Chevak Dancers from 2010.


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I thought I’d post this old video of the Chevak Dancers from the Alaska Federation of Natives 2010. It’s really short. I took this on my old Blackberry from too far back in the audience, so the quality is terrible, but the dance itself is really cool. I’ve been hoping to see these guys again, so I can get a better version of this dance, but perhaps this is the best I’ll get.

Bet you can’t tell what it’s about!


An Accusatory Confession


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selfie fail?

Okay admit it!

When you learned about “Confirmation bias,” your first thought was that this totally explained how some other guy could be so completely wrong.

You did, didn’t you?

…at least, I hope it wasn’t just me.

A Visit to the Museum that Goes Boom!


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IMG_4686The Atomic testing Museum in Las Vegas would be among the more interesting places I visited this summer. The museum has two major exhibits, one for Atomic testing and one for Area 51. I’m really not sure what to make of the Area 51 section, and really I’d just as son not be picked up by the Men in Black, so we’ll just leave commentary on that aside for the present. Besides, the Atomic Testing Museum provides plenty of interesting material t consider.

Seeing the Dina Titus reading room in there made me smile. It’s been a long time, but I do remember my old Political Science Professor rather fondly. Her book, Bombs in the Backyard would be the most obvious connection to this facility, though I’m not entirely sure how much of a role she played in the development of the museum and it’s collections. She does provide one of the more critical voices in one of the films shown in museum. I find myself wondering if her views couldn’t have received more coverage.

I’d have to say the material collections in this museum are fantastic. I’ll include a few pictures, but they really don’t do the place justice. It’s worth a trip to see this stuff, so remember this place if you’re ever in Las Vegas and your hangover is under control. Of course you may also pick up a bit about Nuclear testing at the Neon Museum, because nuclear tourism was once so very Vegas. But of course the Atomic testing Museum is a long way from Neon. Much of it is drab green and grey, just like I remember my dad’s old military paraphernalia, which is very fitting I suppose.

There is a tremendously matter-of-fact tone to the presentation in this museum. As you proceed down it’s halls you will learn how scientists first came to understand the possibilities which would give rise to nuclear technology; you will learn about the rush to acquire that technology during World War II, and you will learn about the many twists and turns of the nuclear arms race which would follow. Also you will learn about the steps and procedures taken to set up and run the actual facilities in Nevada.What bothers me is just how unproblematic each step in this process would seem to be in the narratives this museum provides.

The Atomic testing Museum presents the rationale for each stage in the history of its subject in a very straightforward manner. It does the same with protests, and even with various decisions to scale back nuclear testing and/or to discontinue certain programs. I wouldn’t say that the museum slights the protest movement in an overt manner, but the museum leaves a strong impression that the development of nuclear technology proceeded along a rational course. Whatever the pros and cons of nuclear testing, and of specific events in the history of nuclear testing, the planning process behind that history was, at least as far as the narrators here would have it, utterly reasonable.

This is of course exactly how I remember those in favor of nuclear testing presenting the case for it when I lived in Nevada. It’s also what I see whenever I dip my toes into the history of Atomic power. For whatever its worth, this does appear to be the view of those who worked in the industry. And of course those who worked in the industry are strongly represented in the Museum and its supporters.

This doesn’t mean that the museum is insensitive to critics of Atomic testing, but it does mean that the narrative presentation at the museum provides a strong bias in favor of the grounds for testing in each of its various phases. Whether testing is right or wrong, so it would seem, the case for doing was always a function of careful, rational consideration. The problem is of course that this just isn’t entirely true. It may well be that the arms race was inevitable. It may well be that the bomb needed to be dropped on Japan, as so many still argue today. It may even be that we needed to keep testing for so many years into the cold war. All these things may well be (and yet they may not), but that doesn’t mean that each step in the process can be fully explained as a rationale decision by someone genuinely interested in pursuing national security.

There are moments in the history of Nuclear testing in which the larger narratives just don’t fully explain what’s going on; moments in which the fingerprints of Dr. Strangelove seem to be found all over the course of nuclear testing; moments in the mad scientist seems to upstage the soldiers and scientist doing heir grim duty for the sake of loved ones, the nation, and possibly the entire world. When I see images of U.S. troops marching towards ground zero of an explosion because someone wanted to see how the bomb would affect troop movements, I can’t help thinking that I’m seeing one such moment in the history of nuclear testing

I look at such an image and I can’t help but wonder at the supposed reason for putting those troops in harms way, at least on that particular day and in that particular manner. Was this really a serious research question? Or was someone doing that simply because they could? Because they could put people out there and expose them to great danger in the name of science, and because being able to put human beings in danger for any reason must be one of the surest signs ever that you are somebody and that what you do is important.

I’m fairly certain that I see one such moment in one of the smaller placards of the museum, that devoted to Operation Plowshare. The placard reads as follows:

The Atomic Energy Commission’s Plowshare Program was named after a Biblical verse referring to “beating swords into plowshares.” The program was intended to find peaceful applications for nuclear weapons.

The Plowshare program, initiated in 1958, sought to develop peaceful uses for nuclear explosives to construct major facilities such as canals, harbors, earthen dams, and other engineering projects. Twenty-Six of the 35 Plowshare nuclear experiments were conducted at the Nevada test site. In 1961, the first off-site multi-purpose experiment, “Project Gnome,” near Carlsbad New Mexico was fired in a salt dome to study heat generated by a nuclear explosion, isotope and energy production, and seismic measurements. The most notable experiment in 1962 was Sedan, a 104 kiloton thermonuclear detonation, equivalent t an earthquake magnitude of 4.75 on the Richter Scale. The blast displaced 12 million tons of earth, creating a crater 1,280 feet in diameter and 320 feet deep. The crater could hold four football fields, end to end. Concluding the experiments in 1973 was Rio Blanco near Rifle, Colorado which focused on fracturing natural gas-bearing formations. The Plowshare program terminated in 1975 due to waning industrial interest and mounting public concern about the environmental consequences.

Not mentioned in this placard would one of the Plowshare projects never completed, Project Chariot. Project Chariot was an effort to build a harbor via nuclear detonations at a site just south of Point Hope, Alaska. Dan ONeill’s book, The Firecracker Boys provides a pretty thorough account of the politics behind this project as well as the opposition which eventually killed the project. Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson’s documentary, Project Chariot, also provides an interesting take on the subject, one focused the local Iñupiat population and their efforts to deal with the lasting impact of their brief encounter with an almost-bombing. I don’t particularly wish to rehash the full subject here, but it’s hardly a study in rational scientific inquiry. The Atomic Energy Commission ignored a great deal of science in planning the project, misrepresented the findings of its own scientists, lied to the people of Point Hope, and finally, when forced to abandon their plans to bomb the Alaskan coastline, the research team left radioactive material buried at the site without telling anyone.

I think about project Chariot when I read this placard telling us about the many successes of Operation Plowshare, when I see this matter of fact discussion of Plowshare’s goals and the simple decision to discontinue it. I think about the lives of scientists whose careers were trashed because they opposed it, and I think about the people in Point Hope today still unsure of just what did actually happen in their region, still wondering what effect it had upon them. In it’s pursuit of Project Chariot, the behavior of the Atomic Energy Commission was (as ONeill suggests) closer to that of kids with firecrackers, all-too eager to blow something up, than the sort of benign search for new ways to help mankind that one might expect from reading this placard on Operation Plowshare.

I think about all that, and I wonder how many similar stories never made it into the placards at the Atomic Testing Museum.


(Gallery. You may click the pictures. Don’t worry. They won’t explode!)

With Apologies to the Moths Along I-40; My Summer! (Includes Pictures)


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Just an excitable boy!

Just an excitable boy!

Stays in Vegas, my ass! What happens in Vegas gets bigger, wilder, and more sordid with every retelling of the story!

My summer in Vegas might even have included the slaying of giants, for example. Dice might have been involved, but let’s not dwell on the details. Other frequent activities included book night. Book club did involve Scotch I believe, or at least a Corona. I could say that I really don’t remember the books and leave it at that, but it’s entirely possible that no books were to be found at book night.

…or even discussed for that matter.

And if RPGs and an occasional beer ain’t wild enough for a good Vegas yarn, then let me tell you about the museums. Yeah, that’s right. Vegas has museums! No, I’m not going to tell you about the mob museum, because that’s just what you’re expecting me to do. But Las Vegas does have a Mormon!


I do recall a bit of neon!

And then there was the place that went boom! Lots to lean at the museum that goes boom. More on that on another day. The Mojave Penguin at the Clark County Museum was cool! The Springs Preserve was annoying, then amusing, then kinda cool, but there were absolutely NO butterflies, dammit! Pin Ball, you already know about, and of course there is the sexy museum that isn’t really that sexy! I took a former student to that place.  He declined to go next door. Otherwise, we’d have some real story to tell.

I met an old friend in an alley. Shhhhhh….

Downtown is always fun, and the Container Park rocks!

…sometimes literally.

I narrowly escaped a giant flame-spouting mantis somewhere in that area. No big deal. So did the others, you might say. I know. I saved everyone!

Hoover Dam is still there. Much of the water isn’t. Dammit!

Also I biggened the moon while I was in the area. Yes, I did!

The strip? What happens on the strip might as well stay on the strip, cause I couldn’t care less.

Apparently, I am now on Instagram.

Bob still makes great steaks, and Pam hasn’t greened a chili in a long time, but this summer was special. Plus Moni approved my gringo tacos, so I is a happy cookery-guy!

Vegas might well have included the Santa Monica Pier and a visit to Church, unless I was just sober. Not that I’m not often sober, or that any of this will make sense to you, but I don’t give a damn.

If you make sense to people, they will only make sense back at you!

Vegas might also have included a Corn Dance and a lovely stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but hey, I told you what happens in Vegas gets bigger with every retelling. Sometimes Vegas itself gets bigger with every retelling.

Or so I telled you!

Big skies happen!

Big skies happen!

Moni almost went boom at the corn dance. My fault on accounta I’m a bad person, but red chili be praised! She came out okay. My thanks to the kind people at Santa Ana Pueblo!

On a serious note, I really enjoyed our stay at Rancho Gallina and a chance to visit a couple of old friends. If you are ever planning a stay in Santa Fe, do yourself a favor and check out this bed and breakfast!

Yeah, there were utility boxes too, in vegas I mean, and the utility was sometimes amazing! I mighta seen a few other street-arts, some of which were quite cool. Or maybe they were hot, but only if being hot is cool, if you’re cool with that, I mean!

Hot pots also happen!As does Kimchi! And Origami statues happen! Lots of happenings happen, as it happens.

The View from Pikes Landing

The View from Pikes Landing

I would tell you that Vegas included the Chena River, but that might be stretching the bounds of credibility, so I’ll just admit that was Fairbanks. I went to Fairbanks before I became really Southy, and Fairbanks was cool. That said, credibility is a damned kill-joy and he’s not invited into any more of my stories!

Also, I really am a bad man, and I will probably be kicked next time I go to Vegas.

That’s ‘boiled alive’ in What-happens-in-Vegas talk!


You may click to embiggen!

Er, …the Los Angeles part of Vegas.

Moar Street Art!

Museums. …I like the one that goes boom!

On the road again…

(My friend Monica took a lot of these images, and I think she even tweaked the colors a bit for her Instagram page.)

Santa Fe and thereabouts.

Today’s Kinda Loaded Question – How Do You Read a Bible?


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006I always wonder what it means to ‘read the Bible’. The question comes to mind when people tell others to read the Bible; when they say they’ve read the Bible, and when they ask others if they’ve read the Bible. These questions and comments often seem intended to pack an extra bit of punch; something of value always seems to rest on them. But the phrase ‘read the Bible’ could mean anything from reading random passages to a kind of epic cover-to-cover journey. It could also mean reading specific (and very deliberately chosen) sections at length. Hell, it could mean a few other things too, but for me those are the ones that come to mind.

We could also talk about different versions of the Bible. It certainly matters what translation you look at.

The random passage reading approach is always interesting to me.  People using this approach open the book randomly and read what’s in front of them in the belief that they may be led (perhaps by the Holy Spirit) to some significant passage that will help them resolve a question or a problem of some sorts. It’s a fascinating approach to reading, one which gives the process more than a little trace of divination.

…a bit like palm reading or crystal gazing.

Which reminds me that I’ve been told many times one must be guided by the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible correctly. Whatever else this claim means, it usually also means that my own heathen reading skills won’t account for much on Biblical topics, at least not in the ears of the person telling me this.  This may be a trip down the fallacy highway with stops in the Cities of Petitio and Ad Hominem-Circumstantial. It’s also a world in which spiritual powers and personal authority cut right across basic reading and reasoning skills, and parsing a simple sentence becomes an act of communion.

Do we want to get into the whole question of sola scriptura versus the authority of the Pope or some other religious authority?


I mean, we could, but seriously, let’s not.

I sometimes wonder at the degree to which the simple physical act of opening the book could skew this divination-reading approach to the topic. I mean just how often would you land on one of the first or last pages when you try this? And if you did, would it be due to a conscious effort on your own part or guidance by …you know who?

Ah well!

What actually started me down this path was a slightly more mundane question. Do you read the whole thing or do you simply read parts? People often claim to have read the Bible. I think some folks are just bluffing really. It’s a big damned sleeping pill of a book, and I somehow doubt that some folks could actually make it from cover to cover. A much more interesting question though would be whether or not it’s actually worth it to do that? To just read the Bible cover-to-cover.

Now a serious Biblical scholar might get something out of such a reading; he presumably already knows a lot about the context behind the text. I’m talking about your average Jane just sitting at home with as much knowledge of the text, it’s language, and its relevant histories as regular life gives your average Jane. Okay, I know the average Jane is itself a tricky concept, so let’s just say that in my mind she’s a middle-class American with a high school diploma (and perhaps a college degree). She watches a lot of TV, and she’s been to church a few times in herlife; perhaps she even goes regularly. You can skew this Jane-image in whatever direction you like. The point I’m trying to make is that their daily lives haven’t prepared most people (including I’ll warrant most people who claim to have read the Bible) to understand what they are reading as they go skipping along the pages of scripture. Without giving necessary consideration to the linguistic and literary traditions encompassed in the book as well as the (often murky) historical context in which the texts were written and/or translated, I don’t see how any substantive understanding (inspired or otherwise) could come out of the epic cover-to-cover reading quest. People have enough trouble getting the cool parts from Shakespeare. I somehow doubt this even older text is more transparent on first or even a third pass. No, I can’t see reading the Bible working without a lot of side reading as you go.

And somewhere in there, I can’t help thinking this ceases to be about ‘reading’ and starts to become an exercise in ‘studying’.

I’m not just saying you can do some extra study to get more out of the Bible. What I’m saying is that the exercise of simply reading that text is a rather meaningless ritual without the studying. …Okay, so perhaps the ritual does have meaning (Holy Spirit and all that) but if it does have meaning, that meaning has little to do with what we conventionally understand to come from the act of reading. I am accordingly unimpressed when people tell me that they have read the Bible cover-to-cover. When people tell me they have read the Bible, I figure this is either a hollow exercise or an occult activity with principles quite different from those of conventional reading skills. When someone tells me that they study the Bible, well that might be interesting…

It might be.

An evangelical Christian might be tempted to think that this meditation is a trap of sorts, because of course that process of study leads one to an awful lot of perfectly mortal sources of authority. How can one truly learn the word of God if doing so requires one to make decisions about alternative translations, assess the historical context based on books written by mere mortals (some of whom may not even be Christian!), and make a number of choices oneself about how to frame the context of understanding any particular passage. Far from a discrete project, the effort to study-up on the topic if a potentially infinite regress. Most believers aren’t going to want to do that any more than the rest of us. In any event, this process will never lead to anywhere near the conviction that this or that moral principle is the absolute and unvarnished word of God. For myself, I’m comfortable with that, and I suspect there are a few liberal Christians that could say the same, but I don’t think the notion that the Bible is the infallible word of god survives this process. More to the point, I don’t think that notion survives any serious attempt to think about what it takes to understand an historical text like this.

That’s my spirit-unfulfilled 2 cents.

I Rant! I Does!


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Me gal thinks I'm grumpy. I really don't know why.

My gal thinks I’m grumpy. I really don’t know why.

Context? We don’t need no freaking context! Let’s just get this started…

1) Reform happens. What needs reforming; who will take charge of the reform and what direction the reforms will take remains to be determined. In any case these are not important questions. Reform will happen! It is a singularity.

2) Resistance is futile. The most effective opposition to any given reform consists of failure to act on it. Many great plans have withered and died as people went about their business, just as they did before, but nothing nourishes a reform quite like vocal and open opposition. Write a few memos against a reform agenda, and you just may get added to whatever committee has been formed to enact it. Write a few more and you just may find yourself chair of that committee. (…true story!) You may ignore a reform, unless of course you can’t, but active resistance will shine a rainbow of regret all over your already miserable work-day.

3) Change is a Many-Splintered Thing. Support for any given reform means that people have found a way to read their own agendas into that reform. Every ‘yea’, ‘amen’, or ‘right on’ is invariably a sign that someone sees in a given proposal the chance to do something they’ve really been meaning to do for a long time. Listen carefully to the planning of a new policy and you will hear as many different reforms as there are active and energetic participants. When a reform policy is finally put in place, it may look nothing like it did in its initial conception. In fact, its originator is doing very well if the final policy isn’t completely inimical to her own goals.

4) Fresh and Refresh. Listen carefully to a given proposal and you just may hear the echoes of an old policy. Listen very carefully, and you may just realize how much reform is really about repackaging, but don’t try telling that to those peddling old drugs in new prescription bottles. Just learn to present your standard way of doing things as a new and original approach to business. Say it with enthusiasm and hope that you then get to play tug-of-war with a host of enthusiastic supporters, each of whom really wants to turn your new/old thing into their new/old thing and then make sure everyone else does it.

5) ‘Studies say’ and ‘research suggests’. You would be surprised at just how often a room full of highly educated people needs no more than to hear one of these phrases to be convinced that whatever claim follows them must be true.

6) Correlation is not causation. …unless of course you are one of the millions of people making policy on the basis of nothing more than a correlation loosely established using shady procedures most of which never make it into the summary that you only skimmed anyway.

…just like everyone else at the committee table!

7) You can count on objectivity, or at least visa versa. The most important thing about objectivity is that it takes the norm of numbers. It isn’t that the numbers provide more accurate information than qualitative data, personal reflection, or even interpretive dance, but committees know what to do with numbers. They can act on numbers, and that makes all the difference in the world. Once a committee gets wind of a compelling set of digits, they aren’t going to be too fussy about where those numbers came from. …or too patient with anyone who does want to get fussy about that.

8) Yes, in fact you are a number. For all the talk of ‘learning objectives’, ‘learning outcomes’, and other nice fluffy ‘learning’ talk about intellectual development, never forget that a student is also a statistic, and a very significant one at that. Her presence on forms describing participation in your institution and/or your own classroom can be used to facilitate transfer of funding back and forth between various agencies, both private and public. She may or may not learn a damned thing from any part of the curriculum, but her significance as a statistic is vital to all concerned.

Even you!

And yes, her too!

At least some of the money triggered by the presence of students on forms typically makes its way to faculty. Whether it be now or later, the presence of any given student on forms may also provide her with sufficient forms to open up new possibilities of money transfers into her own future bank accounts. No sane person would say that it was more important than all that ‘learning’ mumbo jumbo, but few sane people would allow the learning mumbo jumbo to interfere with the digital life of a catalyst for funding transfers.

This might seem a particularly cynical view of education, but don’t despair. With any luck your student will learn whatever she really needs to know from social media. …probably when she’s supposed to be listening to you.

9) Autonomy is a double-clawed hammer. Staff and administration will either want to change something in your classroom or they will want you and your students to spend more time outside of it. Every new policy will exacerbate one or both of these tendencies.

Time and again, you will encounter policies which make claims on your contact time. In the worse case scenario, you may face command and control over what you teach and how you teach it. In the best case scenario, you will be dealing with opportunity costs that can leave you kissing your own plans for this or that lesson goodbye. It will only take 15 minutes to complete this survey, explain that policy, or just step back and let someone from student services talk to your students for a bit.

…and cross something you meant to teach off your to-do list.

Don’t worry though, because you can always save the essential lessons by eliminating the most interesting themes from your lesson plans (you know the ones that made you want to become a teacher in the first place). There is always time for reform!

If the faculty at your institution have successfully minimized these incursions into your contact hours, then congratulations, but now you have a new problem. Your classroom has become dark matter to staff and administration, which means everything that takes place inside it is irrelevant to their view of the educational process. It has to be irrelevant to them, because they can’t affect it. So, when everyone else sits down to plan out how they want to improve the learning process at your school, they will envision these improvements taking place anywhere else but your classroom. This means the institutional world outside your classroom is going to get a lot busier. You will be attending more meetings and writing more reports, but don’t be too depressed about the time lost to course preparations, because your students will also be too busy taking advantage of support activities to attend to their studies.

And cosmic balance is thus preserved!

10) New people bring new policies. This often has the fringe benefit of meaning that old policies die with each new administrator, but rest assured these new administrators will replace them with something new. The near certainty that new policies will be allowed to die on the vine with the next administration does not seem to dampen enthusiasm for creating new ones. It’s the cycle of life.

11) Don’t Kid yourself. You are not quitting this job to go and join the circus.


Kumbaya! The committee chair sleeps tonight!

Ask Not What the Alibi Buddy Says About You!


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possible sighting?

possible sighting?

We’ve all heard about the alibi buddy. He’s that gay guy whose best friends with the man telling you he’s against gay rights. He’s also the black guy who hangs out with the fellow bashing African-Americans. He’s the Muslim who totally agrees with all of someone’s generalizations about Muslims, Arabs, and even Sikhs, cause that’s close enough, right? And of course he’s the Mexican drinking buddy to the guy telling you all about those damned immigrants, …er illegal immigrants, just the illegal ones, I mean. Cause we all know that people who bash immigrants are very precise about their concerns, and they never-ever cap on legal immigrants in any way! (Alibi buddy would probably tell us that if he were here.)

Does anybody else have any questions about this buddy, the one we never seem to meet? For that, matter, does anyone have questions for him? Who is he? Where does he live? Or does he really exist when the conversation is over? He might just be a kind of Berkleyian presence, only there when you’re in the room. I can’t be the only person to question if his reality outlives the moment. You gotta wonder if his friend even remembers him when the conversation is over and he doesn’t need an alibi anymore.

But it’s worse than that, I reckon, cause the alibi buddy ain’t there when you’re in the room either. So, this alibi guy is really weird, you know. He is and he ain’t, but he’s both of these (and neither) only when you’re in the room talking to the guy who has something bad to say about some group which totally includes the alibi buddy.

Which is confusing, I know.

Is or ain’t though, I’m convinced the alibi buddy is a singularity. I know, I know, the empirical evidence doesn’t say one way or another. It could be that all these people are talking about a whole bunch of different guys. It could even be that each community has its own ur-alibi, so to speak, a kind of minority spirit-keeper. There could be just that one guy who is friends with all the people capping on African-Americans, another one for Asians, and of course one sinister bastard for all the left-handed people. I mean it could well be that each disenfranchised group has its own alibi spirit who exists for the sole purpose of licensing friends to talk bad about them. On the face of it, this is at least possible.

…as is the existence of vast hoards of minorities living somewhere else, all of whom sent their trusted friends to say bad things about them.

…in good faith.

Still, the alibi buddy is just too perfect isn’t he? Always friends with someone who needs him, but never really there to answer any serious questions. Can that kind of perfection really be divisible. I think not. So, I really do think there is just one alibi-buddy for all the trash-talking not-really-bigots out there. You know it makes sense. There is just one alibi-buddy, one gay-Jewish-Afro-Asiatic Mexi-black man with a lisp. The alibi-buddy is is no Doubt a number of other things besides that, but really, he can only not be in the room for just so many reasons. So, we can probably rule out a few things. Alibi buddy isn’t white; I think we can all agree on that. He also isn’t straight. I would say that he isn’t a guy, but I can’t help thinking a woman would have the good sense to show up to set us straight.

The alibi buddy never does that, does he? No.

There is just one alibi buddy for all the people talking about him, and he is never really here to tell us how he feels about the issues. Evidently, he has a number of friends and they are all strikingly adversarial to the poor alibi buddy and his kin, but apparently he loves them anyway. Alibi buddy must be a very patient guy.

I say that, but I don’t really know for certain, which is frustrating, because I really would like to ask him something.  I’d like to ask him if he knows how his friends are talking about him? Does he know that his friend wants to make sure he can’t get married? Does he know his other friend wants him to go home (and I don’t mean Ohio)? That his drinking buddy thinks he’s unqualified and terrible at his job? I mean seriously, if his friends are any measure of alibi-buddy’s life, that poor guy doesn’t need anymore enemies!

Now I ask you; is this anyway to treat a singular entity capable of such miraculous patience? His friends always seem to want us to care about what alibi buddy thinks, …of them anyway. Just once, I wish someone would think of him and his feelings. As much as I’d like to know what he really has to say about all this, the question has always really been just what do his friends say about him.

…and the answer to that question is never all that pretty.

Behold! The Utility Boxes of Maryland Parkway


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Art by Arg

I’m not sure who first decided utility boxes would make a good canvas for local artists, or what city first tested this theory, but I like it. Happily, Las Vegas Has seen at least one such project, Zap 7, resulting in a number of wonderful paintings along Maryland Parkway and the general vicinity of UNLV.

My friend Moni and I first discovered a few of these murals while puttering about Vegas earlier this summer. One day with a little more time on my hands, I headed down Maryland Parkway with a camera. In time, a few specific artists seemed to jump out at me, but I really enjoyed the lot of the work here.

I always hesitate a little before doing these posts, both because art ain’t really my area, and because I always miss stuff. …and then of course I can’t include everything anyway. I have to leave out some of the stuff I did find. So, I’m just posting as a fan, and feeling like a guilty fan for not fanatizing enough about this stuff.

Yeah, that’s right. I said ‘Fanatizing’. Deal with it!

So, let’s just start this one off with a few random pieces.

(Click to embiggen! …you know you want to.)

Tatiana Hantig choose to focus on local varieties of endangered plants and animals. These are just a few of the pieces she put up.

Nanda Sharifpour’s personal website painted this whimsical set of murals. I’m kicking myself for not coming back when the shadows have moved on, but hopefully her work can overcome my laziness. I seriously loved this set.

Su Limbert produced a number of small creatures, many of which seem to be a little on the odd side.

…metaphysically speaking, I mean.

Adolfo R. Gonzalez did a number of colorful paintings, one of which is located at UNLV, just outside of the Humanities building,

…which is an old haunt of mine.

…a long time ago.

A copy of these artists (Tatiana Handig, Holly Rae Vaughn, and Holly Rae Vaughn again. ) even did videos of their work. Here is one video showing a project for Desert Breeze Park. I seem to have missed some of this stuff.


This Can’t be the First Donald Trump Drinking Game, But…


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800px-Donald_Trump_March_2015It’s already old news. Narcissa Trump has entered the race for the Republican nomination for President. He has of course made an ass of himself every step of the way, and Republicans seem to love him for it. So too do comedians, but in either event the dumb dial on politics just got turned up to 11, and there is only one thing left to do.

We have to gamify this!

Okay, I don’t have a lot of time right now, so we’re going for the simple and obvious. You read the title, and you know where we are going with this, right? Just watch Trump basking in the reflection of his own media presence and follow these instructions.

If Trump says something completely thoughtless. …okay don’t drink yet. This would have you on the floor in no time.

If someone in the media humors trump by referring to his verbal diarrhea as ‘straight talk,’ take a shot of something really stiff and write down the idiot’s name. When you wake up tomorrow with a hangover, you’re going to want to remember just who is and who isn’t a journalist.

If Trump doubles down after having been called out for saying something truly idiotic completely asinine, or both. …take a sip. Just take it easy here. You don’t want to be bent over the porcelain throne before the end of the interview.

If Trump says something bad about Mexicans. …just another sip, a small one. You know why.

If Trump says something nice about Mexicans in the hopes we’ll forget the bad stuff he already said about them. …Yeah, it’s time to take a drink. Don’t whine about it though, you knew this was coming.

If Trump tries to pretend his critics are objecting to actual policy recommendations instead of his childish hate-mongering, drink again.

If Trump calls another leader ‘weak’, drink-up and do like three push-ups. That oughtta be enough for the Donald.

If Trump declares himself a winner, do some coke and say a prayer for Charlie Sheen.

If Trump says he’s the best at something, don’t bother drinking cause you know damned well he’s a better drinker than you, so you might as well just give it up right now.

It Trump’s hair does something odd, don’t drink and don’t laugh. Seriously, this whole hair-theme was old a decade or two back. Can we please stop pretending the man’s hair is half the train wreck that we get with every fricking word out of his mouth?

If Trump retweets one of his adoring fans proclaiming him the only possible savior for America and all of western civilization, don’t drink. This too will end the game too quickly. Maybe just fart a little, because it’s kinda fitting, and you know you wanna.

If Trump brags about the number of fans who showed up at an event, ask him to pay you to drink. It’s only fair.

If Trump dismisses the views of someone who understands politics far better than he or any of his advisers ever well, call John Stewart and tell him he has to help us drink our way through the next year and a half.

If Trump threatens to sue someone, don’t drink. Just fill your glass and wait.

If Trump mentions how much money he has, drink something really cheap served in a gaudy container and burn up a ten dollar bill. You’re getting as good a deal as any customer ever got from the Trump label.

If someone else mentions bankruptcy, drink some water. You know you need the break.

If Trump tries to lecture us about how bankruptcy is really just good business, buy a drink for one of the many mere commoners trying to live in the wake of bankruptcy. They need it more than you.

If Trump plays a rock tune completely out of place with his campaign, don’t bother drinking. Politicians always do this. It’s nothing special.

If Trump says anything about Isis, drink or don’t drink, but keep it to yourself. You’re the only one that needs to know.

If Trump complains about violations of his free speech, don’t drink. This is a totally serious thing, and no-one should make light of it, not ever.***

If Trump ever makes a substantive point about anything in the course of this election, then give up drinking entirely. (Don’t worry. This will never happen.)


***Just kidding! It’s time to drink that double you poured earlier. Maybe two or three of them right.

The Erotic Heritage Museum Revisited

IMG_4558A couple years back, I wrote this review of the Erotic Heritage Museum here in Las Vegas. I’ve since learned that they have undertaken some renovation at the center and so I decided to go back and have another look. I was curious to see what might be different. It has always seemed to me that the people behind the museum haven’t made up their minds what they are trying to accomplish. Is this a museum or is it promotional device for commercial pornography, and more specifically for those involved with Larry Flynt of Hustler magazine? As I indicated previously, I don’t think they’ve done a good job of settling their priorities at this place. It could be a lot sexier. It could also be a lot more informative.

What bothered me most in my last review of the museum was the lack of context in regards to ethnographic materials. Surrounded by images of mainstream porn, for example, a deflowering device from Africa looks a lot like a simple dildo, and I can’t help thinking the message it sends here is something like ‘Africans are kinky’. Now multiply this by countless similar artifacts deserving of real explanation, at least in any place that pretends to be a museum. The Erotic Heritage Museum really does possess quite a collection of erotic artifacts. It could provide the basis for a Hell of a museum, if only its managers would take their own mission seriously.

The most striking thing about its current incarnation is the increased presence of scandal themes in its current material. The Museum still has its ‘Wall of Shame’ devoted to political scandals, and it still has some references to Hustler Magazine’s work in exposing a number of those scandals and Defending the First Amendment.

I can certainly understand Hustler magazine’s interest in exposing the hypocrisy of their enemies. This does raise questions about the role of such depictions in the museum itself. Is this really erotica? Does it really have a significant role to play in the history of erotic representation? And if so, does this museum help us to understand that role?



If anything, the museum has increased the space it devotes to scandals. The opening lobby, for example, now features an article discussing its owner’s decision to offer Monica Lewinsky a job. Harry Money (an associate of Larry Flynt) offered Lewinsky a job at the museum along a substantial salary back in 2014. Apparently, he did not hear back from her. As I remember it, this sort of thing wouldn’t be unusual in the pages of Hustler Magazine, but it’s worth asking what role it plays in the history of erotic representations? Is this actually erotic? Does it further our understanding of sex? …or of sexual representation?

I can’t help thinking that there might be a way to answer ‘yes’ to these questions, but the path to that affirmative answer probably gives new meaning to the concept of voyeurism. Don’t get me wrong. I’m un-phased at the thought of watching someone perform sexually explicit acts.  It’s the thought that someone may be getting off on simply knowing the activities of political parties that squicks me here, just a little. Lewinsky’s affair is either un-erotic, a political side-show unworthy of a museum devoted to sex and sexual representations, or she represents an odd kink we might just as well call ‘politics’. Added to this, I can’t help thinking such material incorporates a certain delight in the discomfort of its subjects. If there is a pleasure here it is to had at her expense.

…all of which brings me back to the purpose of the museum itself. I can’t help thinking there is a world of difference between the historical vibrators or the old nudie magazines, Erotic paintings, sculptures, etc. to be found in the museum collections and a celebration of political scandal at the expense of the scandalized. If such scandals play a role in the history of erotic arts, it would occupy a chapter with problems of its own. Most importantly, it’s a chapter this museum does NOT help us to understand. I doubt its curators have much of a handle on its role in their own lives and approaches to the subject. The museum is too interested in such scandals to provide any sense of perspective on why they might be of interest to anyone, much less what role they play in shaping our thoughts about sex and sexuality.

The museum has further expanded its interest in such things with a whole new section devoted to the sex scandals of teachers on the upper floor. A hallway circling around of of the museum’s small movie theaters has been filled with portraits of women caught having sex with their own students, each receiving an informative plaque to explain just what the woman did and how the courts dealt with her. (Significantly, I found no reference whatsoever to the scandals of men engaged in such behavior._ To one side of the wall, one can watch a streaming video detailing the stories of many of these women. Each of them ends with a rhetoric question delivered in a snarky voice; “nasty or nice?”

If this is sexy, is it the kind of sexy that belongs in a middle school locker room, or rather in the mouth of a confused young boy trying to impress his buddies in a middle school locker room.

If this is informative… nevermind. It simply isn’t.

Additional scandal materials would include another display devoted to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal on the second floor, and extensive panels detailing the scandals of numerous public officials. Some of this material is worked into themes propounding the virtues of the first Amendment and sexual freedom, but of course the museum’s interest in scandal spills out beyond the boundaries of its more substantial narratives.

I’m not entirely sure that this material has no place in the museum whatsoever. I am convinced the quantity of space devoted to scandals tells us something unfortunate about the priories of the administration at the museum. Their staff are pleasant and helpful. Their collections impressive. Again, they have a lot to work with. But it says something that the curators of this establishment would rather tell us about the sexual scandals of attractive teachers and sundry politicians than provide context for the many ethnographic pieces in their collections. Ultimately, they provide us with no more information to help understand these scandals or their significance to the public, however, inviting us instead to simply revel in the fact that such things happen.

This is the politics and the sexuality of commercial pornography. It is morbid, childlike, and Unfulfilling both as a source of erotic entertainment, and as a source of information.


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