Monday, December 18, 2006

The great white/black/male/female hope

I was listening to NPR (as usual) and heard a discussion about whether America is ready for a black and/or woman President.

Barack Obama was mentioned, with some discussion about how elements of the black community may view Obama as "not black enough". OK, Obama has a black dad and a white mom, so he's 50% black anyway.

Part of the discussion pointed out that Obama is not of the generation of civil rights protest leaders; rather, he is reaping the rewards of Dr. King's dream. You know, that "content of their character" part.

So, is that black enough? Or does he need gangsta street cred? I don't think that constituency votes in any great numbers anyway (particularly the youth and the felons).

Of course, there are probably some in the white community who regard Obama as "too black" (i.e., more than 0%). Maybe there would be some perverse logic to their supporting him: If Obama can be elected President, then do we need Affirmative Action anymore?

There was even the mention of a fear that a black President may take away the so-called "white privilege", whatever that is. If he or she does, I imagine it will be because he or she is upholding the standards set forth in the Constitution, not because of some racial backlash. (But then, I expected the current President to uphold the standards set forth in the Constitution, and look where it got me.)

If whites don't vote for Obama because he's too black, they're bigots. If blacks don't vote for Obama because he's not black enough, they're idiots.

The discussion then turned to whether America is ready for a woman President. Someone mentioned that the men have traditionally tried to look tough by playing touch football, driving tanks, or zipping around in speedboats; if women did that, they'd look silly. Not to say that the men don't look silly, too (alas, poor Dukakis).

Can a woman be tough enough to defend her country? Let's see, there was Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Elizabeth I, Queen Boudicca...yes, I think a chick can handle the reins of power.

The real question is: Are Americans still so juvenile that these doubts are taken seriously?

Unfortunately, I think I know the answer. But two years is a long time.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Perp walks of life

Who uses the phrase "walks of life"? Christians, that's who. Specifically the brainwashed kind.

Have a look at this video. Here you will see a story about the Christian Embassy, an organization with extraordinary (and probably unconstitutional) access to the (literal) corridors of power in this country.

One woman gets teared up describing how Jesus Christ died on the cross (Cross?) for her sins, specifically for her sins; I didn't know they had met.

Many uniformed officers working in the Pentagon speak about how great it is to be Christian when they have such tough jobs to do. One guy says he makes time in his busy schedule to have Bible study. "The work will still be there." What work? Oh, defending our country! I'm glad he can have his Twix moment when the going gets tough.

Then again, the stated order of loyalty is to God/Jesus, family, then to country. One official remarked that a constituent had taken issue with his faith-based governing. "It comes with the package," he said. Personally, I'd vote that particular package out of office.

There is also footage of our elected and appointed representatives and defenders traveling abroad, spreading the word (Word?) for Jesus and studying ancient Hebrew folklore.

This stuff freaks me out in a Stepford Wives kind of way, even down to the group of women who support their important menfolk.

Would an Islamic group have such access? Of course not. And they shouldn't. And neither should the Christians.

Smoke gets in your...nose

About two days ago, I began smelling smoke, as if someone were smoking cigarettes or burning wood, even though neither is happening near me.

Yesterday I felt a sore throat coming on, and today I have all that plus a fever. Still have the smoke smell.

I found this web page about the phenomenon, and it appears I'm not the only one to experience it. Barring a rare brain tumor, all signs point to sinus infection.

I hate smoke.

Bright Penny

Ick. I have a cold. Sore throat. Blah-ness. As long as I'm stuck here, I thought I'd watch Part One of the new Sci-Fi Channel mini-series "The Lost Room".

It stars Peter Krause (of "Six Feet Under" and "Sports Night" fame), and features Elle Fanning, the beautiful and charming little sister of the incredibly talented Dakota Fanning.
The story has a very imaginative premise: Krause is detective Joe Miller who investigates a strange double homicide, and ends up with a motel room key that can open any door, but which always opens into the same motel room. No matter what gets changed in the room, the next time he enters, it has been "reset" as it was.

Unfortunately, his young daughter Anna is in the room when the door closes. When he opens the door, she's gone. He now has to find her; perhaps Miss Margulies can help:
Juliana MarguliesHe discovers that the room once contained many mundane objects, such as a penknife, watch, ballpoint pen, etc., which now appear to have strange powers (the pen fries people, the knife makes someone fall asleep instantly, the watch boils an egg).

What will become of Anna? I'll just have to tune in tonight for Part Two.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Carter on Palestine

Former US President Jimmy Carter is attracting criticism for his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Carter wrote an op-ed piece in the LA Times in response to some of the criticism.

I haven't read the book, but I have watched some interviews with Carter, so my comments will be more of a general nature.

  1. Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in part for his work in the Middle East, and his list of credentials on the subject is greater than most. As such, I value Carter's perspective, and presume no ill will on his part.
  2. It is possible to disagree with the policies and actions of the state of Israel without being anti-semitic. If I disagree with Israel's actions, it isn't because they are Jewish; it's because I disagree with their actions.
  3. It is possible to support the Jewish cause and to remember the Holocaust without automatically supporting the policies and actions of the state of Israel.
  4. Some people who oppose Israel are cowed into silence because of the large Jewish lobby in the United States.
  5. Some people who oppose Israel are cowed into silence because of woolly religious reasoning that goes something like this:
    • The Jews are God's chosen people.
    • If I support Israel, then God will like me.
    • Biblical prophecy says something about doing something in Israel before Jesus can return, so I'll support that, then shove them out of the way when the Messiah comes (back).
  6. Violence sucks.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Conservative by definition

Definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary:
  1. To protect from loss or harm: Greg wants to conserve the Constitution, therefore he is a Liberal.
  2. To use sparingly: Bush wants to apply the Constitution as little as possible, therefore he is a Conservative.

Mmm, Lebanon...

Time for a geography lesson.

An article posted on shows the following map:

Lebanon is the delicious strawberry nation between chocolatey Syria and the Mediterranean Sea.

Beirut is the cherry on top.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Bible ≠ US Law

An article posted on the TPM Cafe talks about Barack Obama courting the evangelical Christian vote for a possible 2008 Presidential bid. The article mentions that many evangelicals are not fans of Obama because he is a liberal and therefore pro-choice. (Keywords: Bible, abortion, bad.)

One of the comments to the article quotes Exodus to show that the idea that the Bible is anti-abortion isn't true:

Exodus 21:22:
"When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine."
The verse isn't exactly relevant, having more to do with an accident than an abortion, but the writer comments that the transgression doesn't even rise to the level of manslaughter, let alone murder.

Be that as it may, there's a larger point to make here: the Bible is not our Constitution. The Bible is not our law book. Even if the Bible says it's not OK to have an abortion, and it is OK to hate gays, that doesn't have anything to do with the laws of the land.

So we're clear:

Activist judges who want to enforce equal rights for gay people: good.

Activist judges who want to erect shrines to the Ten Commandments on public property: bad.

I think we should erect courthouse shrines to the Constitution, especially to the Bill of Rights.

Of course, some "patriotic" citizens think our freedoms go too far, and support rolling back some Constitutional guarantees, especially during wartime. Proud Americans, but apparently not proud enough.

I want to conserve the Constitution. I want to conserve the Bill of Rights. I believe in the separation of church and state. I believe that all are equal under the law. I'm for a balanced budget, low debt, a strong dollar, fair taxes, fair wages, minimal government intrusion, an effective national defense.

That makes me, in this Bizarro-world nation, a Liberal.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Great moments in television

Watching Franz Ferdinand singing "Come And Dance With Me Michael" on Austin City Limits. ACL used to have an audience made up of middle-aged people in cowboy hats and shirts with snaps instead of buttons. Now the audience appears more reflective of the college town that Austin is. (Otherwise, they might-a strung up that there Scotch boy.)

And speaking of being condescending towards red-staters: Watching Corinne Bailey Rae on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, after first asking "Who the hell is Corinne Bailey Rae?", then asking "Who the hell is Corinne Bailey Rae!"

Yes, it COULD be more disruptive

Especially when my Carbon Monoxide alarm goes off at 13 ppm.

Could it BE any more disruptive?

My condo has polybutylene pipe throughout. Because the original owner did not take the opportunity to get the pipes replaced for free under the class action lawsuit, the condo association has assessed each of us a large fee for the replacement of the recalled material. They said their insurance premiums were getting huge because of the few instances that pipes burst every year.

Lack of planning on their part does constitute an emergency (and expense) on my part.

There are workmen in every room of my home.

I cleared out what I thought they would need access to; it was not nearly enough.

They cut holes in the drywall in the dining room because it backs up to the icemaker line for the refrigerator.

They cut holes in the hall closet because it backs up to the laundry room.

They cut holes in the living room because it also backs up to the laundry room.

They dismantled copper pipe in the laundry room.

They cut holes in the closet in the master bedroom because it backs up to the master bath.

They removed the mirror in the guest bathroom and cut holes in the wall behind it. They also cut a hole next to the toilet.

They cut holes in the closet in the guest bedroom because it backs up to the guest bathroom.

Did I mention I have two cats? One is cowering in the kitchen cabinets; the other is hiding under the guest bed.

There is canvas and plastic sheeting everywhere. There are five guys crawling all over my home, cutting and torching away. My apartment is replete with drywall dust, the smell of blowtorch gases, blue tape, chunks of raggedly cut drywall, frightened animals, the metal-on-metal sounds of buzzing saws, hammering, Spanish, grunting.

Polybutylene has my condo in its octopus-like grip.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Michael Richards is even loonier than I thought

Just when everyone had finally forgotten about him, Michael Richards goes on a racist rant.

Richards was appearing at the Laugh Factory last Friday when he was heckled by a couple of black men. "Kramer"'s response was to scream obscenities and racial slurs for three minutes before leaving the stage.

He looked and sounded like he had lost it. I don't know if he was drinking or on drugs, or whether he needed a drink or was off his meds. The video did not capture the heckling, only Richards' venemous retort.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Screwed in Seattle

The Seattle Times reports that Seattle police arrested 22 females and 104 males in a prostitution sting. Apparently, the cops had received complaints from people in the area who saw the ads on craigslist (not sure how this actually affected the complainers personally, but thank heavens for busybodies).

Craig "Craig" Newmark said, "...we would prefer that they go after violent criminals or crooked congressmen."

The head cop in charge of the sting speculated, "No young girl grows up dreaming of doing this. These prostitutes are women who have had a rough life, whether they're addicted to drugs, or they've been abused or they have some pimp forcing them into it."

Because obviously no woman would possibly choose of her own free will to have sex for money. She must be a victim at the mercy of lowlifes who patronize her. Like who, Chief?

"Bank presidents, state employees, business owners, construction workers, physicians and surgeons."

Oh, I see. The worst element. But they must have met in some seedy dive or back alley, right? No? It was an upscale condo?

"It is easy money...but these women are being exploited and it's degrading," he said. "You should hear what some of these guys have asked our detectives to do—it's disgusting."

Disgusting. To you, Chief. What some of the guys asked the women to do. Not forced. Not raped. Asked. Paid. Requested. From someone whose job it is to provide sexual services.

And in the end, all but 5 of the men were released. It is, after all, only a misdemeanor. Way to spend the taxpayers' money, Chief.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Spare me from the bad movies

I keep seeing trailers for terrible movies.

"Deck The Halls" looks like one. Lovely Kristin Davis may be, but it's not enough to watch Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito fight about Christmas decorations. I could watch Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad fight over dolls in "Jingle All The Way" instead.

"The Return" goes out on a limb and casts Sarah Michelle Gellar in a horror movie.

"Unaccompanied Minors" is about kids stuck in an airport. Hilarity ensues.

What looks good and/or interesting:

"Casino Royale" (Daniel Craig)
"The Fountain" (Rachel Weisz)
"Children of Men" (Alfonso Cuarón)
"Venus" (Peter O'Toole)

O.J. Simpson is even loonier than I thought

Just when everyone had finally forgotten about him, O.J. Simpson has a book coming out called "If I Did It", published by Regan Books, and Judith Regan herself interviews old #32 during sweeps week. He's set to make millions from the story.

Never mind that he has yet to pay the $33.5 million he owes from the civil trial. For some reason, now is the opportune time for Simpson to cash in on a coy confession of the double homicide he committed (according to the preponderence of evidence) a decade ago.

OJ, please, do everyone a favor: pay up, own up, then shut up.

If you eviscerate, then you must compensate.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The parade passes Kerry by

John Kerry finds himself irrelevant to his party's future as the new Democratic Senate leadership takes a victory lap:

John Kerry, Charles Schumer, Harry Reid, Patty Murray, Dick Durbin

Hallie Kate Eisenberg

Cutie Hallie Kate Eisenberg is 14 these days. Cool.

Ashley Judd on "The View"

Last week, ABC's "The View" featured guest Ashley Judd. At the end of her spot, she happened to mention that there were several "Pakis" living in her vicinity.

I thought the term "Paki" was derogatory, and that "Pakistani" was correct. She clearly didn't mean it as an insult, but the usage surprised me.

That's what I get for living in such a PC age.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'll have a blue (state) Christmas without you...

This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for:

  • Democrats take the House.
  • Democrats take the Senate.
  • Democrats take the state Governorships.
  • Sleazebag Vernon Robinson (R) is handily defeated by incumbent NC Congressman Brad Miller (D), and appears ready to give up trying for elective office. One point of Robinson's attack ad was that Miller was supported by an American Muslim organization, equating all Muslims with terrorists. The one time when Robinson ever won anything, he failed to show up on 20 out of 22 occasions. Bye bye.
  • Rick Santorum loses Pennsylvania. It's probably behind the couch.
  • Jim Webb (D) defeats George "Macaca" Allen (R) in conservative stronghold Virginia. The razor-thin margin goes to show that, once you get outside of NOVA, the rest of the state is still firmly Red.
  • Rush "model of integrity" Limbaugh admits to hypocrisy by saying that, now that the election is over, he no longer has to pretend that he supports the Republican asshats he has been praising.
  • Rummy resigns. Bush admits to lying to the American people when he said he expected Rumsfeld to serve for the remainder of his (Bush's) term: "...the only way to answer that question, and to get you onto another question was to give you that answer..."
  • John "I am the walrus" Bolton may be next on the chopping block.
  • Karl Rove's star is tarnished. "I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was," said W.
  • Nancy Pelosi (D) is headed to become the first woman to be third in line for the Presidency. The US has never had a female President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, or Chief Justice. We have had a female Attorney General (the first: Janet Reno-Democrat) and a female Secretary of State (the first: Madeleine Albright-Democrat). Her daughter Alexandra's Journeys with George is a classic.
  • All those Republican scandals, including (allegedly):
    • Jack Abramoff (bribery)
    • Mark Foley (NAMBLAn)
    • Don Sherwood (mistress-choking)
    • John Sweeney (wife-beating)
    • Curt Weldon (favors for his daughter's foreign employers)
    • Tom DeLay (you name it)
    • Bob Ney (misuse of public funds)
    • Randy Cunningham (bribery, prostitution)
    • Conrad Burns (Abramoffery)
    • Charles Taylor (money laundering, fraud)
    • Duke Cunningham (bribery, tax evasion, fraud)
    • Scooter Libby (Plame affair)
    • Dick Cheney (Energy Task Force secrecy, Halliburton, marksmanship, etc.)
    • Armstrong Williams (journalism for hire)
    • Jeff Gannon (fake journalism)
    • Alberto Gonzales (torture)
    • John Ashcroft (campaign finance)
    • Michael "heckuva job" Brown (Katrina)
    • George Bush (himself)
    • all those sex scandals

Monday, November 06, 2006

Imitation of Life

I'm curious about the identification of multiracial people as black.

Tiger Woods, Alicia Keys, Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Barack Obama, Harold Ford Jr., Bob Marley, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, Smokey Robinson, Jimi Hendrix, Langston Hughes, and even Malcolm X: multiracial all.

We don't hear about Tiger Woods: Asian golfer or Halle Berry: white actress.

There used to be the "one drop" theory of miscegenation in the US, from our nation's ignorant past.

What is it now? Is this another example of co-opting by the formerly oppressed?

Aren't we done with this yet?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Absolute Zero

Bill O'Reilly was the guest on Oprah. He was somewhat restrained, but still true to his usual self: blustery, polarizing, absolutist, dismissive, disingenuous, smirky, high-handed...yawn. I can't even bother to finish.

I did have to laugh, though, when he was moaning about how liberals own the media and entertainment, so how can the poor "traditionalists" get their voices heard?

Yes, it's the liberals who have all the money, who control all. That must be why NBC has refused to air commercials advertising the Dixie Chicks' movie, "Shut Up and Sing", because it's disparaging to President Bush.

The Dixie Chicks were guests on Oprah's show earlier in the week. I'm not a fan of country music, but I am a big fan of Natalie Maines now that I know more about what happened. Plus she's cute (they all are).

Some detractors have blown this up into it sounding like she make a long speech about hating Bush, when all she really did was make an off-the-cuff comment to a friendly audience.

The resulting firestorm has a parallel in John Lennon's 1966 comment that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus (in England, where the comment was made, they were). Boycotts, death threats, and record burnings happened then, too. 14 years later Lennon was murdered, ostensibly as a result of this comment.

Why is it that people who say they have such strong faith find it so threatened by such off-handed comments that they must utterly destroy the opposing voices?

I think I'll just shut up and vote.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Now that some phone commercial is featuring Allison Goldfrapp's very T. Rex song "Ooh-La-La", I thought I'd take this opportunity to mention that you can see the real thing in the new-ish DVD "Born To Boogie".

BTB is the legendary concert film of 24-year-old Marc Bolan and T. Rex at the height of their powers in 1972, fully restored to crystal-clear cinematic glory, and given a fresh 5.1 mix by original music producer Tony Visconti.

The movie is a product of Apple Films, and was produced and directed by one of its camera operators: Ringo Starr. The DVD project was put together by Bolan's son Rolan (yes, Rolan Bolan), who was just two years old when his dad died in a car crash in 1977.

The deluxe 2-disc edition includes the original restored movie, plus the two complete Wembley concerts, plus outtakes, plus interviews. Apart from the concert itself, the movie features some surreal interludes and a jam session in the Apple recording studio with Ringo and Elton John.

And may I just say that the live version of "Bang A Gong" kicks ass.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

TV, 10/20/2006

Daily Show with John Stewart (from DVR): Guest Kirsten Dunst was clearly not even trying to be entertaining, coherent, or follow the conversation. I think she wanted to get off the publicity bus and into her jammies.

Real Time with Bill Maher: Jason Alexander watched as Barney Frank demolished the Republican-talking-point-spouting ninny Steve Moore. Moore grinned like a jackass and toed the party line like a tiresome little dweeb. I think he thought he was "doing the comedy thing" or something, but he has a palpable lack of a sense of humor. Frank rightly had no time for such infantile nonsense.

Def Comedy Jam: Skinny host Mike Epps, dressed in his Spike Lee Halloween costume, flew around the stage like a ragdoll in between acts. Impressionist Aris Spears was pretty entertaining, but much of his act was lost on me, not being a fan of hip hop. The rest of the show featured liberal use of the word "nigga", lots of false bravado, and the odd comparison with white people. The show ended with an ill-timed demonstration of jagged, asymmetrical, uncomfortable-looking dance moves.

According to an online audience poll, most respondents (51%) preferred the third act (Arnez J), who recounted his experience receiving a colonoscopy.

But what do I know? The show isn't meant for me--although, a couple of weeks ago, I thought Katt Williams killed, and my opinion agreed with the audience (71% pro).

Didn't get to: DVRed copy of Orson Welles' butchered masterpiece "The Magnificent Ambersons".


Still missing "House", even though it has taken a noticeable turn for the worse in Season 3. What happened to the writing?? And how come Jennifer Morrison is the only principal whose title card isn't an anatomical picture?

Still liking "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" a lot, especially Sarah "doesn't play for my team but has great lips not to mention comic talent" Paulson. I liked Aaron Sorkin's "Sports Night" too, even though I'm not a sports fan, and that lasted only two seasons.

"Ugly Betty" is campy fun, but a fish out of water doesn't last long; they either learn to breathe air or get dry and crunchy. America Ferrera is appealing, and made up to disguise her real-life hotsy-totsiness. A couple of plotlines threaten to serve up "Tonight, on a very special Ugly Betty..." (ex-boyfriend/ex-NetZero pitchman, dad's health, nephew's flaming fabulousness, etc.)

"Grey's Anatomy" is an annoying soap opera. Not getting the whole "McDreamy" thing. I thought Patrick Dempsey did a respectable Fred Astaire in "Loverboy" back in 1989, but c'mon. He's hardly in the show, anyway. Ellen Pompeo: no. Katherine Heigl: yes. Kate Walsh: doesn't have to wear a fat suit for Drew Carey any more.

"Heroes" is holding my interest. Good characters, but ultimately a comic book.

"Six Degrees": Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby, Zoe Saldana, and that woman from I, Robot are nice to look at. It's also good to see a positive role for a black man.

"Psych": Still not buying the supposed charm of James "Roday" Rodriguez, but Maggie Lawson is sweet. Dulé Hill's sidekick role is embarrassing, but hey, he has a hot wife.

"Doctor Who": The storyline about Mme. de Pompadour was promising, but the pacing was rushed. I think all the new shows have been pretty rushed.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Andrew Sullivan, part 2

Here are some of the points Andrew Sullivan raised during his interview on C-SPAN:
  • "Christian humility in the face of a God we cannot ever fully know is a virtue that we have forgotten."
  • "[R]eligious faith when it becomes inseparable from politics fuels division because it makes compromise impossible."
  • "Christianity is not about controlling people. It’s not about telling people what to do. It’s about telling yourself what to do."
  • "[I]t is hard enough for us to know what God wants us to do with our own lives let alone knowing what He wants us to do to other people’s lives."
  • "I was forced to really ask myself not whether God exists...but whether He’s good or evil. That to me is the big question."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Andrew Sullivan: Soul Conservative

On C-SPAN's show Q&A, Andrew Sullivan discusses his book "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back", but really, this is just the starting point for a very interesting interview.

He touches on his thoughts on Conservatism, Catholicism, his own religious faith, political philosophy, being in a committed relationship (with a man), dealing with being HIV-positive for 13 years, why he endorsed Kerry in 2004, and other topics.

Interviewer Brian Lamb asks simple, penetrating questions, and lets Sullivan do the talking. (Many interviewers could learn a lot from Lamb's economy.)

This is the first time I've heard Andrew Sullivan speak at length, and I learned a lot.

Strongly recommended.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Better RED than dead

I now own my first-ever Apple product--or should I say (PRODUCT)?

I picked up one of the new (PRODUCT)RED iPod nano gadgets. The first song I loaded was the first song on the first solo album by Jon Brion: "Gotta Start Somewhere."

I think the whole RED project is a great idea, hatched by Paul "Bono Vox" Hewson and Bobby "member of the Kennedy clan" Shriver.

Whatever you think of Bono--and who doesn't?--he does follow through.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Yes I do!

Back in 1976, in the midst of Bicentennial fever, there was an Elton John song that became a hit called "Philadelphia Freedom." At least, that's what I think Bernie Taupin wrote. I could only ever understand three words:

Fill uh deh-fay-uh fee-dah
Shy-nuh me
Uh luh yuh
Shy-nuh lie
Tru-leh ow bada woe bada hi
Shy-nuh lie, shy-nuh lie
Shy-nuh lie, woe-sha shy-nuh lie
Fill uh deh-fay-uh fee-dah
Uh luh-huh-huh
Yes I do!

And as for Philadelphia freedom took me knee-high to a man: the less said, the better.

Health food

In the past few days in the US, we've had E. coli found in spinach, lettuce, and ground beef, and now there's C. botulinum in some Canadian organic carrot juice.

I think I'll stick to chocolate and Dr. Pepper.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Willa Cather: The Road is All

Tonight I watched a rerun of the PBS American Masters portrait of Willa Cather.

I think my reading list just got a bit longer.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Today is the first day of Autumn. Yesterday was my 43rd birthday.

About a year ago, I began dating a woman who was separated from her husband. It was really good for a while, what with falling in love and all, but it unravelled, and we broke up four months later.

I hadn't seen her or talked to her since then. I thought that if I ever saw her out with another guy, it would kill me. So I moped around for a while (just for a few months; nothing major :).

Today, I felt pretty good, so I decided to go to a store I hadn't been to in several months. There she was. With her ex. She told me they had decided to get couples therapy, and they've been doing that pretty much since she and I broke up. (He never knew about me. Obviously, they called off the separation.)

I thought, when I first saw her (before I learned that she wasn't alone), that it would be awkward, but having met the (former) ex, I don't feel so bad! Yikes!

And just like that, closure.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rumor has it...wrong

An acquaintance forwarded me another e-mail chain, this one about (1) how Lt. Col. Oliver North warned everyone 20 years ago about Osama bin Laden, and (2) how we freed Mohammed Atta.

The subject line was "Remember this?"

Here's my response:

Um, no, I don't remember this...because it never happened: and

You can break the chain now.

A good rule of thumb to use on these kinds of e-mails is "Never forward them because they are always wrong."

You can check on these rumors (or go digging for others to spread) here:

And don't get me started on the EID stamp....

Remember: Friends don't let friends forward chain e-mails full of fearful/hateful/greedy drivel.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"God is a concept by which we measure our pain"

John Lennon's lyric seemed a fitting title.

You know how it is often said about criminals like hackers, "If they harnessed that talent for Good, just imagine what they could accomplish."

I feel that way about Religion.

To me, Religion is a monumentally huge waste of energy and lives.

If that bottomless reservoir of hypocritical, hate-filled, bigoted, self-important, racist, passive, aggressive, condescending, xenophobic, jingoistic, divisive, exclusionary, smug, fearful, genocidal, absolutist, lying, judgmental, selfish humanity were tapped for some constructive purposes, we'd find we had an awful lot of time, money, and talent on our hands.

How can we have so much, and yet remain so poor?

Stop looking up for answers. It can cause blindness and a stiff neck.

Get up off your knees and stop talking to yourself. No one is listening; no one will answer.

Nothing. Something. Nothing.

That's life.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Islam" means "peace"

Pope Benedict XVI, the current face of the 2000-year-old institution known as the Catholic Church, was giving a speech the other day. He was relating a story from a book about a conversation between some Persian and some 14th century Byzantine emperor.

On the subject of holy war, the Pope quoted thus: "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached'."

There are no reports of the Pope quoting books about the Spanish Inquisition or anything, but he did make a point with members of the Muslim faith.

A Turkish political official compared the Pope to Hitler and Mussolini. An Indonesian cleric said that "such words hurt Muslims all over the world."

Oh, I am sorry. I suppose that when hurt so deeply about a conversation that took place 700 years ago, one turns to one's faith for comfort in a very personal, reflective manner.

Or not.

To some, the expression "choose your battles" is interpreted as "choose your battles: all of them."

But what's really going on here? Although "islam" does literally mean "to make peace", it derives from a root meaning "submission to The God (Allah)".

From this outsider's point of view, Islam appears to be a zero-tolerance, nothing-open-to-interpretation kind of religion, much as any fundamentalist religion. Christian fundamentalists are equally lacking in a sense of humor or any sort of self-doubt that can admit even a calm conversation about one's differences with another.

I was brought up in the Southern Baptist church, and in a fairly fundamentalist, rural version at that.

"Either you believe all of the Bible, or you believe none of it." -- fundamentalist Christian

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." -- George W. Bush

"If you're not with me, you're my enemy." -- Anakin Skywalker

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes." -- Obi-Wan Kenobi

* * *

In my opinion, the most dangerous and destructive weapon of all time is the certain knowledge that one is Right.

"Que sçais-je?" ("What do I know?") -- Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Losing it

It has been five years since the US invaded Afghanistan to oust the snarky Taliban and set up a democratic government.

Today, the Taliban are as strong as ever, and the Afghan people are tired of Hamid Karzai.

Iran has been helping.

Meanwhile back in Iraq, the Sunni-Shiite clashes are going strong, and Americans keep getting dispatched by roadside bombs.

Iran has been helping.

Over in Lebanon, Hezbollah went off the reservation by doing some kidnapping, but they've basically been Iran's bitch.

And Iran doesn't even have The Bomb yet.

Their wacky leader has defied our wacky leader at every turn, and still took the time to write a nice letter.

But it's election season again, and bin Laden has popped up Whack-A-Mole-style, ready to lend a hand with Bush's re-election (*shudder*) or whatever. It's almost like their families were in business together or something....

What color is our Traffic Light of Doom these days, anyway? I guess it's never green, but I imagine the scarier colors will be deployed in time to scare the electorate.

Sorry, I digress. I'm losing focus.

Bush stole the Presidency so he Make us safer, that's it. No attacks on American soil since 9/11. What a good job he must be doing.

* * *

Lisa: "I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away."
Homer: "Hmm; how does it work?"
Lisa: "It doesn't work; it's just a stupid rock!"
Homer: "Uh-huh."
Lisa: "But I don't see any tigers around, do you?"
Homer: "Lisa, I want to buy your rock!"

Monday, September 11, 2006


I knew it would happen.

I came to work and noticed that the flag was at half-mast. "Oh, yeah, the 9/11 thing."

A bit later, there was an announcement over the loudspeaker: "...remembrance...brave...dead...moment of silence..." or something like that.

OK. Fine. Let's just get this maudlin crap over with. Silence is not too bad. At least we didn't have to stand and bow our heads. Quasi-religious doings make me very uncomfortable. As if I should be doing something.
Then it happened: they played "Taps." Somehow they managed to get a CD player spliced into the system or something. Maybe it was the secretary playing it on her horn. I don't know. I don't care.

Public expressions of mourning are part of the national religion. I hate it. It's so selective. What about all the people who died in traffic accidents during the past year? Or in Darfur? Or on the toilet? Are their lives not mourn-worthy?

I didn't know anyone killed on 9/11. I wasn't in New York or DC. I'm sorry they died, but I'm not gonna cry about it or look solemn. The death of John Lennon a quarter-century ago affected me more, and still does, from time to time. (Sorry, Kurt, you were never in the same league. Plus you did it yourself, dumbass.)

Don't rebuild the towers. Don't put up some sky-scraping monu-strosity. Make it a damn park, a greenspace. Not a giant headstone.

Ask Maya Lin about the eloquence of quiet simplicity.

* * *

Shooter: "If I'd have killed you, would it have mattered?"
House: "Not to me."
Shooter: "You don't care whether you live or die?"
House: "I care because I live. I can't care if I'm dead."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hey, yeah! Whatever happened to that guy?

The President made one of his trademark "I know you know I'm reading this and I don't care" speeches, pausing between soundbites to let the echo die down between his ears. In the speech, Bush remembered the name of Osama bin Laden, and remarked upon what a bad guy he is. Maybe we should do something about him, he mused.

Hey, what color is our terror threat these days? Time to dust that thing off again and scare the electorate, to muster a quorum from the Red State hicks and pricks.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Intolerantly tolerant asshattery

Some person named John Alton wrote an article protesting the "new" USPS Eid stamp, which actually debuted on September 1, 2001.

Alton (who claims to be a liberal, and dares to quote JFK) writes "I am not against the religion of Islam...I do believe that it is wrong to stereotype everyone who believes in the Muslim faith...Therefore, I am supporting a boycott of the issuance of this USPS postage stamp...."

Alton, this stamp isn't for you anyway. Nobody's forcing you to use it. I guess you shouldn't use the Christian-themed stamps either, because Timothy McVeigh was Christian (I assume).

I think the stamps look nice. I bought a whole sheet of the 37-cent ones.

There's even a Nixon stamp to get your knickers in a twist.

Seven days until...

...insufferably maudlin eulogizing about 9/11.

I'm sure the Thief In Chief will try to make the most of the opportunity to look Presidential and lock up his legacy; I know I'd like to see him locked up.

I don't want made-for-TV movies; I want coherent, Constitutional action on the part of our "protectors" that preserve the Republic while preserving its people.

Blah blah liberty blah blah freedom blah blah torture blah blah blah.

Iron Eyes

One doesn't see so much trash on the side of the road as one used to.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina anniversary

One year ago today, Katrina and the Waves brought their cheery pop sensibilities to New Orleans.

The band, of "Walkin' On Sunshine" fame, played to a packed house at the Superdome.

They were joined on stage by dozens of luters, bringing a medieval sound to some of their tunes.

Their manager, a Mr. Brownie, was pronounced by no less a personage than beer magnate Anheuser Busch to be "doin' a heckuva job."

New Orleans mayor and former Steely Dan member Donald Fagen arranged bus transportation for the thousands of fans to get to and from the concert.

Some concert-goers had to be turned away, so they climbed up onto their rooftops in hopes of getting a free glimpse of the show, which was odd because the Superdome is sealed up like a tomb.

After the New Orleans show, Katrina and crew went on to hit other cities on the Gulf Coast.

It's now a year later and people are still talking about the spectacle.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Scary Marketing

I realize that--unlikely as it may seem--August and October are separated by only 30 days, but do we really need Halloween decorations in the supermarket already??!!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dell Part Deux

Some people are whining about how long the estimates were for Dell to send them a replacement battery for their ticking time bombs.

Last Thursday, I went to the Dell website and started the ball rolling for my replacement. Their e-mail said "Your replacement order has been received and you can expect to receive your new battery within 20 business days." Sounds like a lot, I'll grant you.

On Monday, I got this e-mail: "Your replacement battery has been shipped and you can expect to receive your new battery within 7-10 business days."

On Tuesday, I got the new battery. On Wednesday, I sent back the bad one in the same packaging with a prepaid mailing label. It couldn't have been simpler.

Stop whining and go online and order the damn thing. You should have no trouble receiving your new battery.

Now, I happen to be a consultant to a major US enterprise involved in...stuff. Today at work I learned of an interesting development related to the Dell battery recall, but I'm not going to tell you what it is, because my job does not involve making press releases. I've just never been in the position of having inside information before, even if it's not necessarily above the fold.

I wonder if Dell knows....

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

El Candor Pasa

Reporter: "What did Iraq have to do with the attack on the World Trade Center?"

President George W. Bush: "Nothing!"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I am the God of Dellfire!

...and I bring you a recall.

Lucky me: I have one of the recalled batteries! Yay!

I usually run my machine tethered anyway, so it's no big deal. Except for the part where I may have burst into flames all this time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Good night, and good luck

The "Good Night Show," a children's program on the PBS Kids network, has fired their host, Melanie Martinez. According to the show's website, Ms. Martinez "alerted" them to the "internet posting of an independent short film that she appeared in seven years ago."

Melanie Martinez on the Good Night Show
They go on to say that "the dialogue in this video is inappropriate for her role as a preschool program host and may undermine her character's credibility with our audience." Um, would that be the audience of preschoolers who will most likely never see the video?

What they're talking about is a 30-second spoof of a Public Service Announcement for a project called "Technical Virgin". In it, Melanie extols the virtues of using a vibrator as opposed to having sex with boys. (She did another video about avoiding pregnancy by preferring anal sex.)

Melanie Martinez on Technical Virgin
Well of course the dialog in the video is not appropriate in her role as host of a kids' program; that's why she didn't air the video during story time. I'm sure some of the folks at the Sprout network probably have sex on occasion, an activity not suited for young children. Perhaps they should all resign.

"...may undermine her character's credibility with our audience." May. A couple of members of that audience only a month ago deemed Melanie "a wonderful influence for children", and referred to her "helpful, delightful and happy values."

The network didn't cave in to protests from outraged parents (none of whom complained about the obscure videos they didn't see). Instead, the network preëmptively caved in to imagined future protests from some dour puritans.

Garrett Fitzgerald's Blog has many comments on the subject here and here.

To Melanie Martinez: I'd be surprised if your phone wasn't ringing off the hook with new offers.

To the cowardly hypocrites at PBS' children's entertainment divison: grow up.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Professional widow

Yoko Ono was married to John Lennon from 1969 until his death in 1980. Those eleven years are far outpaced by the nearly twenty-six years since his murder. Yoko has had a successful career as grieving widow, mother, and keeper of the flame that has always seemed to puzzle her.

John at Mendips Mendips sitting room

This evening, I watched a program about Yoko's determination to restore Mendips—Lennon's childhood home on Menlove Avenue in Woolton, Liverpool—and have it looked after by the National Trust.


The whole scene was at once uptight and ordinary; ordinary, ordinary, ORDINARY. Yoko was interviewed in the home where John was raised by his Aunt Mimi, as if Yoko would know anything about it. John's first wife Cynthia would have been the one to ask, but alas, she has been written out of the story.


Mendips has been curated; John's tidy little bedroom is sparsely decorated with small posters of Elvis Presley and Brigitte Bardot (according to knowing fans, the wrong posters). The program showed ordinary Brits filing into the shrine, putting their best "isn't this amazing" faces forward.


The fans' underwhelmed yet cheerful demeanor was contrasted with the earnest seriousness of the trustees. One woman spoke of some detail about which Yoko had been pleased, and a brief expression of smugness flashed across her face, with all the warmth of a colonoscopy.

Merkel and the zombie Bush neck rub

The G8 summit is an excellent occasion to get acquainted with other world leaders, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

Ciao, Signora Merkel.  Let us discuss fiscal policy.Ja, Mein Herr.  Und zo...Ahm own give ya neck rub, Angie!Gleek!  Was ist das?Nein!  Zis is creepy!  Get off!Ah thank Ah see smore roast pig!

Bush's blank expression conveys the sense that he slipped into the conference room before his sedatives had completely worn off.

At least Russian President Vladimir Putin was more conscious when he took liberties with a little boy:

Putin finishes inflating life-like doll he bought from the NAMBLA web site

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Neologisms: "festility" and "hostivity"

I present two new words:
fes·til'·i·ty, n.
n. pl. fes·til'·i·ties; adj. fes'·tile

  1. Antagonism or anti-social behavior as a result of overindulgence at an otherwise pleasant event; "Bob had too much to drink at the company party and expressed his festility."

hos·tiv'·i·ty, n.
n. pl. hos·tiv'·i·ties; adj. hos'·tive

  1. Pleasure derived from observing or participating in an altercation; "Ed could not conceal his hostivity as he watched the two girls fighting."

Bad carpool math

Some people are trying to be cute about car pool lanes. A pregnant woman tried to argue her way out of a $367.00 ticket, claiming there were two people in the car; she was not successful.

The purpose of a carpool lane is to reduce traffic and the environmental burden of automobiles. A carpool accomplishes this by encouraging drivers to share rides. It doesn't count if you're pregnant. It doesn't count if you have a car full of kids. If they can't drive, you're not conserving anything.

Don't be a dick.

Stem cells, abortion, and morality

The US Congress is sending a bill to President Bush authorizing the removal of funding restrictions for fetal stem cell research, a bill Bush will almost certainly veto.

The arguments for research come from Science; namely, that dread diseases or conditions may be cured or eased using stem cells, or from some by-product of the research.

The arguments against research come from Morality; namely that all life is sacred, even that of a frozen embryo. Similar arguments are used against abortion.

It is asserted, rather than scientifically proven, that human life begins at conception. It is a moral question to those against, not a scientific question (unless the science agrees with their position, presumably).

Right now, embryos not implanted in a womb or used for research are destroyed; there is no law against this. Right now, an unwanted fetus may be aborted; there is no law against this. If you don't like the law, you can attempt to change it.

A quick lesson in civics: it is the job of the Legislative Branch to make law, the Executive Branch to carry out and enforce the law, and the Judicial Branch to interpret the law.

Therefore, I propose that Congress decide at what point life begins; that is, when an American life begins, when that life is entitled to be protected by the Constitution and the laws of the land.

The de facto ruling at present is "live birth". If those who complain about the immorality of it all decide in great enough numbers that an American life begins in the third trimester of pregnancy, or when a viable embryo is produced, or at conception, then let the law reflect this. Any action taken to the detriment of that American would be punishable by law.

Until then, let the moralistic whining cease. Stop pandering to the electorate. Contrary to the popular sentiment, we legislate morality all the time. It's against the law to kill, rape, steal, swindle; aren't those moral issues?

So, fine, lay your cards on the table. Pin it down. But beware the principle of unintended consequences. If a pregnant mother is arrested, could the fetus' attorney sue for false imprisonment? If a woman has a miscarriage, is she liable for manslaughter?

Change the law or shut up already.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Movie terms

This handy guide will help you make sense of movie terms:

  • Bittersweet = someone dies
  • Tear-jerker = someone dies a long, drawn-out death
  • Gritty = a lot of people die
  • Mystery = one or more people die mysterious deaths
  • Thriller = one or more people die gruesome deaths
  • Tour de force = a long movie by a famous director
  • Epic = a very long movie by a famous director
  • Farce = a funny European movie
  • Romp = a funny, sexy European movie
  • Screwball = a comedy made in the 1930s
  • Nutty = a comedy made in the 1960s
  • Hip = a comedy made in the 1990s
  • Film-noir = a black and white movie featuring men with hats and guns
  • Western = a color movie featuring men with hats and guns
  • Cult classic = laughably low-budget, but with some good performances
  • Blockbuster = an expensive movie with a lot of explosions
  • Critically acclaimed = the public hated it
  • Box-office favorite = the critics hated it
  • Romantic comedy = chick flick
  • Summer fare = try not to think about the plot holes
  • Family fare = the smartest person in the film is a kid or an animal
  • Action = people run and sweat a lot
  • Action-Adventure = people run and swear a lot
  • Auteur = a director that no one likes, but who has had undeniable success
  • Genius = a director that no one understands, but who has had undeniable success
  • Legendary = a director whose best work is behind him
  • Wunderkind = a director who is far too young to be paid so much money

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

French phrasebook

Confused by snobs who like to drop French words into their conversations? Tremble no more! Here is your handy guide to keeping up with the Jeanses:

  • à la carte = my way [ah lah cart]
  • à la mode = with ice cream [ah lah mode]
  • apéritif = booze [ah pair a teef (all I want for Christmas is...)]
  • au gratin = cheesy [oh grah tan (don't say "og rotten")]
  • au jus = juicy [oh zhu]
  • au naturel = naked [oh natch er el]
  • au pair = live-in maid (jailbait and/or mistress) [oh pair]
  • avant-garde = crazy [ah vahn gard]
  • bête noire = stumbling block [bet nwah]
  • billet-doux = love letter [bee lay do]
  • bon appétit = eat! [bone ap eh tee (don't pronounce the final "t")]
  • bon mot = just the right word [bone moe (sorry, Larry and Curly)]
  • bon vivant = party animal [bone vee vahn]
  • bon voyage = go away [bone voy ahzh]
  • carte blanche = blank check [cart blonsh]
  • c'est la vie = that's life [say lah vee]
  • chaise longue = long chair [shayz long (don't say "chase lounge")]
  • chef = chief cook [shef (no word on "bottle washer")]
  • chic = stylish [sheek]
  • critique = review [crih teek]
  • cuisine = food [kwih zeen]
  • debutante = jail bait [deh byoo tahnt]
  • décolletage = cleavage [deh ko leh tahzh]
  • demimonde = freaks [deh mee mond (as opposed to "Demi Moore"; on second thought...)]
  • demitasse = not enough coffee [deh mee tass]
  • de rigueur = obligatory [deh ree guhr]
  • dernier cri = trendy [dare nee ay kree]
  • double entendre = pun [doob lahn tahn (don't say "double intender")]
  • eau de toilette = perfume [oh deh twah let (for God's sake, don't say "oh deh toilet")]
  • encore = do it again [on cor]
  • enfant terrible = brat [on fon tare ee bleh]
  • en garde = watch out [on gard]
  • en masse = mob [on mass]
  • en route = on the way [on root]
  • esprit de corps = team spirit [ess pree day core]
  • fait accompli = too late, it's done [feht ah com plee]
  • faux = fake [foe]
  • faux pas = embarrassing mistake [foe pah]
  • femme fatale = bitch [fahm fah tal]
  • film noir = black and white crime movie [film nwah]
  • finale = end [fih nahl ee]
  • flambée = burn [flahm bay]
  • fondue = melt [fon doo]
  • force majeure = kick-ass-ness [force mah zhoor]
  • gauche = uncool [goesh]
  • genre = type [zhahn ra]
  • haute couture = pricy clothes [hote coo toor]
  • haute cuisine = pricy food [hote kwih zeen]
  • hors d'oeuvres = snacks [or derv]
  • je ne sais quoi = whatsit [zheh neh say kwah]
  • joie de vivre = enjoying life [zhwah deh veev]
  • laissez-faire = apathy [lay zay fare]
  • maître d' = male restaurant greeter [may ter dee]
  • mal de mer = seasickness [mal deh mare]
  • matinée = early show [ma tih nay]
  • nom de plume = alias [nom deh ploom]
  • née = formerly [nay]
  • nouveau riche = lucky bastards [noo voe reesh]
  • papier mâché = paper mashay, strips of newspaper plus glue [pap ee yay ma shay]
  • pas de deux = two step [pah deh duh]
  • petite = little [peh teet]
  • pièce de résistance = big thing [pee yes deh ray zeece tahnce]
  • pied-à-terre = flophouse [pee yay dah tare]
  • pirouette = turn around [pir oo eht]
  • protégé = flunkie, lover [pro teh zhay]
  • purée = crush [pyoo ray]
  • raison d'être = why you exist [ray zahn deh truh]
  • rendez-vous = meeting [rahn day voo]
  • repartee = wit [reh par tay (as opposed to "par-TAY!")]
  • risqué = sexy [riss kay]
  • rouge = blush [roozh]
  • RSVP = answer me, goddammit! (stands for "respondez, sil vous plait", or "respond, if you please")
  • sang-froid = steeliness [sang frwahd]
  • sans = minus [sahnz]
  • sauté = fry really hot [so tay]
  • savoir-faire = grace [sa vwah fare]
  • séance = sitting [say ahnce]
  • soi-disant = so-called [swah dee zahn]
  • soirée = party in the dark [swah ray]
  • soupçon = tad [soup's on]
  • sous-chef = gofer [soo shef]
  • souvenir = clutter [soo veh neer]
  • tête-à-tête = head to head [tet ah tet]
  • touché = Dude! Burn! [too shay]
  • tour de force = cool thing someone did [toor deh force]
  • trompe l'oeil = painting that fakes you out [tromp loy]
  • vis-à-vis = with respect to [veez ah vee]
  • vol-au-vent = meat/fish + pastry [vol oh vahn]

Missed Connections

When: Last Saturday morning, Whole Foods checkout.

You: Hot blond babe, blue eyes, sweet body, hemp jeans, hair that smelled of tangerines.

Me: Nerdy, intense, obese guy with a goatee in the checkout line two over from you.

Although we didn't speak or make eye contact, you took my breath away. I can tell your are a caring person, because you bought recycled toilet paper. And I like how you lingered over the produce, selecting just the right ingredients for your salad.

I see your into gaming as much as me from the way you glanced at that copy of Wired in the "impulse buy" rack (damn the Man!). I think it was Wired. It could of been Mother Jones. I know I'm "Jonesing" for you, my Queen! LOL! Just kidding! (but not really ;)

Seriously, I feel sure that if you met me, you'd realize I was the perfect guy for you. Not like those pretty, muscular boys that treat you badly (I'm guessing). They (probably) don't appreciate the special qualities (I imagine) you have. And hey, you know I'd never cheat on you! Ha ha!

dmvAnyway, all's I'm saying is think about it. I'll call you in a few days. How do I have your number? Let's just say that you'd be amazed what you can learn from Google, MySpace, and a backdoor into the DMV computer. (btw, your driver's license picture is AWESOME! I'm using it as my wallpaper! ttfn)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ted Stevens: Internet Superhero

Super Ted (05/25/2005)OK, so Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) has gotten a lot of flak over his Internet Neutrality speech, specifically over his description of the Internet as a "series of tubes".

Granted he's a windbag, but really, is this so different from a typical geek description of the network as "pipes"? Stevens goes on to describe, in his own special way, the concept of network congestion and delays in response.

Hulk TedStevens' long, stammer-filled lecture about the Internet seemed to suggest that the commercial use of the Internet was fucking things up for the consumer, what with streaming movies and other information. He doesn't appear to make the connection between businesses who stream content, and the users who consume that information. I thought Republicans were up on the whole "supply and demand" thing.

Stevens suggests that it's OK for companies like Netflix to clog up the mail by shipping DVDs to and fro, but it's not OK for on-line companies to stream content because it delays the receipt of his e-mails (what he misspoke of as "internets").

Hulk tieHe says we consumers don't use the Internet for commercial purposes (aren't consumers by definition engaged in commerce?), but for communication. The fact that we consumers are not making money by checking our e-mails leads him to express his support for a separate network for commerce that would leave alone the network that supports small businesses and families.

Am I dreaming? Is a blowhard Republican arguing for a commercial-free Internet? Like the hippies were doing in the early days of the World-Wide Web? Is he coming down against big business, arguing that it shuts out the little guy? Does that mean he's against Wal*Mart?

What a waste of gunpowder and sky

Aimee Mann
Today's the 4th of July
Another June has gone by
And when they light up our town I just think
What a waste of gunpowder and sky

©1993 Aimee Mann

Happy 230th.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

US government to collect child pornography

A massive database of child pornography is being created by a coalition of AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft, United Online (Who? Oh, the NetZero folks.), and Yahoo. This is part of a strategy to support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (or NAMBLA). Now there's a database ripe for the hacking!

They do know that collecting the images doesn't actually remove them from the Internet, right? (Do we still capitalize "Internet"? I guess we do.)

The idea is that, by having copies of the images that are floating around cyberspace, they can look for the same files being collected or transmitted online. They would do this by spying on e-mail attachments, looking for the images on web sites, and other tactics. From what I can tell, this would be warrantless, across-the-board spying. AOL, for example, would look at each e-mail as it scans for viruses.

The top lawyer for AOL said, "[W]e believe it is possible to increase the chance that child predators will be caught and provide a deterrent to those who would be tempted to exploit children on the Internet."

OK, by all means, find the people who are actually abusing the kids and prosecute them. I'm with ya there.

I don't agree that someone who possesses these images is necessarily a "child predator". Unless they know who took the pictures, they are not directly involved. Some say that the viewer of such images is providing a market for child pornography, but I don't see how someone downloading an image for free is in any way contributing to the crime. Unless the web site they go to has Google ads or something.

Just as there is a difference between a pedophile and a child molester, there is a difference between the viewer and creator of child pornography. What's the difference? A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children; a child molester is someone who sexually abuses children. One is thought; the other, deed.

Would a pedophile who finds child-pornographic images on the Internet be more or less likely to commit abuse? Would he be tempted to act on those feelings, or would he be satisfied to keep them in the realm of fantasy? I don't know; does watching a violent movie tempt someone to commit violence? Some yes, some no.

I imagine that a pedophile would not necessarily need child pornography. If they are truly attracted to kids, then why not the Toys-R-Us catalog (straight guy's analog: Victoria's Secret)?

The ones to go after are the creators of child pornography; not because it's "filth" in and of itself, but because children are abused. I'd study the pictures. See if I recognize any landmarks. See when and where a new image is posted on the Internet to try and track down the source.

Given that children are being harmed, I'm concerned that the limited resources might be diverted to prosecute the wrong people. Find the guy with the kid and the camera! (Tip: check the EXIF info on the images. These guys are foul predators; maybe they'll be stupid and careless, too.)

Star Jones... not newsworthy.

It's hard out here for a pimp

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) is proposing legislation to prosecute pimps and prostitutes who don't pay their taxes.

Under the proposed law, a pimp who does not file a W-2 for a sex worker in his employ faces up to 10 years in prison for each violation. Five hookers, fifty years. Presumably the law would also apply to self-employed or "independent" sex workers. No word if pimps who have more than 2 employees need to provide worker's comp or a dental plan.

What Grassley calls "sex trafficking" is "right under our noses in the United States, and it's a no-brainer to have the IRS go after sex traffickers," in his opinion.

I agree: it is a no-brainer. As in, "Grassley has no brain."

Decriminalization, which I support, would bring the sex trade into the daylight (so to speak), and would go further in protecting women from the violence and abuse some suffer as a result of the activity being underground.

When it's no longer a crime for a woman to engage in sex for money, then by all means tax her earnings, and provide all the requisite labor protections afforded to workers whose profession or trade is on the right side of the law.

Sucks to be Frist

Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) isn't having a very good time of late. First, his proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage failed to garner enough votes to prevent a filibuster.

Now, the proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw flag burning has been defeated by a single vote.

Before the vote, Frist described the lesiglation:

"It's a simple amendment but it speaks to the fact that the flag is the single symbol that protects our liberty and freedom."

The flag protects our liberty and freedom? Why don't we just drop flags on the Iraqi insurgents, and let our symbol go to work defending our American way of life?

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, "Is this the most important thing the Senate can be doing now? I can tell you it is.''

FYI: over the lifetime of this country, the average number of reports of flag burning per annum is about 1.

Hatch went on to say that "[w]e had five unelected justices change the Constitution, and usurping [sic] the power of the Congress.'' Those damn activist justices. When you look closely at the Constitution, you can see erasure marks and some writing in Bic pen.

After the vote, Hatch said, "For protecting the Stars and Stripes, I will not give up and I will not surrender."

Wait a minute...where have I heard this? Oh, yes:

"Never give up!" Galaxy Quest "Never surrender!"

Cut and run, part 2

President Bush has said that he would leave it up to the military commanders "on the ground" in Iraq to advise him about troop withdrawals.

About a week ago, General George Casey expressed his opposition to a "timetable":

"I don't like it. I feel that it would limit my flexibility. I think it would give the enemy a fixed timetable...."

And now it has come out that General Casey has indeed drawn up a plan that calls for reducing the number of brigades in Iraq from 14 to 12, and possibly down to 8 by the end of next year. This represents about 20,000 soldiers.

Of course it's election-year politics; did you think otherwise?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cut and run

The disingenuous motherfuckers—I mean, the Republicans—have branded the call for troop withdrawal from Iraq "cut and run."

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, "The last thing you want to do when you have the terrorists on the run is give them notice that you're going to leave."

Unless the US plans to stay in Iraq forever, I imagine that one day US troops will leave that country. But troop pullouts don't happen overnight. Just as it took months to stage the occupation, so it will take months to plan and execute troop reductions. I think the terrorists might figure that we're going to leave at that point, at the very latest.

I hate this partisan garbage. The RNC's web page is sickeningly sycophantic and faux-patriotic (they weren't so "patriotic" when "Our President" was Clinton). There's nothing so hateful on the DNC's web page.

The amount of lies and corruption swirling around the Bush administration sets a new low standard, even for Washington, DC. I know, I know: this is nothing new. Conservative Republicans will always disagree with me on this matter, or try to bring up some feeble analog from the Clinton administration, as if two wrongs make a right.

All of this is symptomatic of our American society, and shows where our priorities are: we romanticise violence, and we fear sex. Clinton lied about his sexual proclivities, and he was impeached. Janet Jackson's breast was (nearly) exposed on TV, and there followed a crackdown on "indecent" programming with fines decupled.

Meanwhile—oh, you fill in the blank; I'm sick of it.

Kellogg's S'mores Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's S'mores Pop-Tarts

Submitted by Marshall Norton Jr.

She shoved me under her bed and told me not to move. Her father had gotten home earlier than expected. As the minutes passed, I inventoried the various pieces of dirty laundry and discarded plates under her bed with me.

A little later, her face appeared, upside-down. "They're leaving soon. I'll come back when they're gone. Here, have some," she said, offering me a piece of the Pop-Tart she'd brought up on a plate. I thought it best not to ask about the other plates for the moment.

[ From McSweeney's, reprinted without permission because they don't have any links to individual posts. ]

[ Note: I tried to find Mr. Norton online to ask permission to reprint this, but it appears his blog has been hacked. ]

[ Here's what to do before your blog gets hacked. ]

The causal viewer's guide to the Oprah Winfrey show


Oprah enters to a standing ovation (if it's going to be a fun show), or is already on stage (if it isn't). Oprah stares into the camera reading the TelePrompTer about the topic of the show.

The first guest arrives to thunderous applause (if it's a fun show), or are already on stage (if it isn't). As their story is told, the camera cuts away to smiling faces (if it's a fun show), or horrified faces (if it isn't). Oprah reads the cue cards again announcing what will happen next. First commercial break.

Second segment with the guest (if it's a fun show), or similar guest/opposing viewpoint (if it isn't). Oprah asks the audience if they were aware of whatever it is that's being discussed; they weren't. Commercial break.

Completely different segment (if it's a fun show), or analysis (if it isn't). Audience members stand up and praise Oprah/the guest (if it's a fun show), or offer their brief sob story (if it isn't). Either way, Oprah invites the audience member to the stage for a hug and/or photo op. Commercial break.

Increasingly smaller segments, followed by increasingly longer commercial breaks at a "Zeno's Paradox" rate until she barely has time to say "welcome back" before she says "we'll be right back."

Credits roll.


Monday: "Bad Men and the women who love them"

Families are torn apart by lying/cheating/inconsiderate husbands. The victimized/stunned/enabling wives sob as they tell their story. Eyes glisten as the children are considered. Dr. Robin attempts to psychoanalyze as Oprah interrupts. The Bad Men on stage listen stoically, then promise Oprah they'll behave. Tissues and redemption follow.

Tuesday: "A danger/predator could be in your home/neighborhood that could threaten your children/health"

A Bad Man/toxin may be lurking. Oprah talks to a reformed Bad Man who tells all—not for the publicity, but in the hope that his story can prevent others from falling victim to the same tricks. Or, a doctor shows icky footage of nastiness. Eyes glisten as the children are considered. A list of simple precautions you MUST DO NOW is proffered. Hand-wringing and determined faces follow.

Wednesday: "Free stuff for the audience"

Something fluffy happens: a fashion show, cooking segment, shopping treats, or other manifestation of conspicuous consumption is shown. Oprah rolls her eyes, makes a gesture, or momentarily adopts a ghetto accent so that the mostly white audience can pretend that they have a black friend. The well-dressed soccer moms in the audience shriek with joy over the abundant free toys. Snacks and discarded packaging materials follow.

Thursday: "Compassionate cry-fest for the unfortunate people of somewhere"

Oprah/Oprah's friend travels to an impoverished/war-torn/devastated location. Plights are revealed. Oprah shows visible empathy. The audience is moved. Oprah writes a check. Audience members wish they had come on Wednesday. Tissues and schadenfreude follow.

Friday: "A celebrity plugs their latest thing"

A star comes on to plug their latest film/CD/book (which the audience has already screened, or which they will find under their seats), or to confess to past bad behavior—not for the publicity, but in the hope that his/her story can prevent others from making the same mistakes. Rapturous applause and redemption follow.