October 2008 Archives

what sarah palin is saying

Anil Dash writes about Sarah Palin's very deliberate use of "straight talk" language, in order to cloak the dangerous, provocative nature of what she says:

I firmly believe that Sarah Palin is a smart, talented public speaker who makes deliberate choices about her use of language to elicit particular responses from different segments of her audience. She's college-educated and has been a professional broadcaster, understanding the nuances of addressing a large audience. She is certainly experienced enough to understand that signifiers like "hockey mom" and "Joe Six Pack" are explicitly communicating to an audience that is white, overwhelmingly not college educated, and lives in rural or suburban areas.

I know because I've been part of that audience. I grew up in an overwhelmingly white part of rural and suburban Pennsylvania, the very same place that many of these attacks are being leveled. I was coincidentally in Greensboro, North Carolina on the same day that Palin first talked about "Real America". I don't have a college education, and I've spent a lot of time around highly-educated professional writers working for the biggest media organizations in the world, and seen their attitudes about language, dialect and vernacular within our country. I've done enough public speaking myself to understand how important word choice, and use of slang, and choice of accent is when speaking to different groups. And it's obvious to anyone who knows American culture why Palin wouldn't identify as a "basketball mom" or talk about "Joe Forty Ounce". These things are not accidents.

Sarah Palin reminds me of George W. Bush in a few ways, but one of the most obvious ones is that they're both dismissed as stupid, as if folksy speech precludes craftiness. "Bush is dumb" was a lot more common than, "Bush is dangerous", and Americans were so distressed by Bush's stupidity that they elected him to two terms. Maybe they're bad in interviews, but on stump speeches, they know exactly what they're saying. I'm fairly sure both Bush and Palin know how "nuclear" is really supposed to be pronounced.

Here is an old comic I wrote for the Squelch. I think the artwork was done by the legendary Brian Sinclair. And I believe Kenny Byerly wisely insisted on the bold text.


Despair Is The Aftertaste Of Workplace Pride from Sean Keane on Vimeo.

For the debut Frown Land performance, all three group members created a video of our "happiest memory". Most ended up kind of somber. Mine was called, "Despair is the Aftertaste of Workplace Pride", and it was based on this Zembla post. This will hopefully be the first of many blog-to-video projects. Currently, I am storyboarding Henry David Thoreau: Newlywed, and finishing the script for Flame War, in which a group of people insult each other for no reason. I'm going to try to land Reese Witherspoon for a guest role.

Joey Devine shot and edited the video, and Chris Garcia came through with a valuable musical tip in the editing process. You can see all Frown Land videos at the Frown Land Channel on Vimeo, or follow the Frown Land Tumblr.

I still work at the same job.

political comedy from ford street

Here's some stand-up from 2/3 of the residents of my apartment. (Christine will be taping her set this weekend.) Chris's set is from "Laugh Out The Vote" at the Purple Onion last Friday; mine is from "Things We Made" at the Dark Room last Saturday, after I forgot to tape my own LOTV set. First, Chris on McCain and the election:

Mccain - Obama Jokes: Chris Garcia talks about Race and the 2008 election from Chris Garcia on Vimeo.

And next, me discussing McCain and his default POW camp rebuttal:

Sean Keane on John McCain and the POW Rebuttal from Sean Keane on Vimeo.

what to name my computer

Our new IT guy at the office sent out a questionnaire about our computing habits, technology issues, and any dissatisfaction with our work machines. The last question asked us to choose a name for our computers - anything we wanted, as long as it was a single word and memorable. "For some reason all our machines are named after planets and things from outer space," he wrote. "The Age of Aquarius is over."

The previous IT administration did name all our computers in astronomical fashion, though my machine retains its name from an earlier IT era that used musicians for its nomenclature. My machine, "McCartney", is one of only two to survive the regime change with its old name intact (the other is the claims computer, "Shakira"). It is possible that our computers were the only ones ever named after musical acts; a few weeks after I named "McCartney", the IT guy left for graduate school.

I wasn't opposed to a planetary name; I was just never forced to switch. I can understand that a new IT guy wants to come in and put his own stamp on the office, though I suspect some of the renaming is inspired by a reluctance to type out "Cassiopeaia". I probably would have selected something immature like "Uranus", especially since the cool planets like Saturn and Mars were snapped up by people with more seniority. Luckily, I didn't end up with the "Pluto" computer, which was downgraded to a word processor two years ago.

My old computer name was half-serious, half-ironic, which matches my feelings for most things (and people) that I enjoy. I like Paul McCartney, but I also think he's ridiculous.* My home computer is named "Mulligan", which alludes to both Ulysses, and the many mistakes I've made with it.

So now I need a new name. The candidates:


Pros: Continues the Beatles tradition of the old computer name. I work on Harrison Street, so it works for that one, too.

Cons: I might be unconsciously plagiarizing the name from another computer. And what if the computer follows the example of William Henry Harrison and dies in 30 days?


Cons: Dude?

Pros: Dude!


Pros: Named after the scientist who develops a hyper-intelligent computer to run America's nuclear defense in Colossus: The Forbin Project. Shot where I used to work Lawrence Hall of Science! The Colossus supervisors are executed on the plaza, right where Pheena the Fin Whale would later live.

Cons: Forbin's computer becomes sentient and eventually establishes authority over the entire planet, enslaving humanity and eliminating freedom. Forbin didn't do the best job, basically.


Pros: My work is tiresome. Many of our clients end up back in jail, even when we help them get out. And while my job is to close case files, we create new case files longer than I could possibly clear them out.

Cons: Nerd name!

Vote for your favorite in the comments!

Sean Keane Breaks Down Sarah Palin's Appeal from Sean Keane on Vimeo.

This is a clip from Things We Made, last Saturday night. You can see more hilarious Sean Keane standup comedy:

November 1: Hosting for "Hero Worship"/Hell to the Chief" at the Purple Onion. "Hero Worship" is Justin Lamb's show about superheroes, and "Hall to the Chief" is Sammy Wegent's one-man show about the perils of choosing a president. The show starts at 8 PM, and tickets are $20.

November 10: Laughs For Turkeys at the Punchline. It's a showcase to benefit the SF Food Bank for Thanksgiving turkeys, with a lineup of comics that includes Sean Keane, Brandon Stone, Mark Zhang, Chris Storin, and other special guests. Tickets are $12, with a two-drink minimum.

November 11: The 750 Pub, on the Stanford University campus. Ken Koskella headlines, and I'll be performing with a lineup that includes Liz Grant, Tessie Chua, PHAT Joe. Hosted by Dhaya Lakshminarayanan. Free for Stanford students, and $10 for civilians.

Foxworthy teriyaki

If you think Japan is the thing you cook ja-grits in...you might be a Jeff Foxworthy teriyaki beef jerky buyer.

If you once ate week-old, semi-rancid potato salad because you thought it was endorsed by Ron White...you might be a Jeff Foxworthy teriyaki beef jerky buyer.

If you can no longer fasten your blue collar because you've got too much neck fat...you might be a Jeff Foxworthy teriyaki beef jerky buyer.

If you signed up for a Safeway Club Card...you might be in line for a 50-cent discount on your purchase of Jeff Foxworthy teriyaki beef jerky.

The Halftime Speech

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If you missed Frown Land's debut performance, "The Happiness Show", fear not. Not only will we be producing another show in December, but we taped the first one. Please enjoy one of our sketches, "The Halftime Speech":

The Halftime Speech from Sean Keane on Vimeo.

sean complains about "the office"


I enjoy the American version of The Office, but a few things have been bothering me about it recently. To wit:

Documentarian ethics are being ignored:

I can understand when National Geographic producers don't intervene when a crocodile leaps from a river to eat a baby zebra. But the rules are different with human subjects. The people filming Dunder-Mifflin apparently let Andy Bernard wallow in the water for hours, even as he cried for help, and rather than rescue him, they recorded his distress. If any readers have a better knowledge of journalistic ethics, please correct me, but I think it's clear that this film crew is a bunch of assholes.

Blatant product placement is annoying:

There's no joke at all in the above scene: it's just a commercial for Outback Steakhouse. It's not even consistent, character-wise. The previous week's episode focused on weight-loss and the staff's varying attempts at healthy eating. This one was built around a "product integration" buy from Outback, home of Aussie Cheese Fries, AKA, the worst food in America. One week earlier, the show highlighted Stanley and his effort to drop seven pounds. This week, Stanley was stuffing his face with ribs as they went to credits.

From the NY Mag story, about a Toyota Yaris ad on Mad TV:

Showing the Yaris wasn't sufficient, said the rep from Madison Road. The characters must praise the car’s features: its roomy interior, its sleek lines. The writers pitched a spoof of a commercial, with a young couple making out in the Yaris, panting about its fuel efficiency. No, said Madison Road. Cut the parody bit. The skit should just feature the couple panting over the Yaris. They aired it.

I thought you were better than that, American Office.

Dragging out a romantic subplot only works when people like those characters:

Stretching Jim and Pam's courtship for three seasons: acceptable. Stretching out the love triangle of Dwight and Angela and Andy: unacceptable. When the annoying rageaholic a capella guy is the most likable one in a threesome, it's time to rethink that entire plotline.

the taco surge

The last presidential debate is tonight. More important is that I will be a part of Nato Green's "Laugh Out the Vote" this Saturday, at the Clubhouse. So this week, I'll be presenting a preview of some of the hilarious political material you can expect at that show. Today, How the Surge is like 2 AM Tacos.

John McCain's primary foreign policy criticism of Barack Obama is that Obama opposed "the surge" in Iraq, which has proved effective. Of course, if we hadn't invaded Iraq in the first place, the surge wouldn't have been necessary.

Obama is like the guy at the bar who warned his buddies against doing shots of Jagermeister at midnight. The shots are expensive, he argues, they just did a bunch of Car Bombs, and at this point, the guys who sent over the initial round of shots are at a totally different bar.

McCain wanted to do the Jager shots, and even bought a round of shots himself, but at 2 AM, McCain insisted that everybody stop for tacos to sober up on the way home. Obama wanted to just go home. After a difficult journey to a taqueria, the guys did seem to feel better.

McCain: "You were wrong about the tacos."

Obama: "Those guys are still throwing up."

McCain: "But they're throwing up in the toilet now, bro. Mission accomplished."

Obama: "OK, it looks like the tacos sobered them up - a little - but you never should have bought that round of shots to begin with."

McCain: "Dude, just admit that the taco surge worked."

Obama: "We never should have had that Jagermeister!"

McCain: "Don't be naive. If Taco Tuesday falls apart, it will have a profound effect on the Wednesday Pub Quiz, and the repercussions might be felt as far as Ladies Night on Thursday."

Obama: "Wait, whose credit card did you use? I'm not sure you know as much about bars as you pretend to."

McCain: "I know drinking. I had an alcoholic stepfather for 5.5 years".

Obama: "Fine, can we just go home now?"

McCain: "Don't give me a fucking timetable, man."

mccain = maverick

The national media calls John McCain a maverick. His running mate refers to him as "the maverick" of the Senate. McCain even calls himself a maverick. But as Wikipedia shows, there are many different mavericks out there. Which of these types of maverick is most like John McCain? Let's find out!

Dallas Mavericks:

An unbranded calf, cow, or steer: This is the strict dictionary definition, but since when does John McCain stick to the conventional answer? His running mate hates librarians, so McCain doesn't need a nerd book to define himself. Besides, a maverick is often a "motherless calf", and I've always considered John McCain to be a son of a bitch.

Samuel Maverick: Samuel Maverick was imprisoned by a foreign government, as was John McCain. Both men held elected office in the Southwest. Samuel Maverick voted for Texas's secession from the Union; John McCain opposed making Martin Luther King Day a holiday.

Perhaps the best comparison is Samuel Maverick's refusal to brand his animals. He claimed to be an unconventional rancher who didn't want to hurt the animals, but other ranchers argued that the move "allowed him to collect any unbranded cattle and claim them as his own." That's what being a maverick is about: pretending to buck the system for personal enrichment.

Maury Maverick: Maury was a US Congressman and former war hero. Like McCain, he received the Purple Heart. Maury is most famous for coining the phrase "gobbledygook", to refer to incomprehensible and garbled language. This fits, because it is often difficult to understand what John McCain is saying. Also, McCain calls Vietnamese people "gooks".

(Bonus: Top Three John McCain 80s Television Shows or Board Games or Rudyard Kipling Stories)

Maverick cigarettes: John McCain would be our oldest inaugurated president, and Maverick cigarettes are made by America's oldest tobacco company.
They've been around forever, no one likes them very much, and they leave a bad taste in your mouth. Mavericks are only tolerable if one's other choices are even worse, like Pall Malls or Mitt Romney. It's essentially a pile of ashes, held together by flimsy packaging, much like John McCain's campaign.

Neither is good for your health: Mavericks will give you cancer, while John McCain wants to tax your employer-provided health care benefits.

Maverick, the Movie: Mel Gibson has the same politics and fundamentalist Christian beliefs as Sarah Palin. Both Maverick and McCain like to bone rich white ladies with fancy clothes. Bret Maverick gambled in a $500,000 poker tournament; John McCain gambled on sabotaging a $700 billion Wall Street bailout. Also, John McCain was totally alive back in the Old West days.

Ford Maverick: Much like McCain and his presidential campaign this week, Ford suspended production of this vehicle once the Maverick became unpopular. It's fitting that McCain's nickname would refer to a discontinued type of Ford, since he prefers foreign-made automobiles.

Nerf N-Strike Maverick: Hasbro says: "The MAVERICK blaster features a six-dart rotating barrel with easy flip loading so you don't have to waste any time while blasting enemy targets!" That's right! Six darts means you can shoot at Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Afghanistan, and polar bears without wasting any time. That's the Maverick promise.

A cautionary note: "Always know your play environment. If the conditions are severe, please exercise caution."

Maverick from Top Gun: Pete "Maverick" Mitchell and John "Maverick" McCain both crashed their fighter planes in spectacular fashion. Both of their fathers were in the military. If Maverick screws up, he'll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong. If McCain screws up, he'll keep living in Arizona, which is slightly worse.

Maverick Records: Madonna's former record label, before she was bought out by Warner Brothers. Cindy McCain is a Material Girl? The choice of Sarah Palin for VP was Borderline? Papa Don't Preach, Bristol's keeping her baby? McCain voted against the MLK Holiday?

Maverick framework: A Model-view-controller framework for web publishing in Java. John McCain doesn't use computers.

Winner: Samuel Maverick!
Loser: John McCain!

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