Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I am embarrassed to admit I've thought about this

More than once:

GENEVA, Ill. May 30, 2005 — A 46-year-old man allegedly set his own home on fire in order to get two visitors to leave, police said.

. . .

When authorities arrived at Craig's home, which is owned by his mother, it was engulfed in flames, police said. Craig and his two guests were not injured.

Craig allegedly had asked two visitors to leave, but when they refused, he threatened to light his house on fire, police said.
(From Corrente via Alternate Brain)

This explains a lot

You've got to appreciate a news story that begins "New love can look for all the world like mental illness, a blend of mania, dementia, and obsession . . . that could almost be mistaken for psychosis." Other good lines:

. . .researchers in New York and New Jersey argue that romantic love is a biological urge distinct from sexual arousal.

It is closer in its neural profile to drives like hunger, thirst or drug craving, the researchers assert, than to emotional states like excitement or affection.
And this
Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and the co-author of the analysis. "And when rejected, some people contemplate stalking, homicide, suicide. This drive for romantic love can be stronger than the will to live."
Yeesh. I will refrain from interjecting the thousand personal anecdotes that seem frighteningly relevant here, except to say there is some limited relief in understanding that my ex-es were merely acting under biological imperative.

I know the personal is political, but...

So I saw The Interpreter this weekend. [Warning: spoiler to follow.] It didn't totally suck. But here's the thing that bugs me. Whenever H-wood tries to make a movie about politics--at least in this era--everything seems to come back to the nuclear family. I'm not naive; I understand that a big film demands a love interest. Paths of Glory just couldn't get made right now. I get that. But The Interpreter wasn't just marred by that (in fact, I credit them with making a film where none of the loaded guns go off, so to speak).

There was a way in which the movie said: Your country has been subject to revolutions and bloodshed, upheaval, betrayal of all that is precious--and we understand your passion because your family died. And the male lead really understands your passion because his wife died. Revolution...car accident. You see the difficulty here, yes? I don't want to be too much of a jerk. I mean, it wasn't a horror show like the remake of Manchurian Candidate; it was just disappointing. I get that the personal is political. I really do. But there are ways in which the political--and in particular, a sense of duty and justice--should be greater than the personal. This is why I dislike "victims' rights" statements in the courtroom, for instance. I believe the law should be something entirely different and apart from a personal plea of anger and grief. I think it's right that it be so.

For many of us, our role or actions in the political sphere are linked to our relationships with our families. I understand that, and in that way, I should probably cut the film more of a break. I think it was trying to say that about Kidman's character--that her politics and her family history were inextricably intertwined but that she recognized a deeper duty than family love. (Of course, if the Penn character had just been fucked up in some other way, it would have been much easier to buy that reading for me.) The fact that my grandfather came here to escape the pogroms, the fact that my dad was blacklisted, these things have much to do with who I am in many ways. But...if I had a relative killed in the towers on 9/11, that wouldn't make me any more in favor of the "war on terror."

And on the note of political duty and the role of family--crazy stuff with Deep Throat, huh? Vanity Fair [.pdf] has the full story. Within the same week, Deep Throat comes forward and Newsweek says it will toughen its policy on the use of anonymous sources. Funny world, huh?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Not dead yet

Okay, I am back. I apologize for the extended hiatus. As I mentioned, work became all consuming and then recovery from work took more time than I'd anticipated. So here I am, restored, renewed, and ready to return to virtual punditry.

It's Memorial Day. I have assiduously avoided cookouts and picnics today and have, instead, stayed in and gotten caught up on some things. I did buy a swimsuit this weekend, which means I should be congratulated on braving the crowds at the mall and that my denial about living in LA is finally breaking down. I've been here three years. I have a lovely pool in my complex, and yet, I have not owned a bathing suit. I am a gradual assimilator.

On a more somber note, it is Memorial Day and without meaning any disrespect to the men and women in the military and our veterans, this seems particularly problematic to me this year. It would be less vexed, in my mind, to memorialize our fallen soldiers if we weren't putting them in harm's way on a daily basis. Take NBC's Memorial Day page, for example. Flags and sympathy. Here is a sample card:

Here is what Bush had to say two years ago on Memorial Day:
Each Memorial Day, we pray for peace throughout the world, remembering what was gained and what was lost during times of war. From the bravery of the men at Valley Forge, to the daring of Normandy, the courage of Iwo Jima, and the steady resolve in Afghanistan and Iraq, our men and women in uniform have won for us every hour that we live in freedom. During this year's observance, we particularly recognize the courageous spirit of the men and women in our Nation's Armed Forces who are working with our coalition partners to restore civil order, provide critical humanitarian aid, and renew Afghanistan and Iraq. As we honor those who have served and have been lost, we better understand the meaning of patriotism and citizenship, and we pledge that their sacrifices will not be in vain.
It's just sad; that's what I'm saying.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wage slave

Okay, so once again, I am preparing to descend into meeting hell. It is, in fact, the eleventh hour here on the west coast, so it's fitting that I just finished the prep for my three-day workgroup meeting that begins tomorrow. Which is to say--scant blogging ahead folks. Others, I know, will be offline because of vacations, beach trips, etc. Leisure is for sissies, that's what I say.

Truly, I am looking forward to the meeting, but it puts me off the grid for a while.

In the meantime, coming to us all the way from the emerald isle is the link to Penguin remixes. Don't we all have a thing for the hipster librarian type, after all?

Niche marketing at its finest

Have I mentioned that I love the Internet? I really do. Site of the day compliments of M, who forwarded it with the tag line, "For the discerning and morally sound cannibal in your life."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Who says irony is dead

Winning my time-waster of the week award (during a week when I have no time to waste) is the Contagious Media Showdown. Honestly, I don't know much about it. I only found it researching the panty hoax on After School Snack (because you know we at NMTE love to post about panties). But there's some fine surfing to be had following the links listed here. (You can find out more about Contagious Media on their homepage, which lists some of their other projects.)

Breaking out my tinfoil hat

I don't really like hats, and tinfoil doesn't suit me so well, but Yahoo!'s "Tech Tuesday" section is so creepy today I'm thinking it may be time to fashion that Gary Glitter meets X-Files piece of headgear. I remember when Tech sections focused on better video games and higher speed Internet connections. Today's? Biometrics, national ID cards, passports with super-duper security stuff. And I love this: the story on biometric security titled "Login Liberation." Or this: the company that offers school lunch checkout equipment that uses students' fingerprints to access their accounts. I know it's trite but I can't get that scene from Bladerunner out of my head where Decker is interrogating Leon with that eye scanner thingie. I think I need a vacation.

No child left intact

I know a lot of you are probably also on True Majority's mailing list, but for those of you who aren't...

Did you know that the No Child Left Behind Act has a section that forces schools to give student information to military recruiters and to give recruiters the same access to students that colleges and prospective employers have? Yeah. I didn't know. Working Assets is campaigning against the provision (and for HR 551, which would require written parental consent to pass along contact information for students).


The Library of Congress is webcasting Václav Havel's speech on human rights today at 6:00 (I'm assuming eastern standard).

Monday, May 23, 2005

The problem with literature is language

Barnes and Noble's Sterling Publishing has finally solved the problem of how to extract the meaning in books without all of those pesky words getting in the way. Their new "classic starts" series (which, I'm sorry, sounds way too much like a frozen foods brand to me) presents classic children's books the way we want them: for dummies. After School Snack has the WSJ extract that explains the books "appeal to both those who struggle to read and to avid younger students whose reading skills aren't quite strong enough to let them master The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in its original. The books, which have been retold using simpler words, have been surprisingly hot sellers..." After poking around on Sterling's site, I also discovered the Young Readers Shakespeare Series which similarly vivisects the Bard "skillfully blending Shakespeare's own lines with simple, modern language."

The WSJ story quotes a visiting scholar at Harvard's School of Ed, who explains, "kids spend so much time trying to decipher the words that the meaning of the story eludes them."

WTF??? Can you hear the sound of my head exploding? I am trying to understand this distinction between words and meaning. Telling a story is not like juicing an orange. Let's just get rid of all of that pesky pulp and rind and get right to the meaning. To make matters worse, the Classic Starts titles are all children's books to begin with. We're not talking here about simplifying Gravity's Rainbow. No, this is a list with tough-to-tackle titles such as The Secret Garden and Little Women.

I'm not trying to be a total jerk here. I understand the draw of stories for their own sake. Shit, if I watch the first fifteen minutes of a Lifetime movie, I am incapable of leaving the television until the damn thing is done. I am a slave to narrative. But there are plenty of good stories that are already told in tiny sentences with one- and two-syllable words to publish. Why go marauding the classics?

Sterling's tag line: "The stories are abridged; the quality is complete. Classic Starts treats the world's beloved tales (and children) with the respect they deserve--all at an incomparable price." With respect like that, who needs abuse?

How many isolated incidents make a pattern?

I can't even bring myself to quote from Friday's New York Times story about the torture of prisoners in Bagram, Afghanistan. By now, many of you have probably already read it, but what can I say, I'm behind on life so I'm posting about it now.

The story focuses on the deaths of two prisoners who were beaten, hung by chains from the ceiling, and otherwise brutally abused. One seems to have been detained merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time--he drove by a military base that had been the target of an attack that day.

It's deeply depressing. And of course, it underscores the madness of the administration's complaints against Newsweek. The past couple of weeks in the news has felt, in this way, to me like some sick amalgam of 1984 and Lord of the Flies where we get both the savagery of naked imperialism and the totalitarian news organ to explain our world to us. If I were a Christian, I would title this post "my god, why hast thou forsaken me"; as it is, I can only try to cherish the part of me that is continually appalled and sickened by America's actions in the name of freedom and liberty. May I never become inured to our grotesque hypocrisy.

Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever. . . . The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again. Everything that you have undergone since you have been in our hands -- all that will continue, and worse. The espionage, the betrayals, the arrests, the tortures, the executions, the disappearances will never cease. It will be a world of terror as much as a world of triumph. . . . Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy, screaming with pain, broken up, contemptible -- and in the end utterly penitent, saved from himself, crawling to our feet of his own accord. That is the world that we are preparing, Winston. A world of victory after victory, triumph after triumph after triumph: an endless pressing, pressing, pressing upon the nerve of power. You are beginning, I can see, to realize what that world will be like. But in the end you will do more than understand it. You will accept it, welcome it, become part of it.'

Oh how the mighty have fallen

Today we discovered we are now officially middle aged. We cannot deny it any longer. How can we be sure? Because The Flaming Lips are headlining at Xingolati: Groove Cruise of the Pacific.

Picture a "what if Carnival Cruises sponsored burning man" event that seemingly distills the worst of all possible worlds (floating man?).

For instance, this is from the FAQ:
The navy has a ritual for new sailors when they cross the equator. Are you doing any kind of ritual? I see there is a trident in the Xingolati logo. Is that the trident of Neptune?

There is depth to the name Xingolati. We didn't just create a word to be different. It's a puzzle. Ritual is an important element of any event. This cruise is about the path to getting there. . .crossing the line. . .taking it to the next level. Any kind of spiritual growth requires a rite of passage. There are many artists on board that will take us through this journey. The Mutaytor will help us make the transformation that occurs during the voyage. Neptune is the God of the Sea; we certainly want to respect the gods. There will be expressions that come from people inspired by the atmosphere, the music, and the interaction with others. It's like a seminar or a retreat. You will have to take some time to process the experience and decide how to apply it to your life. It's about accepting the broader realm of possibilities.
Um yeah. Okay. I'm thinking some serious drug use played a part in conceptualizing Xingolati (and the depth of the name eludes this blogger--it sounds to me like something a Mexican coffee lover would name his dog).

But just because you're ritualizing your spiritual transformation doesn't mean you should ignore the meat container. Because god knows, what's nirvana without maribou. The "What to Bring" section tells us:
Xingolati is a fashion fabulous event, so bring your best threads. Exaggerate your character and bring out those beautiful items you keep for special occasions. This is participatory theatre, look your best!

Evening gowns
Super heros welcome
Fake furs
Gaudi jewelry (hmm...necklaces with colorful tilework?)
Questionable hair styles
Rings & jewels
Fake mustaches
I'm going to perform an intervention here and tell any prospective groove cruisers that, no, you should not bring your fake mustaches. There is a really useful distinction to be made between "fashion fabulous" and "you look like a horse's ass." If you're not clear on where that line falls, consult with a friend before packing. Please.

Pictures from this weekend

We went to Hollywood Forever for a screening again this weekend--this time to see The Bad and the Beautiful. I admit I'd not seen it before, and while Lana Turner is certainly beautiful, I was hoping she would be a bit more bad. Ah well. This time we had our photo op with Johnny's statue.

Friday, May 20, 2005

We'll always have Paris

Rick Santorum today on the Democrat's opposition to the "nuclear option"--their desire to retain the right to filibuster:
The rule has been in place for 214 years that this is the way we confirm judges. Broken by the other side two years ago, and the audacity of some members to stand up and say, "How dare you break this rule," it's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942: "I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine."
Let me make sure I get this--opposition to tyranny is fascism? What I want to know is when do they take the last remaining voices of resistance into room 101 and let rats run across their faces? I love big brother.

Crooks and Liars has the video clip. And Ward Sutton is good on the subject this week as well.

Happy birthday to the blog

It's a year old today. I mean, for whatever that's worth.

So why don't I feel safer?

In the category of "things I really wish hadn't happened in the same week" fall these two stories.

First, the House passed (424 to 4) a bill (HR 1817) that appropriates more than 34 billion dollars for the Department of Homeland Security (because who needs Social Security when you have Homeland Security, right?). If anyone has the stomach to read the 105-page monstrosity and explain to me more specifically which of my freedoms are now even further limited, feel free. Despite my policy wonk tendencies, I just can't bring myself to do it right now.

The second thing that happened this week is that the FBI explained to the Senate that the single biggest domestic terrorist threat comes from animal liberation and environmental activists:
"There is nothing else going on in this country over the last several years that is racking up the high number of violent crimes and terrorist actions," Lewis said.

. . .

Lewis said the FBI concluded that after analyzing all types of cases and comparing the groups with "right-wing extremists, KKK, anti-abortion groups and the like." . . .

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the panel's chairman, said he hoped to examine more closely how the groups might be getting assistance in fundraising and communications from tax-exempt organizations' "mainstream activists" not directly blamed for the violence.

"Just like al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization, ELF and ALF cannot accomplish their goals without money, membership and the media," Inhofe said.

The FBI said 35 of its offices have 150 open investigations, with activists claiming credit for 1,200 crimes between 1990 and mid-2004.
Truly, I wish I were making this up--it's like a parody of right wing extremism--but sadly, I am not. Though I was thinking about it--this parodic nature of current events, and I thought about the history here--the Salem witch hunts . . . HUAC . . . and now "terrorism." Marx was right, the third time is farce.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

This week on the 101

And people don't understand why I take surface streets

More on Wal-mart and hell

Let me say I would rather remain unattached the rest of my days on earth than meet a mate at Wal-mart singles night. A craze that started in Germany, Wal-mart singles night is spreading like a cancer throughout the world:
Romantically unattached customers who swing by between 6 and 8 P.M. are given a red bow for their cart (it indicates you're single and there to mingle); some locations even offer up a glass of champagne-or a rose to present to that eye-catching "item" you just gotta have. "Flirt points"-stations where you can taste romance-themed products like chocolates and wines-throughout the store make striking up a conversation with that cutie in the housewares section even easier.
(As I type this, my friend Becky is telling me "I want to go to that almost as much as I want to go to Hellhouse." We both agree the draw is similar in nature.)

"I wasn't talking about 'normal'; what I was talking about is 'natural'"

This from Horsley's latest incredible interview on the Alan Colmes show to explain his earlier confession that he spent his youth fucking mules. And this distinction--between what is "normal" and what is "natural"--I think pretty well captures so much of what is wrong with a certain strain of fundamentalist Christian ideology.

Here's a typical admission from Horsley: "I had sex with anything that moved. If we had a warm watermelon out in the field, I might give it a name." (Note to Horsley: watermelons are stationary.)

The logic goes like this: Because Eve ate the apple, Horsley was born in sin. Being born in sin, we all (well, men anyway) have a natural desire to have sex with anything that moves (as well as warm watermelons, apparently). And so, were it not for the beneficent intervention of our lord Jesus, we'd all be out humping mules.


Yes, everyone is blogging about the interviews, and usually I don't just pile onto the fray, but having just listened to the interviews, I was compelled to provide the link. You can find them all on his wacko site.

The better part of valor

So yesterday a friend came by work to do some business and say hello. After she left, the receptionist says to me, "So she's not pregnant, huh?"

"Ah, no," I say, trying hard not to imagine the conversation that led to this conclusion.

"Well, she shouldn't wear that dress then," receptionist woman says.

Moyers on CPB the Ministry of Truth

Yelladog points us to this week's NYT story on CPB's attempts to moderate the "liberal bias" temper the left wing opinion force NPR to bend over and take W's agenda with a smile.

If you haven't read/heard Bill Moyers' speech to the National Conference for Media Reform, it's worth the click. As he indicates, Moyers has the dubious distinction of being monitored by CPB's Tomlinson (who paid $10G for said "monitoring"--jeez, I'd even watch O'Reilly for that).

Moyers, who is of course, retired now, is threatening to return to active duty:
I should put my detractors on notice: They might just compel me out of the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair.

Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle-class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq's oil. I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy.

That's who I mean. And if that's editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s OK to state the conclusion you're led to by the evidence.

A nod to what everyone else is talking about

I hereby acknowledge that I am the only sentient being in my country who does not care about the latest episode in the Star Wars opus. I just don't. It's like a belief in god--I've tried; I really have; I just can't muster the enthusiasm. Perhaps one day I will open some previously locked door in my psyche and find a taste for blockbuster movies alongside faith in a creator (as well as a desire to watch reality TV and a yearning for a new car though my old one works just fine). In the meantime, I share with anyone else who is a non-fan, the Village Voice review of Sith:
In debt to lurid sci-fi-novel cover art, Revenge of the Sith achieves the ultimate in what could be called Baroque Nerdism, a frame-filling aesthetic of graphic overdesign that began with The Phantom Menace and has now been jacked up to an absurd degree. Half the film takes place at dawn or dusk, so that the Marin County team can geek out on artificial roseate glow—a sugary luminence used so frequently one wonders if they developed a Maxfield Parrish plug-in to get the job done.
Hee hee. Baroque Nerdism. I love it. Anyway, the review is pretty funny and damn well written (even if they did misspell "luminance").

We're all going to hell

This depresses me so much I cannot even speak...

Looking on the bright side

Thinking this morning about yesterday's post and Galloway's use of the word "traduced" in his fervent speech before the Senate, it occurred to me that, say what I want about this administration, it hasn't been all bad. Just think of all of the words that one so rarely gets occasion to use that have been put back into frequent circulation. Venality, obfuscation, perfidy, and rapaciousness are just a few that come to mind. What's more, I've had increased motivation to brush up on history and literary classics. My heart is filled with gratitude.

My Mister Rogers' calendar today tells me that the word "caring" comes from the Gothic word kara, which means "to lament." Mr. Rogers says, "Caring is a matter of being there. . .lamenting right along with the one who laments." So, my regular readers, if no one's told you they care about you today, let me be the first.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What was that McClellan phrase?

Oh, that's right "a certain journalistic standard that should be met."

Apparently Newsweek is the only institution in the country expected to meet any kind of standards. God knows the Senate gets a pass. This from Galloway's defense of himself before HUAC HSGAC today:
Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are--let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war. . .
I think I'm going to start using that phrase--"let's be charitable and say..." As in "let's be charitable and say our country is run by a bunch of bloodthirsty criminals with absolutely no sense of accountability, ethics, or conscience.

(And as an aside, I would give my eye teeth for a president that could use the word "traduced" in a sentence.)

Scylla and Charybdis

My coworker said to me just now, "There's a thin line between deep depression and the feeling that life just didn't happen."

To get the full impact, you have to imagine the line delivered with a Russian accent.


I must recommend cyranet cards. What they lack in aesthetic beauty, they more than make for in text. Choose from messages like

Congratulations on selling out. They say you can actually see the moment when the soul leaves the body.

It's not a
commitment thing, I just like to be able to pick up and emigrate whenever I please.

Thinking of you. Not all the time, but you're in the rotation.

Your ability to find a Simpsons quote for every situation is very endearing. Someday, you might find the same enthusiasm for something I want to talk about.

I really love this site.

The coolest thing I've seen in a long time

Did you know that you can turn your own photos into legal postage stamps? Well, you can. The Fixer says he's going to have his wife take a picture of his ass and use it to pay all of his bills. Myself, I need to mull the possibilities. I'm thinking I may have to start complaining to my representatives via post rather than email. Perhaps a Munch-inspired interpretation of the Scream...

You've got to admire...

...the ability to pun in the face of everything.

You know some NYPost writer is pretty pleased with him/herself today.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Some things they shouldn't need words for

Another fine item from ResourceShelf: The New Oxford American Dictionary's list of newly added words. I know it is an indicator of my excessive geekiness but I do love things like this. In my very quick scan of these newly added lovelies, I was surprised to find that "vaginoplasty" has nineteenth-century origins. Who knew? I myself had never heard of such a thing before I moved to Los Angeles, the would-you-like-fries-with your-apocalypse? capital of the world. (The LA Weekly being replete with plastic surgery ads, including a host of possible places to get your next vaginoplasty. Ew)

Other fabulous additions:
af·flu·en·za • n. a psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy young people, symptoms of which include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation.
ORIGIN: 1970s: blend of affluent and influenza.

ge·net·ic pol·lu·tion • n. the spread of altered genes from genetically engineered organisms to other, nonengineered organisms, especially by cross-pollination.

per·ma·temp • another term for permalancer.
ORIGIN: a blend of permanent and temporary.

sec·ond·hand speech • n. conversation on a cellular phone that is overheard by people nearby: I was alternately amused and annoyed by the secondhand speech in the waiting room.

start·er mar·riage • n. a short-lived first marriage between young people that produces no offspring.

sym·pa·thet·ic smok·er • n. a person who smokes only in the company of another smoker
And so on.

We don't need no stinking textbooks!

Forgive me, but does it not figure that Texas is home to the cutting edge decision to eliminate books from the undergraduate library (at U Texas Austin). Have I mentioned how grateful I am that I no longer teach? (Thanks to ResourceShelf for the link.)

Self-government for dummies

Recently a friend of mine was complaining about the "For Dummies" books. "I don't get it," he said, "Why are they so popular. Why can't they come out with a 'for regular people' series or something." I'm sure you can guess my reply--that in fact, the dummies series was for regular people, the problem being, not the book series but the population at large.

Now it seems Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt has published his tacit agreement. Boldtype's review of Frankfurt's On Bullshit includes this:
According to Frankfurt, bullshit is more potentially treacherous than its closest relative, the lie. While the lie necessarily gives a nod to the truth in the very act of denying it, bullshit doesn't bother with the truth at all. It's beside the bullshitter's point whether her statements are true or false. It is this "indifference to how things really are" that defines bullshit, making its prevalence in popular and political arenas so very frightening.

At the top of Frankfurt's bullshit list is American-style democracy. In a system that proclaims it is the duty of every citizen to vote, uninformed constituents resort to haphazard, eeny-meeny-miney-mo decisions--in other words, they bullshit their way through. And the politicians they elect, in turn, appear on television spewing political quackery and vague platitudes, feeding the entire nation with heaps of baloney.
The "book," which is little more than a glorified pamphlet is selling something like 50 copies a day and has been reprinted 10 times in a few months. The Guardian has this from Frankfurt:
"I was surprised when they said they wanted to publish it as a book because I didn't think there was enough there for a book. But my editor said: "You can do a lot with page sizes and margins."
The irony just kills me.

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." James Bovard

Hard work

From Cindy Sheehan's November 4 letter to the president:
George, let me tell you what "hard work" really is.

Hard work is seeing your oldest son, your brave and honorable man-child go off to a war that had, and still has, no basis in reality. Hard work is worrying yourself gray and not being able to sleep for 2 weeks because you don’t know if your child is safe.

Hard work is seeing your son’s murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you’re enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again.

Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son…your first born…your kind and gentle sweet baby.

Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big “baba” into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both.

But, Dear George, do you know what the hardest work of all is? Trying to digest the fact that the leader of the country that your family has fought for and died for, for generations, lied to you and betrayed your dear boy’s sense of honor and exploited his courage and exploited his loyalty to his buddies. Hard work is having your country abandon you after they killed your son. Hard work is coming to the realization that your son had his future robbed from him and that you have had your son's future and future grand-children stolen from you. Hard work is knowing that there are so many people in this world that have prospered handsomely from your son's death.
I don't know how he sleeps at night. I really don't.

Thanks to the Alternate Brain for the post.

Saturday night

Rook asks:
Black coffee, The Beatles and Blogging. Could there be a better way to spend Saturday evening? If there is, do not tell me, I am enjoying this moment and do not want it spoiled
Since it's now Monday, I don't feel like I'm spoiling anything by saying...yeah.

I spent Saturday night watching Treasure of the Sierra Madre at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which screens classic films summer Saturday nights against the side of the mausoleum. Picnic dinner of humus, fresh pita, sugar snap peas, strawberries, Danish feta, and homemade chocolate chip cookies followed by this.

You know, the worst ain't so bad when it finally happens. Not half as bad as you figure it will be before it's happened.

And happy birthday, Rook.

Could it be gloomier today?

I don't think so.

It feels like quadruple Monday. I am grateful I work in a lowrise building with windows that don't open--that's the kind of day it feels like.

And can we talk for just a minute about the Ministry of Truth's complaints against Newsweek? For those of you who have been on a news blackout, Newsweek has apologized for errors in a story about Guantanamo Bay, a story which included the now-disputed allegation that Gitmo torture staff flushed a Koran down the toilet. Now the Pentagon and White House are demanding a retraction of the entire story:
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the original story was "demonstrably false" and "irresponsible," and "had significant consequences that reverberated throughout Muslim communities around the world."

"Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which by their own admission do not withstand scrutiny," Whitman said. "Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations."
Um....hello!!!! HELLO OUT THERE?! Information from anonymous sources that doesn't withstand scrutiny? Resulting carnage? Massive disruption of Muslim communities? Is this ringing a bell for anyone?

This is like Gaslight on a national scale. I really sometimes think I'm going insane when I listen to NPR.

Update: See Corrente for the eight zillion other press citings of the unconfirmed facts in the Newsweek story. For fuck's sake, the whole thing is so disgusting words cannot even form an effective commentary. Damaging our reputation abroad and harming our efforts to improve our image indeed. The mind fucking boggles; it really does.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Quote of the week

After School Snack has been rocking lately. First there was the post about Russ Meyer movies that could make government budget processes more exciting, then this weekend we have Chris's rant:
One troglodytic Mtkan gets two choice quotes. First, he asks, "Our education system is the envy of the world... Why would we want to subordinate that to some organization connected with the United Nations?" One might ask who exactly envies our high schools, which consistently rank outside the upper tier of industrialized nations, but never mind - the real issue emerges with his statement that "my fear is that my kids are going to be taught America isn't better than any other country in the world."

Oh. My. God. I feel like cutting my frontal lobe out and spelling "cui bono" in brain splatter. Better how? Better for whom? Better at what? Perish those questions.
I'm sure it's not a sign of anything good inside me that the idea of verbalizing my disgust with frontal lobe brain splatter seems really appealing.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Moral values

Okay, let me make sure I'm getting this. It seems that Hager sodomized his narcoleptic wife repeatedly over a period of years. Bolton forced his wife to get gang banged. And Tom DeLay says the Democrats have "no class."

Um okay.

Go read Shakespeare's Sister, from whom all of the above information comes. She's on a roll.

Me, I'm crawling back under my rock.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Never mind "cross-cultural +panties +knickers"

My new favorite search term via which someone found NMTE is "sacco and vanzetti's pet dog," which Andrea and I both agree sounds like a forthcoming Michael Chabon novel. Andrea, by the way, has determined that Sacco and Vanzetti need to be the names of her next pair of cats, which is as good as Becky's cats' names, Terence and Phillip, if in a different way.

And then I am wondering if there's some relationship between Schroedinger's cat and Sacco and Vanzetti's pet dog.

Why it is risky to be friends with photographers

WaPo tells the tale of Diane Arbus' subjects lo these many years later:
"We thought it was the worst likeness of the twins we'd ever seen," whispers Bob Wade, the girls' father. He and his daughters are visiting the Met exhibit one recent afternoon and at the moment are standing a few feet from "Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967," the image that is clearly the star of this show. It's featured on the publicity photo and there's a bench nearby so visitors can sit and stare.

"I mean it resembles them," Wade continues. "But we've always been baffled that she made them look ghostly. None of the other pictures we have of them looks anything like this."
Link courtesy of Chris, who has immortalized my own 21-year-old self.

Quote of the day

Via Bitch. Ph.D. comes this gem from the president of CNN, Jonathan Klein.

Brooke Gladstone's interview with Klein focuses on the question of the "runaway bride" story and what happened to CNN's promise of more rigorous journalism after Klein assumed the role of president.

Klein: If you were listening to me, Brooke, you would have heard me say that on some days, that story that we decide to focus on will be the runaway bride. On other days, the story will be the spread of democracy in Lebanon.
Well, that clarifies things a lot for me, Jon. More rigorous journalism--sometimes. And I love his attempted smear: "Who are you to argue with 'the people...'"


Things that make your whole morning better

Was greeted this morning by an unexpected gift from a friend propped on my keyboard: a copy of William Hazlitt's On the Pleasure of Hating:

The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others. What have the different sects, creeds, doctrines in religion been but so many pretexts set up for men to wrangle, to quarrel, to tear one another in pieces about, like a target as a mark to shoot at? Does any one suppose that the love of country in an Englishman implies any friendly feeling or disposition to serve another, bearing the same name? No, it means only hatred to the French, or the inhabitants of any other country that we happen to be at war with for the time.

And so, I really think it will be a good day today.

Getting things under control

From the latest issue of ACLU online. You can read more about their appearance before the House Intelligence Committee here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Playing with your food

So today I had planned to post about all sorts of things, including but not limited to the extraordinarily disturbing Force Ministries that Yelladog called my attention to, the fact that the Santa Anas make me feel like total kaka, and Working Families information about CAFTA. But here it is 5:00 and I am leaving to go to the Farmers Market with nary a word on any of the above. It's been a busy day.

Never mind free trade agreements and the fact that people think the word of god is best delivered from the barrel of a gun, what I do want to take a moment and say is that I find the avant-garde foodie movement really silly. I posted a few months ago about how silly I find inkjet maki, but apparently that's only the tip of the absurd food iceberg. Today's NYT has the story on a host of restaurants that are "deconstructing" food, turning bacon into sculpture, deep frying mayonnaise, and liquefying olives:

Mr. Bowles has been known to serve crushed Altoids instead of mint jelly with lamb and to present diners with lollipops of foie gras encrusted with Pop Rocks. His cooking typifies another facet of this cuisine: the way it recruits junk food into the service of fancier dishes or creates highbrow versions of lowbrow classics.

"Why not go to the store and get the curiously strong mint?" Mr. Bowles said in a telephone interview, going on to reject "that horribly boring quote, 'I love to use farm-fresh products and local ingredients and European technique.'"

On the opening night of Alinea, the name of which refers to a symbol for a fresh train of thought, the first course was a visually nifty riff on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: a peeled, heated grape, still on a sprig, that had been dipped in a peanut purée and encased in a thin layer of brioche.

. . .

There was some harmless fun at Moto, where a dish called McSweetbreads presented three pieces of sweetbreads impaled on plastic pipettes that squirted versions of dipping sauces for Chicken McNuggets.
It's wrong, people; it's really just wrong. If you're going to obsess over food, please do so properly. This is like saying you're obsessed with sex but preferring an anatomy textbook to the Kama Sutra.

There is no excuse to ever eat something called "McSweetbreads." Ever.

Almost makes up for some of the other stuff

Someone found my blog by searching for "cross-cultural+panties+knickers," which almost makes up for some of the truly disgusting searches for which I seem to rank high in the returns. Note to pedophiles: if you found my blog by searching for anything related to 11-year-old virgins, do yourself a favor, log off the Internet, call your healthcare provider and find out how you can get some help for yourself.

Redistribution of wealth

I am often asked, by my less politically minded acquaintances, what I mean when I say "I'm a leftist; not a liberal." One of my oversimplified, in-a-nutshell explanations is that I am in favor of an income ceiling and a complete redistribution of wealth.

Krugman's Monday column makes it clear that Bush, too, is in favor of redistributing wealth:

Let's consider the Bush tax cuts and the Bush benefit cuts as a package. Who gains? Who loses?

Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.
I think I'm going to have to work on nuancing my explanations a bit.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

From the mouths' of pastors

The Smoking Gun has posted a selection of the 1000 letters sent to Duluth, GA administrators concerning the runaway bride case: What to do? Charge her? Forgive her? Fine her? Most of them are the sort of fare you would expect.

But, to my own surprise, Pastor Mick Murphy captures some of my thoughts pretty well:

As a pastor with almost 30 years of experience, I want to suggest something: I'm surprised this woman didn't run away earlier. From what I understand, six hundred people were going to be packed into a church to see a small circus. Over ten bridesmaids were going to troop up and down and this after, what was it? eight showers in one week. Not to mention flowers, DJ's, video people, cheap-skate uncles and aunts in bad hats dripping with fake Dogwood blossoms.

. . .

Look, welcome her home, wish her well, and get over it. Read the paper, Bubbas. We have people trying to kill us. Your neighboring state of Florida has declared hunting season on women and children. From what I understand of Georgia, your racial tension still simmers beneath the surface. The nation's economy is in the toilet and an idiot is in the White House writing jokes for his wife, a woman whose distant relative slammed into the Titanic and sank it. You people have better things to do with your time than get even with a girl who, in the long run, might have done us all a favor by making us see what an idiotic past time a formal wedding really is. The vows, the preacher, the license are all important. The rest is just marshmallow fluff. Which goes great on sweet tater's but that's about it.
Okay, I'm not really down with the preacher and license being all that important, but I'm on board for the marshmallow fluff.

The email forward we'd like to get

Thanks to S for the heads-up on this week's New Yorker column listing fun hoaxes:

Go to a frozen-yogurt shop, order a medium cup of vanilla, and then punch your index finger through the bottom of the cup so there appears to be a human finger in the yogurt. After demanding to see the manager, threaten to sue the yogurt chain for ten million dollars, making sure to tell him that you know Larry King. Note: Keep your finger very still during all of this, because if it wiggles even slightly this hoax has no chance whatsoever.

Order a bowl of chili at a fast-food restaurant. When the chili arrives, angrily complain that there is no human finger in the chili, despite the fact that you specifically ordered one. In the ensuing argument with the manager, shout the words "chili" and "human finger" for all in the store to hear. You will probably not get ten million dollars this time, but if you play your cards right the manager may pay you a little something just to get you to leave.

. . .

Convince the leaders of the world’s only superpower that a Middle Eastern nation is loaded to the gills with weapons of mass destruction. Tell them that some broken-down old vans there are "mobile weapons labs," and persuade them to spend billions of dollars on an invasion and an occupation. After they scour the country for the weapons and come up empty, shrug your shoulders sympathetically and take over the oil ministry.
Good stuff.

Today's news

So I was thinking about what a frivolous blogger I've become lately. I seem to be eschewing most political commentary in favor of insights that amount to "neat-o, huh?" Then, listening to the radio this morning, it occurred to me that it really could have been a rebroadcast of last week's news or last month's and I wouldn't be the wiser:

Car bombs kill lots of people in Iraq

Bush is still pushing to decimate Social Security despite the fact that most people think that's a horrible idea.

The Republicans are trying to change Congress' rules and accusing the Democrats of being partisan for objecting.

Religious fanatics are taking away my rights.

And so on. I think the lack of novelty is wearing on me. I'm running out of ways to say "I hate Bush and the radical right for trying to destroy so much of what I value in my country and government." I mean there are only so many synonyms for "fuck you."

Some things are just not a good idea

Here's a really bad idea, courtesy of WaPo's recent story about my last "hometown," Madison, WI:

On this day, blind people representing various organizations are spread in a circle at tables beneath the Capitol dome. I approach Ralph Barten of Ladysmith, Wis., who is representing the Wisconsin Coalition of Blind Hunters. Sure, people who are blind can hunt in Wisconsin, Barten tells me. In fact, he says, last year the state legalized the use of laser pointers on guns and bows for blind hunters.

What you do is take a sighted companion, who describes where the animal is, and you shoot it. With a laser, it's a lot easier for the sighted person to know when you've got your shot lined up right.

"Some companions just say, 'There's a deer to the right,'" says Barten. "But good companions can make it really exciting, with great descriptions of what's happening."
When I lived in Wisconsin, every year a smattering of people would die from shooting each other in the woods during hunting season and from driving their ATVs across thawing ice after last call. I'm not much of a social Darwinist, but I'm really thinking "natural selection."

Here's another great bit from the article:

The magazines and trade associations that rank cities for one thing or another constantly mention Madison, Wis. A visitors bureau handout lists 65 accolades from recent years, including "Best Places to Live in America" (Money magazine), "Best Walking Cities" (Prevention) and "Best College Sports Town" (Sports Illustrated).

According to America's list makers, Madison is also one of the friendliest, best-designed, healthiest, most literate, best-wired little cities in the country, with the best biking, canoeing and hotel rooms under $125.

It takes Michael Feldman, who hosts the public radio show "Whad'Ya Know?" from Madison's convention center, to put the boosterism into perspective.

"If you don't factor in the weather, Madison is number one for everything," says Feldman. "If you do consider weather, it's 159th."
Have I mentioned how much I love LA?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Geekier than thou

Okay, despite being at least as geeky as Yelladog and Norbizness, Yella tagged me for this one. (By way of explanation, Yelladog's post starts: "Norbizness does what the geeky guys like us who always get picked last for kickball do. We just say 'Fuck it, no one has to tap me for this quiz. I tap myself.'")

A. Top Five Lyrics that Move Your Heart:

1. Famous Blue Raincoat--Leonard Cohen
It's four in the morning, the end of december
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New york is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on clinton street all through the evening.

I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record.

2. Don't Go Back to Rockville--REM (A natural for anyone who grew up in Rockville)
At night I drink myself to sleep and pretend
I don’t care if you’re not here with me
'Cause it's so much easier to handle
All my problems if I'm too far out to sea

3. Fourth of July--X
On the lost side of town
in a dark apartment
we gave up trying so long ago

4. Just Like Anyone--Aimee Mann (the whole damn album has great lyrics really)
So maybe I wasn't
that good a friend
but you were one of us
and I will wonder
just like anyone
if there was something
else I could've done

So maybe it's true that
your cry for help
was oh, so very faint
but still I heard
and knew something was wrong
just nothing you could put your finger on
and I will wonder
just like anyone
just like anyone

5. Wish You Were Here--Pink Floyd
And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

B. Top 5 Instrumentals:

Oy, I can't even really answer this one. How lame is that. I like the Cocteau Twins and Killing Joke and some other bands that are more music than words (Felt, etc.). I love the soundtrack to Betty Blue. But you know, for the most part I'm a rock and roll kind of gal. And a word person.

C. Top 5 Live Musical Experiences:

1. The show that most changed my life was my first real punk show in a club: the Dead Kennedies and Half Japanese at the 9:30 club in Washington, DC, December 1980 (or thereabouts). That was when I realized "hey, I'm not depressed--I'm angry!" Within a month I had a skinhead girl hairdo and was wearing private schoolgirl kilts, combat boots, and homemade band tees all the time.

2. Sharing a joint with Ranking Roger at the English Beat show at the Ontario (1981? 82? somewhere in there).

3. Seeing Iggy Pop at Hammerjacks in Baltimore (a club immortalized in John Waters' Serial Mom where L7 played as the fictitious band Camel Lips). Hammerjacks is a total Baltimore heavy metal club and the women's room at the Iggy show was astonishing to me--a sort of anthropological experience. More aquanet (and vinyl hipboots) than you can imagine. If you'd lit a cigarette in there, the whole place would have gone up in flames.

4. Hunters and Collectors at the 9:30 club. I don't remember when this was--maybe 1984. They were a huge band playing in a club with a tiny stage--horns, more than one percussionist and a found object "drum" set that included an automobile exhaust system.

5. Okay, I know this is the one that's going to make all of the hipsters stop talking to me. But I admit seeing Hole, Veruca Salt, and Mazzy Star (sometime in the late 90s in Madison, WI) was one of the most notable shows I've been to. Watching Courtney Love punch a fan in the eye and then bring him on stage to apologize for grabbing her tit--what can I say--it was memorable. As a runner-up I offer the 1980 or 81 punk rock show at Arlington's Branding Iron Beef House (the bands I remember are Madhouse and No Trend, but there were others). This one was notable because they called the cops on us--I think because it was a straight edge show and they weren't making alcohol money. Multiple cop cars, a paddy wagon and a K9 car all came to break up a show that was only one step up from a party in someone's parents' house basement. Pretty funny.

D. Top Five Artists You Think More People Should Listen To:
Yes, I know--I am old. These are pretty much all defunct bands. What can I say? They are still worth listening to.

1. Scrawl. Three women from Ohio. I like 'em a lot. They just aren't well known.

2. Hunters and Collectors

3. Unrest

4. The Go-Betweens (who are the one band actually in existence on this list). What can I say--I love pop music. Anyway, I didn't realize they were touring until finding their link. Come to realize they're coming to the Troubadour next month. Fun.

5. X-Ray Spex. Okay, I know a lot of people do listen to them, but more people should. How can you not love little Polystyrene singing "Oh Bondage, Up Yours" with braces on her teeth.

E. Top Five Albums You Must Hear From Start to Finish:

1. Okay, I know this one will probably surprise some of you, but Quadrophenia is definitely one of the five.

2. Faith--The Cure (music to slit your wrists by, I know)

3. Closer--Joy Division

4. White Light/White Heat--Velvet Underground

5. The Fan and the Bellows--The Chameleons

F. Top Five Musical Heroes:

1. David Bowie. Anyone who can inspire my ardor/crush consistently over a 25-year period deserves hero status.

2. Lou Reed. I just love him, okay?

3. Iggy Pop. He wins my survivor award. That he could still have so much energy and be so buff after living the life he's lived is pretty incredible.

4. Ian MacKaye. What can I say--I'm from DC.

5. Exene. Because she's just so fucking cool.

I'm tagging Prof. B and Elise and Chris--that is unless they've already been tagged--an unfortunate possibility when you are the last kid to get picked for the softball team.

The scene tonight

In the checkout line at Follow Your Heart. The cashier says to the guy in front of me, "So do you get recognized often?" The guy in front of me says, "All the time." The cashier says, "Yeah, I was going to go up to you when you were in the store, but then I figured I'd just wait until you came up here."

Myself, I restrained the urge to say, "Who the fuck are you? I have no earthly idea."

I did ask the cashier after he left. Apparently he's some Fear Factor guy (his name already escapes me). I suspect I am turning into my dad, who had a studied ignorance about pop culture ("The Beatles...who are they" kind of thing). I was better at recognizing politicians when I was in DC than I am at recognizing stars in LA. I only ever know I've had a star sighting because someone else tells me so. On the other hand, when I ran into Russ Feingold in DC National Airport, I had to go up to him and tell him how much I admired him. Pretty funny.

Amityville Horror

Okay, I know that it's symptomatic of something really wrong with me that I am compelled to mention this rotten movie in two separate posts, but I forgot to note below the one semi-interesting thing about the movie. I didn't notice when the first version came out lo' those many years ago, what a critique of the American dream the movie is. It's pretty funny. They buy this house because it's a bargain and it's their dream house. Then they can't move because "everything we have is in this house." Mr. Family Man goes nuts and becomes increasingly psychotic and scary and whenever Mrs. Family Woman tries to talk to him he rolls his eyes around like a spooked horse and says things like, "This is the life we've dreamed of."

Me? I'm a renter, thank you very much.

Hot off the Internets

What do Mike Nichols, Walter Cronkite, John Cusack, Tina Brown, and David Mamet have in common? They all have posts on the new Huffington Post. Interesting...

Botero does Abu Ghraib

Art for a Change has the story of Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib series. The fifty paintings were inspired more by the written descriptions of the torture than the images. The exhibit opens in Rome, travels to Germany and then will come to the United States wherever someone is brave enough to host it.

(Thanks to Chris for the link)

And now for something completely different

It's raining today. I'm thinking that puts us less than an inch from breaking the all-time record. It feels very much like a rainy Monday here at work--the kind of day that makes you think: Is something retrograde or what?

I have a couple of posts coming down the chute today at last. In the meantime, let me confess that I went to see Amityville Horror last night (it seemed like a reasonable way to commemorate Mothers Day). In the theater was an entire family including small children and baby. Truly an amazing choice for a family film, I need to say. B and I marveled at why on earth you would want to take small children to a movie in which the entire dramatic action is motivated by a demonically possessed stepfather who wants to murder the children. Pretty incredible.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


My houseguest is gone and I have spent the day reading, eating strawberries with brown sugar, napping, and tidying my apartment. I don't know when I became a person who needs so much solitude--I grew up in a family. I had brothers and sisters. I shared a bedroom and liked it. I have lived with roommates and lovers, and yet, here I am--someone who needs so much quiet and who starts to feel like the oxygen has been sucked out of the room after too many days in a row with people.

I had a dream while I was napping that while I slept men moved into my apartment. I woke up and my things were all scrambled around the apartment, broken and shoved into heaps (oddly, there was a Christmas tree, askew in the corner weeping tinsel all over the floor). At first I thought there had been an earthquake, and I marveled that I could have slept through it. But then the men returned, hefting their own furniture. One of them started unpacking his clothes into a dresser drawer. "What are you doing here?" I asked him, "I live here."

"Oh no," he shook his head at me with a menacing smile, "They found out about you. They know about the research with the praying mantises."

I protested that I had never done research on any sort of insect--my degree is in the humanities--but they wouldn't listen. "Have you ever been engaged?" one of them asked. I told him that, in fact, I'd been married. "We might be able to work out a way for you to stay," he said.

This was the point when I left the apartment and subsequently woke up.

Yeah. Do I find it notable that female praying mantises are known for killing their mates by biting their heads off after sex? Sure I do. My subconscious has a wicked sense of humor, I'm thinking.

All of which is to say I feel like I won the lottery just to be able to sit quietly in my place and putter around with only Nic the cat for company. P, I and I are going dancing tonight and that should satisfy any need for human contact.

As an aside, I finally finished Middlesex, which I cannot recommend highly enough. It was so good. I have Saturday, the latest Ian McEwan, on deck, but I'm worried it will be a disappointment.

I'm also really excited that Jeanette Winterson has a new novel, (Lighthousekeeping). There are a couple of extracts on her site:
Chapter 1--Two Atlantics

My mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal part pirate.

I have no father. There's nothing unusual about that--even children who do have fathers are often surprised to see them. My own father came out of the sea and went back that way. He was crew on a fishing boat that harboured with us one night when the waves were crashing like dark glass.
His splintered hull shored him for long enough to drop anchor inside my mother.
Shoals of babies vied for life.
I won.

I lived in a house cut steep into the bank. The chairs had to be nailed to the floor, and we were never allowed to eat spaghetti. We ate food that stuck to the plate--Shepherd's Pie, Goulash, Risotto, scrambled egg. We tried peas once--what a disaster--and sometimes we still find them, dusty and green in the corners of the room.
Some people are raised on a hill, others in the valley. Most of us are brought up on the flat. I came at life at an angle, and that's how I've lived ever since.
And so on. I'm hoping maybe it's a return to the sort of novel The Passion is and away from some of her more recent books, which, slave to narrative that I am, I haven't enjoyed as much.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A new PR guy may be in order

Via Oliver Willis comes this graph that charts public approval of Bush's social security plan alongside his "where are the tee-shirts" US tour. Let's just hope he determines to take all of his bright ideas on the road.


Remember the oreo clip that dramatized the absurd nature of the US budget using oreo cookies to represent dollars? Well True Majority has a new one about our nuclear arsenal. Making the world safe for mankind is a tough job--it's expensive and it requires a lot of weapons.

Nick the cat

I have finally figured out what is wrong with Nick the cat. Once upon a time, when he was a wee kitten, he was sweet and sassy and well adjusted, but over the years he has become obese, asthmatic, and at once depressed and hostile. I had always chalked this up to his dysfunctional family dynamic. His parents are divorced, for some years things were pretty rocky and overly dramatic. I thought he needed Catanon. Andrea, on the other hand, says he's my familiar and he manifests all of the emotions/stresses I don't let myself express. So when I moved to LA I had a seamless transition, while Nick had to be put on tranquilizers.

This week I have had a houseguest, which anyone who knows me understands is challenging for me. I have only had to apologize for being a bitch once. Nick, on the other hand, has attacked said guest twice and drawn blood. This would lend credence to the "Nick as familiar" theory.

But, thanks to the link C sent me this morning, I can say with some confidence that Andrea and I were both wrong. It seems clear that Nick is possessed.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

It's official

After three and half years, I think I am now officially a Los Angeleno. For the first time since I've lived here, I found myself happy that it was cloudy and rainy today. The thing about the upper midwest, where I was living before I moved to LA, is that it's the seasonal affective disorder capital of the United States. I thought I'd had a lifetime's supply of overcast days. Of course, it's not often rainy at sunny at the same time in Wisconsin, as it has been here today. In any case, I'm hoping the rain will clear some of the smog out of the sky.

My sister had a British friend who lived here for years. When she moved back to DC, she explained that she just couldn't take it anymore. She woke up one morning and thought to herself, "Not another goddamned beautiful day."

In other California news, the Senate is moving to ban online hunting. I confess I didn't even know there was such a pastime. I find it bizarre in the extreme that once a person tires of downloading porn and playing poker, you can kill things from your desk. From the bill:
For the purposes of this section, "computer-assisted remote hunting" means the use of a computer or any other device, equipment, software, or technology, to remotely control the aiming and discharge of any weapon, including, but not limited to, any firearm, bow and arrow, spear, slingshot, harpoon, or any other projectile device, to hunt any bird or mammal.
Strange times indeed.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Headline of the day

First Lady's Comedy Skill Well-Kept Secret



I know it is terribly hypocritical of me to be blogging this after complaining below about the dearth of "real" news in Yahoo's "popular stories" category, but I feel compelled to comment that finding a severed finger in a freshly purchased pint of ice cream is really, really gross:
Clarence Stowers said he bought a pint of frozen custard at the Kohl's Frozen Custard shop on Sunday and opened it at home. He saw an object in the custard and put it in his mouth, thinking it was a piece of candy, a Wilmington television station reported Monday.

"I thought it was candy because they put candy in your ice cream ... to make it a treat," Stowers told WWAY. Stowers said he spit the object out, but still couldn't identify it. He went to his kitchen, rinsed it off with water--and "just started screaming."
I really hate that--when what you think is candy turns out to be a severed body part.

Presents for mom

I love this one

Monday, May 02, 2005

...Someone waits for me...

US News has a story this week on low income college students (thank you Susan for the link)--a "rare and invisible minority" they call them, which I think speaks volumes in and of itself. The article ends with two tables--one on Pell Grants per college and one on universities that are replacing loans with grants. The section title? "Where the Poor Are."


Univ. of Calif.-Los Angeles 35.1
Univ. of Calif.-Berkeley 32.4
Amherst College (MA) 15.8
Columbia Univ.(NY) 14.9
Univ. of N.C.-Chapel Hill 13.2
Univ. of Mich.-Ann Arbor 12.5
Yale University (CT) 10.1
Williams College (MA) 9.4
Princeton University (NJ) 7.4
Harvard University (MA) 6.8

Source: Century Foundation, figures from the 2001-2002 academic year

These schools have replaced loans with grants in their neediest students' financial aid packages. Princeton has done so for all students receiving aid.

Dartmouth College
Harvard University
Princeton University
Rice University
University of Maryland-College Park
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
University of Virginia
Yale University

More on the wild pigs

In mid-April, I wrote a post about the wild pig hunt on Santa Cruz Island and what a potent metaphor it is for those fatal missteps that start a chain reaction of destruction. Well, the pig hunt continues and AP has the continuing story. They expect it will take two years (using marksmen, trained dogs, infrared sensing devices and GPS systems) to kill off the island's wild pig population. To refresh your memory, the pigs are being killed in the name of the fox population. The fox population is threatened because they are preyed upon by the golden eagles. The golden eagles were initially attracted by the feral pigs (which had once been regular old Wilbur-type pigs but had gotten loose and gone wild). The golden eagles would have been the natural prey of the bald eagles, but the bald eagle population was eradicated by DDT.

Got all that? Well, here's a little slice from today's story about the whole clusterfuck:
Federal and state law prohibits relocating the pigs, which may have pseudorabies and cholera, to the mainland. For the same reason, the carcasses of the dead pigs will be left on the island to rot. Sterilization and contraception aren't practical because the plan would fail if biologists miss only a few pigs--the fast-breeding pigs can rebound from a 70 percent population reduction in just one year, according to Galipeau.

"I'm trying to protect the natural system--not what humans handed us, but what nature handed us," he says. "Sometimes you have to do the same amount of disruption that damaged a place in order to restore it."

Critics have argued that, after so long on the island, the pigs belong as much as the foxes.

One group, the Channel Islands Animal Protection Association, was formed in the mid-1990s after the National Park Service poisoned nonnative rats that were damaging vegetation on nearby on Anacapa Island.

In the current case, the association believes the golden eagles were attracted not by pigs but by the rotting carcasses of feral sheep from an earlier eradication program in the 1980s. They believe the golden eagles discovered the 4-pound foxes--not the pigs--and stayed.
And here I am struck by three things. Of course, there is the continuing epic absurdity of humankind's outstanding ability to really mess things up. And then there's the whole prospect of contraception for wild pigs, which conjures a host of disturbing questions and images for me. And finally, there's the feral sheep phenomenon. I don't know why that makes me think of a Monty Python skit, but it really does. I can just see John Cleese in a kilt fleeing from a herd of wild sheep.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Changing genres

So I've been thinking I've been trapped in a bad indy movie lately--one of those ones with smart looking folks dressed well in relationships that are, by turns, exhilarating and agonizing, and in either instance, carried out in very clever dialogue.

Today, we changed genres. M, G, L and I went to Gladstones for lunch. Looking smart, sounding clever, and feeling exhilarated and agonized. We ate mountains of food that still too closely resembled the living sea creature donors (lobster heads and oysters and such) in a table overlooking the beach. On the beach, happened to be Riordan's birthday party. Which meant we were overlooking not only bright tables of elbow rubbers but also the entertainment which consisted of trapeze artists and aerialists in all sorts of costumes.

I have often asked lately: who's writing this script, and now I know: Greenaway and Fellini.

If I believed in god, I would really have to hand it to him. He's a pretty funny guy.