the high order of big dumb men who look at thin sexy women, and avoid the hypocrisy of feigning some speech about how I don�t care what a woman looks like or how much she weighs. Unfortunately, media marketing seems to ignore the idea that women might actually want an attractive mate as well, and thus maybe, just maybe, eating the goddamn vegetable medley once in a while might be good for both your weight and frequency of flatulence, two factors essential to many intelligent, decisive women as to their consideration of whether or not you�ll be seeing them naked that night.

The Texas Double Whopper, by the way, shares a very special difference from a normal Double Whopper. You see, it�s called �Texas� because it has barbeque sauce on it. I would think you could just call it a �Double Whopper with barbeque sauce� and donate the multi-million dollar marketing campaign to a charity or something, but what do I know. Hell, I thought it was called �Texas� because it�s the number one generator of toxic pollutants in the United States of America.

With that broad denouncement of consumption out of the way, please buy some crap.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:29 AM

May 28, 2006

Alex Toth

Alex Toth, the man who created original characters such as Space Ghost and the crew of Sealab 2020 for Hanna-Barbera, passed away this weekend at the age of 77.

Not just talented in and of himself, Toth is responsible for so much derivative creativity in animation in my lifetime. The "modifications" of his creations to the Adult Swim shows today exist because of his work. Bruce Timm noted once that much of his character designs for Batman: The Animated Series were based on Toth's designs, especially Space Ghost. So much of the good animation around today simply wouldn't exist if not for his devotion to cartoons.

According to Toth's son, Alex died Saturday morning at his drawing table. For some reason, that has sort of a nice ring to it.

RIP, Alex.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:39 PM