Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union Drinking Game

State of the Union: The Drinking Game!

Note: This piece is presented for humorous purposes. Please, for the love of Mike, do not actually try to drink when all of these things happen. If you do, this blog is NOT responsible for your liver. Or upcoming lack thereof.

Drink When The President Brags About The Success of:
-The Iraq War
-The War on Terror
- 9/11
-The Middle-East Peace Process
-Tax Cuts
-Medicare Reform
-Immigration Reform
-The Department of Homeland Security
-The Confimation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (as of 11:45 AM)

Drink if the President ever mentions:
-The Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections
-The death toll in the Iraq War
-Lobbying Reform
-Twice if he mentions Jack Abramoff by name
-Hurricane Katrina
-The budget defeceit

Catch Phrases: Drink Each time the President says:
-We're making progess
-We're ready to declare victory on...


Drink when the President introduces one of the following in the audience:
-A working-class family from the heartland who has benefitted from Bush administration economic policy
-An elderly person who supports Medicare-D reform
-A famous athlete (Twice if it's a player from the Steelers or the Seahawks)
-An Iraq veteran
-A potential 2008 GOP Presidential candidate
-An "elder statesman" figure
-Twice if it's not a member of the Bush family

Drink TWICE if the person is also a member of a racial, ethnic, or religious minority.

Drink when the President says the following words:
(Not recommended if you have to work Wednesday morning)
-Freedom
-Democracy
-Victory
-Faith
-Oil
-Ownership
-Any "Bushism"

The low-impact SOTU drinking game: Drink whenever the audience applauds enough to stop the speech. Twice for a standing ovation.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?

Good Idea: Encourage girls to pursue careers in math & science by identifying strong female role models in those fields.

Bad Idea: Scrapping the project because real female engineers aren't telegenic enough.

Worse Idea: Creating a soap opera about fictional female scientists instead.

*Snork* I'm sure this TV project (which has not found a buyer yet) would do as much for the respect of women in science as "General Hospital" did for doctors.

Maybe we should, oh, put a few CS/EE departments through sensitivity training instead.

*Grumble*grumble*misplacedpriorities*grumble*

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Peace and War make mismatched sandals

It's official now. Hamas has won a strong majority in the Palenstinian Parliament.

Everyone connected with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or Middle East politics in general, is doing a double-take.

Warnings of gloom, doom, and suicide bombings are all over the media. The Christian Science Monitor questions whether the U.S. should recognize a democratically elected government with a majority party that is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.

At first glance, the outlook for the peace process is grim. The moderate Fatah party has lost control of the Palestinian government. President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah party, stays in office regardless of the outcome of the parliamentary elections, though he earlier pledged to resign if he could not lead a government dedicated to the peace process.

The State Department has considered Abbas the key Palestinian figure in the peace process. Secretary Rice's statement earlier today blandly congratulated the Palestinian people on a peaceful election process but was critical of Hamas, saying that "you cannot have one foot in politics and the other in terror."

So. Gloom, doom, and a new Hammas which now has foot planted in terrorism and one in government. Definitely not a good day for world peace. Maybe not a good day for democracy. On the other hand, it was a good day for Haliburton, whose stock rose on the expectation that Middle East oil prices are going to stay high for a loooong time.

But does Hamas' victory have to be a disaster? I don't think so. The change in the IRA's role in Ireland since the 1997 Belfast Agreement shows that a militant resistance group can become a positive, legitimate political organization. Granted, the situation in Israel is a lot worse than 1990s Ireland, but I still think the success of the Irish process can be a useful model for Hamas today.

The great weakness of the Israeli-Palenstinin peace process has always been that extremists on either side can derail it with much less effort than it takes for moderates to get it moving again. Well, the Palestinian extremists no longer have a reason to undermine their own government; at least, not a reason that is likely to carry much weight with the voters.

This election will cause great changes in the Palestinian government and the peace process. But those changes don't have to mean war, or more bombings. Hamas has a historic opportunity to transform itself, and Palestinian politics. Give them the chance to do this in a postive way before condeming them and cutting off relations with Palestine.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Getting Old: Kids and what they're watching

Today was the second meeting of the Intro Theater course I'm teaching this semester. Todays agenda: A set of activities that combines getting-to-know-each-other games with a system for taking a sort of cultural core sample of the students. The goal is to try to find cultural artifacts (plays, books, movies, TV shows) that all or most of the class is familiar with. This helps me figure out what kind of backgrounds students come from, and what common works I can use for examples until the students have read and seen some plays. In theory, it helps the students appreciate the diverse backgrounds that their classmates from from.

What did I learn today? Mostly that I'm out of touch. Movies that at least 80% of the class has seen: Wedding Crashers, The Notebook, Forrest Gump, Titanic, and Lion King.

I haven't seen Wedding Crashers OR Notebook, the two recent movies on the list. Conspicuously absent: Princess Bride, Indiana Jones, and the original Star Wars. movies. What did these kids watch at sleepovers? I know better than to even ask about Goonies. Classics like Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, and Gone With The Wind did not come close to making the list. The kids mostly just gave me questioning stares when I mentioned Casablanca.

What makes a culture? In large part, it is information and traditions that all members of the culture have in common. Finding that common ground is getting harder and harder in America today. I applaud our society's diversity, but forces like media fragmentation, obsessive demographic targeting, and test-based school curricula are shrinking the amount of cultural material that we have in common, especially cross-generationally. I'm not even 30 yet, and already it's clear that the movies, shows, books, etc. that *I* grew up with are mostly unfamiliar to 19 and 20 year olds. Particuarly worrisome is the lack of familiarity with "classics" that usually cross generational lines. If eight years age difference means that my culture packet is almost separate from current 20 year olds, how much do they have in common with Baby Boomers? With the elderly?

I wonder if the next generational war will be sparked not by the draft, not by senior citizen entitlements, but by the simple inability of parents and children to find anything they can talk about.

*sigh* Far and away the best-known movie/show/book in my class?

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

I gotta go find a DVD set...