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Autographed copies of Adventures with the Mojave Phone Booth are now available!

01jan2006 to This Very Daggone Minute

Junk you may have missed and yet managed to live happily without:

29dec2006 — Appropriate year-ending phrase from an old Farmers Insurance radio ad playing as background in an exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum:

Death's Dread Scroll

24dec2006X-mess 2006

Christmas 1924
"Peace upon earth!" was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of Mass
We've got as far as poison gas.

—Thomas Hardy

21dec2006 — From Paul Krassner's One Hand Jerking:

At a midwestern college, one graduating student held up a FUCK COMMUNISM! poster as his class was posing for the yearbook photo. Campus officials found out and insisted that the word FUCK be air-brushed out. But then the poster would read COMMUNISM! So that was air-brushed out too, and the yearbook ended up publishing a class photo that showed this particular student holding up a blank poster. Very dada. (27)

When I originally started publishing, I was truly a lone voice, but now irreverance has become an industry. The Realist served its purpose, though—to communicate without compromise—and today other voices, in print, on cable TV and especially on the Internet, are following in that same tradition. (29)

Another New Yorker cartoonist who preferred to omit a byline presented a TV talk-show guest saying, "Frankly I didn't give a damn about it!" Then we see a family at home watching him say, "Frankly I didn't give a bleep about it!" Thought balloons show the mother thinking "Fuck?"; the father thinking "Piss?"; the grandmother thinking "Shit?"; and the little kid thinking "Crap?" That cartoon graced many kitchen refrigerators and office bulletin boards, especially at TV channels. (31)

On March 30, the new president was shot by John Hinckley in order to make a favorable impression on actress Jodie Foster. And if that seemed crazy, Hinckley later came out for gun control, and Reagan came out against it.
Although it took more than a decade after the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy for there to be a band called The Dead Kennedys, it took only a few months after the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan for there to be a group called Jodie Foster's Army.

"I guess what happens," Lenny [Bruce] mused, "if you get arrested in town A and then in town B, with a lot of publicity, then when you get to Town C they have to arrest you or what kind of shithouse town are they running? (117)

A documentary, Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1999, but as producer Robert Weide told me, prophetically, "If there's a documentary about the Holocaust, it will win."
"You dont' think you have any chance at all?"
"The odds against
my film winning are six million to one."
Lenny really would've appreciated that.

"It's really hard writing fiction," I said. "You have to make everything up."
"Oh, come on, Paul, you've been making up stuff your whole life."
"Yeah, but that was journalism."

That evening, I had dinner at a Hollywood restaurant with Steve Allen. CNN's entertainment reporter had made an appointment to meet Steve at the restaurant, and he interviewed him outside—twice—once for if Lucille Ball survived the operation, and once for if she didn't. Although I could understand the practicality of such foresight, I was somehow offended by it.
Sure enough, the next day, there was Steve Allen on CNN, standing outside the restaurant and saying, "We all hope Lucy will pull through. There have been many success stories in the history of television, and yet the affection that millions of Americans hold for Lucille Ball is unique." A week later she died, and sure enough, there was Steve Allen on CNN again, standing outside the restaurant and saying, "Lucy will be greatly missed. There have been many success stories. . . ." Then George Burns came on and said, "I had a lot of fun with Lucy," but I couldn't tell whether he had taped that before or after she was dead.

Two years ago, I wrote a piece for the AARP magazine, Modern Maturity. When my subscription copy arrived—the issue that my article was supposed to be in—it wasn't in there. I checked with an editor, who asked how old I was. I told her that I was 70, but I didn't understand what difference that made. She explained that there were three editions: one for readers 50 and over, one for readers 60 and over, and one for readers 70 and older. I was too old to read my own article. (317)

See also:

18dec2006Somewhere south of 404

16dec2006"It's a classy briefcase, 'cos yer classy and important, like a dude."

16dec2006 — 35 minutes down the drain yesterday on the phone with Belkin support. Yay, Belkin. But the guy fixed the problem, and near the end of the call, while waiting to see whether the fix was in, I asked where he was located. (I often ask this, partly because long ago I worked for an airline call center and I'm just curious, and also because often these days customer service representatives are prison inmates—not that they would reveal that.)
"We're not allowed to say," he told me, quickly adding that he was "not in India." For some reason I'd assumed he was in the U.S., but I told him I didn't think he had an Indian accent. "Oh, so now you're telling me I have a bad accent?" he said. When I said no, he wanted to know what sort of accent I thought he had. I told him he sounded Colombian. "Well . . . I am half-Colombian," he admitted. So I was half right. See how easy it would be to be a Vegas football handicapper?

14dec2006 — Genevieve in Paris writes:

Hello there,
I'm writing because I thought you might be interested to know that French conceptual artist Sophie Calle inaugurated an art phone booth in Paris today inspired by the desert phone booth. I'm sure you can read about it in the paper tomorrow. The sculpture around the phone booth was designed by Frank Gehry.

By Jove, Genevieve, you are correct. The following is from a Yahoo (France) article:

Au départ du tram, sur le pont du Garigliano (XVème), une cabine téléphonique-fleur en métal que Sophie Calle a conçue avec l'architecte et sculpteur Frank O. Gehry (auteur du musée Guggenheim à Bilbao).
Sophie Calle explique que l'idée lui est venue après avoir "lu quelque chose sur une cabine téléphonique abandonnée dans le désert qui continuait à fonctionner"."Mon idée était assez ténue, légère, et je me trouve devant une sculpture gigantesque, je trouve ça drôle", ajoute-t-elle devant la fleur géante peinte en rouge, rose et jaune, amarrée à la rambarde du pont.
L'artiste va "appeler régulièrement, cinq fois par semaine de manière aléatoire pendant trois ans. Peut-être à 04H00 du matin ou à des heures plus convenables", pour parler aux inconnus qui décrocheront le combiné.
[Yahoo (France) photo]

Re: an English translation of the foregoing, please enjoy the awkwardness of my collaboration with Babelfish:

At the beginning of the tram, on the Garigliano Bridge, is a metal telephone-booth-flower that Sophie Calle conceived with the architect and sculptor Frank O. Gehry (architect of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao).
Sophie Calle explains that the idea came to her after "having read something about an abandoned phone booth in the desert that continued to function. My idea was rather thin, light, and I am in front of a gigantic sculpture, I find that funny", she added, in front of the giant flower painted in red, pink and yellow, moored to the bridge rampart.
The artist "will call regularly, five times per week, randomly, over three years. Perhaps at 4 o' clock in the morning or more suitable hours ," to speak with strangers who will [answer the phone, I guess?).

In searching for info on Calle's phone booth project, I ran across David Byrne's recounting of a dinner with Sophie Calle:

Sophie Calle recently had a huge retrospective here, and became more of a Parisian celebrity than ever. She comes with a friend to the Bataclan show and we have dinner afterwards with a group of other friends. She dominates the table with her stories and tales of projects in progress. A lot of conversation revolves around the use of tu or vous - in various combinations - using vous with a first name is a sort of combo approach. Sophie says she just broke up with her last lover and they always used vous, the understanding being that they would use tu when they didn't love one another anymore. . . . Sophie mentioned an ongoing project, which I am sure will become one of her pieces - she hopes to "get to my future faster" so she is seeing a well-known clairvoyant and whatever the clairvoyant says will happen, Sophie makes it happen (barring murder and death, she said). It will take a number of years to realize, and one wonders if this very dinner was predicted as well.

Regarding Frank Gehry, need you know more than that he appeared on The Simpsons?

13dec2006 — Maria Thayer (Strangers With Candy): hilarious.


Let's understand each other. I sang the first hymn, when the stars were born. Not that long ago, I announced to a young woman—Mary—who it was she was expecting. On the other hand, I've turned rivers into blood. Kings into cripples. Cities to salt. So, I don't think that I have to explain myself to you. — Gabriel (Christopher Walken) in The Prophecy II

You may recognize that as basically the same and only answer Job ever got out of the Whirlwind.

11dec2006 — Poetdog: giant OceanGoing Oobi

(Visit oobiland)


In Japan, all conflicts and disagreements are masked by a blank wall of politeness. Even a total contradiction is begun with a, "Yes, I completely agree with you, but . . . " Here, as with the "synthetic ideal", the facade is all-important. Pretence is an essential condition of life. Fail to play the game and you'll be excluded from it. All foreigners are excluded anyway, but for a Japanese, it's a fate worse than death. The Japanese has a word for this: tatemae. It means the correct public posture, the way things ought to be. The opposite is honne: the private feeling or opinion which, most of the time, remains hidden or suppressed. The art of Japanese communication lies in being able to read the honne while all the time sticking to the rigid rules of tatemae. To the Westerner, this can be intensely irritating. You never know what anyone really thinks, whether anyone really agrees with you or not—a matter complicated somewhat by the fact that Japanese will invariably say "yes" when they mean "no" and will usually say "maybe" when they mean "yes". Meanwhile, they probably find Western bluntness and inability to pick up on the delicate subtleties of their haregei—"belly language—intensely irritating too. — Dave Rimmer, Like Punk Never Happened, pp. 123-4

A pop group makes its money in a number of different ways. There are royalties on record sales, publishing royalties, money from records being played on the radio, revenue from touring and merchandizing and so forth. The New Pop never came up with any new ways of making money. It simply tried to exert an increased vigilance to ensure the largest possible slice of each of those various cakes. That, when you get to the bottom line, is what "controlling your own destiny" is all about.
But of course, it goes deeper than that.
Take merchandizing. Handled correctly, this is a source of millions. Literally. On their last American tour, The Rolling Stones made five million dollars from T-shirt sales alone. One of the first things Jon Moss does after a Culture Club show is check out the T-shirt sales. A major act like Police actually plans tours according to the ins and outs of T-shirt deals.
"If you play a 13,000-seater hall in somewhere like Tallahassee, Florida," explains Police manager Miles Copeland, "they're so glad that you're using their facility that they won't charge any commission on T-shirt sales. But if you play Madison Square Garden the hall can take up to 50 per cent commission so you can end up losing money. It becomes more profitable to play to 13,000 people in Tallahassee than 35,000 people in New York City.
"We're not in the music business anymore. We're in the commodities business."


Hi, there. eBay here. Sorry you didn't win that impossibly expensive, one-of-a-kind Velvet Underground acetate. But here are some totally similar run-of-the-mill Velvet Underground items you can bid on instead.

Ah, nothing like automatica.


In Mexico "five o'clock" is another way of saying, "six-thirty." This works well if you know about it. Not everybody does, so parties get front-loaded with gringos.

My grandfather, who was an IRS auditor, often remarks that he should have gone into car sales, "because nobody likes to pay taxes, but everyone is happy when they are buying a car."

Nearly every one of Lincoln's major claims in the Gettysburg Address is not only false, but exactly the opposite of the truth. That is no doubt why his defenders, whose books always read like a defense brief in "The War Crimes Trial of Abraham Lincoln," are still trying to cloud the public's understanding of it with 300-page books about a 272-word speech. That's about 300 words of excuse making, speculation, and rationalizing for every word in the actual speech.


If you wanted to learn about Casa Grande, the giant four-story structure built almost 700 years ago by the Hohokam people, the last place to go to learn about it would be the Casa Grande Ruins FAQ from the NPS's Casa Grande Ruins website (which I'm not even going to link to, fuck 'em).

Here we have a typical National Park Service job. Note how many questions concern the Hohokam people, their life and history, and the building they left here, and how many question do not:

What, no "Who were the Hohokam?" No "What was Hohokam culture like?" No "How did the Hohokam thrive in the harsh desert?"


Well, how about the site navigation bar? Let's see. . . .

. . . nope. It's not until the kiddie section that they bother to talk about the Hohokam and the archaeological site. But first they have to push their government propaganda on the kids:

Government isn't really interested in history or good stuff like that. The NPS couldn't even peacefully co-exist with a poor, defensive phone booth in the middle of the desert.

Government is about government—and nothing else.

06dec2006 — From Hyam Maccoby's The Mythmaker: Paul And the Invention Of Christianity:

So Paul's claim to expert Pharisee learning is relevant to a very important and central issue—whether Christianity, in the form given to it by Paul, is really continuous with Judaism or whether it is a new doctrine, having no roots in Judaism, but driving, in so far as it has an historical background, from pagan myths of dying and resurrected gods and Gnostic myths of heaven-descended redeemers. Did Paul truly stand in the Jewish tradition, or was he a person of basically Hellenistic religous type, but seeking to give a colouring of Judaism to a salvation cult that was really opposed to everything that Judaism stood for? (13)

The contention of this book is that Jesus, usually represented as anything but a Pharisee, was one, while Paul, always represented as a Pharisee in his unregenerate days, never was. In the course of the argument, it will become plain why this strange reversal of the facts was brought about by the New Testament writers. (33)

It is an amazing fact that, when we consult the Pharisee law books to find out what the Pharisees actually taught about healing on the sabbath, we find that they did not forbid it, and they even used the very same arguments that Jesus used to show that it was permitted. Moreover Jesus' celebrated saying, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath", which has been hailed so many times as an epoch-making new insight proclaimed by Jesus, is found almost word for word in a Pharisee source, where it is used to support the Pharisee doctrine that the saving of life has precedence over the law of the sabbath. So it seems that whoever it was that Jesus was arguing against when he defended his sabbath healing, it cannot have been the Pharisees. (34)

The indications from Paul's writings are that he knew very little Hebrew. His quotations from the Bible (which number about 160) are from the Greek translation, the Septuagint, not from the original Hebrew. This is shown by the fact that wherever the text of the Hebrew Bible differs from that of the Greek, Paul always quotes the text found in the Greek, not that found in the Hebrew. For example, there is the famous quotation (1 Corinthians 15:55) "O death, where is thy victory? O death where is thy sting?" This comes from the Septuagint of Hosea 13:14, but the Hebrew text has a different reading: "Oh for your plagues, O death! Oh for your sting, O grave!" It is most unlikely that any Pharisee would adopt a policy of quoting from the Septuagint rather than from the Hebrew Bible, which was regarded as the only truly canonical version by the Pharisee movement. (71)

It is abundantly clear from this that James and his followers in the Jerusalem movement saw no contradiction between being a member of their movement and being a fully observant Jew; on the contrary, they expected their members to be especially observant and to set an example in this respect. The corollary of this is that they did not regard themselves as belonging to a new religion, but as being Jews in every respect; their belief that the Messiah had come did not in any way lessen their respect for Judaism or lessen their fellowship with other Jews, even those who did not share their Messianic belief
Nineteenth-century New Testament scholarship, on the whole, recognized these facts and gave them due weight. It has been left to twentieth-century scholarship, concerned for the devastating effect of this recognition on conventional Christian belief, to obfuscate the matter.

This use of non-Jewish figures from the Bible, so reminiscent of Gnosticism, is not, however, the main strategy of Paul and of the Pauline Church with regard to the Hebrew Bible. The Gnostics regarded themselves as outsiders and therefore constructed an "outsider" tradition from biblical materials, rejecting the main line of the biblical story as concerned with the people of the Demiurge and thus contaminated by wordly dross. Paul, however, and the Christian tradition that followed him, adopted a much bolder line. He asserted that all the main prophets of the Hebrew Bible were proto-Christians. None of them (not even Moses) had regarded the Torah as permanently binding; all of them had looked forward to the advent of the saviour who would abolish the Torah and show the true way of faith and salvation.
This amounted to a wholesale usurpation of the Jewish religio-historical scheme. Something very similar happened six centuries later, when Islam performed the same operation of usurpation on both Judaism and Christianity, declaring that Abraham, Moses and Jesus had all been proto-Muslims. Islam, however, did not adopt the Jewish and Christian scriptures into its own canon; it was able, therefore, to alter the details freely, for example sustituting Ishmael (thought to be the ancestor of the Arabs) for Isaac in the story of the
akedah or Binding of Isaac. Alterations of this kind were not open to Paul, who accepted the Old Testament in full as the word of God, but instead he imported his own meanings into it, and turned it into a coded message of the Pauline mythology. (190)

The fact is that Paul, like all the Gnostics, is unable to fit law into his scheme of things intelligibly, and yet he hass to try to do so, because law simply will not go away. All Gnostics wish to abolish law and to substitute for it some kind of instinctive, "saved" behavior that will fulfill all the demands of law without the necessity of having a law. But in practice things never work out in this way. People who are supposed to be "saved" behave, unaccountably, just as badly as before they were saved, so that law has to be introduced to restrain them. Also, there are always logically minded people to say that if they are "saved", all their behavior must be correct, so they can indulge in any kind of behavior that happens to appeal to them (such as sexual orgies and murder) in the confidence that nothing they do can be wrong. In other words, by being "saved", people may behave worse instead of better. Paul had to cope with this "saved" libertinism, and could only use the methods of moral exhortation that were supposed to have been made obsolete by faith and the transition from "works" to "grace". The same problem was felt throughout Gnosticism, as is shown by the Gnostic libertine sects such as the Carpocratians.
Thus Paul's attitude of partly admitting the validity of law, under pressure, does not exclude him from the category of Gnosticism, as some have argued, for this compulsion to do something, however unwillingly, about fitting law into the scheme is common to all the Gnostic sects, each of which dealt with the matter in its own way. It is interesting to compare Valentinian Gnsoticism, for example, with Pauline Christianity. Each, on the level of basic theory, is antinomian, but each provides a place for law out of practical necessity. This led to the ironic result, in Christianity, of the building up, eventually, of a huge body of canon law in a religion which began as a revolt against law. The new law was supposed to be fundamentally different from the old law of the Torah, being a law of grace, but in fact it was administered in exactly the same way, except that it lacked the humanity and sophistication which centuries of rabbinical development had given to the Torah. For example, all the safeguards for the position of women which had been developed in Pharisee law were jettisoned by the new Pauline law. Starting from scratch, Christian law had to rediscover painfully insights that Pharisee law had long taken for granted. For example, Pharisee law regarded all evidence extorted by compulsion as invalid. Christian law was still torturing people to obtain evidence, regarded as legally valid, sixteen centuries after Paul scrapped the Torah and instituted the "law of Christ". The paradox of an antinomian religion with a complicated legal system led constantly to attempts in Christian history to restore pristine antinomian attitudes; the Reformation was the most massive instance. But the Reformation churches soon found themselves in precisely the same dilemma and developed canon law of their own. The dichotomy between an antinomian core and an outer shell of law is not conducive to the best kind of development of law, but rather leads to a dessicated form, very different from the warmth and enthusiasm found in Jewish law. It is ironic that the best exemplification of the dry "Pharisees" of Christian myth is to be found among Christian religious lawyers.

03dec2006 — I awoke early this morning thinking of El Paso. I was thinking that if I were ever forced to move to Texas and it had to be anywhere other than Houston or Austin, I'd go to El Paso. El Paso has mountains—an important consideration. And they are desert mountains—an all-important consideration. Not only that, but it also has Mountain Monograms, like, six of them, or some crazy thing. It's a university town. There's Mexico right there if you need it. And Juarez has a Mountain Message, if you need that. There's a Marty Robbins song about El Paso (two, if you count the second song). How many other towns can say that? (Correct. Thirteen.* "The City" and "Spanish Town" are too non-specific to be reasonably included.) But does any other city have two? El Paso does (if you count the second song). Plus, El Paso's in west Texas ("out in the west Texas town of El Paso"), so you could be in New Mexico in a heartbeat if the need arose, and I'm sure it would. The thrifts are still pretty good in El Paso and it almost certainly has a Taco Bell or two, which could become a factor in the event of a nuclear holocaust in which all the real food were wiped out.

On the other hand, if it were within New Mexico that I had to choose, that'd be tougher. There are lots of cool places in New Mexico. Silver City. Madrid. I like Albuquerque, even though Wagner fears the Rio Grande. But he'd have to deal with that in El Paso, too—the river's there even if you don't count the second song ("El Paso City / By the Rio Grand-eeee-eeeee"). I've always found Alamogordo, Las Cruces, and Socorro intriguing. I even like Deming, and am probably suited to cope with Lordsburg. But no place in eastern New Mexico. Not even Roswell. East New Mexico may as well be Texas, which it almost is.

Such are the thoughts I have by the dawn's early light. Yesterday a hallucination of Wagner's profile, today a profile of El Paso. All in a morning's work, for today's under-challenged mind.

Addendum: I would also be willing to live in Chicxulub, Mexico, sight unseen, solely on the basis of its almost impossibly cool name.


* Reno, Nevada; Franklin, Tennessee; Las Vegas, Nevada; San Angelo, Texas; Laredo, Texas; Abilene, Texas; Kingston, Jamaica; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Melbourne, Australia; Guadalajara, Mexico; Bethlehem, Israel; Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco, California.

02dec2006 — I don't know why Mel Gibson keeps claiming that Apocalypto means "a new beginning."

You'd think a rich place like Malibu would outfit their drunk tanks with classical Greek lexicons, sheesh.

01dec2006 — How delightful to see that the professional thieves at the IRS have a sense of humor about their crimes


"Their inclusion here is not an official IRS endorsement of the sentiments expressed." Well, no kidding, IRS employees. If it were, that would mean that you understood the nature of what you do to people in exchange for a paycheck.

That page puzzles me in the same way as the cartoons people post in their office cubes that point out the absurdity of a life lived in an office cube.

30nov2006 — DVD commentary track excerpts from Straight to Hell:

Dick Rude: I guess [that was] one of those "in-jokes" that people spoke about after the film was released, that they just didn't feel a part of.
Alex Cox: Somebody said something to me about the film, a punk girl from Tucson, said that watching
Straight to Hell was a bit like attending a party to which she hadn't been invited. I'm very sorry if that was the case, 'cos that wasn't the intention.

Dick Rude: I think that's part of the reason that a lot of the viewers felt like they were outsiders, was that we seemed to be having so much fun doing it—
Dick Rude: No.

Alex Cox: Michele Winstanley's coming—talking about sexy outfits.
Dick Rude: And now I can attest to the sexual tension in this film, having wanted to cast Michele Winstanley as my girlfriend in the film so that I could win her over to be my girlfriend in real life.
Alex Cox: Did you succeed?
Dick Rude: Of
course. You know that I succeeded.
Alex Cox: Dick! You mean you used this film to get a girlfriend?
Dick Rude: Well . . . I used it as my

Alex Cox: Good lord! Did other people do that as well in the film, do you think?
Dick Rude: I'm not naming names, but I do believe that there was a little bit of hanky-panky going on here.
Alex Cox: No! I don't think so! Because you're talking professional actors, man. I mean, when a professional actor finishes work for the day, it's back to the room, call the agent, an hour-and-a-half conversation with Los Angeles—
Dick Rude: A little meditation.
Alex Cox: Meditation, read the script, and Bob's yer uncle. Early to bed and early to rise. In my experience.
Dick Rude: That may be the case, but we're also talking about a lot of

[Over the rolling credits]
Dick Rude: We never had our argument.
Alex Cox: Oh, no, we didn't, really. That's all right, though, I think we did a fairly anodyne chat that enthusiasts will be
fascinated by.

Also: Miguel Sandoval, master ACK-tor, or DoC, mister oblivious? . . . how did I never notice that Archie the punk, George the jealous hardware store guy, and that guy who seems to be in every third film released are all the same guy? And, apparently, he wrote that horrible song sung by the record company exec on the bus ("I wanna new job / I wanna job / I wanna job that pays / One that satisfies / My artistic needs") in Sid and Nancy. No one tells me nuttin.

29nov2006 — "We're feeling good for no reason, and that's fine, too. But you wanna feel good while being stupid and wasting your time, maybe heroin is for you." —Penn Jillette, "Recycling" from (Bullshit, season 2)

(Bullshit, season 1 / Bullshit, season 3)

28nov2006 — Recently, without provocation, the Cardhouse Robot made flagrant reference to Spring Session M, the anagrammatically titled 1982 album by Missing Persons, a band fronted by ex-Penthouse Pet Dale Bozzio. Accordingly, in the spirit of brotherhood and revenge, I present:

Spring Session M and Nine Anagrammatical Missing Persons Titles Easily As Bad and Possibly Worse

Spring Session M
Miss Porn Sings E
Smog Piss Sinner
Pissing Sermons
Sepsis Mornings
Siren Song Simps
Sperm Nosing Sis
Rims Sponginess
Piss on Grimness
Sings; No Impress

27nov2006The Ancient Arms of Fagg


With their usual concern for human life, cops murder a groom on his wedding day.

With their usual concern for human life, CNN invites you to Watch an injured man scream as he's taken away:

(See also)

In other thug-for-hire news:

If you have tears to shed, let them fall like rain for Lt. Ackley of the New London (Connecticut) Police Department. This noble paladin of public order was victimized during the September 22nd arrest of protester Lauren Canario, whose supposed crime was to sit placidly reading a book on the front porch of a home that had been seized by the New London Development Corporation (NLDC). . . .

According to Caleb Johnson, who called Lt. Ackley, the officer "told me he has been victimized by her, as he has been forced to carry her where they want her to be, resulting in him hurting his back.

Hey, butch it up, hero. Ditch the donuts and do some deadlifts and good mornings. If you're serious about working as a rented thug for the local affiliate of the corporatist state, chances are you'll occasionally have to do some hands-on heavy lifting – heavier, in any case, than lifting a pen to scribble an extortion note (sometimes called a "traffic ticket") when you're shaking down local motorists on behalf of the folks who slop your trough.

25nov2006We have met The Enemy

24nov2006How Wagner spent his Thanksgiving Day

[More luv]



For many days before the end of our earth people will look into the night sky and notice a star, increasingly bright and increasingly near.

As this star approaches us, the weather will change. The great polar fields of the north and south will rot and divide, and the seas will turn warmer.

The last of us search the heavens and stand amazed. For the stars will still be there, moving through their ancient rhythms.

The familiar constellations that illuminate our night will seem as they have always seemed, eternal, unchanged and little moved by the shortness of time between our planet's birth and its demise.

Orion, the Hunter. Gemini, the Twins. Cancer, the Crab. Taurus, the Bull. Sagittarius and Aries—all as they have ever been.

And while the flash of our beginning has not yet traveled the light years into distance—has not yet been seen by planets deep within the other galaxies—we will disappear into the blackness of the space from which we came.

Destroyed, as we began, in a burst of gas and fire.

The heavens are still and cold once more. In all the complexity of our universe and the galaxies beyond, the Earth will not be missed.

Through the infinite reaches of space, the problems of Man seem trivial and naive indeed. And Man, existing alone, seems to be an episode of little consequence.

That's all. Thank you very much.

20nov2006 — Cingular has a new commercial where guys mess up the lyrics to The Clash's "Rock the Casbah." Dude, that's sooo 2002.

Also, there's a "Beatles expert" on CNN this morning enthusing about the new Beatles remix release (for a Cirque du Soleil show, ack ack ptui) called Love. He's going on and on about how amazing it is to hear bunches of Beatles snippets mixed together into new works of art. Basically, then, what's happened is that a major label is finally catching up to Steve Dirkx, the Kleptones, and the rest of the early 21st century. Welcome to the party, kids.

Here are some comments about Love that should have been written about Dirkx and the Kleptones:

"Drawing from the Beatles' original master tapes, producers George and Giles Martin have jumbled and rearranged familiar songs and sounds into a distinct new work." (Detroit Free Press)

"The reworkings are mostly subtle: an alternate vocal here, extra strings or brass there, beefed-up bass and drums... The overall effect is to transform tracks so familiar you barely hear them anymore from historical documents into living songs, in startlingly clear, modern sound." (NME)

"The tracks run, merge and blend into each other like a concept album. Ghostly snatches of other Beatles' songs drift in and out of the mix. . . . When the Beatles' music is in danger of becoming over-familiar through constant exposure, there can be nothing better than re-discovering the awe and wonder with which it was first heard." (Liverpool Daily Post)

"They are the Beatles' songs and overdubbing them and massaging them allows other people to impose their own creative ideas on something that was so immediate and of a particular time. I thought that legacy was virtually tamper-proof, until now." (Bob Spitz, author of The Beatles: The Biography)

"The project's supporters argue that its juxtapositions and layerings, together with a digital enhancement of the original recordings at the Abbey Road studios, shed new light on the Beatles' legacy. 'We know there'll be letters,' Giles Martin said. `But sometimes we take this music for granted. I hope this will help people to hear Beatles music again.'" (The Times)



[Heavy Southern accent:] Arch Chemicals, is this an emergency?

Well, I don't think so. I got some of your product on my hand—

Which product was that?

"HTH Super Algae Stop."

Oh. Well, just wash it real good with water.

So I don't need to worry about its being "fatal if absorbed through the skin"?

Oh, no, no, no, no. That's if ya swallow it, or somethin'.

Actually, according to the label, it's "Harmful if swallowed," but "May be fatal if absorbed through the skin."

No, no, no. It's a . . . concentrate.

Riiiiiight . . . and?

It's 60% active ingredients.

Sure, sure . . . and?

So you just need to wash it with water.

You're sure about this?

Yeah. You'll be just fiiiiine.

Well . . . okay then.

(Naturally, I called a poison control center afterwards. They told me that label is total bullshit. I'm paraphrasing.)

16nov2006 — From Erle Stanley Gardner's The Desert is Yours:

Those thorns not only are needle-sharp but they have microscopic barbs which make it very painful when one tries to extract them. Extraction takes so much force the spine may break off, leaving a good-sized thorn in the wound, and because of these barbs it then becomes difficult for the body to eject the broken point by the usual process of having it fester out. Instead, after days of a painful sore, the thorn may become tolerated by the body, probably because the irritant coating (a type of natural desert creosote) will have dissolved. Then the thorn starts working its way deeper and deeper, the point will change direction because of muscular activity, and then the person may find, to his surprise, a sharp, needle-pointed, almost transparent object emerging from his body many inches from the point of entry, long after the thorn entered the body. (19-20)

In the desert there are no soft shadows and mellow sunlight such as exist where there is moisture in the air to diffuse the rays of the sun. In the true desert the shadows are so deep they appear black, and the sunlight so vivid it dazzles the eyes. Human beings who would live in the desert must make either a natural or an artificial adjustment. Dark glasses can keep the sunlight from burning the retina of the eye, can give the weary eye an opportunity to rest the muscles which would otherwise keep the pupils constantly contracted to pinpoints. The typical desert dweller has gray or light blue eyes, and the muscles that control the pupils have been so developed that the pupils can remain as pinpoints without undue fatigue. When I was new to the desert country, and before I realized what was happening physiologically, I wondered why I felt such gratifying relief on entering an adobe house where the walls were thick, the windows small, and the atmosphere one of cool tranquility. It was only after many such experiences that I began to realize that the muscles controlling the pupils of my eyes had become so completely weary in the glare of the sunlight that restful shade provided enormous relief. Apparently there is no sensation of acute pain in connection with ocular muscular fatigue of this type, and it is only when the muscles relax that one realizes how uncomfortable he has been. (66-7)

I well remember when I first came in contact with people who had become famous in the writing and motion picture world and noticed the ruthlessness with which they protected their privacy. I determined that if I ever became successful I would never change, but would always have ample time for "visiting" with people who wanted to see me. How little I realized the problem. As I became more successful, more and more people wanted to visit with me, both in person and by mail. Whenever I tried to be friendly, those casual contacts invariably led to more contacts; readers who had written me and received a cordial reply to their letters came to see me; people who had been entertained on a brief visit came back for longer visits, then told friends about it and were importuned by those friends to be permitted to meet the author. I soon realized that if a man didn't do something to protect his privacy once he got in the public eye, he would literally be trampled to death. For this reason I have of late avoided making contact with clubs, associations, and groups where such contacts bid fair to complicate my problems. (229-30)

15nov2006 — Did you know that you can download video files of Hollywood films from Amazon? Doesn't look like a great deal to me, but wait! They have a system of "Plot Keywords" to guide your viewing choices. Here are the Plot Keywords for Natural Born Killers:

Plot Keywords: Groin Kick | Scorpion | Two Killers | Surrealism | Shotgun | Merciless | Hallucination | Police | Slide Locked Back | Corruption | Sadist | Killing Spree | Sadistic | Jail Cell | Sadism | Blood Splatter | Lovers On The Lam | Shooting | Dream Sequence | Killer | Black Humor | Kill | Beating | Killing | Cruelty | Insanity | Camera | Madness | Brutality | Highway | Convertible | Serial Killers | Journalism | Part Animated | Black Comedy | Pop Culture | Escape | Drugs | Diner | Controversial | Satire | Riot | Escaped Convict | Snake Bite | Murder | Gore | Serial Killer | Strangulation | Tabloid | Desert | Rabbit | Indian | Ring | Vulgarity | Incest | Society | Media Hype | Murderer Duo | Surreal | Prison | Villainess | Road | Rattlesnake | Horse | Blood | Weapon | Pie | Television | Revenge | Experimental Film | Media Exploitation | Panties | Rape Scene | Splatter | Orff Carmina Burana | Bridge | Dancing | Jail | Prison Riot | Wedding Ring | Neo Noir | Psycho Cop | Corrupt Police | Disturbing | Sex With Minor | Corrupt Cop | Desert Eagle | Independent Film | Death | Gruesome | Police Officer Killed | Shot In The Chest | Shot In The Forehead | Shot In The Hand | Shot In The Head | Shot To Death | Stabbed In The Throat | Female Killer | Female Psychopath

Now you know what to do if you're looking to find, or avoid (according to taste) films that feature, say, "Sex With Minor," "Incest," or—shudder—Carmina Burana.

14nov2006 — If you've always considered Sting to be a poser, and also what the English would call a prat, his memoir, Broken Music isn't likely to change your mind. I really can't even say why I read it, except that it was remaindered and cost only two bucks. Maybe it was because the book begins with a detailed account of a psychelicious South American drug trip. The book is much better written than most of its type, I'll say that. And Mister Sting seems to know that he's kind of a prat, which makes him seem like less of one (though he definitely does still seem like one, though I'll be willing to reassess that as soon as he apologizes to the ghost of Hasil Adkins).

[On taking ayahuasca at a religious ceremony in Brazil, 1987:] My head is spinning with questions, but I am so astounded by the clarity of these visions that I am unable to speak and unable to exit this other reality that is not my own. But there are levels of thought below these visions that observe and comment on them, and farther levels beneath those, commenting in turn to infinity. And where normal objective thought can give comfort, allowing the mind to step outside of an imagined or real danger, here the strategy only compounds the fear that there is no bedrock to reality, that so-called objective reality is only a construct, and this realization I suppose is akin to madness. (13)

I've often thought that playing a musical instrument is an obsessive-compulsive disorder or a symptom of being socially inept, but I can't decide whether playing an instrument makes you socially inept, or you're a sociopath to begin with and you play an instrument as some sort of consolation. (60)

Like my grandmother, I will never throw a book away, storing dog-eared paperbacks from school or college, year after year, stacked like hunting trophies on makeshift shelves in my rooms. For to sit in a room full of books, and remember the stories they told you, and to know precisely where each one is located and what was happening in your life at that time or where you were when you first read it is the languid and distilled pleasure of the connoisseur. (75)

With only a paltry amount of learning I have managed to become a ridiculous, intellectual snob. (78)

Perhaps it is the scarcity of vocabulary that is the root of the problem. Love seems like such a deeply inadequate word for a concept with so many complex shades and shapes and degrees of intensity. If the Inuit have twenty words for the concept of snow, then perhaps it is because they live in a realm where the differences between each type of snow are of vital importance to them, and the minutiae of their specific vocabulary reflects that central importance. (122)

[Stewart Copeland] talks in the same scattershot way as he plays the drums, telling me how he's been galvanized by the punk scene, how these unschooled musicians have thrown out finesse and technique for the sake of raw undiluted energy, that he wants to be part of it, and that it will sweep everything aside like a tidal wave. (233)

If there is something disingenuous about the two of us forming a punk band (for this is the unspoken subtext for everything that we have discussed so far), there is also something deliciously subversive about it. Flying a flag of convenience while the doors of the fortress that is the music business have been torn open would suit my purpose and method as much as it would his. (234)

So here is a conundrum for me. An amazing drummer, whose dynamism is in no way limited to his musical abilities, but with an artistic agenda that I can only half subscribe to. . . . But I don't want to sing tuneless, disaffected rants. I sing tender love songs. This is what I'm good at. But I also realize that there's an opportunity in the chaos, and that I am perfectly able to morph, adapting what I do to suit the current climate without necessarily compromising the integrity of my songs. I can establish some sort of position, some kind of defensible space, and when the dust has settled, run my true colors up the mast. (235)

It is around this time that I first meet Miles Copeland, the man who would become our manager, Svengali, mentor, and agent provocateur. Miles Axe Copeland III is the eldest of the Copeland brothers. . . . Miles senior, one of the founding fathers of the CIA, had served as an operative in the crucial terroritories of Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt for its wartime genesis, the OSS. He had by his own admission brought down governments, sanctioned political assassinations, and acted as puppeteer to various bogus and corrupt regimes all over the Middle East. . . . After the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a cave near Qumran in 1947, they were sent to the CIA office in Damascus. Miles senior and his fellow spies couldn't make much sense of them in the tiny dimly lit office, so they took the first of the scrolls at hand up onto the roof, to get a better look. They had just unrolled the mysterious 2,000-year-old document from end to end on the flat, scorching concrete when a strong wind picked up and blew the fragile parchment into the air and across the rooftops of Damascus, where it fractured into a million pieces, never to be seen again. Miles senior and the CIA boys retired downstairs in some disarray. The precious scrolls were then entrusted to the more circumspect and cautious hands of trained archaeologists. I often wonder what was written on that scroll. (245-6)

Miles calls his brother next day, "drooling," as Stewart describes it. Yes, the company loved the song ["Roxanne"] too, and the executives there think it can be a hit, and if that turns out to be so we'll have our album released not on the tiny Illegal label but on the mighty A&M. Our excitement and anticipation are somewhat tempered that evening at the studio when Miles tells us he is not going to negotiate a large advance for us.
"Listen, a large advance is just a bank loan. What I want to sign is a single deal on this one song. If it's a hit, then I'll be able to negotiate a much better album deal and a higher royalty. If you can manage the way you have for the last year, without an advance, you'll reap the benefit in the long run."
This, again, was a shining example of Miles's legendary shrewdness. In contrast to the feudal relationship that most bands normally fall into when seduced by large advances, this was the beginning of a genuine partnership between the Police and the record company. We would benefit from more artistic freedom, and whatever we earned would be ours.

. . . I realize what a pompous little fool I was. . . . (302)

A lot of the extras [on the set of Quadrophenia] keep twitching at me. I'm not sure I like being famous, but I also recognize that our appearance on television has telescoped the band into the new and undiscovered land of other people's awareness. There is a not-so-subtle change in the way strangers react around you, a distinct temperature change in any room you walk into, which is neither friendly or necessarily hostile, just different. After a while I will come to regard this altered perception to be as much a part of me as my eyes and ears. I will view the world, and the world will view me, through this distorting gauze, and nothing will remove it. (318-19)

I wonder how much pain he is in. Perhaps he needs another shot of morphine. He seems a hundred years old now. I look from his eyes to the cross on the wall and then down at his two hands cradled in mine. It is then that I receive something like the jolt of an electric shock, because apart from the color, his hands and mine are identical. . . . Why I had never noticed this before when it was so obvious?
"We have the same hands, Dad, look." I am a child again, desperately trying to get his attention.
He looks down at the four separate slabs of flesh and bone. "Aye, son, but you used yours better than I used mine."

13nov2006 — From Thomas J. DiLorenzo's Lincoln Unmasked:

Lincoln "saved" the federal union in the same sense that a man who has been abusing his wife "saves" his marital union by violently forcing his wife back into the home and threatening to shoot her if she leaves again. (26)

As president, Lincoln tried repeatedly to get a colonization plan going, which he eventually did. In 1862 he invited a group of free black men into the White House to request that they lead by example and leave the country. . . . Thus, early in his administration Lincoln commenced a plan to eventually ship all black people out of the country. This is what Lerone Bennett, Jr., called Lincoln's "white dream." . . . The president then made his sales pitch for Liberia: "The colony of Liberia has been in existence a long time. In a certain sense it is a success. The old president of Liberia . . . says they have within the bounds of that colony between 300,000 and 400,000 people. . . . Something less than 12,000 have been sent thither from this country. Many of the original settlers have died, yet like people elsewhere, their offspring outnumber those deceased."
This was not an offer one would jump at. Lincoln was telling the men that if they went to Liberia, most of them would probably die within a few years. But, if they procreated in the meantime, several decades hence their descendants would likely outnumber them. Little wonder Frederick Douglas had nothing but scorn for Lincoln's colonization schemes.

Not only did Lincoln voice support for the proposed 1861 amendment to the Constitution that would have forbidden the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery in his first inaugural address, but the amendment was his idea. (54)

The Massachusetts abolitionist [Lysander Spooner] also ridiculed Lincoln's quite absurd statement in the Gettysburg Address that he had been waging war for the principle of "a government of consent." In reality, the "consent" Lincoln advocated was: "Everybody must consent, or be shot." (60)

Lincoln's assertion in the Gettysburg Address that "a new nation" was created in 1776 (four score and seven years prior to 1863) was wrong on all counts. The founders never created a "nation" but a confederacy of states. And the Declaration of Independence never had the legal authority of either the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution. More important, the very words of the Declaration contradict Lincoln's theory of the absence of state sovereignty. The Declaration was, first and foremost, a Declaration of Secession from the British Empire. America was founded by a War of Secession. . . . The founders could hardly have thought that secession was an illegitimate act when it was what defined them politically. They were all secessionists, to a man. (88)

There is also growing evidence that intimidation of federal judges was a common practice of the Lincoln administration. In October 1861 Lincoln ordered the District of Columbia provost marshal to place armed sentries around the home of a Washington, D.C. circuit court judge and place him under house arrest. The reason for the arrest: the judge had carried out his constitutional duty to issue a writ of habeas corpus to a young man being detained by the provost marshal, allowing the man to have due process. The judge's actions were later vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court. After the war, the Court ruled that neither the president nor Congress can legally suspend habeas corpus as long as the civil courts are operating, as they certainly were in the Northern states in 1861. (94-5) [And as they are now, in our current state of habeas corpuslessness.]

In his first inaugural address Lincoln shockingly threw down the gauntlet of war over the tariff issue, literally threatening the invasion of any state that filed to collect the newly doubled tariff. On the issue of slavery he was 100 percent accommodating, going so far as to pledge his support for a constitutional amendment that would forever ban the federal government from interfering with Southern slavery. But on tariff collection he was uncompromising and dictatorial. "[T]here needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it is forced upon the national authority."
What was he talking about? What might ignite bloodshed and violence? Failure to collect the tariff, that's what. After making the obligatory statement that it was his obligation to "possess the property and places belonging to the Government" he further stated that it was his duty "to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using force against or among the people anywhere." In other words, Pay Up or Die. Fail to collect the tariff, as the South Carolinians did in 1828, and there
will be a military invasion, Lincoln announced. He would not back off when it came to tax collection, as President Andrew Jackson had done some three decades earlier. (127)

One of the major issues of contention during the great banking debate was whether or not currency should be redeemable in gold or silver. The Jeffersonians said yes, it should be, as a means of limiting the ability of banks to create inflation and to artificially boost the economy from time to time, creating boom-and-bust cycles in the economy. Money that was not redeemable in specie, asserted the Jeffersonians, was essentially counterfeit and would invariably lead to economic hardship.
The Whigs, and later the Republicans, were obsessed with solidifying their political power through patronage financed precisely by the printing of paper money that was
not redeemable in gold or silver. They made nonsensical arguments that inflationary finance was somehow good for the nation's economy, but such arguments were vacuous even to economists at the time. (132-3)

Lincoln intimidated the Supreme Court by ignoring its rulings, placing federal judges under house arrest, illegally suspending habeas corpus, and even issuing an arrest warrant for the chief justice. He also intimidated Congress by deporting the most outspoken member of the loyal opposition. It wasn't until after the war [and after Lincoln's death] that the Supreme Court regained the courage and integrity to state the obvious and declare, in Ex Parte Milligan (1866), that: "The constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and it covers with its shield of protection all classes of men, at all times and under all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of men that any of its great provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government."
In other words, the Supreme Court said that it is precisely in times of national emergencies, such as war, that civil liberties must be defended and protected. If not, then governments will be given an incentive to constantly create crises, or perceptions of crises, as a means of grabbing more and more power. And more, governmental power always means less freedom for ordinary citizens.

Cut to: "The Last Temptation of Blank," shot 1:

CHUCK NOBLET [staring at a bust of Abraham Lincoln]: Abraham Lincoln. [Pushes bust to the floor; it smashes]

Cardhouse Robot points out: You forgot Lincoln's Broads Address. Mhar. Mhar.

12nov2006 — Salacious comments from Sarah Jane on the Behind the Screens DVD; sprinkle randomly into your next sexual encounter. Or pornographic film shoot.

"I'm lookin' for some wieners. Do you have those here? What size do you have?"

"How do I go down?"

"This one will make my tongue nice & red."

"Let's go around the back."

"Just split it open and lay it in there, right?—that how ya do it?"

"Two balls for me? Thanks!"

"I can taste it coming!"

"A lot to look at, huh?"

"Feels like my feet should be wet."

"Cha-CHING! Chicken
. . . pretzel!"

"200% puffier, here!"


"Which one should I do if I wanna, I really wanna pucker up?"

"So if I put some of this on my tongue, I'm gonna pucker?"

"Ooh! Mother pucker!"

"It's like a crack pipe!"

"This isn't bad at all. It's pretty good."

"Who needs nuts?"

"It'd be nice if these were alcoholic."

"Want some candy, little girl?"

"That's a big ratio, I don't know if I can handle that."

"It's only one carb per serving?"

"I'm not gonna burn my mouth on this, am I?"

"I like my wieners pretty hot. I sure do."

"Pull it out, and there it is, steaming hot."

"The budget would have to be pretty big, for you girls."

"Would you please `do' one for me?"

"Just like mamma made it!"

"I'm looking for a buzz."

"I can hardly fit that in my mouth! And that's saying a lot. I got a big mouth."

"If I was on drugs, this would be really cool."

"Bigger and better and fluffier!"

"I feel like I'm dancing in a glass of champagne. How Vegas!"

"Ooooh, lookit that sausage. Good stuff!"

"That's a boy? Whoa, hairstyles have changed!"


10nov2006Edward Kleiner: Jughead

The Jughead Zone Web Page He Calls His Own

The Jughead 4 Old Talk City Pages

The Jughead Zone Ebay Page

My favorite: Jughead Meets Stars at April 2003 Chiller Expo

Here is a photo of me and Liz Sheridan from Alf or the Glady Kravitz of Alf. . . . After that I met Virgina Hey for the second time and she did remember me. Then afterward I met an actress whos about to do a movie called Is This Seat Taken and she is Alanna Currie and here is a photo of me and her. . . . After that came Denise Mattingley and she is mostly a model and she was very friendly to me and here is a photo of me and her. . . . and her name is Kathleen Kinmont and she was super happy to meet me and here is a photo of me and her. . . . Next I met Pamela Sue Martin who played Nancy Drew from the old Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries and she signed my autograph book both Pamela Sue Martin and Nancy Drew and here is a photo of me and her. . . . After that I ran across Caroline Munro for the third time coming to Chiller that is the person I know from Noxema Commercials and she remembered me again and gave me a big hug in rememberance of seeing me the last two times and here is a photo of me and Caroline Munro third time seeing her. . . . After that I met up with Pamelyn Ferdin who played Lucy Winters that is a guest role on the Brady Bunch and that was the episode where Jan Brady bought the wig and she signed my autograph book both Pamelyn Ferdin and Lucy Winters. Next I got to see the Lost in Space Crew again briefly of Bill Mumy and Angela Cartwright and Marta Kristen for the third time and after that Pamela Hazelton who works at Chiller also remembered me. After that I met up with another new actress of horror films who was super glad to meet me known as Debbie Rochon. Here is a photo of me and Debbie Rochon. . . . I was happy with many of the Chiller Models meeting them and here is a photo of me and my favorite one of all.

Or maybe this is my favorite: Jughead and His Big Day with the Celebrities

On April 15th of the Year 2000 a new Millenium and Century and Decade was one of the greatest times of my life as well as the day of my big cruise on the Carnival Triumph. . . . First person I went to was Karen Lynn Gorney who played Stephanie in the movie Saturday Night Fever. First I greeted her with a big handshake then I told her about my Webpages and how happy I was to come to the Chiller Expo and I told her "You were great as Stephanie in Saturday Night Fever" She then told me after I handed her a website flyer how proud she was of me in the way I took pride in my website. She then signed my autograph book that I bought at a Dollar Store in New Haven CT. She put in my autograph book, To Ed love Karen Lynn Gorney or Stephanie and with three hearts beside it wrote you are a sweet person" Then she posed with me in two very close poses with her arm around me. . . . After I was done with Karen Lynn Gorney or Saturday Night Fever Stephanie, I then went over to the table of the original Dennis The Menace actor Jay North. . . . I told him how I enjoyed everything he did on the Dennis The Menace Show. I even did some imitations of Hello Miss Cathcart or Hello Mr. Wilson that he did on the show. . . . After I was done with Dennis The Menace or Jay North I then went to the table of Paris Themmen. He played the part of Mike Tee Vee from the movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. He was amazed and fascinated that I remembered many of his lines from that movie since I told him that I owned the movie on video and seen it at least 100 times since it first came out. . . . I was getting a little impatient because I have watched all the Lost In Space Episodes all my life and I have waited all my life to meet them and talk to them and at this Chiller Expo I finally did. When my turn finally I finally told Bill how much I enjoyed watching Lost In Space and I got very excited finally meeting the Will Robinson of Lost In Space. I even told him I signed his guestbook with alot of my thoughts to him and when I told him my name he said he remembered that I did sign his guestbook. . . . I then went over to Penny Robinson or Angela Cartwright and first had a photo taken with her. She posed with her arm around me same as Karen Lynn Gorney did. After that I told how she did great as Penny Robinson and I gave her my website flyer as well. She told me she remembered my signing her guestbook with all the thoughts.

I thought I'd take a look around Angela Cartwright's guestbook to see what Jughead wrote, but I got scarededed & runned aways:

09nov2006Hymn haws

From "Righteous God Whose Vengeful Phials":

Righteous God! Whose vengeful phials
All our fears and thoughts exceed,
Big with woes and fiery trials,
Hanging, bursting o'er our head;

You think that's not a real hymn, don't you? In fact, it's from a collection of hymns by the brothers Wesley, entitled Hymns Occasioned by the Earthquake. If you liked that, you'll love this uber-confident quatrain from the hymn "Praise for the Gospel" by Isaac Watts (originally published in Divine Songs Attempted in the Easy Language of Children) :

Lord, I ascribe it to Thy Grace,
And not to chance, as others do,
That I was born of Christian Race
And not a Heathen or a Jew.

08nov2006 — Belated Guy Fawkes Day greetings from a much-improved pup

07nov2006Continued Q & A

Q: At what point does one cast Jack Nicholson as Lenin?
A: At what point does one not?

Q: Is a BMW vanity license plate YAY ME as ridiculous as a pickup truck with the vanity license plate US FLAG?
A: No.

Q: How much does Beck's "Clap Hands" owe to Andy Prieboy and Wall of Voodoo's "Room With A View"?
A: Only Beck knows the A: to this one.

Q: Is the Free State Project kaput?
A: No (see How to Stage a Coup, American-Style)

Q: Does the voice of Middle America on Wonder Showzen have anything to do with the band Jon Wayne ("TEXas!")?
A: No, really—does it?

05nov2006 — Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Since government buildings don't appear to be exploding, let's find another way to celebrate. How about a nice pop quiz?

Q: How many of the bands who appeared in URGH! A Music War have been at it non-stop since then?
A: Only one*—The Cramps, and last night they were at it non-stop at the Marquee in Tempe. I went as much for the openers, The Demolition Doll Rods, as for the Cramps. I just about lost it to Margaret Doll Rod, bringing rock & roll to the jungle tribes. Hot. Preach it, Margaret. That Detroit sure knows how.

I was so happy after the DDRods set that I almost didn't care what the Cramps did. Until they did it, and then I did. And how.

First thought upon seeing them: Lux & Ivy hardly look like people any more. For most acts, that would be a handicap, but for The Cramps it's an asset that will continue to appreciate. Lux & Ivy have been at it for over three decades. Strangely, it's Lux who now resembles an old lady; Ivy is still Ivy, scowling, scorching, and careful to give you that look up her miniskirt whenever she bends over to pick up her guitar. If they're bored by now, they're hiding that shit. Ivy's aloof-er-than-thou-er than ever. And they still do a wild show, Lux drinking bottles of wine, spilling & spitting as much as he drinks. I'll bet their concert rider includes a case of club soda.

"Thee Most Exalted Potentate of Love"—o my yes please and thank you.

And after the show, there was Margaret Doll Rod, big as candy, yum yum, and me with no Wagner. (The stupid Marquee Theater is a no-bringee bag-ee, pat-you-down-like-it's-prison, tack on service and parking charges kind of venue. 'tever, fuckers. I keep saying I won't go back there & then they go and book The Cramps and the Demolition Doll Rods.) And the drummer, Tia Doll Rod, was hanging around post-show, too, though she left without giving me her business card. So, what, you come to my town, play your rock & roll, and then just . . . leave? Cold. Very cold. It would've all been different if I'd actually met Tia Doll Rod. That no Wagner havin' sucks.

[SIDEBAR: I completely failed to recognize The Cramps' new bass player as Sean Yseult (formerly of White Zombie). Resemblance, resemblance, who's got the resemblance? Don't know, but how about a remembrance instead? [Cue dissolve] In April of 2005 I was at The Columns, a New Orleans bar/restaurant/hotel, sitting on the patio with Dr. Cliff the Evil Dentist and Tex Who's Never Been to Texas Though She Has Been Since. In walks Sean Yseult and her band, for a photo shoot. One of the band members was the complete Dave Navarro lookalike/stylealike and Dr. Cliff mentioned that the previous evening he'd been next to the guy at his local bar after work. Cliff had come straight from the clinic and was still wearing his medical scrubs. Without provocation, other than the musician's goatee, maybe, Cliff had turned to him and remarked, "Hey, look at this—I'm dressed like a doctor, and you're dressed like a rock star." The guy smiled, until Cliff finished: "...but I really am a doctor." "Owwwww," said the musician. Makes me happy, having friends like Dr. Cliff.]

[* Robb L. disputes my "only one," pointing to XTC, Joan Jett, Pere Ubu, X, and Gary Numan. So, in the words of the disgraced Ted Haggard, "I am a deceiver and a liar." How about if I say that while I'd be happy to time-travel to a 1980 concert by any of those bands, The Cramps are the only one I am happy to see in 2006? Take THAT, accuracy! (But let me just say that what I meant was that The Cramps are doing exactly what they were doing in 1980. In 1975, for that matter. They haven't "grown," or "matured," or "progressed" or had any other such horrible thing befall them.)]

03nov2006COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) -- The Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned as one of the nation's top evangelical leaders, admitted Friday he had contacted a male prostitute for a massage and bought drugs from him.

Below is the first item from a list called "What he believes"on Haggard's not-yet-taken-down website:

The Holy Bible, and only the Bible, is the authoritative Word of God. It alone is the final authority for determining all doctrinal truths. In its original writing, the Bible is inspired, infallible and inerrant.

Well, fair enough. Let's move on to today's scripture reading, from Paul's Epistle to the Romans, chapter 13:

1: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2: Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3: For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

You may recognize that as the passage that contributed to the dismal record of Xtian compliance under Hitler. But I think the question in the Haggard case is:

Q: If Pastor Ted Haggard really believes what is written in "the Holy Bible, and only the Bible," will he not certainly turn himself in and demand to be prosecuted for violating the drug laws of his "rulers," who are, according to the Bible, "minister[s] of God"?
A: Sure he will. Suuuuuuure he will. (See: Rush Limbaugh)

Haggard seems pretty proud of his previous media mentions:

Q: Will he at any point in the future include even one of his current media mentions?
A: If he is an honest man, yes. So, no.

03nov2006Cops, ever the same:

"I found I was in the hands of those who are not the most intelligent of mankind." — Pat Lyon, falsely accused of bank robbery, in 1798 Philadelphia, on Philadelphia's constable and his minions, in This Here's a Stick-up: The Big Bad Book of American Bank Robbery (p. 5)

Further bank robberyism:

On a cold January day, [Marshal Bill] Tilghman approached a ranch owen by a man named Will Dunn, who had been sympathetic to the Doolin Gang. He entered a dark room unarmed, and called out, "Hello?"
There was a fire in the middle of the room, and he stopped to warm his hands. When his eye adjusted to the darkness, Tilghman noticed that the room was full of bunk beds. And out of the edge of every bed, the barrel of a rifle was aimed at him.
Tilghman had accidentally entered the Doolin hideout. Eight men who apparently had no problem with killing a U.S. Marshal all had their weapons trained on him.
"Will," Tilghman asked the ranch owner as calmly as he could, "how does one get out of here?"
"The same damn way he got in," came the reply.
Tilghman turned around and walked out of the hideout, unharmed. Later, it was revealed that the gang had spotted the U.S. Marshal on his way in, but Doolin talked his men out of killing him. "Tilghman's too good a man to be shot in the back," he said.

"My time is three-fourths done," [Butch Cassidy] said. "A few more months won't make much difference. I've got some property in Colorado that needs looking after, and I'd like to get a pardon."
"If it's your intention to go straight after you get out," said Governor Richards, "perhaps it could be arranged. Will you give me your word that you will quit rustling?"
"Can't do that, governor," Cassidy said, cutting right through the cow manure. "If I gave you my word, I'd only have to break it. I'm in too deep now to quit the game. But I'll promise you one thing: Give me a pardon, and I won't commit any more crimes in Wyoming."
Amazingly, it worked. . . . Cassidy was definitely a man of his word. As promised, Cassidy steered clear of Wyoming.
(42, 43)

The FBI found [noted sociopathic bank robber Wilbur] Underhill inside, shot all to hell, but somehow still alive. In fact, Underhill survived a two-hour operation, and even joked about the shoot-out with reporters two days later. "Actually, I only got hit five times, but them shots made eleven holes in me," laughed Underhill. "I counted each one as they hit me. When I set sail, they sure poured it to me." . . . Underhill died 12 hours later. (82)

They had followed the Lamm Technique to the letter, with Dillinger and Hamilton "jugmarking" the bank ahead of time and taking detailed notes of the layout. The only snag: an elderly Asian woman who refused to stay put during the robbery. "I go to Penney's and you go to hell," she pronounced. Pierpont let her go. (100)

Gillis worked for a while busting heads for Al Capone's mob, but soon his brutality made even the racketeers wince, and they let him go. (Even mobsters have their standards. Years later, when Gillis, then known nationally as "Baby Face" Nelson, needed a place to hide, the Las Vegas mob gave him the cold shoulder. "Do us a favor," they said. "Die.") (123)

Years later, deep into a life sentence at Alcatraz, [Machine Gun] Kelly wasn't slinging the tough-guy talk around any more. He remorsefully said that five words were burned on the wall of his cell: "Nothing can be worth this." He died there, of a heart attack, on July 17, 1954. (131)

The job was a stunning success . . . [Alvin "Creepy"] Karpis's only complaint? "Courtney was doing a lot of gabbing with the pretty switchboard operator." That, and the fact that a bank employee pulled a mini-caper of his own, stuffing $10,000 in cash into his own pockets during the stick-up. (138)

Dock and Freddie Barker would do no more robbing. Dock was caught by FBI star agent [and future suicide] Melvin Purvis on the streets of Chicago. "Where's your gun?" asked Purvis.
"Home," replied Dock. "Ain't that a hell of a place for it?"

Karpis swears that other agents pounced on him first, took his rifle away, then shouted for the FBI Director to come out of his hiding spot to do the honors. Either way, there's no denying that [noted sociopathic bureaucrat J. Edgar] Hoover's career soared after the capture of Karpis. "I made that son of a bitch," wrote Karpis. (141)

Willie the Actor [a.k.a. Willie Sutton] . . . used a variety of ruses and disguises—postal worker, cop, window cleaner with sponge—on at least a dozen more banks. It became fun to spot some of the code signals bank guards and managers used to warn each other in case of trouble. For instance, window blinds might be pulled halfway up until the bank guard pulled them up all the way, giving the signal that all was clear. Once, Sutton told a bank guard to turn the calendar in the front window up. "I thought he was going to fall right through the floor," recalled Sutton. (145-6)

On February 10, 1947, Willie Sutton and four other prisoners stole a set of guard uniforms and marched across the yard with two huge ladders. Spotlights swung in their direction. Sutton cried out, "It's okay!"
The bluff was lame, but it bought Sutton and his friends enough time to scale the wall, hijack an early morning milk truck, and race toward downtown Philadelphia.

Open a medical textbook, and there's a good chance you'll find "Sutton's Law," which was inspired by the bank robber. In short, it means that it's never a bad idea to look at the simplest answer when diagnosing a patient. The term originated with a doctor from Yale who used the alleged Sutton quip—"Because that's where the money is"—with medical interns who were overlooking the obvious. (151)

But the Valley National job was definitely the Boys' greatest hit. Valley National wasn't your usual bank; it was basically a money warehouse, where stacks of unmarked bills sat waiting to be transported to various branches. Amazingly, there appeared to be very little security. Grandstaff had stumbled onto it one day, writes Weyermann in The Gang They Couldn't Catch, and after casing the building for three months, Grandstaff decided that it was time to strike. (175)

Grandstaff's case didn't go to trial until 1998, and when it did, the jury came back with a verdict of "not guilty." (The jury thought the FBI cut corners in pressing its case, hated Fennimore the snitch, and even considered the bankers from Valley National "unlikable.") (177)

This much cash, when piled into a tower, is 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide, 5 feet long, and weighs about 350 pounds. That's what David Grandstaff and his two partners stared at after they robbed the Valley National Bank in Tucson, Arizona, in 1981—at the time, the largest cash heist in history.

Grandstaff never admitted his role in the Valley National job to anyone, including author Weyermann, even though the two had become close friends during the writing of her book. (It was her assertion, however, that Grandstaff was responsible.) When the book was published in 1994, Weyermann caught flack for romanticizing Grandstaff and his crimes. "I'm telling a story as it happened, and if people think he's romantic, well the, maybe he is," Weyermann told a reporter from the Arizona Republic. "We do have a history in this country of liking outlaws when they seem to be doing it for reasons other than murder and mayhem." (177)

Mitchell's so-called "Stopwatch Gang" was grade-A Hollywood caper movie material: They were cool, polite professionals who prided themselves on being in and out of a bank in less than two minutes. Not even the waitstaff at Applebee's works that fast. They also were fond of wearing masks of ex-presidents, and they never fired a single shot during any caper. "I've never even had a bullet in the chamber," said Mitchell, who in his prime bore a resemblance to actor Tom Selleck. Even his dogged pursuers fell for his charm. "There is a rare quality to him," said U.S. Marshal David Crews. "He has a certain kind of old-style integrity, a criminal ethic you don't see much these days." America hadn't seen such a gentleman robber since Willie Sutton. In fact, Mitchell's only crime against innocent civilians was inspiring the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze stinker, Point Break. (182)

02nov2006 — Greetings, flower lovers! Might one of you send me the name this flower (gathered in southern California, along the Pacific Coast highway)?

Says Kim S.: I'm no expert and that flower looks to have seen better days but put me down for the Asclepias speciosa, commonly known as the Showy Milkweed.

But does the showy milkweed have a strong scent -- almost skunk-like, but in a pleasant sort of way?

Says Kim S.: I can't find any reference to the scent of the Showy Milkweed but it makes sense for it to have a offensive odor since Milkweeds can be toxic. So don't eat it no matter how badly it smells good.

01nov2006 — Michael Feldman (of PRI's comedy quiz radio show "Whad'Ya Know?") explains a bit he used to do when he drove a cab for Union Cab of Madison, Wisconsin.

Feldman: Oh, you know what we've got, we've got this special because of the Union Cab reunion—25 years of Union Cab. I promised something for you, here. Uh, the only thing I really achieved while being a cab driver—I ate all my tips (all eight dollars)—was, we would do these things called "The Dispatcher." Perry Benson would sit in his little dispatching booth there in the office, and while he was actually dispatching, he would stop all traffic so the cab drivers would have to sit there and listen to this for a minute and a half or two minutes each time. And he would be dispatching cabs and I would ask him some absurd question or some question that only he could answer, in his own way. And that became "The Dispatcher," and we played that on an earlier radio show that I had. . . . But "The Dispatcher" was for real, while he was dispatching cabs.

[Cut to audio:]

The Dispatcher: Twenty-one, did you pick up a crankshaft along with that crankcase assembly at Denny's?

Feldman: Thirty-three.

The Dispatcher: I'm tryin' to hear Twenty-one and Twenty-one only. Twenty-one, you'll have to go back and get the shaft. . . . Twenty-three, what's your progress? Not your life story, Twenty-three. Just your progress. . . . Thirty-four, try it again, you're breaking up.

Feldman: Thirty-three.

The Dispatcher: Thirty-three, you're strong but wrong. Save the question. I wanna hear from Thirty-four only. Thirty-four, you're coming in extremely garbled; did you say "pork bellies" or "near [unintelligible; sounds like fellies]"? I'm just getting the carrier wave, Thirty-four. Try moving the cab and get back to me. Try it, Thirty-three.

Feldman: What determines longevity?

The Dispatcher: Longevity seems to be an accident of birth and geography which has shown wide fluctuations throughout history. The Bible indicates that before the Flood, man lived to an average age of nine hundred and twelve; nine hundred and ten, if he smoked. After the Flood, his stock dropped to three hundred seventeen, suggesting the degree to which God had tired of his creation. Secular investigation reveals that prehistoric man lived to age eighteen and died of a blow to the head. Thanks largely to improved nutrition, an eighteen-year-old today is merely stunned by a blow to the head. Lifespan has crept up slowly over the years. Vikings, for example, retired at twenty-three. Surprisingly, during the Middle Ages, no one was, since thirty was pushing it. The average longevity in New England in 1789 was thirty-five point five years, which is why the Founding Fathers set the minimum age to the presidency at thirty-five. Statistically, Scandanavians live longer than anyone except French women. Americans live longest in states where there are the fewest reasons for doing so: South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, and the winner, Nebraska, where a woman inevitably lives to be seventy-four. Conversely, a man in Arkansas is as good as dead. Clergymen outlive athletes but college graduates die at the same rate as everybody. The average married man lives two thousand and five days longer than a single man, at which time his wife will bury him. According to Metropolitan Life, policy holders live two-and-one-half years longer than the uninsured--or, approximately the time required to earn the premiums.

Feldman: 10-4.


(Show of 11sep2004; further (though unrelated) cab dispatcher humor from The Blank Top Chronicles)

31oct2006 — Against all odds, the sick puppy begins to improve. Keep those cards & vibes coming.

Operation Buffy Recovery Vibes

29oct2006 — Please send out good vibes to a very sick puppy.

Operation Buffy Recovery Vibes

28oct2006 — The always entertaining Emi Guner on language and boob warts:

Dear Marc, be happy you're American. I'm Swedish. Sweden's a small country filled with Swedes, speaking an archaic language understood by roughly 9 million people and (perhaps) a handful of Danes.

Your language is beautiful and varied, enrichened by the creative, violent and strange history behind it.

You have words like nipple. A wonderful, fun, pert little word. Know what nipple is called in Swedish? Bröstvårta. Breast wart. All tingly now? It's like a word made up by a dull viking, intending to kill all sensuality by use of language alone.

You have areolas. We have vårtgård. A wart yard. Touch it. Would you? Why would anyone ever want to?'s Mark Brandly on the government-controlled theft that is inflation:

According to the Consumer Price Index, the 2005 price level was 6.7 times higher than it was in 1959. However, in the absence of an expanding money supply, the price level would have been one–fifth as high as it was in 1959. Due to economic growth, the price level in this period would have fallen by 80 percent. Therefore, the expanding money supply over the last 46 years has resulted in a current price level over 34 times higher than it otherwise would have been.

Let's put this in everyday terms. Suppose these estimates represent the changes in the prices of goods such as hamburgers, cars, and housing. According to these numbers, a hamburger that cost 60¢ in 1959 would have cost $4 in 2005. If the money supply had been fixed, however, that hamburger would only cost 12¢ today. Similarly, a $20,000 car in 2005 would have cost slightly less than $3,000 in 1959. Again, without the monetary effect on prices, that car would only cost $600 today. The price of a $45,000 house in 1959 would have increased to $300,000 in 2005. With a fixed money supply, that house would cost $9,000 today.

Meanwhile, some good news:

Assimilated Press: "Authors Of Left Behind Books Become Pagans"

Sedona, Arizona - In a development that is sure to shock their mighty legions of fans, authors of the very popular Left Behind books, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, have renounced their conservative fundamentalist beliefs and have switched to Paganism. In a statement released today, they said that Paganism best suits their new philosophy that all of God's creatures are precious and deserving of protection.

Both LaHaye and Jenkins spoke to Assimilated Press while on a spiritual retreat in the desert resort community of Sedona. In this free ranging discussion they expressed sorrow for the hatred and intolerance that results from extreme interpretations of religious doctrine and apologized to people of all faiths for any offenses they may have committed through their Left Behind series of novels. Said LaHaye, "We were filled with hate when we wrote those books and now we are filled with love."

And speaking of reality tunnels:

I decided to call the basic unit of perception 1 Rashomon, after the famous movie which told the same story from four points of view. Seeing one point of view would correspond with 0.25 Rashomons. Seeing "both sides" of a question would yield 0.5R, and exploring four viewpoints or models would give 1 R. Seeing eight contradictory viewpoints would yield 2 R, or RR, which I named "the Rabinowitz Factor" after my friend, the composer Robert Rabinowitz, leader of the Nine Unknown Men. As an exercise, whenever I see an RR (on a railroad crossing sign for instance), I try to look at whatever challenges I have in my life from eight viewpoints or models. Eric Wagner, An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, p. 98

25oct2006 — From the memoirs of Ed Schieffelin, founder of Tombstone, Arizona:

After he had gone, George says to me, "That fellow won't do any prospecting." "Why?" I says. "Oh, he is no prospector. He ain't shaped right." (26)

If you want to get real badly scared, just get caught in a box canyon once during one of those thunderstorms or cloud bursts, as they are usually called in Nevada and Arizona. Once will do you, and you always afterward will take good care to be out of them whenever there is one of those storms coming up.
For to be riding down one of those box canyons so thick along the Colorado River in some places and no immediate place in which to get out, the walls on either side hundreds of feet high and hear that roar that you ever afterwards recollect and won't mistake it either, coming along getting nearer and nearer and you have no idea how much further you will have to go before there is a break in the walls so that you can get out and wait for it to pass, which only takes a few minutes. It don't seem to travel fast but you undertake to get away from one once, and you will think that it travels with the speed of lightning. And after they say that under very dangerous circumstances all the mean things a man ever done in his life, in fact his whole life comes up before him. But I don't think you would have time to think much about your meanness when going down a canyon on the run with your pack mule with her head up and two or three jumps ahead of you, and you every jump digging the spurs in to the flanks of your horse trying to make him increase his jumps. And looking back over your shoulder, see that roll of water, mud, logs, sticks and rocks making a wall six or eight geet high, tumbling and rolling, sweeping all before it, and knowing that at least half a mile had to be made over the rocks, cactus, brush and such things without any road before you would have a chance to escape, you would think of anything but that desired place. And until you was out on the side looking at it sweep by, that you would know that you ever lived before.

As usual I was alone and the nearest white man to me was in St. George that I had left the day before. And if they had have known what I was, would have been glad had I met the fate that at first seemed there was no escape from. And afterwards, look more miraculous to me than at the time. Before I got to St. George, on my road, a young Mormon overtook me, and we traveled together for three or four days. And he warned me to do no prospecting in that country at that time. For he said, "You no doubt have heard," which I had, "Of parties coming down here into the Buckskin Mountains and never being heard of. The Mormons could tell what had become of them if they was a mind to. So you go on about your business. Nobody here would suspect you of being a prospector, but would take you for some cattle dealer from some of the mining camps up in Nevada down here looking for beef. And if you keep your mouth shut they won't know the difference, and there are lots of those Mountain Meadows massacre fellows in here one place and another. (41-2)

Before any of my party had a chance to speak, I turned loose. I says, "Don't let us turn back, boys, without giving it a trial. We have gone to a great deal of expense in outfitting and have got four months' provisions and what can we do with it. There is no place to sell it. Besides the boat, it will be a dead loss, for we can't eat it, nor do anything but leave it. Besides there is a large party here; take us all horsemen and all. And we don't know what they might have found. Nor but what they might have had some object in sending such word under the circumstances. Their grub must have been pretty short by this time, if not altogether, and had to come in to get more, and had found good prospects but couldn't stay to work them. And on coming in and finding that there was such a crowd going, had sent that word to discourage us to turn us back. And I am 'not' going back." (54)

I says, "There must be something wrong with the Shamrock, and we had better land, go down and see." Which we did, and all this the fellow with the hat was coming up towards us just a sailing and as soon as he got in hearing distanced, he helloed to Oliver, who was ahead. "Oliver, the Shamrock is sunk, and all is going to hell. And if yee's will set us across the river so that we can go back, we will be much obleedged to yee's."
We walked along down with him, and he was giving the trip fits and anybody connected with it, in his Irish brogue, which was somewhat amusing. Although for them, very unfortunate, and when we got to the rock, sure enough the Shamrock, in trying to get around that rock, had upset and everything that they had that would float was going, dancing over the waves, down the river. Blankets, clothes, all such things was strung along down the river as far as the eye could see. They had saved nothing, only their lives and the boat. And one poor fellow had taken off his clothes, down to an undershirt and drawers, which was all he had.

So we had to come away and leave Dulin in the river. We coud go up on the top of the cliff and look down at the place where Oliver thought he sank but we could see nothing. The river is always muddy and very much so in the spring. There seemed to be an eddy where he sank so no doubt he is there yet. For they say the Colorado River never gives up its dead. But it seemed so hard to have come away and leave him there in the river without trying to get him out, but what could we do? We couldn't get our boat up there, and without a boat it was impossible to get to where he had sunk. And to lose a comrade in that out of the way place, wild, terrible, dismal place was too horrible to think about. And I imagined I could hear him calling not to leave him. Friends may die surrounded with comfort of Brothers or Sisters where they can see the flowers and trees or at least fields of level country and causes us a great deal of grief. But to die in that dark and life forsaken place and be left there was more appalling I believe than it is possible for it to occur in any other way or place.
But it had to be done and the next morning we got into our boat. . . .

And I reported Dulin's death by a sworn statement before a notary, who happened to be there at the time and who said would have it published in a Pioche paper as soon as he got there. Then we rented a wagon out and brought in the other two boys and that ended that trip. Lost a man and never made a single quarter. (61)

I don't believe that a centipede's feet are poison, at least to have one crawl over you won't hurt you, for I had it tried on me once. I don't know what might have happened had I hurt it so that it had have stuck its feet into my flesh as they say it does when either frightened or hurt. And then I doubt it, for they have fangs and that is where I think their poison comes from. (63)

It was at Tucson in the summer of '77. . . . But it was no go. With very few exceptions they wouldn't look at it and those that did pronounced it very low grade. And a man that at that time would have put up $150 or $200 would have owned half of Tombstone, for with that much money then I could have found any mine there was in Tombstone of any account, because there was no prospectors in the country and before anybody had have found them out, I would have had them all. (63-4)

I had found that Tucson was no place for a prospector. At least not for me. (64)

So taking his gun, mine always being in my hands, and when eating, across my lap, we slipped cautiously along the bank through the tall grass and low willows that grew along the sides, keeping our eyes open, and out of sight, but always so that we could see the place in the willows where the smoke was slowly raising in a small spiral column. The very embodiment of a novelist's Indian fire. (68)

In August, being out of provisions, no clothes and only five dollars in money, which in those days was none at all, I took some ore and went to Tucson to see what I could do, and I very soon found out. For they would neither look at me or the ore and said that they didn't want any mines. Government contracts and Posts was good enough for them and that a man was foolish to be spending his time looking for imaginary fortunes. He ought to be at work somewhere. Go take up a ranch and be somebody. . . . So I had to go back, as I came, only a little mad and more determined. (80)

[Reporter:] "Do you intend to settle down now?"
[Schieffelin:] "No, I detest city life. I am now on my way to Nevada, where I shall prospect again. If the country is what I think it is, I shall stay a few months; otherwise I shall not."

And I went in and holy Moses, what a dinner, a pot pie, or stew, nice fresh bread, milk and butter. What a spread for a lean, lanky, hungry man like me to set down to, who had been living on venison and who for two years had not sat down to such a table where there was plenty of fresh milk and butter. And didn't it taste good. Wasn't I the happiest man in Arizona, and didn't I eat. And she kept piling it on. I made no apologies for they wasn't necessary. She expected me to eat, and I fully realized her expectations. God bless her. I never saw her afterwards. (94-5)

That night we taxed the keg of whiskey and got a little merry but not drunk because we didn't have it there for that purpose. (104)

[The San Francisco Chronicle on Schieffelin:] He may be recognized on the streets of San Francisco by his ample growth of dark hair, his frontier bearing and border costume. There is not a drinking man in the expedition. In fact, the entire supply of liquor for the three years' campaign consists of ten gallons of whisky and five gallons of brandy, and yet the party of five take along 7,000 pounds of flour and 500 pounds of coffee. (110)

Then I saw what I thought my eyes had deceived me in, and that he had drawn the foreskin over the head of his penis and tied a string around it. The only semblance of clothing, if that might be called, such that he had on. I asked Ned what the devil was that string there for. "Why," he says, "they don't consider they are naked when that is on. Don't you see, it hides the head of it. And that according to their custom is what they call naked. When one of those others over there that is naked gets up, if he hasn't got the string on, he will cover it with his hand or something." Which was true. For a few minutes before I had noticed one of them walking across the floor and holding his hand over it. And that with the indifference in which those other three was walking around, together with Ned being well acquainted with their habits, having, until a year or two previously, lived within a few miles of that village for a few years, and was conversant with their habits. At least that was his explanation, and from what I saw I believe it. It is a little, the lightest evening dress that I ever saw. A piece of string about the size of an ordinary shoe string and about a foot long. But it shows what custom does. (121-2)

24oct2006 — From The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins:

Here's another weird example of the privileging of religion. On 21 February 2006 the United States Supreme Court ruled that a church in New Mexico should be exempt from the law, which everybody else has to obey, against the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.8 Faithful members of the Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal believe that they can understand God only by drinking hoasca tea, which contains the illegal hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine. Note that it is sufficient that they believe that the drug enhances their understanding. They do not have to produce evidence. Conversely, there is plenty of evidence that cannabis eases the nausea and discomfort of cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy. Yet the Supreme Court ruled, in 2005, that all patients who use cannabis for medicinal purposes are vulnerable to federal prosecution (even in the minority of states where such specialist use is legalized). Religion, as ever, is the trump card. Imagine members of an art appreciation society pleading in court that they 'believe' they need a hallucinogenic drug in order to enhance their understanding of Impressionist or Surrealist paintings. Yet, when a church claims an equivalent need, it is backed by the highest court in the land. Such is the power of religion as a talisman. (22)

The fact that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation was early stated in the terms of a treaty with Tripoli, drafted in 1796 under George Washington and signed by John Adams in 1797:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. (40)

The following statement of Jefferson is indistinguishable from what we would now call agnosticism:

To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise . . . without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.

Christopher Hitchens, in his biography Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, thinks it likely that Jefferson was an atheist, even in his own time when it was much harder:

As to whether he was an atheist, we must reserve judgment if only because of the prudence he was compelled to observe during his political life.But as he had written to his nephew, Peter Carr, as early as 1787, one must not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. "If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in this exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you." (42)

In my interview with [James] Watson as Clare, I conscientiously put it to him that, unlike him and Crick, some people see no conflict between science and religion, because they claim science is about how things work and religion is about what it is all for. Watson retorted: "Well I don't think we're for anything. We're just products of evolution. You can say, `Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don't think there's a purpose.' But I'm anticipating having a good lunch." We did have a good lunch, too. (100)

I was irresistibly reminded of Peter Medawar's comment on Father Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man, in the course of what is possibly the greatest negative book review of all time: "its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself." (154)

The political power of America's Ten Commandment table-toters is especially regrettable in that great republic whose constitution, after all, was drawn up by men of the Enlightenment in explicity secular terms. If we took the Ten Commandments seriously, we would rank the worship of the wrong gods, and the making of graven images, as first and second among sins. Rather than condemn the unspeakable vandalism of the Taliban, who dynamited the 150-foot-high Bamiyan Buddhas in the mountains of Afghanistan, we would praise them for their righteous piety. What we think of as their vandalism was certainly motivated by sincere religious zeal. (248-9)

Go back another four decades, and the changing standards become unmistakeable. In a previous book I quoted H. G. Wells's utopian New Republic, and I shall do so again because it is such a shocking illustration of the point I am making.

And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black? . . . the yellow man? . . . the Jew? . . . those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency? Well, the world is a world, and not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. . . . And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity - beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds. . . . And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness . . . is death. . . . The men of the New Republic . . . will have an ideal that will make the killing worth the while. (269-70)

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." The adage is true as long as you don't really believe the words. But if your whole upbringing, and everything you have ever been told by parents, teachers, and priests, has led you to believe, really believe, utterly and completely, that sinners burn in hell (or some other obnoxious article of doctrine such as that a woman is the property of her husband), it is entirely plausible that words could have a more long-lasting and damaging effect than deeds. I am persuaded that the phrase "child abuse" is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell. (318)

"Tell me," the great twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once asked a friend, "why do people always say it was natural for man to assume that the sun went round the Earth rather than that the Earth was rotating?" His friend replied, "Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth. Wittgenstein responded, "Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?" I sometimes quote this remark of Wittgenstein in lectures, expecting the audience to laugh. Instead, they seem stunned into silence.
In the limited world in which our brains evolved, small objects are more likely to move than large ones, which are seen as the background to movement. As the world rotates, objects that seem large because they are near—mountains, trees and buildings, the ground itself—all move in exact synchrony with each other and with the observer, relative to heavenly bodies such as the sun and stars. Our evolved brains project an illusion of movement onto them rather than the mountains and trees in the foreground.

Surely ignorance of the Bible is bound to impoverish one's appreciation of English literature? And not just solemn and serious literature. The following rhyme by Lord Justice Bowen is ingeniously witty:

The rain it raineth on the just,
And also on the unjust fella.
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella.

But the enjoyment is muffled if you can't take the allusion to Matthew 5:45 ("For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust"). And the fine point of Eliza Doolittle's fantasy in My Fair Lady would escape anybody ignorant of John the Baptist's end:

"Thanks a lot, King," says I in a manner well bred,
"But all I want is 'Enry 'Iggins' 'ead.'

P. G. Wodehouse is, for my money, the greatest writer of light comedy in English, and I bet fully half my list of biblical phrases will be found as allusions within his pages. . . . What is true of comic writing in English is more obviously true of serious literature. Naseeb Shaheen's tally of more than thirteen hundred biblical references in Shakespeare's works is widely cited and very believable. . . . You can't appreciate Wagner (whose music, as has been wittily said, is better than it sounds) without knowing your way around the Norse gods.
Let me not labour the point. I have probably said enough to convince at least my older readers that an atheistic world-view provides no justification for cutting the Bible, and other sacred books, out of our education.


I can't see much to argue with in The God Delusion, except for (1) the lack of a source for a distinction between good and evil (Dawkins tries—and, I think, fails—to address that problem, I recognize that it isn't his problem any more than, say, mine), and (2) the following, as noted:

I have previously told the story of a respected elder statesman of the Zoology Department at Oxford when I was an undergraduate. For years he had passionately believed, and taught, that the Golgi Apparatus (a microscopic feature of the interior of cells) was not real: an artefact, an illusion. Every Monday afternoon it was the custom for the whole department to listen to a research talk by a visiting lecturer. One Monday, the visitor was an American cell biologist who presented completely convincing evidence that the Golgi Apparatus was real. At the end of the lecture, the old man strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand and said—with passion—"My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years." We clapped our hands red. No fundamentalist would ever say that.[*] In practice, not all scientists would. But all scientists pay lip service to it as an ideal—unlike, say, politicians who would probably condemn it as flip-flopping. (284)

[*] Correction—here is an example of one fundamentalist doing exactly that:
After some delay, the Doctor granted me an interview at the offices of the Trinitarian Bible Society, Bury Street, London, and that hour's interview proved to be the most critical turning point in my life and ministry. The Doctor invited me to say what was troubling me, and I feared, that after all, he would smile indulgently, pat me on the shoulder and tell me to go home and forget all about it. Again I plucked up courage and here is a transcript of our conversation.
Myself - From your writings Doctor, I believe I am right in saying that you do not believe 'The Church' began at Pentecost, but rather, that the Dispensational Boundary must be drawn at Acts 28?
Dr. Bullinger - That is so. I have made that quite clear.
Myself - Well, what seems to me to stultify the position you have taken regarding Acts 28, is, that you nevertheless treat the whole of Paul's epistles as one group, starting with Romans, ending with Thessalonians, with Ephesians somewhere in the centre.
To my amazement and joy, the Doctor looked at me for a moment, then slapping his thigh with his hand said:
That scraps half the books I have written. But we want the Truth, and the Truth is there in what you have said.
I felt that here was indeed 'grace'. Dr. Bullinger was a man of world repute, a scholar and an elder. I was a young man of 28 years and unknown. We spent the remainder of our brief interview in considering the dispensational implications that arise from observing the relation of Paul's epistles to the boundary line of Acts 28.
Charles H. Welch: An Autobiography

23oct2006 — Though I haven't yet seen it, I am unafraid to go ahead and recommend Chris Metzler's and Jeff Springer's Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea. It's got the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain's Leonard Knight, and it's narrated by John Waters. How could it not be great? It looks pretty great from the trailer on the film's website. Me, I'm looking forward to it.

22oct2006You pretty much get what you ask for in this life, and most people are too timid to ask for what they want. And getting what you want out of life—isn't that the whole game? Most people have no idea how this game is played.
But wiseguys do.

In life, you will be accorded precisely the respect that you demand for yourself. Once you learn that lesson, you are way ahead of the game. (103)

Maybe a meeting is called to get you to the place where your executioner awaits. Being summoned to such a meeting is always a dreadful occasion for gangsters. In the backs of their minds they know that they could be stepping into a trap which will cost them, well, the backs of their minds. But they have no choce but to show up. (113)

So what do I expect you, the reader, to get out of this book? What's in it for you, now that you know about the way of the wiseguy? Maybe a little insight into the darker side of human nature, into the crazy impulses we all manage to control but that wiseguys let run wild. Maybe a little better understanding of a rich part of this country's history. Maybe nothing. Like I said, I'm not here to push any lessons on anybody. (195)

— Joseph "Donnie Brasco" Pistone, The Way of the Wiseguy

20oct2006Jonathan Turley gives hell to Bush, Congress, and apathetic Americans on Keith Olbermann's Countdown:

People have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values. It couldn't be more significant. And the strange thing is, we've become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, Dancing with the Stars. I mean, it's otherworldly. . . . I think people are fooling themselves if they believe that the courts will once again stop this president from taking over—taking almost absolute power. It basically comes down to a single vote on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy. And he indicated that if Congress gave the president these types of powers, that he might go along. And so we may have, in this country, some type of uber-president, some absolute ruler, and it'll be up to him who gets put away as an enemy combatant, held without trial. It's something that no one thought—certainly I didn't think—was possible in the United States. And I am not too sure how we got to this point. But people clearly don't realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I'm not too sure we're going to change back anytime soon. . . . this is going to go down in history as one of our greatest self-inflicted wounds. And I think you can feel the judgment of history. It won't be kind to President Bush. But frankly, I don't think that it will be kind to the rest of us. I think that history will ask, Where were you? What did you do when this thing was signed into law? There were people that protested the Japanese concentration camps, there were people that protested these other acts. But we are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate.

See the video ("The Day King George Was Crowned") or read the transcript ("'National yawn as our rights evaporate'"). This is important stuff. It is time. And then some.

19oct2006My Chaucer professor at Arizona State, Dennis Moran, recommended memorizing ten lines of Chaucer with the correct pronunciation as a tool for learning to read Chaucer for pleasure. I remember he used to come into the bookstore where I worked and correct my Middle English pronunciation. Thank you, Dr. Moran! — Eric Wagner An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, p. 179

Speaking of Robert Anton Wilson, here are some excerpts from an interview he did with Paul Krassner (included in Krassner's onehandjerking):

Paul Krassner: You've written 34 books with the aid of pot. Could you describe that process?
Robert Anton Wilson: It's rather obsessive-compulsive, I think. I write the first draft straight, then rewrite stoned, the rewrite straight again, then rewrite stoned again, and so on, until I'm absolutely delighted with every sentence, or irate editors start reminding me about deadlines—whichever comes first. Hemingway and Raymond Chandler had similar compulsions, but used the wrong drug, booze, and they both attempted suicide. Papa succeeded but poor Ray didn't and just looked like a sloppy alcoholic. (He tried to shoot himself in the head and missed.)
[ . . . ]
PK: When the City Council staged a public giveaway of medical marijuana, a DEA agent asked, "What kind of message are city officials sending to the youth of Santa Cruz?" How would you answer him?
RAW: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
[ . . . ]
PK: You were brought up as a Catholic and became a Marxist when you were 16. What disillusioned you about each of those belief systems?
RAW: Their rigidity. All rigid Belief Systems (B.S.) censor and warp the processes of perception, thought and even empathy. They literally make people behave like badly wired robots.
[ . . . ]
PK: How do you discern between conspiracy and coincidence?
RAW: The way Mr. and Mrs. Godzilla make love: very carefully.
PK: A dinner party was scheduled for March 31, 1981, the day after an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, which, if successful, would have elevated Vice President and former CIA chief George Bush to the presidency. The dinner was immediately canceled. It would have been held at the home of Neil Bush, and a guest was to be Scott Hinckley, brother of the would-be killer. Hinckley's father and Bush were friends and fellow oil industrialists. A PR firm issued a statement: "This horrible coincidence has been devastating to the Bush Family. Our condolences go out to all involved. And we hope to get the matter behind us as soon as possible." Congressman Larry MacDonald was the only legislator who demanded an investigation, but his plane crashed. Whattaya think—coincidence or conspiracy?
RAW: To me, it looks at first glance like coincidence by about 75 percent probabilty. I mean, who would be dumb enough to use an assassin with such obvious links to his employers? But then again, the Bush Crime Family seem to think they can get away with anything. . . . I guess this does deserve further investigation, by somebody who doesn't fly in airplanes.
[ . . . ]
PK: You and I have something in common. Lyndon LaRouche has revealed truth about each of us: You're really the secret leader of the Illuminati; and I was brainwashed at the Tavistock Institute in England. Do you think he actually believes such things, or is he consciously creating fiction, just as the FBI's counter-intelligence program did?
RAW: I still don't understand some of my computer's innards and you expect me to explain a bizarre contraption like the brain of Lyndon LaRouche?
[ . . . ]
PK: The original meaning of conspiracy was "to breathe together." What's your personal definition of conspiracy?
RAW: When me and my friends gits together to advance our common interests, that's an affinity group. When any crowd I don't like does it, that's a goddam conspiracy.
[ . . . ]
PK: What's your reaction to the recent mid-term elections?
RAW: Profound boredom. I don't give a hoot whether the thieves and cut-throats in power call themselves Republicans or Democrats. If they want power over you and me—the power to use violence against us—they should be put in nuthouses and heavily sedated until a cure for this condition is found. Like all other marauders and predators.
[ . . . ]
PK: Recently, when I spoke at a college campus, a student asked what I wanted my epitaph to be. I replied, "Wait, I'm not finished." What do you want your epitaph to be?
RAW: I have ordained in my will that my body will get cremated and the ashes thrown in Asa Hutchinson's face. The executor of my will should then shout one word only: "Gotcha!"

See also: Robert Anton Wilson update from BoingBoing

18oct2006The hatred for the tariff was universal throughout the South. It made Southerners vassals of the North, being just a sophisticated form of tribute. The argument went like this: The tariff prevented competition from Europe, which meant that Northern industrialists could charge excessive prices for their goods sold in the South, thus shifting a large part of Southern wealth to Northern interests. If the South should chose to buy foreign goods with the high tax, this put Southern moneys into the federal coffers to be spent on Northern projects, in effect another form of tribute from the South to the North. Either way it was an injustice upon the Southern people and their economy.

Compromise, however, prevailed up until 1860 when the new Republican Party held its convention in Chicago which nominated Abraham Lincoln as the Republican candidate for President. The platform of the party included a demand for a high tariff, and when the tariff issue came up before the delegates for approval, there was so much yelling and hoopla, it was "as if a herd of buffalo had stampeded through the conventional hall." The noise of that stampede must have been heard all the way to the Southern States. The Southerners got the message, and while the new Republican nominee for president, reassured the South, time and time again, that slavery was in no danger, no doubt their economy was – with the proposed high tariff. The first thing the Republicans did when they arrived in Washington in March of 1861, was to push through a high tariff, called the Morrill Tariff, the highest in history, with rates of over 50% on many items. This tax, more than anything else, probably made any reconciliation with the seceding states impossible.

In Lincoln's first inaugural address, he made a clear demand on the seceding states of "taxes or war." With slavery he was conciliatory, never even mentioning the Republican demand to end slavery in the territories. He went so far as the state that he had no personal inclination to interfere with slavery. He even said he supported a constitutional amendment (ironically #13) to protect slavery forever in the states where it existed, and that would have included New Jersey, Delaware, and the border states. But on taxes he was committed – there would be no invasion of the South he said, except to collect taxes and recover any federal property. Many Southern newspaper editorials saw this and correctly interpreted this as an appeasement to slavery, but a call for aggression to collect the high tariff on imports to the South. Lincoln and his party had resurrected the old animosity with a new and more severe "tariff of abomination." To the South this came as no surprise considering the platform of the Republican Party adopted in the summer of 1860.

The war, however, got started over another tax matter – the free trade zone in the Confederacy. Lincoln, even if he had been a strong advocate for abolition in the nation, never would have received the support, especially the financial support he got from the banks, Wall Street, and the commercial powers of the North. Abolitionists were a small minority that had been repudiated in all the elections in the North. This war, like so many wars, had economic factors that overpowered all other considerations. What was at stake for the North, was not freedom for the slave, but the prosperity and commerce of the North.

— Charles Adams (author of For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization), "A Brief Tax History of America"

17oct2006 — Diane Rehm . . . Tom Brokaw . . . Barbara Walters . . . John Melendez . . . Mel Tillis . . . Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. . . . Rita Cosby.

16oct2006 — From John Stossel's Give Me A Break:

These days, I rarely get awards from my peers. Some of my ABC colleagues look away when they see me in the halls. (2)

When the U.S. Department of the Interior couldn't find $2 billion that taxpayers had given it, I went to ask Bruce Babbitt, President Clinton's secretary of the interior, about it. Babbitt's press secretary agreed to the interview. She directed us to a Department of the Interior office, where we spent three hours setting up our equipment. Then Babbitt came in, sat down, took one look at me, and, before I could ask a question, announced: "I'm gonna fire whoever scheduled this interview." Then he walked out. Apparently, he doesn't talk to reporters who are likely to ask confrontational questions. (24)

For years I bought the stereotypes that serve as conventional wisdom in the news business: Corporations are evil; all risk is intolerable; consumers need more government to protect us.
It's embarrassing how long it took me to see the damage regulators do. The taxes that pay their salaries and build their offices are the least of it. The bigger harm is the indirect cost, all the money businesses spend trying to wade through the red tape (lobbying, filling out forms, hiring lawyers), plus the damage the regulation does to the American spirit. So much creativity goes not into inventing things, but into gaming the system, manipulating the regulatory leviathan.
It took me too long to understand that. If you leave people alone, they will, without planning or intervention, create the system that benefits everyone most. This is because in a free market, every exchange is voluntary: You're always trading something you have for something you want more. It's a win-win proposition. Otherwise, why would anyone trade?
When you go to the store and trade your dollar for an ice cream cone, it's because you want the snack more than you want the money. If you don't like it or you feel it's a bad trade, you won't buy it again. But if the store gives you what you want, you'll return. That repeat business will benefit not just the store owner but a huge network of other people as well—the ice cream maker, the delivery-truck driver, the maker of the truck he drives, the oil company, and so on. (49-50)

The abolition of the Civil Aeronautics Board's rule-making power allowed airfreight companies to fly their own planes and implement new technologies that revolutionized the shipping business. For years the post office had claimed it was not reliably possible to "get it there overnight." Now we take airfreight for granted. (58)

Until the '80s, the government set the maximum price that companies could charge for oil and gas. When the government lifted that cap, some politicians screamed "unfair"—prices would soon go much higher because oil companies would be able to "gouge" consumers. Again, surprise: Prices dropped. Market competition held costs down better than government controls had.
Do you rmember that before the '80s, it was forbidden for you to attach any "foreign" (i.e., non-AT&T) device to a telephone line? Answering machines were not allowed. They might "disrupt phone service," said the government. Of course they didn't, be we now know that only because the government let go. . . . Before government lifted its heavy hand, long-distance phone calls cost several dollars a minute. Companies like MCI and Sprint were not permitted to offer lower rates. Today long-distance rates are 70 percent lower—and service is better because of competition. (58-9)

As economist F. A. Hayek put it, "Order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive." (122)

Most people assume things like mass transit are services only government can deliver. I assumed only the government could dig subway tunnels, yet years after I came to New York, I was surprised to learn that private companies built New York's first subway lines and ran them until the 1940s. The city only took it over after it had bankrupted the private lines by refusing to allow them to raise the "five-cent fare."
People assume only government can provide "public goods" like clean drinking water. But that's not true, either. In Jersey City, New Jersey, the city water department let the pipes rust. The water tasted foul and sometimes failed safety tests. City workers told the mayor there wasn't much they could do. In fact, they said, water prices would have to be raised . . . just to maintain the lousy service they had.
So the mayor, Bret Schundler, did something unusual. He put the water contract out for bid, inviting competition from private companies and from city workers. A for-profit company turned in the lowest bid. Critics said its low price and desire for profit would lead it to deliver even worse service. That didn't happen. Within months, the private company fixed the pipes government workers said couldn't be fixed. Jersey City's water now, for the first time in years, meets the highest cleanliness standard. And the private company saved taxpayers $35 million.
Why could the company do so much better than the city waterworks? Because its skills are honed by competition. The private company's survival depends on performance, and the mayor told us he made it clear to them that if they screw up, "They're fired. They're toast. I don't care. If they blow it, we're going to give the contract to somebody else." That threat focuses the mind. That's the difference between private and "public" enterprise.
Of course, critics of privatization said the private company would make life hell for the workers. That didn't happen either. The private company hired some of the men who used to work for the city, and when I asked them about it, they said that while they were working harder now, they liked it. They had better tools, and dealt with less bureaucracy. Hard work was okay, they said, because they were accomplishing more, and as one man in a hard hat put it, "that feels good." (125-6)

[Prediction: Phoenix's "light rail" system will be about as useful as LA's subway. When I've said that to people, the near-universal response has been: "LA has a subway?" Exactly. Exactly.]

When public-interest groups compile lists of corporate welfare recipients, a company named Archer Daniels Midland is usually at the top of the list. You may never have heard of ADM, because its name rarely appears on consumer products, but it's huge. Its products are in most processed foods.
ADM collects welfare because of two cleverly designed special deals. The first is the government's mandated minimum price for sugar. Because of the price supports, if the Coca-Cola Company or Pepsi wants to buy sugar for its soda, it has to pay 22 cents a pound—more than twice the world price. So Coke (and most everyone else) buys corn sweetener instead. Guess who makes corn sweetener? ADM, of course. Now guess who finances the groups that lobby to keep sugar prices high?
ADM's second federal feeding trough is the tax break on ethanol. Ethanol's a fuel additive made from corn, kind of like Hamburger Helper for gasoline, except that it's more expensive, so no one would buy it if government didn't give companies that use ethanol a special 52-cent-a-gallon tax break. That costs the treasury half a billion dollars a year. ADM produces half the ethanol made in America.
Why does ADM get these special deals? Bribery. Okay, it's not bribery—that would be illegal. ADM just makes "contributions." (142-3)

Georgia had a law against sodomy (oral or anal sex). The law was enforced selectively, usually only against homosexuals. When Chris Christiansen was arrested for propositioning another man, he challenged the constitutionality of his arrest. Georgia attorney general Mike Bowers fought that challenge all the way to the state supreme court and won. The law against sodomy was upheld until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state court in 2003. But in any case, who was Bowers to tell people what they should do with their sex organs? While he was condemning Christiansen's behavior, Bowers was having an affair with an employee of his law office. Adultery is illegal in Georgia, but Bowers didn't prosecute himself. They never do. (258)

"The law is a very powerful thing," said [Peter] McWilliams. "The law means that you send people out with guns to get people when they don't follow it. It's a very, very serious matter."
When I interviewed McMilliams, he smoked marijuana in front of our camera. He didn't think he'd be jailed for it, because we were in California, where "medical use" of marijuana is legal. McWilliams had AIDS and said marijuana relieved the nausea his AIDS medicine gave him.
But shortly after we talked, nine DEA agents showed up at his house and ransacked it, looking for "evidence of marijuana growing." Federal authorities don't much like California's liberal law.
They didn't much care for McWilliams, either. He smoked openly and advocated legalizing the drug. In 1998, federal authorities arrested him, charging him with giving a friend money to grow marijuana.
Authorities took McWilliams to federal court, where, unbelievably, the rules of the trial forbade his even mentioning his medical condition, or the fact that California had legalized medical use of marijuana (state law was inadmissible in federal court). Since he couldn't make the most basic arguments in his own defense, he gave up—pled guilty to a lesser charge, which got him a shorter jail term. A condition of his release was that he not smoke marijuana.
But it was the marijuana that kept him from vomiting up his medication. He took the plea bargain, but then several months later, he died, because he couldn't keep his medicine down. Those of us who revere freedom miss him. (272)

15oct2006 — From Body Piercing Saved My Life, by Andrew Beaujon:

But there's really only one first that counts in music—the record that most people heard. And that album was made by a deeply weird man from San Francisco named Larry Norman. . . . Norman's group People had debuted in 1968. . . . Norman quit the group when he saw what Capitol had done with his concept and—as one does in these situations—wrote a couple of musicals. . . . Norman later estranged himself from Christian music, the inevitable result of a personality that could charitably be described as "unpredictable." (21-2)

Nearly as important to the burgeoning movement was the band Children of the Day, whose fall from grace presaged the awkward manner in which the Christian music scene still handles controversy. . . . Come to the Waters . . . yielded a genuine worship hit, Stevens' "For Those Tears I Died." Many of the churches that incorporated the tune into their songbooks, hoever, tore out the pages and mailed them to her after what [Mark Allen] Powell describes as "Christian music's first official scandal"—Marsha Stevens' divorce from Russ and the announcement that she was a lesbian. Marsha Stevens has been written out of Christian music history as a result. (22-3)

Amy Grant was sixteen when her self-titled debut album was issued by Word and sold fifty-thousand copies. . . . Lou Minatti says, "you could say—at the risk of using a pagan metaphor—that Amy Grant's popularity opened a Pandora's box of troublesome issues that the Christian music industry has wrestled with to the present day." (33)

Amy Grant inspired calls for boycotts when she told Rolling Stone that she enjoyed sunbathing nude. But Grant had never been shy about her sexuality; her voice exudes sensuousness, and she'd always been upfront in her interviews about her determination that Christian women could be sexy. Which is why, when she divorced her first husband, Christian artist Gary Chapman, and quickly married country star Vince Gill, it wasn't that great a scandal. One gets the sense most Christian fans assumed Chapman wasn't up to the job. (176)

I was getting no closer to figuring out why Van Pelt thought I was being unfair to worship music. I began to wonder if I was having the same trouble understanding it that I did with the Grateful Dead. Back in the mid-to-late '80s, a fair number of my friends started following the Dead, traveling from show to show, living in parking lots, and getting by selling hippie wares to other Deadheads. When home, they'd lovingly catalog their bootleg cassettes and lists of set lists, all of which I found baffling for a band that has six good songs if you're feeling generous enough to count "Touch of Grey."
"You dont' get it," they'd tell me. "You have to come to a show." What they really meant was, you have to be high to enjoy this music, and I didn't do drugs. So I went to a Grateful Dead show sober, which is one of the worst ideas I've ever had.
This, I remember thinking, is what it must feel like to be insane. I was standing still while everyone around me twirled manically as the least interesting guitar solos and comically extended percussion breaks rattled on for what felt like hours. Actually, it
was hours, and I felt very lonely, because I just didn't get it. Later in life, during my occasional experiments with pot smoking, I tried listening to the band again. It couldn't hold a candle to watching TV.
Still, there had to be something to it that I was missing. You just don't get that many people to follow your band from town to town if you suck—otherwise, there would be a thriving subculture of Staindheads. I think the band's appeal wasn't so much its music though I'm sure there were other non-high people who like it; to my ears, the band lacked the vocabulary that makes jazz improvisation, for instance, rewarding—but the carnival-like atmosphere of the parking lot outside its shows, the sense of community and acceptance the Deadheads felt in one another, a kind of fellowship to which the Grateful Dead was almost incidental.
I think that's why Deadhead culture adapted to the death of Jerry Garcia, the Dead's lead singer, so successfully, as Deadheads began to follow bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, and the String Cheese Incident in much the same manner. Because it wasn't about the Dead, per se. It was about tapping into the sense of freedom and adventure that the band represented, and other bands could take up that torch.

The reason I finally "got" worship music at this show wasn't that Crowder puts on an excellent show (which he does) or that the music was adventurous and fun and really, really loud (which it was) or even that, if I eyed my fellow spectators selectively, I finally got a glimpse of what it might have been like to see Cheap Trick at Budokan in 1979. (244)

Lately I've found myself singing "Awesome God" and "If We Are the Body" while doing household chores, a development my wife regards as ominous. When I started this book, she was concerned that I was going to become a Christian. That didn't happen. But I have become a fan, not just of the music, but of Christians, and of Jesus himself. To me, the message of the Gospel is love one another, look out for the less fortunate, and try to walk gently on the earth. And I love that. I think evangelical Christians tie themselves in ontological knots trying to make the whole Bible jibe, which is simply impossible with a collection of historical texts written over more than a thousand years. To anyone struggling with Christianity, my advice (and I realize how little this is worth, coming from someone who doesn't believe in God) is to try to keep your eye on the big picture, not a verse here and there. Love God, if you're so inclined, and one another. Sort out the rest using those principles as a lens. (270-1)

14oct2006 — Overheard in the bathroom at Sierra Sid's truck stop, Reno, Nevada, 29aug2006:

Eee-is un's AWWWL stopped up—ain't no sense tryin' ta use EE-it.

13oct2006Plant scientists discovered decades ago that certain diseases were transmitted from plant to plant by short stretches of naked plant DNA. They named these unusual agents viroids. A typical example . . . is a disease of coconuts called kadunkadunk that coconut harvesters inadvertently spread on the spikes they wear to help them shinny up coconut palms. — Richard Rhodes, Deadly Feasts (p. 64)

12oct2006The Four Corners region of the Southwestern U.S. was more populous 800 to 1,000 years ago than it is today. Ancient builders provided housing using the materials on hand. Stone, sticks, clay, sand, fiber, and some timbers were all they used to build modest-sized, comfortable dwellings for all the inhabitants. With modern methods and materials, why is it so difficult to provide enough housing for less people today?
Unfortunately for all of us, the answer lies within the question. Current laws require the use of manufactured materials, extracted as natural resources miles away, processed in yet another location, and then transported great distances to us. Naturally, this drives the price of building a home beyond the reach of most people.

With a couple of rolls of barbed wire, a bale of bags, and a shovel one can build a magnificent shelter with nothing more than the earth beneath their feet. (3)

Conventional wood roof systems still eat up a lot of trees. This may make sense to those of us who dwell in forested terrain, but for many people living in arid or temperate climates, designing crobelled earthbag domes offers a unique opportunity for providing substantial shelter using the earth's most abundant natural resource, the earth itself. Why cut and haul lumber from the Northwest to suburban Southern California, Tucson, or Florida when the most abundant, versatile, energy efficient, cost effective, termit, rot and fire proof construction material is available right beneath our feet? Even alternative wall systems designed to limit their use of wood can still swallow up as much as 50 percent of that lumber in the roof alone. Earth is currently and has been the most used building material for thousands of years worldwide, and we have yet to run out. (4)

Earthen architecture endures. That which endures sustains. Examples of early Pueblo earthen construction practices dating from 1250-1300 AD is evident throughout the Southwestern United States. The coursed adobe walls of Casa Grande [Ruins] in Southern Arizona, Castillo Ruins, Pot Creek Pueblo and Forked Lightning Pueblo in New Mexico, and the Nawthis site in central Utah, although eroded with centuries of neglect, still endure the ravages of time. (11)

The exponential degradation of our environment and the increasing disparity of the haves and have-nots is a social dilemma precipitated by the preponderance of bureaucracies in the industrialized world. The building codes as they exist today are an extension of this bureaucracy; the perceived need for control of how and what we build takes the power from the many and transfers it to the few. (216)

In 1905 the first national building code was penned, prepared by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, a group representing the insurance industry. They proposed a nation-wide building ordinance that would minimize their risks and cut their financial losses. They were so successful that other self-interest groups saw the self-serving gain of legal control over building construction. In 1927, a group calling themselves the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) gathered in Phoenix, Arizona, to prepare and sponsor legislative enactment of the Uniform Building Code (UBC). Perhaps it is only coincidental that these self-proclaimed building officials were primarily comprised of building material suppliers and manufacturers, labor organizers, and other building professionals. Professional societies, insurance underwriters, lending institutions, trade associations, labor unions, and contractor associations have all had a special interest in influencing the code. . . . As early as 1921, it was recognized by many, including a Senate Committee on Reconstruction and Production, that building codes contributed to unnecessarily high construction costs. In 1970, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, George Romney, said that 80 percent of the American people could not afford to buy code-regulated bank loan-approved contract-built housing. (217)

In spite of the restrictive nature of the codes in regards to alternative architecture, the determined builder can find ways to circumvent these apparent obstacles. Hundreds (if not thousands) of house built without code compliance exist in the US without compromising the health and safety of their inhabitants. Many people choose to ignore the codes, noting that it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. The building department does not actively seek out code violators. Almost all code violations are brought to the attention of the building department by individual informants. Disaffected, hostile neighbors are the greatest source of these complaints. The obvious solution to this problem is to either live somewhere with no neighbors, or to approach them with neighborly intentions, which allows the opportunity to dispel any doubts or misconceptions. The bond that develops between people through open, honest discourse often makes converts of skeptics. (218)

Most building department jurisdictions do not require a permit if the "footprint" (or floor area) is less than what the code requires a permit for. In our case, a permit is not required if constructing a building with less than 120-square-feet (11.6 sq. m) of floor area. Check the local codes for the specific requirements in your area. This is just one way of eluding the building codes. There are probably as many forms of evasion as there are people who make use of them. Our intention is here not to tell the public how to dodge their local building codes. While sidestepping the codes may appear to be the simplest way to build what we want, avoidance does absolutely nothing towards changing the code. If anything, continued clandestine evasion may hurt us in the long run by creating more limiting codes, stricter enforcement, and harsher penalties for the growing number of code violators. (Then again, the easiest way to bring speeding violators under control is to raise the speed limit.) (218)

Another way the building codes can relax their stranglehold on the public would be to allow the owner/builder to shoulder the legal responsibility for building with alternative materials. A "buyer beware clause" could be included in any title of an alternatively built structure offered for sale. (219)

As builders, we have the right and the responsibility to demand a change to outdated and environmentally irresponsible dictums. Whether it is through evasion, coercion, legislative means, or polticial manipulation by individuals or an organized lobby of homebuilders, buyers, and environmental activists, the codes will change. They cannot be supported by consumptive, unsustainable industry for much longer. (219)

Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer, Earthbag Building

09oct2006 — Lamenting Luis Gonzalez's final game for the Arizona Diamondbacks one fan's sign said: "MY SNAKE IS CRYING"

Might want to have a doctor look at that, sir.

(See also)

07oct2006 — Burning Man 2006: a blast, as was the month-long trip surrounding it. Many thanks to everyone I saw there and on the way there and on the way back, especially:

Joshua & Heather. for above-&-beyond hospitality and Xenia ministrations; John Putch for lunch, a movie, and a phone booth (and its forthcoming adventures); Father Ratbite LaRue, for spiritual advice; every single one of the Billion Bunnies (especially TradeMark G & Christy, for entre into the world of bunnification; Julian & Elliot, for absorbing injury without insult; Sandipants & Stacey, for excellent companionship; Joshua (once again), for not only getting there but totally being there; and Babs Bunny, for getting me there & getting me squared (and nearly doing the same for Moby, the coward); Dan & Nicole, for bunny cheer, served with bacon; Mose, for not fucking dying from his heart attack; Bambi, for the coolest light rods ever); Professor Cardyhouse, for hangoutiness & tour-guide-iness; Brody Culppepper & LBJ, for pancakes, beer, and animal lore; Brendan & Jessica, for conversation, train rides and introduction to the Venture Brothers; Jackie & Payton, for letting me visit their coastal hideaway—so paradisaical it shall herein be unnamed; Daniel Paul, for essential Daniel Paul-ness and for enabling Richard Simmons to kick my ass; Russ & Jen, for pomegranate margaritas—yes: pomegranate margaritas—and for letting me ask umpteenkabillion questions about brains; Jennifer, for the studio tour and bringing Rebecca around; Lori, for statue sitting, statue delivery, and afternoon tea; Pete & Julie, for chats & dogs; Colleena, for impromptu smoothie time.

(Apologies to anyone I've omitted or whose links I've omitted or who I wasn't able to see on this trip—I will catch you next time around.)

13sep2006Jose Canseco confronts Wagner. Or vice-versa.


Doc: I don't think I could take a job where I had to pee in a cup.
Josh: I don't think I've ever had a job where I had to pee in a cup. [Pause] Except for that job I had, filling cups with pee.

24aug2006Good news and bad news: what do you want first?

Good news? Okay. Well, it's not really news, but:

Getting nicely and wholly high on illegal but completely natural hallucinogenic drugs might, just might open some sort of profound psychological doorway or serve as some sort of giddy terrifying rocket ride to a higher state of consciousness, happiness, a sense of inner peace and love and perspective and a big, fat lick from the divine.

It's true. There's even a swell new study from Johns Hopkins University that officially suggests what shamans and gurus and botany Ph.D.s and alt-spirituality types have known since the dawn of time and Jimi Hendrix's consciousness: that psilocybin, the all-natural chemical found in certain strains of wild mushrooms, induces a surprisingly large percentage of users to experience a profound -- and in some cases, largely permanent -- revolution in their spiritual attitudes and perspectives.

Not only that, but the stuff reportedly made a majority of testers feel so much more compassionate, open-hearted, connected to and awestruck by the world and the universe and God that it ranks right up there with the most profound and unfathomable experiences of their lives. I know. Stop the presses.

And now the bad news. The following isn't really news, either (under RICO. government has excused itself from charging you with a crime if they want something of yours—they just seize it and then you're guilty until proven innocent. or, rather, the inanimate object—whether cash, car, boat, plane, threshing combine, whatever—is.), but we're back to the days when courts used to try barnyard animals for murder:

Federal Appeals Court: Driving With Money is a Crime
Eighth Circuit Appeals Court ruling says police may seize cash from motorists even in the absence of any evidence that a crime has been committed.

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a "lack of significant criminal history" neither accused nor convicted of any crime.

On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez's name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez -- who did not speak English well -- and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez's story.

Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez's story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, "We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion... Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity."

Judge Donald Lay found the majority's reasoning faulty and issued a strong dissent.

"Notwithstanding the fact that claimants seemingly suspicious activities were reasoned away with plausible, and thus presumptively trustworthy, explanations which the government failed to contradict or rebut, I note that no drugs, drug paraphernalia, or drug records were recovered in connection with the seized money," Judge Lay wrote. "There is no evidence claimants were ever convicted of any drug-related crime, nor is there any indication the manner in which the currency was bundled was indicative of drug use or distribution."

"Finally, the mere fact that the canine alerted officers to the presence of drug residue in a rental car, no doubt driven by dozens, perhaps scores, of patrons during the course of a given year, coupled with the fact that the alert came from the same location where the currency was discovered, does little to connect the money to a controlled substance offense," Judge Lay Concluded.

[Both via Cardhouse Robot]

20aug2006Slouching toward Burning Man

It'll take me a while to get there. While I may check in with this & that now & then, I leave you with a reading list, in no particular order, unless you count the alphabet.

John Hoffman, The Art and Science of Dumpster Diving
Bob Black, Beneath the Underground
A. J. Heim, Car Living Your Way
Per Mollerup, Collapsible: The Genius of Space-Saving Design
B. Wilson, Cover Your Tracks Without Changing Your Identity
Harold Hough, Freedom Road
Edward Koren, The Hard Work of Simple Living
J. J. Luna, How to Be Invisible
Charles Long, How to Survive Without a Salary
Lloyd L. Morain, The Human Cougar
Loompanics' Golden Records
Loompanics Unlimited Live! in Las Vegas
E. X. Boozhie, The Outlaw's Bible
Phil Garlington, Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead
Crimethinc, Recipes for Disaster
Tom & Mary Lou Magee, RVing for Fun and Profit
Janet Luhrs, The Simple Living Guide
Cliff Savage, The Sling for Sport and Survival
Carol Hill, Subsistence U.S.A
Ace Backwords, Surviving on the Streets: How to Go Down Without Going Out
Craig S. Roberts, Ten Consecutive Years Living in Cars
Harry Kemp, , Tramping on Life
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Boston T. Party, You & the Police!
Camden Benares, Zen Without Zen Masters

Counting the alphabet, that doesn't even make sense.

18aug2006 — Excellent meditation on the arrest of novelist Joshilyn Jackson.

Here's Jackson's own account.

(via Cardhouse Robot)


He that would seriously set upon the search of truth ought in the first place to prepare his mind with a love of it. For he that loves it not will not take much pains to get it; nor be much concerned when he misses it. There is nobody in the commonwealth of learning who does not profess himself a lover of truth: and there is not a rational creature that would not take it amiss to be thought otherwise of. And yet, for all this, one may truly say, that there are very few lovers of truth, for truth's sake, even amongst those who persuade themselves that they are so. How a man may know whether he be so in earnest, is worth inquiry: and I think there is one unerring mark of it, viz. The not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure of assent, it is plain, receives not the truth in the love of it; loves not truth for truth's sake, but for some other bye-end. For the evidence that any proposition is true (except such as are self-evident) lying only in the proofs a man has of it, whatsoever degrees of assent he affords it beyond the degrees of that evidence, it is plain that all the surplusage of assurance is owing to some other affection, and not to the love of truth. — John Locke

15aug2006BUGNUTSCRAZY (Or: You Bring About the Apocalypse with the Insane President You Have, Not the Insane President You Want—Or Possibly the Insane President Some Other Country Has)

John Lennon imagined a world with no religion. I can imagine being satisfied with a world in which there was merely general agreement that leaders of nuclear weapon-wielding countries who believe the end of the world is near and that they can in any way hasten the appearance of their various imaginary messiahs must surely be BUGNUTSCRAZY.

Unfortunately, it's just my imagination.

ITEM: Xtian apocalyptic fiction author Joel Rosenberg, speaking on MSNBC regarding Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared it unacceptably dangerous for a possibly nuclear-capable country to have a president who believes he and his country's military power might possibly have a part to play in ending the present world order. I agree with Mr. Rosenberg that Ahmadinejad must surely be BUGNUTSCRAZY.

What I don't see is how Rosenberg and millions of other North American Xtians consider it perfectly acceptable for the nuclear-more-than-capable United States to have a president who believes that his messiah will soon snatch millions of people into heaven in the space of an eyeblink, and that he himself, as president, may play some part in this unprecedented deus ex machination.

This is because both he and they are BUGNUTSCRAZY. But because they are the same flavor of BUGNUTSCRAZY, they do not recognize their own BUGNUTSCRAZINESS; BUGNUTSCRAZY people recognize only the BUGNUTSCRAZINESS of other flavors of BUGNUTSCRAZINESS.

Thus it is that BUGNUTSCRAZY people currently occupy the attention of the BUGNUTSCRAZY White House.

ITEM: Joel C. Rosenberg, who writes Christian apocalyptic fiction, told [The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin] in an interview this week that he was invited to a White House Bible study group last year to talk about current events and biblical prophecy.

ITEM: Also popular with the current administration is utterly completely totally BUGNUTSCRAZY Texas preacher John Hagee, who, when not whinnying apocalyptic inanities in the corridors of the White House, is busy trying to breed a perfect red heifer so he can burn the heifer so he can give the ashes of the red heifer to religious leaders in Israel, to aid in the appearance of their messiah (not Jesus and not the 12th Imam, but a messiah-to-be-named-later).

They, too, are all BUGNUTSCRAZY.

Immanentization of the Eschaton, people. Elementary philosophical mistake.
Two of the earliest to make it: Jesus (e.g., "This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished") and Paul (e.g., "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; ").
Two who didn't: Eric Voegelin and Robert Anton Wilson.
Two who are making it right now: George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

09aug2006 — From The Family Story of Bonnie and Clyde:

"When you get out I want you to go to work, and for God's sake don't ever get into anymore trouble." [Bonnie, writing to an imprisoned Clyde] (38)

According to Cumie Barow, her son was sodomized by a large and over-powering inmate while at the Eastham facility. This traumatic treatment seriously affected young Clyde, and he swore to kill the man if ever the chance arose. While Clyde was still in prison, history records that Clyde's abuser was murdered by an unknown party a short time after he was released from prison. "The attack and sodomy made Clyde mean as a snake," Clyde's sister later told the family. (46)

And, contra the 1967 film version:

The Barrows and their back seat hostages arrived in El Dorado, Arkansas, and stopped for gas and oil. After walking around the car, they got back in and explained to their captives, "Well, we have decided not to kill you. We will let you go soon."
As their conversation became more casual, Bonnie asked them what they did for a living.
"I'm a home demonstration agent for the county," Ms. Stone explained.
Obviously slower in his response when he was asked his occupation, Darby answered, "I'm an undertaker."
Laughing, Bonnie stated, "When the law finally catches us, maybe you can fix us up. If they ever take us, though, we'll get the electric chair, so we probably won't need any undertaker," Bonnie announced as she squeezed Clyde's arm.

08aug2006 — From Julian Rubenstein's Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts:

The only memory Attila had of his mom was of an afternoon when he was about six. For years, he had begged his father to let him meet her, and finally his dad had agreed. They boarded a horse-drawn cart and trotted over to the nearby village where she was living. Attila was afraid to approach the house, but Karoly Ambrus pushed his son up to the window. There was his mother, naked with another man. Attila ran back to the cart, crying, while his father shouted, "Happy now?" (39)

Between Judit, his half a dozen jobs, and his unsalaried hockey career, the last thing Attila needed was a letter like the one he received in November. . . . There was a piece of mail in his box from Karoly Ambrus. Karoly hoped to visit for a long weekend and gave the date of his planned arrival in two weeks. For Attila, this was like receiving news that all the details had been arranged for his head to be squeezed in a vise. (54)

If there was any trait he and his only child shared, it was hardheadedness. Karoly could still remember Attila, bloody-nosed after he'd administered a good slapping, running back inside to yell at him, "I'm going to be somebody! You'll see! I'm going to be famous! I'll make you proud!" (55)

Tibor Vagi, who had an unparalleled gift for rendering police cars utterly unusable, often through the misapplication of the gas pedal or emergency brake, and thus went by Egy Rakas Seggfei, or Mound of Asshead. (89)

He'd pulled ten successful heists over the past year and a half; he didn't need to keep up that kind of pace to make the history books. He was only twenty-six. And when he'd stopped to think about it, he realized he was rich. (123)

The former pelt smuggler and pen salesman whose father said he would be nothing more than a gray nobody was now making news in two sections of the Hungarian newspapers. In the sports section, Attila was unrecognizably depicted in game-action photographs behind a lattice-grille face mask and white helmet. In more prominent parts of the paper, his big round face was plain to see, as the tabloids continued publishing the blurry but troubling frames from the Lajos Street bank video. (140)

To say that Attila had a lackluster season wouldn't be fair. Attila's 1995-96 season as UTE's starting goalie may be the worst performance by a goaltender in the history of hockey. During one six-game stretch, from November 3 to December 15, the Chicky Panther gave up eighty-eight goals, twenty-three of which were deposited in a single outing against Alba Volan in which UTE itself did not score a single goal. Stadiums all over the country, most of which featured scoreboards configured for one-digit tallies, had to make special preparations for Attila's arrival. In one case, that meant making a cardboard sign with a 1 on it and sending a boy over to stick it to the board; another time an arena announcer informed fans they would have to keep track in their heads after the arena's scoreboard hit 9. (141)

"Don't you think it's suspicious with you spending so much money there?" Gabi asked, trying not to flinch.
Attila put his glass back down on the table, empty. "Gabi, don't keep your money in your pillowcase," he said. "Have as many experiences as you can. That they can never take away."

THE HERO OF OUR TIME, THE BANK ROBBER, read the headline on the editorial page of Magyar Hirlap on July 29.
[From the editorial:] In a time bereft of morality, can anyone regard the deeds of the Whiskey Robber as a crime? And if so, what about the everyday "business" of the so-called elite. . . . [People] understand that they are locked out of the privileged class, which can do anything without punishment. Attila Ambrus had the courage to make an attack against this unjust system. He didn't rob a bank. He just performed a peculiar redistribution of wealth, which differs from that of the elites only in its method. (258)

Once he reached the end, it was too painful to hold on and he let go, dropping to the concrete with a thud and a groan. It took a few seconds to swallow the shooting pain in his legs. Then the adrenaline took over. He began to run as best he could on two twisted ankles toward the Danube, where his first sight across the river was Parliament, spread out on the bank like a big, proud turd. (263)

07aug2006 — Available if you want it


[Meriweather ] Lewis realizes at last that his whole concept of what being a chief means has been wrong from the beginning of the voyage: "Each individual is his own sovereign master, and acts from the dictates of his own mind; the authority of the Chief being nothing more than mere admonition, supported by the influence which the propriety of his own exemplary conduct may have acquired for him in the minds of the individuals who compose the band." — M. R. Montgomery, Jefferson and the Gun-Men: How the West Was Almost Lost (p. 112)

After a trip down the Columbia, a long wet winter with coastal Indians well accustomed to trading with white men, and a troublesome return up the Columbia to the Nez Perce country, [William] Clark . . . is not offended by anything, exposed "parts" or petty thieving or stinginess. Clark gets along. It is an underestimated talent, getting along. (p. 141)


How disappointed those four women must be. They always hoped—did women.

I had thought this was an annoying new construction; apparently it is an annoying old one.

04aug2006Higham, Higham, who's got the Higham?

Me, apparently, lately. Here's a few from Charles Higham's stodgy, unconvincing Murdering Mr. Lincoln (I refer to the conspiracy theory, not the alleged conspirator's attitudes toward Lincoln):

[Lincoln's] enemies saw Lincoln destroying daily the basis of the Constitution. He refused to admit the legality of secessionism, the right of the state governors, senators and congressmen to leave the Union if they so chose; they objected to his suspension of the fundamental human privilege of habeas corpus, so that he could collaterally authorize arrest, imprisonment and punishment with a warrant under wartime special provisions.
They objected to his ordering military searches of homes, driving men and women from their loved ones without hope of communication and, in some cases, even without legal counsel. They despised his rejection of free speech: newspapers suffered closure when they dared criticize his administration. Small wonder then that [George N.] Sanders and his political colleagues Clement C. Clay and James P. Holcombe, as well as John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt and others of their stripe saw Lincoln in the same light as Emperor Napoleon III, Czar Nicholas I of Russia, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, Queen Isabella II of Spain or King Pedro V of Portugal.

Sanders, who called his fellow Kentuckian Lincoln a baboon and a What-Is-It?—showman Phineas T. Barnum's name for the Missing Link exhibited at his New York City museum—single-mindedly wanted Lincoln destroyed. (24)

At some stage during the celebrations, somebody placed a carpet bag on board the Presidential private railroad car at the Cincinnati depot. A suspicious attendant heard a mysterious ticking sound emerging from inside it and at first thought it might be a clock. But on second thought, he decided to call in a bomb defusing expert.
A bomb was, in fact, inside the bag, timed to be set off when the President boarded the car next morning. It is known that Sanders and his friend Beverley Tucker were, at the time, inventing and developing infernal machines of this kind; Vallandigham was, as they were, thinking constantly of ways to eliminate Lincoln. And the use of a bomb exactly mirrors the attempts made against Napoleon III under Sanders' specific instruction.
The matter was rapidly buried; it has surfaced in no published work in the 140 years after that. It was referred to only once, in the Syracuse N.Y.
Journal for February 18, 1861 and that was the end of the matter. For fear of unsettling his supporters and adding strength to his enemies, Lincoln made a policy of suppressing stories of attempts on his life. He sought no investigation from the leading government detectives Lafayette Baker, Allan Pinkerton or Ward Hill Lamon. (41)

Sanders urged them: "Let heart and brain into the revolution, accelerate and direct the movement, get rid of the Baboon (what is it?) Lincoln . . . ." (48)

By now the general view among the rich and powerful was that, in the words of Professor Arthur C. Cole in the official history of Illinois, "Lincoln had assumed certain powers which made his role quite as signficant as that of a dictator in the days of Rome's glory."
The President had continued to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, the most valued of civil rights, without legislative warrant under wartime provisions and without precedent in American history. He had interfered with freedom of speech and had suspended newspapers. He had approved conscription, which was anathema to many immigrants and had resulted in the New York draft riots of July, 1863. He had, in short, as Cole summed up, "assumed more authority above the constitution than any President, or anyone such in history since Oliver Cromwell."

Yet once Lincoln was elected, Greeley acted against his interests by calling for the secession of the cotton states, using the peculiar analogy of America's war of independence from England. "Let the Union slide," he wrote to Lincoln on December 22, adding ominously, "let Presidents be assassinated—we can elect more." (68)

We are coming, Abraham Lincoln,
From mountain, wood, and glen
We are coming, Abraham Lincoln,
With the ghosts of murdered men

Yes! We're coming Abraham Lincoln
With curses loud and deep
That will haunt you in your walking
And disturb you in your sleep

(Battle hymn of the Sons of Liberty, 1864)

04aug2006[sic] Humor

1) . . . and when Smih let slip some typographical errors in the first number of the serialization, he [Doyle] was so angry that he temporarily refused to respond to any further requests for work. (Charles Higham, The Adventures of Conan Doyle, p. 123.)

Way to turn the tables on Smith, there, Higham.

2) This resulted in an agreement between Marie, last of the Barrow family, and me to create a new book which will hopefully earn respect as the most accurate story every told about Bonnie and Clyde. (Phillip W. Steele, The Family Story of Bonnie and Clyde, p. 14.)

Most. Accurate. Every.

03aug2006Who are They? And what do They want?

They Came to Baghdad
They Used Dark Forces
They Found Atlantis
They Walked Like Men
They Never Came Home
They Stooped To Folly
They Lived in the Ice Age
They Can Kill You But They Can't Eat You
They Became What They Beheld
They Wrote On Clay
They Put out to Sea
They Got Me Covered
They Fought Under the Sea
They Left the Back Door Open
They Put Me Here
They Dared To Live
They Flew to Fame
They Sailed Into Oblivion
They Didn't Win the Oscars
They Must Have Seen Me Coming
They Escaped The Hangman
They Saw It Happen
They Made A Difference
They Should Have Served That Cup of Coffee
They Gave Us Shakespeare
They Went That-a-Way
They Peopled The Pacific
They Would Rule the Valley
They Knew the Unknown.
They Sought for Paradise
They Plotted Against Hitler
They Almost Killed Hitler
They Never Had It So Good
They Came in Chains
They Rode Into Europe
They Can but They Don't
They Led the Way
They Had a Dream
They Worshipped Him
They Went to Portugal
They Never Came Back
They Came to North Tama
They Spoke Out Good
They Could Not Stop the Music
They Told it to the Chaplain
They Never Said It
They Built the West
They Almost Made It
They Showed the Way
They Laughed When I Sat Down
They Called Him Champ
They Took My Father
They Did Not Fear
They Would Never Hurt a Fly
They Played the Game Then They Paid the Consequences
They Shall Not Sleep
They Played for New Zealand
They took to the sea
They Will Arise
They Came to My Studio
They Changed My China
They Came To Stay
They Came to Destroy America

"Hrmm," Inspector O'Hurlihey mused skeptically. "Sounds like quite an interesting life you've led, there, Mr. `They'—if that's even your real name!"

02aug2006 — Dave at The Picket Line reports:

Russell Kanning, editor of the Keene Free Press, and a war tax resister well-known in Free State Project circles (a project that is encouraging libertarian-minded people to move to New Hampshire in the hopes of forming a political critical mass), was arrested — twice — yesterday for visiting the IRS office in Keene, New Hampshire with the intent of handing leaflets to its employees.

The leaflets quote the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal: "Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent the commission of the Crimes." The reverse side is a sample letter that IRS employees could send President Bush to announce that they are resigning their jobs.

And further:

Russell Kanning was arrested twice last Thursday for attempting to hand out leaflets to employees of the IRS office in Keene, New Hampshire — leaflets urging them to quit their jobs to avoid complicity in the conspiracy of war crimes that is the federal government.

He's going to try again this week.

And finally, a great quotation from Thoreau:

My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I have to deal with, — for it is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel, — and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the government. How shall he ever know well what he is and does as an officer of the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider whether he shall treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a neighbor and well-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the peace, and see if he can get over this obstruction to his neighborliness without a ruder and more impetuous thought or speech corresponding with his action.

If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, "But what shall I do?" my answer is, "If you really wish to do anything, resign your office." When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished.

01aug2006Thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again. — Ezekiel, prophesying against the city of Tyre

Strangely, Israeli missiles seem to be experiencing no trouble at all in finding Tyre. Just last week they found and destroyed a 10-story building on what, according to Ezekiel, should be as bare as "the top of a rock." Are those Smart Bombs smarter than god, or what?

Is that egg on your face, there, Ezekiel? Wait, that's not egg . . . so that's why Martha Stewart's always warning everyone about cooking with dung.

31jul2006 — From Temple Grandin's Animals in Translation:

Many animals can be horrifically violent for no reason, it seems, other than the sheer desire to kill and maybe even to torture. It took many, many years for people to finally realize that dolphins, for instance, aren't the benign, perpetually smiling sea creatures they look like to us. Instead, dolphins are big-brained animals who commit gang rape, brutal killings of dolphin "children," and the mass murder of porpoises. In her book To Touch a Wild Dolphin, Rachel Smolker writes that male dolphins stick together in gangs and will chase a female down and forcibly mate her. . . . There was evidence that dolphins were killing babies and porpoises for years, but researchers just didn't see it. . . . Ben Wilson, a dolphin expert at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, told the New York Times that when he realized it was the dolphins who were doing the killing, his reaction was, "Oh my God, the animals I've been studying for the last ten years are killing these porpoises." (150-1)

With dolphins, researchers have pretty much reached the conclusion that much of the killing they do serves no evolutionary purpose. Dolphins will slaughter hundreds of porpoises at a time. The only imaginable evolutionary reason for this would be if porpoises compete with dolphins for the same scarce resources, like food. But they don't. Porpoises eat different food than dolphins do. Killing a porpoise doesn't increase a dolphin's chances of surviving and reproducing in any way. The only conclusion is that dolphins kill porpoises because they want to. (152)

Through all the years dogs have been living with humans they've developed a lot of ability to read people, to know what people are thinking and what they're likely to do. We know this from research comparing dogs to wolves. Even a wolf who has been hand-reared by human beings never acquires the ability to read people's faces the way any normal dog does. A human-reared wolf mostly doesn't look at his master's face, even when he's in a situation where he could use his master's help. Dogs always look at their owner's faces for information, especially if they need help. (177)

When you're choosing a mutt, try to pick a dog who comes right up to you and can be friendly. A lot of mutts are horribly distracted inside a kennel or pound, so it can be hard to tell what they'll be like once they've adjusted to a new home, but even at the pound a dog with a good temperament doesn't act terrified. (239)

Although Ildefonso had the idea that there was something greater than the material world, he didn't seem to have any concept of human justice. He had no idea whether it was just or unjust for the green men to catch him and take him back to Mexico; he just knew that's what the green men did, so he needed to stay away from the green men. He was trying to understand the rules, without realizing there were principles behind the rules. Ildefonso was an innocent. He didn't see all the good and bad that people do, and he didn't know there could be good and bad rules, either. After he learned language, he was sad to learn of the terrible things people do. Animals are innocents, too. Even when animals are treated badly by humans, or see other animals treated badly by humans, they don't seem to develop the abstract categories of just and unjust. Like Ildefonso, animals try to learn the rules without seeming to realize there are principles behind the rules. Since they don't know there are principles underlying the rules they don't realize that the rule itself can be just or unjust, or that a person could be breaking abstract principles of justice. Animals live much closer to the plain facts of the situation. (257-8)

I think for normal people language is probably a kind of filter. One of the biggest challenges for an animal or an autistic person is dealing with the barrage of details from the environment. Normal people with language don't have to see all those details consciously. But I see them, and animals do, too. The details never go away, either. If I think of the word "bowl," I instantly see many different bowls in my imagination, such as a ceramic bowl on my desk, a soup bowl at a restaurant I ate at last Sunday, my aunt's salad bowl with her cat sleeping in it, and the Super Bowl football game. I think that probably happens to animals, too, and I wonder what Ildefonso's visual memory was like while he was still a language-less person. (261-2)

Then in 1999 Dr. Allan Snyder, a psychologist at the Centre for the Mind at Australian National University, published a paper that laid out a unified theory of all the different savant talents. If his theory is right, it probably explains animal genius, too. Dr. Snyder and his co-author, Dr. D. John Mitchell, say that all the different autistic savant abilities come from the fact that autistic people don't process what they see and hear into unified wholes, or concepts, rapidly the way normal people do.
A normal person looks at a building and his brain turns the hundreds and thousands of building pieces coming through his sensory channels into one unified thing, a building. The brain does this automatically; a normal person can't not do it. That's why a common drawing lesson art teachers use is to have art students turn a picture upside down and copy it that way, or else draw the negative space surrounding an object instead of the object itself. [This] tricks your brain into letting the image stay in separate pieces more easily, so you can draw the object instead of your unified concept of the object. People are always amazed at how good their upside-down drawings are. . . .
Snyder and Mitchell say that the reason autistic people see the pieces of things is that they have privileged access to lower levels of raw information. A normal person doesn't become conscious of what he's looking at until after his brain has composed the sensory bits and pieces into wholes. An autistic savant is conscious of the bits and pieces.
That's why autistic savants can make perspective drawings without being taught how. They're drawing what they see, which is all the little changes in size and texture that tell you one object is closer up and another object is farther away. Normal people can't see all those little changes without a lot of training and effort, because their brains process them unconsciously. So normal people are drawing what they "see," which is the finished object, after their brains have put it all together. Normal people don't draw a dog, they draw a concept of a dog. Autistic people draw the dog.

30jul2006John Putch reports: "Mojave Phone Booth won jury award for best feature at the 11th annual Stony Brook Film Festival. There were only 2 major awards and we nabbed one of them."

29jul2006 — Nick Jans, on bears and Timothy Treadwell (the "Grizzly Man") in The Grizzly Maze:

Montana biologists in the 1980s had a prolonged and losing run-in with a crafty male they called the Mud Lake Bear. The scientists claimed he learned to drop rocks or sticks on the triggers of live traps and snares, demonstrating he knew exactly how the gadgets worked. He found and dismantled remote cameras, even tore surveyors' tape from trees—in short, made a three-year career of deliberately seeking out and wrecking increasingly elaborate trap sets over a wide area, apparently in retribution for having been trapped, measured, and tagged himself. (29)

In the blunt words of Tom Walters, "He was a con artist, no doubt about it—nice guy, but I knew what he was, too. Timothy just had himself a good gig, and he wanted to keep it going." (39)

He received a letter in reply that stated, among other things, that Timothy would personally "be honored to end up as grizzly shit." Ruminated Miller, "Given his attitude, I believed it wouldn't be long before he would be so honored." (42)

He'll write in his book that in the event of his being killed by a bear, he's instructed the pilots who fly him to dispose of his remains so that he simply disappears. That's his safeguard to the bears. Of course, it's a pipe dream, asking people to commit a class A felony for his sake, and to risk their careers, even lives, on his account. (42)

With what seems in retrospect chilling prescience, Letterman asks him, "Is it going to happen that one day we read a news article about you being eaten by one of these bears?" (50)

Timothy jots down long notes on sightings, matings, and bloodlines—in essence, involved family trees—which are, due to his long presence, sharp-eyed ability to identify individuals, and tireless devotion, his most notable (perhaps only) contribution to bear science. (55)

One scientist who witnesses Timothy interacting with bears in the field labels it "his own private Jackass show, minus the shopping cart." (56)

About thirty feet separates the three men in front and the bear. It's a much smaller animal, probably a three-year-old—the kind of bear that most often gets in trouble with people. Driven off by their mothers and on their own for the first time, some are timid and uncertain; others curious and apparently eager for company; a few aggressive, testing the boundaries, seeing how far they can push things. Teenagers, in other words. (115)

Back in Kodiak, Trooper Hill calls in Jones and Van Daele; running through the tape one more time, reviewing the footage of Timothy, Amie, and bears, he's discovered the chilling audio sequence. The men play it again and again, pause and rewind, taking notes, blocking out scenarios, all the while trying to decipher sounds muffled by the tent walls, the camera case itself, and the incessant spatter of rain on the tent. Over and over they listen to the screams and are unable to help. Later, when I ask Van Daele about the tape, he simply says, "Believe me—you don't want to hear it." (121-2)

Timothy gave another image of the bear to Jeff Slaughter . . . jokingly telling Slaughter, who was a bear hunter, that if he wanted to shoot a bear, that was the one he should go after. This from a man who loved bears above all. "Pretty ironic," muses Fulton, "how that worked out." (133)

Breiter adds that the more time he spends among bears, the less he's sure of them. "If someone asks me why a bear did something, I'll say I don't know. Years ago I would have known." (134)

Needless to say, if you're worried about an uninvited, hairy roommate with bad breath, cooking or keeping food in a tent in bear country is crazy. Don't be the guy (true story) who put a chunk of bacon under his pillow to keep a bear from getting it. (240)

28jul2006This is not the luggage ticket described by Article 4 of the Warsaw Convention

27jul2006 — Do stores like Target or Wal-Mart price any items between $13.00 to $13.99? Or do they avoid 13 like as if they was an elevat-a? Personally, I try to avoid that price range when I sell online (unless it's a religious item, in which case I try to load up on the thirteens and sixes).

In an elevator in Hawaii I asked a Japanese guy whether 13 is avoided in Japan (because the hotel, in accordance with custom, has no 13th floor—or, rather, pretends its 13th floor is the 14th); he said no, but named other numbers that are considered unlucky.

And why—have I asked this here before—why does English have proper names for its numbers but not for its letters, as other languages do?


I am filled with apprehension about the announcement I must now make: I am a poet. Worse than that, I am a poet whose poems have been plagiarized.
My relatives and neighbors have long since adjusted to the first of these assertions. I was always a strange boy, different, quiet, they say. Of course, had I turned out to be a professional card shark they would remember me as wild and full of risk. Looked at in reverse, anybody's life seems inevitable; and if things don't align in just the right way, well, that's ironic inevitability.

When I mentioned my predicament to my graduate class the next day, a young woman spontaneously offered to find the thief and break his kneecaps. Her suggestion of violence was out of character, but it represented a gender difference I saw in reactions to the basic facts of the case. From the beginning, men were inclined to be philosophical, while women reacted more forcefully, seeming to recognize in the act of plagiarism itself something personal, nearer to home. Perhaps their own vulnerability in a society where women are less safe than men makes them more empathetic. (35)

Some of my theory-minded colleagues have chided me for feeling this way, pointing out that I gave up control of my poems as soon as I allowed them to be published. A few have gone further, arguing that my insistence on ownership is a denial of the communal nature of art. They say each reader creates his own text in the act of reading. So Jones is just one more person laying claim to the text. That he sometimes republishes what he reads is perhaps only an extension of the process. If his reception of the poem is unique, as they reason, then the intent that drives him to offer it as his own must be similarly original, and what he publishes is just as much his as what he reads.
While I doubt that Jones thought in these terms when he was copying down my work, I do believe he benefited from the contemporary intellectual climate. (I think particularly of recent poetry collections, one in which the poet leaves out words for the reader to supply and another which is a collage of other people's lines.) In fact, had he underpinned his activities with theory, he might have found vigorous defenders among literary theorists. At the very least, one of them woul surely have written a paper characterizing Jones as the epitome of the postmodern reader / poet. One may do it yet.

Even here in peaceful Ames, Iowa . . . the citizens have grown accustomed to eccentricities from some professors at the university (like the scientist who recommended blowing up the moon to improve the weather). . . . (134)

— Neal Bowers, Words for the Taking: The Hunt for a Plagiarist

25jul2006Weekly Media Roundup

Book to avoid:

Lennon Revealed, by TV news anchorman Larry Kane. Sample of the style:

Here was a man with supreme talent, rage, individuality, frailties, charisma, and conviction who was looking desperately for places to deposit the waves of love roiling inside of him.

Sounds messy. What a shame that his seed could find no purchase. The book comes with a DVD that might be mildly enjoyed by those who don't recognize TV news anchors as complete retards.

Movies not to miss:

The documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon looks to be thoroughly enjoyable, and unfortunately relevant in these, our ultra-surveilled times. I saw that film advertised yesterday when I went to see Strangers With Candy, which I knew might be a little thin & all, but these are my Troops, and I will Support them. Another film to support: The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He is Wagner's troops. And, of course, the troops of right-thinking people everywhere, The Mojave Phone Booth.

Oh, and the trailer for Sofia Coppola's film about Marie Antoinette featured music from Gang of Four and Joy Division. A Knight's Tale, anyone? It could work.

24jul2006 — From J. Maarten Troost's The Sex Lives of Cannibals

There was, it seemed to me, considerable dissonance between the health care concerns of westerners and the realities of the Pacific. Diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, for instance, killed nearly 10 percent of children under the age of five. But glamorous people don't die of diarrhea. Elizabeth Taylor doesn't hold fund-raisers for people with the runs. And so the money goes to AIDS, and not childhood diarrhea. So be it. If donors want to give money to fight AIDS rather than diarrhea or malaria, by far the greater killers in the developing world, I certainly won't emit a peep of protest. I thought that the wisest thing one could do to prevent AIDS in Kiribati would be to take one banana and one condom to the Marine Training School, where I-Kiribati men are taught how to crew freighters, and explain that when in port you really shouldn't visit prostitutes, but if you must, use a condom because otherwise you will die. Here's a condom. Here's a banana. Here's how it works. Total cost of program? Approximately $1. Lives saved? Innumerable
Foreign aid donors think differently, however. Instead of pursuing a simple prevention program, three-quarters of the country's doctors and most of the senior nurses were sent to Perth, Australia, where they attended a five-week-long conference on AIDS counseling—not prevention, not treatment, but counseling. Total cost? $100,000. Lives saved? None. I could only imagine a doctor talking to an I-Kiribati woman infected with AIDS by a husband returning from his tour at sea. How's your self-esteem? (243-4)

I think it is fair to say that the presence of a few foreigners in their midst was hardly a concern for the I-Kiribati. Until the Chinese arrived, that is. Seemingly out of the blue, a new Chinese Embassy was constructed. It was white with a red tiled roof and impenetrable reflecting windows. It looked like an ungainly cross between a Beverly Hills mansion and a Taco Bell franchise. In front there was a glass-enclosed display featuring a tableau of industrial images under the peculiar headline "China: Friend of the Environment." The embassy was constructed entirely by workers flown in from the People's Republic of China, using rocks taken from the shoreline, which is actually not so environmentally friendly, as it furthers erosion, and erosion is no laughing matter on an atoll. . . . Just in front of the building, on the beach, were massive piles of discarded Styrofoam, deposited there by the Chinese as they finished the construction of the [spy] station. In the days that followed, the Styrofoam would travel down the atoll, befouling it, until the ocean took it forever. China: Friend of the Environment. (244-5, 247)


Interviewer: Was there ever a concern that since the show got canceled that maybe this would be a lot of work in vain?
Amy Sedaris: No! Give 'em more of what they don't want!
College Times, 13jul2006

22jul2006 — As a foolish uninsured person, I'm obligated to try and find the website of any organization mentioned in a late-night insurance commercial. Last night it was Arizona Physicians IPA, on whose website I knocked my brain against every non-childproofed corner of the following:

Requests for Medically Necessary Incontinence Briefs
On March 3, 2006, a federal judge issued an injunction that prohibits AHCCCS and its contractors from denying incontinence briefs to disabled children because they are requested for purposes of prevention of adverse health conditions. We must comply with that order immediately. As such, we are asking your cooperation to implement this coverage as smoothly as possible.

In order to be covered for diapers, an APIPA member must:

1. Be between the ages of 3 and 21;
2. Have a documented disability that results in incontinence; and
3. Have a physician's prescription for diapers.

And here is how APIPA needs you to work with us to get medically necessary incontinence briefs to our members...

APIPA requires authorization for medically necessary incontinence briefs. Our exclusive DME provider is Preferred Home Care. You can request authorization for these briefs by contacting Preferred at 800 636-2123. Please include the member's age, diagnosis, number of briefs to be provided in a 30 day period (no more than 240 without additional review), and any other pertinent information. Preferred will review with the plan and provide briefs within 24 hours (or as close as possible) of the authorization approval of your request. Preferred will provide generic brand disposable diapers.

Um, holy shit?

Now I am done caring what Arizona Physicians IPA might be.

21jul2006Extra Randumb:

In Florida, the sale price of homes reported in the public record is rounded up to the nearest hundred thousand. — The single interesting sentence in Spy Girl: True Adventures from My Life as a Private Eye

When I'm the only no vote, I can usually rest assured he's on a plane somewhere. — Congressman Jeff Flake (one of whose ancestors gave the town of Snowflake half its name), on "Dr. No": Congressman Ron Paul, one of very few politicians whose life by all rights should not include swift trial followed by suspension beneath a scaffold

I've never seen an episode of The A-Team, but dammit, I'm gonna now: A-Team Stands for Anarcho-Capitalism

On May 19th, I did the best thing I could do for the people of America right now: I quit my $42K a year government job. I contacted the Social Security Administration and told them I want to FORFEIT my benefits. Unconditionally. Period. And I will not complete a 20 year tour of service with the U.S. Army National Guard so I'm slamming the door on that government check as well.
I'm asking all government employees to quit. You're all a bunch of parasites. You produce nothing tangible in terms of wealth, in terms of goods and services that people actually WANT. You feed off the blood, sweat, and wealth of hard-working Americans. You produce nothing while sucking the life out of the producers that actually keep the economy up and running.

the kidnapping of the first Israeli soldier that started this whole thing was on June 25th and if you count from that day to August is *EXACTLY 40 days!!!!!*
I find that to be a HUGE coincidence.
— Penetrating commentary on international diplomacy from a "Rapture Ready" Xtian message board (via BoingBoing; see more at Harper's Magazine)

20jul2006The Harvard Lampoon on Creative Writing

For long projects, set a schedule for yourself:

  Twenty pages a day,
    fifty days a week,
      three hundred weeks a year . . .
        Alacazam, you're all done!

19jul2006Tonight's broadcast network lineup

CBS: Rock Star: Supernova
UPN: America's Next Top Model
FOX: So You Think You Can Dance
NBC: America's Got Talent
ABC: The One: Making A Music Star

Finally, the prophecy is fulfilled.

And a new prophecy is born.

18jul2006Corpsing & other memories from the days of live daytime television broadcasting (from the Dark Shadows Reunion DVD)

Hi, my name's Cilia and I'm eleven years old, and I was wondering, well, when you sort of screw up with your lines, how do you keep from laughing?
Kathryn Leigh Scott: You know, curiously enough, when you forget your lines, do you know what that's called? It's called
corpsing. Isn't that perfect for Dark Shadows? No, we all broke up. We all started laughing.
Kate Jackson: Usually when you forget your lines, laughing is the last thing on your mind.

Was it my imagination or did Jonathan really mess up a lot of lines?
Dan Curtis: Jonathan Frid used to screw up in the middle of his name.
Kathryn Leigh Scott: That was part of his charm, I think.
Lara Parker: I played a lot of scenes with him, and he would forget his lines and this panic would go through his face; his eyes would start to dart around; he'd start to kind of
[gasps] take deep breaths; and look for the TelePrompter. And I'd be thinking, "Oh, god, he is SO bad today!" And then the next week we'd watch the show and the camera would be on him and all of these emotions of terror and confusion and total misery . . . worked for the character! We'd all sit there mesmerized. "My God—he's going through such torture!" Perfect.
Robert Rodan: I think one member of the cast really had it down—that was Grace [Grayson Hall]. She incorporated in her character this stammer and stutter, which was an opportunity to go
[glances around, as if casting about for a TelePrompter] "Uh, uh, but, uh, that's where we are supposed to be." It was incredible.

Lara Parker: So many things did go wrong. And if a fly landed on your nose, if you knocked over a gravestone, or walked into a cobweb, a week later you'd watch the show and you'd go, "Oh, thank god that's over, no one will ever see that again."
Kathryn Leigh Scott: We used to beg to re-do a shot and Dan would always say, "What are you worried about? No one will ever see that again."

Kathryn Leigh Scott: The first day of the movie, we all rode out in limousines, and we were so excited, because we thought that we were going to be going out in limousines for the entire shoot. And it turned out that the limousines were going to be used in the graveyard shoot, so it seemed like a good idea to save the bus fare and get us out there in limousines.

Roger Davis: I do remember being very excited when I got to be a vampire on the show, so excited. And the first person that I got to bite was Joan Bennett, and I was so enthusiastic and excited that I knocked her over, flat on her back. It was very embarrassing.
Jerry Lacy: I remember when you did it. . . . you grabbed her, and bit her, and then you just
threw her. And she was already sixty years old at the time.

[Side note: The host of the reunion, Museum of Television and Radio's TV curator David Bushman, blows big. Coincidentally, a day after I saw this I got the DVD set of Strangers With Candy, which includes an interview with the cast at the Museum of Television and Radio, and is hosted by this very same Bushman, in the very same beige style. I never thought I would yearn for James Lipton. And I didn't. But almost.]

17jul2006 — A sign in the post office advertising the crappy stuffed animals the U. S. Postal Service is peddling reads: WHY NOT TAKE ONE HOME?

Thanks to the legendary efficiency of the U.S. Postal Service, someone waiting in line had plenty of time to use a large Priority Mail label to make another sign and then paste it underneath the other: WHY NOT DELIVER MY MAIL ON TIME?

12jul2006Heartwarming dialogue from Bad Santa:

Willie: Jesus, kid. When I was your age, I didn't need no fucking gorilla. And I wasn't as big as one of your legs. Four kids beat me up one time and I went crying home to my daddy. You know what he did?
Kid: He made it all better?
Willie: No, he kicked my ass. You know why?
Kid: Because you went to the bathroom on mommy's dishes?
Willie: What the FUCK?! No!!

11jul2006 — From Graeme Thomson's super-highly recommended Willie Nelson: The Outlaw:

Willie Nelson is talking about happiness.
"Happiness is kind of a decision you make: whether you want to be happy or you want to be unhappy," he says slowly. . . . "Wherever you're at you can decide," he continues. "I've decided it's a lot easier to decide to be happy. Otherwise it's a lot of trouble."

His upbringing rapidly became defined by twin, opposing forces: the stark good-or-evil religion of the Methodist church as preached by his grandmother, and the typical small-town, yet universal, temptations of girls, alcohol, music and fighting. It's a dichotomy—rather than a contradiction—which has remained throughout his entire life. He has never been a definitive person. (10)

Nelson was, on the surface, still the quiet, polite young man he had been through school, but already there was evidence of a reckless streak that bordered on the self-destructive. He often seemed not to care much about what might happen to him as a by-product of keeping himself amused. (22)

The bottom line was that he didn't want to be at home, and he didn't want to be responsible for his family if it meant he had to change his ways. That laid-back facade masked a hard, determined, selfish streak. He would smile benignly and say "OK" to most things, but he would do what he wanted nonetheless, and then try his level best not to be around to face the consequences. (49)

The Cherokee Cowboys' previous bassist—Donny Young, soon to relaunch himself as Johnny Paycheck—had quit, and [Ray] Price had asked Nelson if he wanted to play bass. He might have agreed without deliberating too long over the consequences, but he learned quickly.
Ray Price: When we got off the first tour Willie said, "I betcha didn't know I couldn't play bass!" and I said "Yeah, I knew on the first night!" But he's a good guitarist, so he could play bass all right.
(53) [See also]

He wrote a letter to his ten-year-old daughter Lana, explaining what was happening in their lives, and concluding: "Happiness does not come from having everything you want, but in understanding and accepting all, and in prayer and the belief that everything always happens for the best." It was a hard message for any pre-teen to accept from her father, but it is revealing. He has repeated variations of this mantra ever since. It represents either admirable control over his own will and emotional impulses, or else a convenient method by which to abdicate himself from any tiresome responsibilities. (60)

For a man who has made a habit of departing, Nelson has written a lot of songs about being abandoned. Without underestimating the impact of his childhood trauma, it is nevertheless an interesting exercise to listen to many of Nelson's songs and imagine him singing softly to himself. "You'll always be running and wondering / What has happened to hearts that you've broken and left all alone." (66)

Although Nelson experimented with hallucinogens for a short time, he found that his psyche wasn't cut out for it. He had one too many bad trips and quit.
Willie Nelson: I was thinking I was going to have to go out into the mountains and face down the devil, and I finally figured out that I don't need to worry about that shit.

When Nelson was home, he would often camp out in the hollow behind the house. She slapped the children, who—under Shirley's wayward jurisdiction—looked upon school as a mere option. Susie once went 28 days without attending, while Lana, at 14, was dating a 27-year-old called Mickey Newbury and planning to run away with him until Nelson pulled a gun on Newbury and told him to disappear. Newbury was a Nashville songwriter who would later write "Sweet Memories" and "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," both of which have since been recorded by Nelson. Circles and cycles, indeed. (82)

He has been a serial husband since his teens. It seems he can hardly bear to be alone, and yet can't embrace or conform to the reality of what being married actually means. Which is where the Family Band comes in: a mobile family with him at the head, no conventional moral boundaries, no judgments, no expectations other than to go on the road and keep the show moving. (97-8)

Willie Nelson emerged as the undisputed king of Texas by covering all the angles: he befriended the most powerful, conservative members of Austin society and got them on his side for life, while at the same time connecting with the hippies and the counter-culture's leading lights. It was a cunning smoke-and-mirrors trick and proof positive that he could, in fact, be all things to all people if people wanted him to be badly enough. Nelson had been well connected in Texas for a long time. In the 60s he'd receive visits from old redneck lawmen who would give him presents. In Houston, the head of narcotics in the city would come backstage after every show he attended, take Nelson out to his car and open the trunk and tell him to choose a gun to take away with him as a gift. That's not all he would get.
Willie Nelson: Some of the best marijuana I ever got came from narcotics agents. They'll bust somebody then come by and share it. That's why I'm not necessarily hassled. Course, as long as it's illegal I'm subject to getting popped one of these days. Some local guy that didn't get the word.

He gave the impression of sitting back and letting things happen around him, but he knew what he was doing. He had a powerful, indeed spiritual belief that music could unite. And he knew enough about both whisky and marijuana to understand both points of view. (117)

Eddie Wilson [Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, Texas]: Great art is often produced in camps of smugglers, thugs and thieves. (122)

He maintained a policy of see-no-evil which gave him huge amounts of protection while allowing him to continue being perceived as sweet-natured and laid-back. And he was. His good nature, his dislike of confrontation or saying "no" to people was genuine, but it also became a canny tactic that could be used in all areas of his career. There is nothing in the script to say you can't be both a nice man and a wily operator. (155)

Above all, money was for spreading about. Nelson's philosophy was simple: In the words of Eddie Wilson, "You get your hands on the cash, cover your ass, and then pass the rest around." He had always been generous in spirit and in deed, but the arrival of really big money illuminated the true breadth of Nelson's philanthropy. (167)

10jul2006 — The World Cup's over, which means it'll be another four years before my next attempt at international understanding. I think now I "get" soccer a little more than I did, but I'll never enjoy seeing the acting: the dramatic flops and dives these players perform approximately every 1.5 seconds. They've all been watching either too much opera or too many Steven Seagal movies (probably both). It takes no more than an unusually strong puff of air and down goes a highly trained athlete, clutching a randomly chosen body part and peeking up at the nearest official. They're like a herd of fainting goats out there. The highlight of yesterday's final game was Zidane's abrupt headbutt to the chest of Materazzi, apparently because—according to professional lip readers hired by "Fantastico, a programme on Globo" (whatever that means)—Materazzi called either Zidane a terrorist or his sister a prostitute. Zidane was thrown out of the game that was supposed to be his glorious farewell to the sport. Instead he may have cost France the championship. It was a shame to see an end like that to the career of a player whose skills, even at the old age of 34, remain discernable even to utter soccer nincompoops like me. At the same time, although Materazzi exaggerated his reaction to the headbutt, it was a nice change of pace to see a soccer player fall to the ground for a cause visible to the unaided human eye.

Au revoire, soccer. Voyez-vous en quatre ans.

[Update: "Materazzi was clearly seen twisting the Frenchman's nipple in the run-up to the incident. . . ."
Here's the video, sports fans. "Mais porquoi? Mais porquoi??" Hello? NIPPLE!]

[Update, II: The sound of the headbutt heard round the world, as imagined by an amateur foley artist; the English reaction—"Oh, my goodness gracious me!" I know titty twisters are pretty serious business, Mister English Soccer Announcer Guy, but such language! My ears, they BURN!]

[Update, III: Revealed: The disgusting abuse that sparked Zidane's fury: It is the question on every football fan's lips. What did the Italian footballer say to prompt Zinedine Zidane's shocking headbutt in the closing moments of Sunday's World Cup final? The answer, it has emerged, was a vile stream of racial and personal abuse. First Marco Matterazzi called the French star the Italian equivalent of 'n*****', and then insulted both his mother and his Muslim background by saying he is the 'son of a terrorist whore.']

09jul2006 — Just watched the space shuttle fly by. That was pretty cool. Wish I were on it. That'd be much cooler.

09jul2006Amy Grant's trendsetting Mandible

Jess writes:
You've probably seen this, but just in case:

I hadn't seen it, but what I wonder is whether Kiera Knightley's Jaw will get fan mail intended for Keira Knightley. 'Cos that phenomenon continues to fascinate me.


Jimmy McDaid was walking across a bridge of the Clyde when he saw a man climb up onto the parapet.
"Ah'm gonna jump," said the man.
"Oh, don't do that," said Jimmy. "Think of your family."
"I dinna have a family."
"Well, think of Rangers."
"I dinna support Rangers."
"Well, think of Celtic then."
"I dinna support Celtic either."
"At this the sympathetic Glaswegian gave up.
"Jump then, ye bloody atheist!"

(Still trying, soccer world. Credit me.)

29jun2006 — From Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization:

This hooligan industry only started in the late nineties, when the gentrification of the English game was already in full swing, at a point when hooliganism had ceased to flourish in its traditional form. Of course, hooligans still fought, just not inside the stadium. As Alan explained the mechanics of fighting to me, "You call up the leader of the other firm and say, `Right, meet you at Trafalgar Square at two.' And then you hope that the police don't get there before it goes off. Sometimes it goes off. Sometimes you see the coppers and walk away." For Alan, this new mode of appointment hooliganism trampled the pleasure of pure art. It was far more exhilirating when fights took place in narrow corridors of stadiums or in the stands. And with all the prearrangement, "fighting has lost its spontaneity." He poses the existential question of the modern soccer hooligan: "If football violence doesn't take place in the stadium, is it even football violence?" (101)

More than almost any other county in the world, the Ukranians have an idiosyncratic approach to the game. The man behind the approach was a coach, trained as a plumber, called Valeri Lobanovsky. Applying the logic of scientific Marxism to the game, he believed that soccer could be mastered by uncovering the game's mathematical underpinnings. He created a system of numerical values to signify every "action" in a game. As he envisioned it, a group of "scientists" would tally passes, tackles, and shots. These scientists would note "successful actions" and "unsuccessful actions." Their data would be run through a computer, which would spit back an evaluation of the player's "intensitivity," "activity," "error rate," and "effectivity."
Lobanovsky intermittently coached the club Dynamo Kiev for decades and later headed the Ukrainian national team. His system became gospel, internalized by generations of coaches and players. Even after his death in 2002, the national federation continues to send scientists to every single Ukrainian professional game. His system rewards a very specific style of play: physical and frenetic. Players work tirelessly to compile points. They play defense more aggressively than offense, because that's where points can be racked up. In a way, Lobanovsky's system mimicked the Soviet regime under which it was conceived. Like the Soviets, it stifles individual initiative. Nothing in Lobanovsky's point valuation measures creativity or daring. A vertical pass receives the same grade as a horizontal pass; a spectacular fake means nothing.
Compounding the stultifying effect of Lobanovsky, Ukrainians have made a fetish of coaching. Managers play a role akin to the Communist Party, imposing rigid strategic formations and an authoritarian culture. Ukrainian players commonly glance at their coach, trying to glean whether they have won his approval. Human agency has no place in this world.

Without a group of enemies to focus attention, there's an aimless, scattershot quality to the hatred of Barca fans. Consequently, they turn their rage on themselves as often as they turn it on others. During my visit, I watched the city rise up against the club's Dutch manager, Louis van Gaal. The city has a particularly robust press covering the club. Two daily sports papers have no other obvious purpose than expending approximately 280 pages each week delving into every bit of the club's minutiae. For months they devoted this space to vilifying Van Gaal. A typical story analyzes lunches consumed by the Dutch coach, alongside photographs documenting the growth of his belly. When he sits in the thirteenth row of the team plane, reporters interpret this as a sign of his poor judgment and imminent demise. Remarkably, this only begins to chart the Catalan media landscape and its hatreds. A weekly TV segment parodies Barca, using puppets to produce cruelly cutting send-ups of players and management, regularly portraying Van Gaal as a pile of bricks topped by a mop. (215)

(Can you see me trying, soccer world? Can you?)


Coolidge, located about half way between Florence and Casa Grande, is a semi-forgotten boonie—for good reason. Nothing much happens there and there's nothing to see. It has always been solely a business center for the surrounding cotton-dominated agriculture. It has grown very little since I first drove through in 1943. . . . There is no reason to expect any change in the population, economy or ambiance sic of Coolidge during at least the next fifty years. The cotton will continue to grow and the farmers will farm or tell tall tales while on a coffee break at the Pizza Hut.Arizona Boonies: The Arizona Even the Zonies Don't Know About by real estate appraiser Larry Burke

According to The Arizona Republic (27may2006), however, "Coolidge officials are considering a plan to add about $136 million worth of roads, public safety buildings, parks, libraries and other facilities over the next five years. Coolidge's population is expected to surge in the coming years."

Also, though there is nothing to see in Coolidge, Burke's book features a photo of the Casa Grande Ruins, which are in Coolidge. Burke must have gotten confused by the Casa Grande Ruins photo that his real estate appraisal expertise inexplicably led him to include in his section about the city of Casa Grande.

27jun2006There is nothing like feasting on Sanders bumpy cake fresh from Detroit.

26jun2006Escaping Disneyland

Johnny Depp, on the red carpet for the premiere of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel at Disneyland—
Interviewer: What's the next adventure you have planned?
Johnny Depp: Escaping Disneyland.

From an earlier print interview
Interviewer: You'll have to see Pirates with your kids, right?
Johnny Depp: I haven't seen the movie yet, but I suppose I'm going to have to at the premiere, which will be at Disneyland. I don't think there's any escaping Disneyland. I can always cover my daughter's eyes during the scary parts. It'd be a great excuse to leave.

25jun2006 — Video: Freedom is my anti-gov

24jun2006Forest Service abandons checkpoint after incident with Rainbow group

The Rainbow Family peace gathering turned hostile Tuesday when a group of attendees began hurling rocks and sticks at law enforcement officers, U.S. Forest Service officials said.

(via the ever-dependable Strike the Root)

23jun2006Life in a modern ghost town: Madrid, New Mexico

All the bathrooms for our house and across the street, too, and the company stores met in a joint in the middle of the driveway. And every summer there would be this problem because they would back up and it would back up into our basement. . . . So we told everyone we've got to do something about this . . . and no one was dealing with it. . . . One day we just dug it up—we were always having to dig it up to see where it was clogged—and it was just open sewage, all the pipes were rusted. So we took a big bag of cement and we mixed it up and we poured it in there and then we covered it up. So then everyone's sewer backed up. So at that point everyone had to do something. (Quoted in Anarchy and Community in the New American West: Madrid, New Mexico, 1970-2000, p. 95)

The 2000 U.S. Census reveals just how deep a mark the counterculture resettlers have left on the contemporary community of Madrid. We must must be highly critical, however, before accepting the validity of the census figures . . . (1) this is a group of people as likely to show a census-taker the front end of a shotgun as to grant an interview; (2) many folks live in households without addresses. . . . (118)

Elite Outlaws
A small but important group of individuals who live their lives outside of the law. These are people usually deeply involved in various aspects of procuring and providing illicit drugs, and have been thus involved for a long time. Contrary to middle-class values and perceptions, the consensus in the community is that they are successful business people meeting a need in the community. They supply the local drug market but do not solicit business on the street corner. They are perceived to be trustworthy, dependable, and true to their word. They maintain extensive networks of friends, create low profiles, cause no trouble, and they pay their local debts and obligations. It is also possible to live in Madrid and have no idea who these people are or that they are part of the drug culture.

Sounds like another former ghost town I know. Except for maybe that last sentence.

22jun2006Although Morris retired from baseball this spring—tendinitis and elbow surgery quickly intruded on his short major league career—he says he will cherish the memories, especially visiting Yankee Stadium. "One night I was in right field during batting practice, in shouting distance of the bleacher creatures," recalls Morris. "They figured out who I was . . . `Morris!!! You suck! It's a great story but you suck!' That was pretty cool," laughs Morris.

21jun2006How did I ever gain any education at all outside of international soccer play?

I have learned the name of the Ukraine's national anthem: "Shche ne vmerla Ukrainy" ("Ukraine's Glory Has Not Perished.") Well, that's one way to look at it.

(The song does not address whether The Ukraine has plummeted into space, but I doubt it. I'm almost sure that would have been in the news.)

20jun2006Feedback: a good idea

. . . except when your buyers include very stupid people.

4 out of 5: "I received my order in time, adequately protected, and I was sent an E-mail from the seller confirming the transaction. But I can't explain why I was still terribly insecure if all would go well or not."

WTF?? "Wow, everything went great—and yet! I will leave you shitty feedback. much as Navajo sand painters and rug weavers intentionally include a mistake in each work, so as not to infringe upon the perfection of The Great Spirit."


From Jeff Pearlman's Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero:

From afar, Barry spotted Willie Stargell, the legendary Pirates slugger who now coached with the Braves. "Get on out of here, you old man!" Barry hollered. "They forgot about you in Pittsburgh! I'm what it's all about now!" Stargell continued to walk, not uttering a word. Finally, Barry perceived that he had gone too far. "Pops! Pops! he pleaded. "I'm just kidding. C'mon, pops!" Stargell stopped in his tracks. "Boy," he said, "you better get some more lines of the back of your baseball card before you talk to me like that." (92-3)

In July 1990 Barry was selected for his first All-Star Game, and upon arriving at Wrigley Field with his father, he bumped into Giants slugger Kevin Mitchell, the starting left fielder and reigning National League MVP. "Fuck Mitch, you shouldn't be starting ahead of me," he said. "You're just a fat fuck." As Barry chuckled, Mitchell's face went blank. A former San Diego gang member with a bullet still lodged in his back, this was not a man to mess with. He turned to Bobby Bonds and whispered with chilling sincerity: "Get your fucking son away from me, or I will beat down his ass and rip out his skull." (106)

From Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams's Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports:

Bonds's marriage also collapsed. He had met Sun, a lovely Swedish woman, in 1987 in a club in Montreal, where she was working as a bartender, but it was a bad match. Bonds wanted someone who would do what she was told; Sun wasn't submissive. She pushed back at Barry, challenged him, persisted in trying to force him to keep his promises and treat her with respect. Bonds told Playboy in 1993: "Sun has more patience than toilet paper. I tell her, `Toilet paper just sits there and waits. It sits there and waits, just like you.'" (37)

Bonds started 2003 more slowly than Anderson [Bonds's trainer and steroid provider] would have liked. In May, he was hitting just .270 and was only fifth in the league in home runs. Anderson blamed a rare loss of self-confidence and intensity. "He thinks the magic's gone, [that] he doesn't have it any more," Anderson said on the tape. "It's generated by his mind. He's afraid he's like losing it, but like I told him, he's way too nice. Talking to reporters, being way too nice—be an asshole again! Every time he's an asshole, it just fucking works. He fucking plays good because he's being himself." (145)

On January 20, 2004, with more than 130,000 American troops stationed in Iraq and U.S. unemployment rates persistently high, President George W. Bush invoked steroids in his State of the Union Address. The president spent nearly two hours test-marketing themes to kick off his reelection campaign, but what stood out in that 5,230-word speech was a 98-word passage that seemed to come out of nowhere. After proposing additional funding to test high school students for drugs like cocaine and marijuana, the former owner of the Texas Rangers said, "To help children make right choices, they need good examples: Athletics play such an important role in our society, but unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example." Bush then decried the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, and he called upon athletes, coaches, owners, and union representatives "to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now."
On Capitol Hill, the steroid passage came to be known as "the crazy two sentences."

18jun2006Bored today? Me? Why do you ask?

But anyway, it seemed to me as I mused the day away that not different many teams had won NBA championship over the past two decades or so. Study was in order. Important study. The fruit of which can be enjoyed by all. Behold:

Number of different teams to win championships in various professional sports since 1986









Chicago Bulls (6), Los Angeles Lakers (5), Detroit Pistons (3), San Antonio Spurs (3), and Houston Rockets (2). All repeaters. WTF? At least no matter who wins this year, Mavericks or Heat, it will look a little less like something rotten is going on in the Denmark that is the NBA.


17jun2006 — For those who thought Hugh Troy's flypaper report story too outlandish to believe:

Shop staff slam dead fly quota
A supermarket in Dongguan has been criticized for setting a quota of dead flies that its staff must hand in at the end of every working day, Southern Metropolis News reported. Every employee at this store in Guangdong Province is required to kill 150 flies a day, or face a daily fine of 50 yuan (US$6.25). The supermarket said the move aims to help its staff improve their sanitary awareness. But many staff argued the special requirement contributed little to the supermarket's overall cleanliness, alleging that it was unfair for them to be fined.

(via Bureaucrash)

16jun2006 — You may have been wondering what I've learned about soccer lately from colorful Irish soccer commentators. Good question (though next time you might want to phrase it in the form of a question). Here is the sum total of my pedagogy:

bulges the old onion bag = scores a goal

That's definitely not what bulging the old onion bag meant on the street where I grew up, but I do enjoy cultivating a certain broad-mindedness in these areas.

15jun2006 — Bart D. Ehrman on the finding of the famous Nag Hammadi writings in 1945 by Bedouin field hands in Egypt who were digging for fertilizer beside the Nile:

Mohammed Ali and his companions were reluctant to open the jar, for fear that it might contain an evil genie. On further reflection, they realized it might also contain gold, and so without further ado they smashed into it with their mattocks. No genie and no gold—just a bunch of old leather-bound books, of little use to a group of illiterate Bedouin.

Ali divided up the find, ripping the books apart so everyone would get a fair share. The others evidently wanted no part of them, though, and so he wrapped the lot in his turban, returned home, and deposited them in the outbuilding where they kept the animals. That night, his mother evidently used some of the brittle leaves to start the fire for an evening meal.

The story gets a bit complicated at this point, as real life intrudes, but in an almost unreal way. Mohammed Ali and his family had for a long time been involved in a blood feud with a tribe in a neighboring village. It had started some six months earlier, when Ali's father, while serving as a night watchman over some imported German irrigation machinery, had shot and killed an intruder. By the next day, Ali's father had himself been murdered by the intruder's family. Several weeks after they discovered the old books in the jar, Mohammed Ali and his brothers were told that their father's murderer was asleep by the side of the road, next to a pot of sugarcane molasses. They grabbed their mattocks, found the fellow still asleep, and hacked him to death. They then ripped open his chest, pulled out his still warm heart, and ate it—the ultimate act of blood vengeance.

The downside of the story—well, actually, there were a lot of downsides—was that the fellow they had murdered was the son of a local sheriff. By this time, Mohammed Ali had come to think that perhaps these old books they had found might be worth something, and he was afraid that as he and his brothers would be prime suspects in this cold-blooded murder, his house would be searched for clues. He gave one of the books to the local Coptic priest for safekeeping until the storm blew over.

As it turns out, this local priest had a brother-in-law who was an itinerant teacher of English and history, who stayed in his home once a week while making his rounds in the parochial schools in the area. The history teacher realized that in fact the book might be a significant find—significant enough to make some money—and went to Cairo to try to sell it. It was not an altogether successful attempt; the book was confiscated by the authorities. Eventually, though, he was allowed to sell it to the Coptic Museum.

The director of the museum had a good idea what the book was, and to make a long story short, in conjunction with a young visiting French scholar of antiquity, Jean Doresse, whom he had known in Paris—known fairly well, in fact, as he had proposed marriage to Mrs. Doresse before she became Mrs. Doresse—the director managed to track down most of the remaining volumes and acquire them for the museum.

Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code, pp. 37-9

14jun2006Retaliation has forever been a part of baseball. And it usually hasn't taken much for retribution to occur: Intentionally hitting a batter, admiring a home run at the plate, a slow stroll around the bases on a home run, a rolling slide into second base, stealing a base, dropping a bunt or swinging at a 3-0 pitch when you're 10 runs ahead, and peeking at the catcher's signs all might get a baseball thrown at you at a very high rate of speed. Rip a pitcher in a book, call him a choker, and he might throw at you every time up.

Baseball is a hard game played by hard men. The game is underrated in its danger, the toughness of its players and its vengefulness. Maybe retaliation happens every Sunday in the NFL, but if Terrell Owens was a baseball player, and he pulled a stunt on the diamond like he did when he disrespected the star at the 50-yard line at the home of the Cowboys, Roger Clemens would have hit him in the head in his next at-bat. And in his next at-bat, he would have hit him again. So would Sutcliffe. So would a lot of other pitchers.

"You're dead," said Davey Lopes, a coach for the Nationals and a former Dodgers second baseman. "Dead. [Bob] Gibson ... Clemens ... [Pedro] Martinez ... Dock Ellis ... dead."

"Early in my career, Nolan dusted me for taking a big swing," said Harold Reynolds, a former Mariners second baseman who now works as a baseball analyst for ESPN. "He didn't think a skinny, little guy like me should be taking such a big swing off him. And I didn't even hit the ball."

"I got thrown at for hitting three homers in a game," said Lopes, who played from 1972-87. "I got thrown at for stealing bases. I got thrown at because I played for the Dodgers. We were a popular team. We had a target on our backs. Some guys would throw at you because they didn't like you. And back then, we weren't wearing any armor."

Lopes says retaliation "has been virtually eliminated compared to how it used to be. The game is no longer policed by the players, it's policed by the people above the umpires. They have taken the fear element out of the game. They have taken the intimidation out of the game. Pitchers don't even throw inside anymore. When they do, hitters get all upset."

Wayne Gross once took his time running around the bases on a grand slam many years ago. The pitcher was furious. He didn't get to face Gross again until three years later ... when they were teammates. It was batting practice in spring training. The pitcher hit Gross in the middle of the back with a pitch. It was clear that he did it intentionally.

"What was that for?" Gross screamed.

"That was for three years ago!" the pitcher screamed back.


[Cardhouse Robot comments: "You're dead," said Davey Lopes ... Dead. [Bob] Gibson ... Clemens ... [Pedro] Martinez ... Dock Ellis ... dead."
Bluto: Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer--
Otter: Dead!

13jun2006 — Hill, on Oz: In Nogales, Arizona, it's illegal to wear suspenders. You gotta wonder what happened—what cataclysmic event occurred, which caused the city fathers to decree that, "In our town, no one, under any circumstances, can wear suspenders." And are there radical fringe groups in Nogales who meet at night, in secret? Who slip off their belts and, in defiance of the law, [pulls suspender] puts these suckers on? Eh?

Well, probably not.

05jun2006Spam sucz

04jun2006 — Today we worship the great god Pan, who rewards those among his devotees who needlessly read bad books with at least one token good passage per book:

I must first pan Henry Alford's thankfully brief Out There, a dull and tiresome read but for one sentence, which made it almost worth slogging through the thin book's other 109 pages:

Writing "eye" whenever he means "I" and writing "2" whenever he means "to"—Prince's prose stylings bring to mind an optometrist's teenage daughter. . . .

In Alford's defense, he acknowledges (in the Acknowledgements section—he got one thing right) that:

Due to strained relations with, not to say a difficult breakup with, one of the aforementioned, this book was written during a trying time in my life.

RTFL (Read the Fucking Label), Henry. WARNING LABEL SAYS: Do not operate word processing machinery under the influence of dead love. Especially if you are trying to write humor.

And in the generally unrecommended An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government is buried a great anecdote concerning Judah P. Benjamin, on the run after the fall of the C.S.A.:

More than once he stopped to stare in bewilderment at places where the unmarked road forked in several directions. Once he simply halted, unsaddled, and took a nap in the brush, hoping to see some other traveler pass who might direct him. Instead, he was awakened rudely by hearing someone shout, "Hi for Jeff," a cry repeated again and again. Unable at first to see where it originated, he rose and followed the sound until he came to a small flock of birds, with a parrot in the center. Reasoning that any bird cheering for Jefferson Davis must belong to a loyal Confederate, Benjamin concluded that if he could follow it home he might get aid and directions from the owner. It took several pebbles thrown at the bird to herd it homeward, with the less than agile secretary of state running along behind, but finally it brought him to a house and assistance.

03jun2006THIS MUST STOP:

Commercial use of the word famous to describe things that are not famous.

"Try our world-famous [x]."

When you know damned well no one has heard of your stupid [x].

Latest example: "New KFC Famous Bowls."

They're new. Yet, somehow already famous.

Egregious, I say to you, formerly-known-as-Kentucky-Fried-Chicken "KFC." Egregious.

Or, if you prefer, infamous.

02jun2006Granny's Dead Hands Go Worldwide

Recently Sighted in Hong Kong:


His official title was president but Slobodan Milosevic was for some reason mostly referred to as "Serbian strongman." I think Strongman should be the official title for political kingpins; it is far more descriptive of the nature of political office.

If I were a Serbian strongman, I would insist on being called Sterno, in celebration of my iron-like strength of character and ability to fuel hobo cooking fires.

If I were a strong rapper, however, I would be Diatomaceous Earth.
Diatomaceous Earth!

You have been warned.

31may2006A phone call

Surveyor: Hi, is this Doc? I was wondering whether I could get permission to cross your land? [Describes location]
Doc: That's not actually my land. That is the land next to my land.
Surveyor: So you can't give me permission to cross it?
Doc: I cannot give you permission to cross property that does not belong to me, no. But I wouldn't imagine you'd be in too much danger. I haven't run across anyone out there who'd shoot you without warning you first.
Surveyor: Ummmm . . . okay. [Hangs up]


Macros. Now. Up!

27may2006Pat Robertson is a batshit insane liar

He may lie as a by-product of being batshit insane. We could argue about that. But that he lies is inarguable. His latest lie is that drinking his stupid protein shakes enables him to leg press 2,000 pounds. That's ONE. FUCKING. TON. (It's possible to do that much and more, if you severely limit your range of motion—which is not what is typically understood by the term leg press. If that's all you're talking about, you don't go around crowing that you can leg press what amounts to about twice the current world record.)

Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me doesn't usually crack me up all that much, but the following portion would have killed me today if I'd been driving when I heard it:

Host: The televangelist is 76 years old. Robertson's website credits his miraculous strength to his quote age-defying protein shake unquote. . . . People started saying, nobody can leg press 2,000 pounds. That's ridiculous.
P. J. O'Rourke: You just stand on top of a Chevy Suburban and press down. What's the big trick?

Host: We have some audio from it, here he is, he's showing of his leggy prowess to a young woman:

Woman: No! Pat! Robertson! You are NOT gonna go to a thousand! Listen. There's no more ROOM!
Robertson: I'll just do a few of these. [Groans] I hope I can get it up there.
Woman: That's IT! That's IT! That's IT! . . . Okay, STOP!
Robertson: [More groans] Seven, eight, nine, TEN!

Adam Felber: Was that for real?
Host: That was absolutely for real.
Felber: That sounded like the
exchange of proteins.

Host: What would Jesus press?
O'Rourke: Probably the MUTE button. Would be my guess.

26may2006 — Dock Ellis is the only (known) major-league pitcher to throw a no-hitter while tripping on acid (1971):

The hardest part was between innings. He was sure his teammates knew something was up. They had all been acting strange since the game began. Solution: Do not look at teammates. Do not look at scoreboard. Must not make eye contact. His spikes—that's what he concentrated on. Pick up tongue depressor, scrape the mud, repeat. Must. Clean. Spikes.

25may2006Surely there must be more than three

Two Spammers Murdered in New Jersey (1999)

Russia's Biggest Spammer Brutally Murdered in Apartment (2005)

24may2006 — From official NTSB records collected in On a Wing and a Prayer: Interviews with Airline Disaster Survivors (NOTE: Do not read this book on a plane, or to anyone on a plane, or before you get on a plane, or if you ever plan to be on a plane again without having a panic attack, heart attack, or both.):

This is the first time I have seen something like this, and I hope it's the last. (61)

First Officer: You want the instrument Landing System on, Buddy?
Captain: Well . . .
FO: It's not going to do any good now.
CAPT: No, we'll get that damned warning thing if we do.

FO: Look at all that stuff.
CAPT: What is that, sand?
FO: Sand, I guess.
[Sounds of laughter]
FO: Aviation is my life.

MALE, AGE FORTY, SEAT 5F: The pilot stated over the PA system, "For all you flap watchers, I'm going to leave the flaps up for safety reasons because of excess snow." (109)

FEMALE, AGE THIRTY-TWO: When we started to take off, [a friend] said that we shouldn't be trying to take off without deicing again. I couldn't believe that we were trying to take off under those conditions. [My friend] said, "If we take off like this, we are all dead." Either he or I said, "We are on the plane to Hell." He said, "What is this idiot doing? He's going to get us all killed." (112)

FEMALE, AGE THIRTY-TWO: The tail was on my left. There was a guy in the water screaming, "Help me!" He was all bloody. I became worried about getting AIDS. (121)

FEMALE, AGE FORTY-NINE: In a situation such as this, I don't think much matters. It's amazing any of us survived. (124)

During the subsequent evacuation through the right over-wing exit two male passengers had an altercation resulting in a fistfight that lasted for several seconds. Meanwhile, at the over-wing exit door passengers pushed and kicked and shoved and "fought" one another in a panic to get out. (126)

FEMALE, AGE THIRTY-FOUR, SEAT 16J: They stated we were getting on the same plane. I felt sick right at that point. I knew that the plane was not safe, and I felt like they risked us on this plane. While boarding I told the flight attendant that I did not feel the plane was safe. I was tearful by the time I sat in my seat. To make matters worse, the pilot . . . stated, "The plane is ready to go this time, I think." I was very angry. That was not funny. (139)

FO: What a hell of a thing to happen on your second-to-last month [before retirement].
CAPT: No shit.

CAPT [to Honolulu]: Okay, it looks like we got a bomb that went off on the right side. The whole right side is gone.
FO: Anybody?
Second Officer: Some people are probably gone. I don't know. . . .
CAPT: We got a real problem here.
[Nine passengers had been sucked out of the plane and lost at sea.]

MALE, SEAT 15C: [During the evacuation there was] panic. Some idiots were coming down the slides with duty-free goods and bags. Men were walking over women and children. I was disgusted. I find it very hard still to understand how people can walk over other people in times of an emergency. (153)

FO: It's going dog shit in a hurry, isn't it?
CAPT: Yeah, boy.

FO: I got shot down once over in Southeast Asia and ah . . .
CAPT: Oh, is that right?
FO: I didn't have time to get scared.
CAPT: Yeah.
[Minutes later, their plane collided with another plane in Detroit.]

FO: Boy, this is dog shit now.
CAPT: Yup.

MALE, FLIGHT 1482: A few minutes later I was going to leave [the elderly woman he had helped off the wing] to help somebody. . . . And I saw this one guy standing over there, and I recognized him [from work. I did not know he was on the airplane.] So, I called over to him. I said, "I didn't know you were even on this airplane." He said, "I didn't know you were on the airplane." I said, "My God, how did you get off?" He says, "I . . . jumped off that wing." And I says, "Well, I did too." "Yeah," he says, "I've been over there helping this other guy catch people." I said, "Hell, that was me!" (177)

FEMALE, AN OFF-DUTY FLIGHT ATTENDANT, SEAT 1D, FLIGHT 1482: I got Gary sitting in the back, and the old burnt lady up. (177)

CAPT: [to Sioux City Approach Control]: Ah, we're controlling the turns by power. I don't think we can turn right. I think we can only make left turns. We're starting a little bit of a left turn right now. Maybe we can only turn right. We can't turn left.
APPROACH: United 232 heavy, ah, understand you can only make right turns.
CAPT: That's affirmative.

MALE, AGE FORTY-TWO, SEAT 25G: "I'm not going to kid you," [the captain] said. "This is going to be a very rough landing." (193)

FO: We're gonna have trouble stopping, too.
CAPT: Oh, yeah. We don't have any brakes.
FO: No brakes?

APPROACH: United 232 heavy, the wind's currently three six zero at one one three sixty at eleven. You're cleared to land on any runway.
CAPT: [Laughs] Roger. [Laughs] You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?
Flight Engineer: Two minutes.

MALE, AGE FORTY-TWO, SEAT 25G: When I looked up, I saw a light haze to the rear of the plane where before it was dark. I walked to approximately row 30 and stepped into a cornfield. (199)

FEMALE, AGE TWENTY-ONE, SEAT 37D: I wish I would have had my tennis shoes on instead of sandals. (200)

CAPT: This is, this is a can of worms. (204)

FEMALE, AGE 48, SEAT 17D: I consider myself very blessed to be here to fill out this form. (208)

23may2006 — From Ben Sisario's Doolittle:

It's a series of opposing forces that fit together incongruously but exquisitely: a bouncy yet firm bassline (Deal called it "boingy-boingy-sproingy") joined to a demented choir of punky guitars; Thompson's harsh primal scream beside Deal's coy and smoky harmonies; explosive, grating riffs in songs crafted from prime bubblegum. (3)

Deal's side of the story is unknown to this reporter. She declined numerous requests to be interviewed for this book. (15)

The eighteenth cut, "Watch What You're Doing," was a cover of a song by Larry "come on, pilgrim" Norman, and has never been released. "I have the only copy of the recording," Smith says, "and, perhaps, by now, it's unplayable." (17)

Deal's earthiness, her "sweet humanizing gravity," as Robert Christgau once put it, is the ideal counterbalance to Thompson's abstract ravings, and their interaction—not flirtatious per se, but not exactly brother and sister, either—is an emotional touchstone. Even Thompson's "you fuckin' die!" is directed, with dorky affection, at her. (19)

"Pixies were welcomed like gods, which I felt was underestimating them somewhat," wrote the Melody Maker's reviewer of their appearance at the Town and Country Club in London. Fans were reportedly pissing off the balconies in sheer Caligula-like abandon. (19)

And indeed the Pixies never became a political band, a band with a "cause." (Thank you, Charles Thompson, Joey Santiago, Kim Deal, and David Lovering.) (38)

Give "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Debaser" the old A/B test, however, and the link is weak. The Pixies track sounds ebullient and dancey, with a shuffling Madchester beat and a melody that is half nursery rhyme. Black Francis is a clown; a crazy one, but still a clown. "Teen Spirit," on the other hand, is a destructive, bipolar tantrum, about as much fun as a recovered memory of sexual abuse. When asked about the song, Thompson has long said hey, the flattery is nice, but he doesn't see the similarity. Cobain was an ardent PIxies student. . . . He was trying to copy the Pixies. He just didn't quite succeed. The Pixies' playful pushmi-pullyu dynamics, and Thompson's scream, are transformed into trauma. Black Francis always seemed to be able to turn it on and off like a faucet; with Nirvana, the cry came from deep in the gut, and it couldn't be stopped. (72)

And there it is, the Charles Thompson songwriting technique, or at least the Charles Thompson songwriting analysis technique. Guy reads article in newspaper, thinks about the awesome power of the ocean, scratches butt, writes song. (83)

"I don't know that sex is a totally beautiful, normal thing the way that the gods intended for a lot of people," Thompson says. "I think it can end up that way, and people can get there. But I think mixed up with that are a lot of other feelings. Because hey. There's something to be said for how it's all about sex and death, or whatever. Maybe that's why people like the Pixies." (114)

The song also sets up one of the key themes of Doolittle, willful submersion into the sea, that great evolutionary toilet bowl. With layers of breathy, ethereal voices . . . it tells of a suicide gone wonderfully right. It's like the dream had by the guy in that Ambrose Bierce story who is about to die in the gallows but in the few seconds before his neck snaps has a long and vivid fantasy of his escape. "I've kissed mermaids, rode the El Nino," Thompson sings as gently as he can. "Could find my way to Mariana," he exults, as if he's met the girl of his dreams, and he surfs those waves of mutilation with joy. Death is a liberator, drowning is pure pleasure. (85)

Thompson never forgot his Bible stories, and as a good Sunday school boy, he knew how his vision had to end. Just as in a great tragedy, the hero must get his terrible vengeance, the walls have to come down, and everybody dies.

The end.

22may2006Joe Sobran vs. Law & Order:

The other day I was ticketed, and my car briefly impounded, when a policeman noticed that I was driving with a cracked windshield. My car had passed the required safety inspection and had the required sticker before some vandal had thrown rocks at it, so I thought I was legal. I wasn't hurting or threatening anyone; I posed no danger I could see. The cop was as polite as a man with a pistol can be, but as he ordered the car towed away I asked him quietly, "Just who are you protecting from me?" The answer was a vague mumble about "the public."

Later I joked to friends that I'd been "carjacked." An armed man had seized my car, I explained. Of course he had a badge, a uniform, and some sort of "law" on his side, so I, not he, was the criminal. Heaven help me if I'd tried to defend my property. Self-defense would have been an even more serious offense. By submitting to force, I confined the evil to a mere nuisance. This time.

Carjacking or impoundment? We now have two vocabularies for wrongs, depending on whether private persons or government agents commit them. This is the difference between mass murderand national defense. Between extortion and taxation. Between counterfeiting and inflation. And so on. Other examples will occur to the astute reader.

Do you smell a fault? No wonder Frédéric Bastiat described government as "organized plunder."

And again:

Even the columnist Richard Cohen, a keen and harsh critic of Bush, found Colbert offensive. He calls his jokes "lame and insulting." Because decorum prevented Bush from walking out in a huff, "Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully."

Needless to say, this is far from a unanimous verdict. Millions of others think Bush got what he deserved for more than five years of abusing power. For once he was momentarily vulnerable for a change, and Colbert took the occasion to make him squirm, rather like the king who watches his crime enacted on the stage in Hamlet.

20may2006Shoot. Cops. In. The Face.

19may2006 — For those of you sticking around for the final act:

When I Am An Old Coot:

I will attend public meetings and raise hell about whatever is on the agenda.
Every Columbus Day I will walk around the courthouse with a sign that says, "Indians Discovered America."
I will write letters to the editor extolling the joys and benefits of prostitution and sign the mayor's name.
I will pretend to be an inspector from the Wildlife Commission and go fishing at the hatchery.
I will carry a bucket of paint in the back of my pickup truck and create handicap parking spaces wherever I think they should be.
I will reserve a window seat on the flight into Dulles International and moon congress from 40,000 feet.
I will borrow a bailiff's uniform and frisk prospective jurors as they arrive at the courthouse.
I will call that TV preacher who hustles everybody and tell him my prayer request is that he get an honest job.
I will take a trailer of young farm animals to the inner-city park and give every kid the chance to ride a pony, pet a rabbit, and scratch a pig's ear.
I will track down Willie Nelson and tell him I was wrong and he was right about some things.
I will give all my stuff away. I will not own anything that eats (except for one old dog and a cat), nor will I own anything that is subject to government inspection or property taxes.

18may2006 — Not to be missed: General Hayden bombs his Constitution 101 exam

"Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. "

Delicious video of same, with nauseating aftertaste


In answer to all questions and issues judged impertinent, my answer, taken from the season finale of Prison Break, shall be:

"We can settle this in Mexico!"


Organized on an irregular basis by the Portland Cacophony Society, this game uses bingo cards designed for, well, strip clubs. Instead of numbers and letters, each space is marked with a typical stripper detail. Did she slap her own ass? Did she tweak her nipple? Clean your glasses with her manicured pubic hair? Did he pick up your tip money with his ass? You need to watch for all these little details and mark them off until you can yell "Bingo!" And please, tip the dancers who make all this fun possible.
— Chuck Palahniuk, Fugitives and Refugees (113-14)

(More Stripper Bingo)

15may2006In my opinion, threesomes are a beautiful thing. Sure they can cause problems and rip people apart in cruel and unusual ways, but so can tornadoes.

15may2006Speaking of Punk'd I had a dream that I got punked. Why they would punk a non-celebrity was conveniently left unexplained by the dream, but anyway I was in a restaurant with some other people and a cop came up to the table and started hassling us. (Do those Punk'd people know their victims, or what?!?) Without thinking, I unsnapped the cop's holster, pulled out his gun, aimed for his head and pulled the trigger a couple of times, until I realized the gun was fake. When the cameras came out I discovered that the cop, too, was fake.

We all had a good laugh, until some real cops showed up and arrested me for attempted murder of a police officer. The real cops understood that the whole thing had been a prank, with a fake gun and a fake cop. Their point was that I hadn't known it was a prank and so, as far as I knew, I was killing a cop. I didn't deny their point but I had a point, too, which was that, after all, it was only a cop. The cops did not appreciate my point, or my pointing out the point, and at this point, fortunately, I woke up.

(Unless I really am in a jail cell and all of this [hand motions indicating the website] has been a dream. Can you prove otherwise, Monsieur Descartes? Thought not.)

13may2006 — Ran across this note I wrote to myself in 1992:

If I could only pass a TV just once without seeing Eric Clapton Unplugged. Or maybe if I could pass an unplugged TV. Or perhaps I could see Eric Clapton Unglued. How about a new show: Unglued, in which a different celebrity each week is driven past the breaking point by means of practical jokes, prank phone calls, and actual physical assault, every step of the journey captured on film for the delight and instruction of the viewing audience?

(See also)

Side note: This is weird. I typed the above, but hadn't yet linked it to Amazon. I opened Amazon's website to get the code to put in for the Punk'd DVDs, but before I even typed anything or clicked any links whatsoever, Amazon had "recommendations" for me at the top of their home page:

So I clicked the (Why is this recommended to me?) link for the answer:

No I did not view Eric Clapton's Unplugged. Not recently. Not EVER. (And if I had, why would you still be pimping it to me?) I was using a primitive HTML editor—a completely separate application. And I hadn't opened Amazon in that application, either. I had used Firefox to Google the phrase "Eric Clapton Unplugged" and Amazon was the top hit—but I did not click the Google link to Amazon. Is that how Amazon knew what I was writing about in a separate application?

I've got a recommendation for you, Amazon: STOP SPYING ON ME. It's creepy.

12may2006 — From Bart D. Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Learning Greek was a thrilling experience for me. As it turned out, I was pretty good at the basics of the language and was always eager for more. On a deeper level, however, the experience of learning Greek became a bit troubling for me and my view of scripture. I came to see early on that the full meaning and nuance of the Greek text of the New Testament could be grasped only when it is read and studied in the original language (the same thing applies to the Old Testament, as I later learned when I acquired Hebrew). All the more reason, I thought, for learning the language thoroughly. At the same time, this started making me question my understanding of scripture as the verbally inspired word of God. If the full meaning of the words of scripture can be grasped only by studying them in Greek (and Hebrew), doesn't this mean that most Christians, who don't read ancient languages, will never have complete access to what God wants them to know? And doesn't this make the doctrine of inspiration a doctrine only for the scholarly elite, who have the intellectual skills and leisure to learn the languages and study the texts by reading them in the original? What good does it do to say that the words are inspired by God if most people have absolutely no access to these words, but only to more or less clumsy renderings of these words into a language, such as English, that has nothing to do with the original words? (6-7)

Bentley remarks that "We need go no further than this paragraph for a specimen of the greatest malice and impudence, that any scribbler out of the dark committed to paper." (108)

Clearly, the predictors of doom in our own age—the Hal Lindsays (author of The Late Great Planet Earth) and the Timothy LaHayes (co-author of the Left Behind series)—have had their predecessors, just as they will have their successors, world without end. (110)

After intense study of the matter (Bengel studied everything intensely), Bengel found that he could summarize the vast majority of proposed criteria in a simple four-word phrase: "Proclivi scriptioni praestat ardua"—the more difficult reading is preferable to the easier one. The logic is this: when scribes changed their texts, they were more likely to try to improve them. If they saw what they took to be a mistake, they corrected it; if they saw two accounts of the same story told differently, they harmonized them; if they encountered a text that stood at odds with their own theological opinions, they altered it. In every instance, to know what the oldest (or even "original") text said, preference should be given not to the reading that has corrected the mistake, harmonized the account, or improved its theology, but to just the opposite one, the reading that is "harder" to explain. In every case, the more difficult reading is to be preferred. (111)

Another argument scholars have used has to do with the literary structure of the passage. In a nutshell, the passage appears to be deliberately structured as what scholars have called a chiasmus. (140)

In fact, most of the pagan opposition to Christians during the church's first two centuries happened on the grassroots level rather than as a result of organized, official Roman persecution. Contrary to what many people appear to think, there was nothing "illegal" about Christianity, per se, in those early years. Christianity itself was not outlawed, and Christians for the most part did not need to go into hiding. The idea that they had to stay in the Roman catacombs in order to avoid persecution, and greeted one another through secret signs such as the symbol of the fish, is nothing but the stuff of legend. (196)

11may2006 — From Michael Lewis's, Moneyball:

Paul [DePodesta] wanted to look at stats because the stats offered him ways of understanding amateur players. . . . He was fascinated by irrationality, and the opportunities it created in human affairs for anyone who resisted it. (18)

There was something bracing about the way he [Bill James] did it—his passion, his humor, his intolerance of stupidity, his preference for leaving an honest mess for others to clean up rather than a tidy lie for them to admire—that inspired others to join his cause. (69)

Before he found a publisher, James had four readers he considered "celebrities." They were:
Norman Mailer
Baseball writer Dan Okrent
William Goldman, the screenwriter (
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
The guy who played "Squiggy" on the TV sitcom
Laverne & Shirley. (80-1)

The pleasure of rooting for Goliath is that you can expect to win. The pleasure of rooting for David is that, while you don't know what to expect, you stand at least a chance of being inspired. (158)

Once in the minors, crude ability got him [Scott Hatteberg] as far as Double-A ball. There he encountered the two obstacles that routinely ended professional hitting careers: pitchers who had not only stuff but control too; and game theory. (174)

Sure, you might get to the big leagues and even have a sensational month or two, but if you had some fatal flaw you were found out. Kevin Maas! Maas comes up in 1990 with the Yankees and hits ten home runs in his first seventy-seven at bats. Had he kept hitting them out at that rate for a full season he'd have broken Roger Maris's single-season home run record as a rookie. He didn't. He stopped hitting home runs; he stopped hitting period. After a couple of frustrating seasons, Kevin Maas was out of baseball.
Why do you think that happened? Hatteberg knew, or thought he did: it happened because the big leagues was a ruthlessly efficient ecosystem. Every hitter had a weakness. Once he arrived in the big leagues, teams saw him often enough to find that weakness, and exploit it. "Once your hole has been exposed," Hatteberg said, "you have to make an adjustment or the whole league will get you out. Any pitcher who can't exploit that hole isn't in the big leagues."

To the Oakland A's front office, Hatteberg was a deeply satisfying scientific discovery. The things he did so peculiarly well at the plate were the things only science—or, at any rate, closer than normal scrutiny—could turn up. (179)

"Basically, everything you know about baseball when you are fourteen years old, you know from baseball announcers," said Voros. "Here was this guy who was telling me that at least eighty percent of what baseball announcers told me was complete bullshit, and then explained convincingly why it was." (235)

In the Oakland fourth, center fielder Terrence Long hits a grounder back to the pitcher, and runs hard down the first-base line. This is new. Heretofore, when Terrence Long has grounded out, he has trotted down the line with supreme indifference to public opinion. Too young to know that you are what you pretend to be, Terrence Long has nearly perfected the art of seeming not to care. As it happens, a few days ago, Terrence walked out into the players' parking lot and discovered that someone had egged his car. Hearing of the incident, Billy stopped by Terrence's locker and told him that he'd had an email from the culprit, an A's fan, who said he was furious that he'd paid money to watch Terrence Long jog the bases. The effect on Terrence Long was immediate. He went from jogging to first on a routine ground out to running as fast as he can until the first moment he can stop without pissing off Billy Beane. As he sprints down the line, Billy says that Terrence's real problem is "his own self-doubt, exacerbated by the media. That's one of the mistakes that young players make—they actually read the papers." (249-50)

As Chad [Bradford] watched the tape of his old self, [A's pitching coach] Peterson made his point:
"You're a Christian, right Chad?"
"You believe in Jesus?"
"Have you ever seen him?"
"No, I've never seen him."
"Ever seen yourself get hitters out?"
"So why the fuck do you have faith in Jesus when you never seen him, but you don't have faith in your ability to get hitters out when you get hitters out all the time?"

I ask if it worries him that Chad relies so heavily on faith. That Chad's genuine, understandable belief that the Good Lord must be responsible for his fantastic ability to get big league hitters out leaves him open to the suspicion that the Good Lord might have changed His mind.
"No," says Billy. "I'm a believer, too. I just happen to believe in the power of the ground ball."

09may2006By day the [mocking]bird is possible to tune out, and at nightfall it lapses with other birds into a promising silence. To the mockingbird it is only a snooze, for as soon as you have plunged into your REM sleep you are roused by a restored jubilance proclaiming pierce, pierce, spear, spear, cheaper, cheaper cheaper, fever, fever, tsk, tsk, tsk, squeegee, squeegee, jeer, jeer, whadja eat, whadja eat, earache, earache, earache, plus a fervent reserve of rattles, whistles, and jammed starters that defy orthography. — Bruce Berger, The Telling Distance, p. 139

08may2006Both his first and last name end with the letters "er". He has appeared in 13 movies/TV-series whose title or alternative title end with "er" or "ers". He has played 8 characters whose names end with "er". — The indispensable Internet Movie Database

02may2006 — Bettie Rinehart writes: i thought you might be entertained by my latest story and videos. up your alley.

By which she means, it concerns desperate kookery—in this case, the Integratron.

Do not miss, on the same page, Bettie's Electro-Rejuvenation Lifestream Generator Adventure, in which some mountebank puts his finger right on Bettie's energy port, wtf? ("it felt so innocent at the time," says Bettie, "but the photos make it look so...untoward!")

02may2006There can be no question that fortune is supreme in all human affairs. It is a capricious power, which makes men's actions famous or leaves them in obscurity without regard to their true worth. — Sallust

26apr2006 — Fark headline: Fox News radio host Tony Snow chosen as new White House press secretary; job description largely unchanged
(via Bureaucrash)

Meanwhile, did you know that it's National Shoot A Cop In the Face Day? (As if that isn't every day.)

24apr2006Rats. I hear you, Cardhouse Robot.

23apr2006 — You haven't had this bad a day yet.

23apr2006 — Deuce of Clubs, proud holder of Google's top result for the phrase poopy fart face.

(See also: stupid blood fart)


From William C. Davis's Three Roads to the Alamo

When he wrote his autobiography in the winter of 1833-34, David Crockett insisted that it should run at least 200 pages. That, to him, was a real book. As he wrote he studied other books, counted the words on their pages, and compared the tally with his own growing manuscript. As a result, when published his narrative spanned 211 pages, and he was content. (p. 9)

In the end the massacre—it could hardly be called a battle—left 186 natives dead. . . . Discontent among the volunteers rose in chorus with their grumbling bellies. So hungry were they that the next day they rode back to Tallusahatchee, remembering beef and potatoes in some of the burning houses. Crockett surveyed a battleground strewn with bloating and half-burned corpses, but then he and others found a large store of potatoes beneath the ruins of the great house that they had burned with forty warriors inside. "Hunger compelled us to eat them, though I had a little rather not," he said, "for the oil of the Indians we had burned up on the day before had run down on them, and they looked like they had been stewed with fat meat." (p. 29)

For all the play and sham about him as he told his stories and played the odd prank, there was no true guile in the man. He was exactly as he seemed: He said what he thought and meant what he said, a truly honest man. (p. 67)

He would sell his remaining property and use the proceeds to redeem the debts left by the mill. He believed it "better to keep a good conscience with an empty purse, than to get a bad opinion of myself." David Crockett always valued that "good opinion" of himself highly, sometimes above all other things, regardless of the personal cost. (p. 76)

During one of their meetings on the stump, Crockett responded in kind by laying some heavy—and fictitious—charges against Cooke, who bristled and told the crowd he could prove Crockett a liar and would do so at their next meeting. When they appeared before a crowd again, Crockett saw the men Cooke had brought to refute his charges, and when he arose to speak first pointed out the witnesses and said Cooke really did not need to bring them, for he freely admitted that all his charges had been lies. "Fellow citizens, I did lie," he said. "They told stories on me, and I wanted to show them, if it came to that, that I could tell a bigger lie than they could. Yes, fellow citizens, I can run faster, walk longer, leap higher, speak better, and tell more and bigger lies than my competitor, and all his friends, any day of his life." The crowd roared with laughter and applause, and Cooke, both enraged and deflated, simply decided to drop out of the race, muttering that "if a man can get five hundred votes for telling a lie, and one thousand for acknowledging the fact, an honest man may well be off!" (pp. 166-7)

One of the things he shared with Henry Clay was an advocacy—though more restrained—of internal improvements, of the judicious expenditure of federal money on roads and canals to encourage interstate commerce, though like so many others he was really only interested in improvements that might benefit his own region. . . . Crockett also did not understand the vital interconnection between internal improvements and the tariff, for it was the tariff revenue that chiefly financed the government. . . . Yet in supporting tariff-funded internal improvements, in effect he contradicted his own tariff position. (pp. 174-5)

When the Cherokee mounted a challenge to the Indian Bill in the Supreme Court, [Andrew] Jackson forces got up a bill to repeal part of the 1789 Judiciary Act so that the Court could not actually sit on the matter. Such tampering with the basic law of the land, and the balance of power, incensed Crockett. For the first time he now actually believed that he perceived Jackson himself behind the maneuvering, and moreover it appeared to be a movement toward personal aggrandizement, a reach for dictatorial authority. "This is what we call going the whole hogg to nullify the whole powar of the Supreme Court of the united states," Crockett fumed. (p. 179)

Crockett had come to his epiphany. The enemy was not just [James K.] Polk and never had been Polk and the others. They were merely instruments. The foe was Jackson himself. He even feared that Jackson might bring on a foreign war, just as a means of assuming the same kind of dictatorial power he had exercised in Florida when still a general. (p. 180)

With the callow pride of youth, [William B.] Travis even numbered his conquests. On September 26, 1833, using his still evolving grasp of Spanish for recording more delicate matters he noted in the diary that he used mainly for business notes, he wrote that "chingaba una mujer que es cincuenta y seis en mi vida": "I fucked a woman who is the fifty-sixth of my life." If by that he meant that this was only the fifty-sixth time he had enjoyed sexual congress in his life, then the two and one-half years of marriage and living with Rosanna may well have been troubled from the start. On the other hand, if he meant that the lady involved was the fifty-sixth partner in his lifetime, then Travis had been a busy fellow in Texas indeed. (p. 285)

The fires [burning the bodies of the dead Alamo defenders] burned and then smoldered for hours and on into the night. The next day a tejano came to look at a pile of charred wood and ashes, and saw mixed with it fragments of bones and even bits of charred flesh. A darkened moist ring a foot or two wide surrounded each of the pyres. It was the fat broiled out of the bodies by the flames. (p. 566)

20apr2006If you've got nothing better to do

1. Compare the smiles of Karen Allen and William F. Buckley.

2. Try Ellen Barkin and Bobby Darin.

3. Find something better to do.


Joe Sobran: Why does corruption in government always surprise us? Why do we expect anything else from it? Government is organized force. It takes our wealth and makes war. And we think honest men would do that work?
Well, honest men have sincerely tried, but look at the results and ask yourself whether honesty has any inherent tendency to prevail in politics. War, taxation, waste, debt, inflation, hatred, hypocrisy, cynicism, social disorder. And also — amazingly enough! — corruption.
As I often say, expecting government to produce good results is like expecting a tiger to pull a plow. After the twentieth century, in which the world's governments killed hundreds of millions of their own subjects, everyone ought to talk about the state the way Jews talk about Hitler. Yet we still have high hopes for this beast, because, after all, the mighty tiger is certainly strong enough to pull that plow if he wanted to! If only.

(via Metafilter:) Filmmaker Eric Steel applied for a permit to film the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for a year, saying he was trying to "capture the grandeur" of the bridge. But what he actually ended up doing was capture 19 suicides and many attempts. (Related: The New Yorker's "JUMPERS: The fatal grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge.")

The Peak Whale Theory

Israel, I've heard, is hated fanatically by millions of Muslims around the world, whereas the U.S. Congress is loathed by only a small number of well-informed people who follow politics closely. — P. J. O'Rourke, Peace Kills (p. 33)


"Can't we all just get along?"—Rodney King

"I'd like to get along. . . .
I'd like to get a long BOARD and start in on some of these jerks"
Lux Interior


Most of us spend about 20 years of our lives working for the tax collector.—Charles Adams, Fight, Flight, Fraud: The Story of Taxation (7)

Taxes are not debts, despite the fact that we carelessly refer to them as such. The principle of fair value received—which is the basis for a legally enforceable debt—has no place in a tax dispute. A tax is owed because a government orders it to be paid. Nothing else is required. (9)

Liberals in our society who clamor for more government ownership and control of business are really asking for a return to the oldest form of civilized economic life, a system which governed Egypt for over 3,000 years. (17)

The [Egyptian] temples were alo places of refuge, called asylia, where people could flee and escape from government, especially the tax-collecting scribes. (21)

An IRS agent using a pseudonym wrote: "There is no important piece of information concerning you that I am forbidden to seek." (21)

Today, civil rights have little application to taxation. One of the most bizarre inconsistencies in our modern constitutional law is that a murderer has more civil rights than a taxpayer. The payment of taxes appears to be more important to our law-makers and judges than the security and lives of our citizens. (27)

If every taxpayer took the strongest possible defensive position, government revenues would disappear. (27)

[Roman tax law:] "In connection with the payment of taxes due, no person shall fear that he will suffer, at the hand of perverse and enraged judges, imprisonment, lashes of leaded whips, weights, or any other tortures devised by the arrogance of judges. Prisons are for criminals . . . In accordance with this law, taxpayers shall proceed with security." (96)

The Writ of Assistance is important in American history because the threat of its use caused the founding fathers to place the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. While that great amendment is not now used to restrain revenue agents, it was initially adopted to do just that. The amendment prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures" which means that tax agents cannot snoop without a court order based on an affadavit establishing probable cause. Today, Chapter 78 of the Internal Revenue Code permits revenue men to do exactly what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to prevent. (211)

The very first power granted to the new Congress was "to lay and collect Taxes" which are "uniform throughout the United States." The most critical word was "uniform." In the first draft taxes were to be "common to all"; this was changed to "uniform and equal." The Committee on Style dropped the word "equal" as redundant. That committee was no to change the meaning. Uniform, therefore, meant equal and common to all. (221-222)

[Lawyer, commenting upon the 1894 U.S. attempt at income tax:] "No member of this court will live long enough to hear a case which will involve a question more important than this, the preservation of the fundamental rights of property and equality before the law, and the ability of the people of the United States to rely upon the guarantee of the Constitution. . . There is protection now or never." (252-253)

14apr2006Could it be that through taking salvia the individual catches sight of the ambiguity of the world—an ambiguity that is normally obscured, and hidden from us?Sacred Weeds documentary

11apr2006 — The following unbidden did arrive in today's email inbox from the sage master, Mister Lou Minatti. It should be inscribed on an urn for future generations. Its posting here will for the moment have to suffice.


The Man Who Shined It On

How does a normal, seemingly stable [individual] descend down the path of desperation? Examine this question for its assumptions. Is stability the opposite of desperation? Perhaps. Yet stability may also be the cause of desperation.

Specific, discrete steps—as fine as brushstrokes—form the traceable path to the true, fully-blossomed desperate state.

Let's say you walk down a block in your neighborhood and are pleased to see a certain automobile parked at the corner. One day, take the same walk and notice that this vehicle is gone. After a week, you're certain it's never coming back. And nobody asked you.

You look closely at the certainties of life—home, job, family, all those usual routines—and the invisible structure that holds them together dissolves. Everything becomes disjointed and off-key. You place a marble on a previously flat surface and it keeps rolling towards the edge. That's your life.

The "what-ifs" start to multiply. What if you simply stopped doing things—stopped showing up for work, for appointments? What if you stopped watching TV, reading the newspaper, glancing at magazines in the checkout line? What if you refused to drive the usual way to your job or the store and insisted on taking tortured roundabout routes, including those that took you through new cities, new states? What if you rode the bus to some far, obscure part of town, sat on a bench for hours and then rode back?

It's like pulling on the loose thread of a sweater—where will the unraveling end?

Of course, once you have a thread in your hand, you are bound to follow it to its undreamed-of source. You become aware of certain magical figures around town, personal urban legends you create out of real people—mysterious heroes, people to speculate about and emulate.

One of them is a shadowy figure who becomes The Man Who Shined It On. He is actually some dumpy fellow in his 50s who walks through your neighborhood every now and then. Occasionally he stops to buy a newspaper. In your mind he becomes The Great Shirker, the man who just walked out of his house to go to the store for a carton of milk and never returned.

The Man Who Shined It On is sort of a middle-aged Peter Pan figure who attracts a scattered group of Lost Men who follow in his path. None of these Lost Men ever meet, nor do they acknowledge their leader. But they do pick up his habits and become a secret fraternity of wandering malingerers, a loose patrol of observers who take careful notes of the painfully mundane events they see and hear.

Those who follow The Man Who Shined It On might as well be disembodied beings except for one deliberate act: when they fill up their notebooks, they search quiet back streets until they find a house or apartment with an open first-floor window. They approach the window and fling the notebook inside, aiming for a sofa or end table. Someone will discover the notebook—which contains no names or dates, only incredibly detailed notes to no seeming purpose—and that person will start to wonder. [NOTE to Doc: This is incredibly important. It is worth risking arrest to do this.] Eventually, many of these people will follow The Man Who Shined It On.

There are transitional phases between a person's former life and his or her new state of being. One may adopt special clothing touches that highlight an emerging identity: different colored socks, a certain jacket, a scarf. Or a special face may be worn when going out on long walks searching for the mysterious "hero." Is this the onset of madness or the beginnings of the greatest transformation conceivable?

One day, on a street lined with bulbous old houses and crumbly apartment buildings, draped by weary oaks and blessed by the oil stains of cars long vanished, you may discover that you yourself have become The Man Who Shined It On and are the object of curious fascination by someone a few rungs behind you on the ladder into the wild unknown. Don't give them the high sign or the sideways glance. Just make a cradling gesture with your right arm, as if you carrying an invisible pint of milk back to the home that you have never seen, on earth or in Heaven.

11apr2006If this is poverty, poverty is very underrated. I'm living much more frugally relative to my fat lifestyle before I started resisting taxes, it's true, but I'm far from impoverished. In fact, in terms of the ratio between my wants and my ability to fulfill those wants, I don't think I've ever been richer. My salary dropped but my life rose to surpass it, and I hope it never relinquishes the lead.The Picket Line

(Despite frugality, The Picket Line experimenter has been unable to avoid FICA—the laughably totalitarian-sounding Social Security—and has decided to simply stop paying it. Bravo. Let's all stop. Oh, wait, I already have.)


Throughout history, throughout most of the world, real, live psychopaths have gotten a bad rap. — Nicholas Tharcher, introduction to Christopher S. Hyatt's The Psychopath's Bible (13)

He is free from the hallucinations that homo normalis insists we adopt and which men have so treasured all their lives: his eyes see only what is. He is free from the myths of safety and security: he knows that death awaits him. (Tharcher, 23)

Almost everyone denies that self-destruction is one of their primary goals, but no matter how much they deny it, they practice it. Self-destruction makes way for new, and possibly more interesting life forms, but it also allows people to cope with their own feelings of helplessness. Everyone feels helpless in one way or another. There is no way out of it, except to destroy yourself. Self-destruction is control, and some control, no matter how painful it might seem, is better than no control at all. Most so-called insane people are nothing more than bad control junkies. (Hyatt, 50-1)

In a strange way it takes a lot of strength or a powerful numbing agent to realize how insignificant you really are, what minor roles you play, and how everything you "love" and cherish can be taken away from you in the wink of a gnat's eye. But this is the simple truth and most people are constantly made unaware of their real situation. This keeps them tame and prevents them from revolt. (Hyatt, 99-100)

09apr2006 — If everyone but me knew that CNN had invented something called a "Faith and Values Correspondent," I cannot understand why I wasn't informed of it immediately. It's all about the idiocy, here, people.

07apr2006 — From the unputdownable, and I mean that in both senses I can think of for that non-existent word, Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies:

KIM DEAL: If I could do anything, I'd play the drums now in a band. I have to find a band who needs my kind of drumming. I have no chops, and most bands still like chops, whatever. (7)

KRISTIN HERSH: She was from Ohio, she never shut up, she just talked constantly, and everything she said was adorable, she was so attractive. Between every song she would walk up to the mic and say, "We're the Pixies!" I was like, shut up! Why does she keep saying that? And then sometimes she would just start talking. (34)

TANYA DONELLY: Kim would come straight from work, so she had skirt-suits and office pumps on a lot, and her hair all poofty, all poofed up, typical '80s. I just thought that was so interesting, because so many of the people in that scene are trying to look cool, and meanwhile the coolest person there is dressed like a secretary. I have to say, in a day it changed my perception of what was cool. (34)

KIM DEAL: Why would somebody have show clothes? It's just crazy. I have favorite T-shirts that I like. Ones I know the sleeves aren't too long and won't get in my way when I'm playing, stuff like that. Mainly it's about function. Like I know certain pants I can bend down and grab a beer if it's on the floor and it won't spill or something. I preferred the thinner T-shirt material. And I don't like the ones that are too thin so you can see the bra thing. Because, like, I think PJ Harvey played and she had a see-through top on where you could see her nipple, and I swear to God I couldn't take my eyes off of her nipple the whole show. I found it distracting. I didn't want to see the nipple, I didn't want to stare at it, I just couldn't not stare at it. It's hypnotic somehow. And over in Europe there's a lot of times where there's no showering and stuff. You lose combs. I don't comb my hair anyway, who am I kidding? But say you did. (36)

KRISTIN HERSH: Kim's gibberish was the best part! She was still doing that in Europe when they didn't even speak English. In Holland she was telling them that their canals smelled like shit in between songs. The not shutting up was great, we loved that about Kim. (127)

JOE HARVARD: Kim came and I was doing "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate, she said, "I could sing that better." I said, "If you can fucking sing that better, Kim, get up and sing." So she started to come and probably five or six occasions she came and sang "You Sexy Thing." And kicked the shit out of it, definitely burned me to the ground. How could she not? She had the voice of an angel, but like an angel who maybe had been a merchant marine. (158-9)

KIM DEAL: Onstage Joey didn't say a word, David didn't have a microphone. Those two didn't have mics. I probably talked, maybe Charles was retuning his strings or something. It's fun to piss 'em off. If you're in fucking Toronto, just call it Detroit and it pisses them off. It's easy. But it's not meant to be hurtful. Yeah, so you say, "Hello, Detroit." Boooo. What? What? I have no idea. They should get it, you know. I mean, do they think that we really don't know where we are? And it freaks people out, it's not like I was doing an act, I was just like, "Hi, how are you?" It freaks motherfuckers out. (161-2)

ANDY BARDING [who would still owe me a tape of the Fort Apache demos, if I didn't get it from somebody else later, eh, Andy?]: The night of one of those Brixton gigs, I was just walking around the venue and I saw Kim kind of waddling towards us, smoking a cigarette and looking really shifty, and so I just thought, oh, fuck, there's Kim Deal, so I went up to her and said, "Hey, Kim, there's this fanzine I've been doing, how about an interview, then?" And she said, "Wait while I make this phone call, and then we'll do it." She went in a phone box, I waited outside, then she came out and said, "Okay, let's do it, where should we do it?" We ended up going to this pub around the corner and just sat in there for about an hour, basically. She got really into it. She was drinking my beer, smoking all my cigarettes, and she was having a great time. She kept saying, "You guys are listening to everything I say, it's great!" (206)

KIM DEAL: Me and Charles were talking afer the Minnesota show and then we did another show in Winnipeg, and after the Winnipeg show we were like, man, it feels like we've been out for a month already. It was so weird at first. Playing bass is weird. Standing on that side of the stage, usually I stand on the right side of the stage for the Breeders. Weird things like that are weird. The green pick and not an orange pick is weird. But then it was like, oh yeah, okay. So we've been doing shows ever since. The end. (260)

(The whole history isnt just snippets about Kim Deal. I'm just stupid that way.)

06apr2006 — From "One Sure Thing in Life":

I have a message for every liberty lover out there who knows that the federal income tax is a moral outrage, nothing more than legalized theft, and something many of our country's founders would have found unconscionable.
The message is, "Pay it anyway."
No, I didn't sell out to the feds during my recently completed clerkship with the U.S. Court of Appeals. But that experience did hit me with a dose of reality that made me more certain than ever that you can't beat the federal government at its own game, on its own turf, so you must be careful to choose your battles wisely and well. . . .
The tax protesters may have some interesting legal, historical, or philosophical points. Maybe, for example, the Sixteenth Amendment wasn't properly ratified. I don't know, and I don't care, because I know the only thing that matters: If you don't pay your taxes, you will be forced to pay them, and then you will go to jail. And what if you resist, physically? Then, if they deem it necessary, the feds will kill you. It's just that simple.
No judge is going to listen to your stories about the Sixteenth Amendment, sovereignty, or constructive trusts for one minute. Why? First and foremost, because when the federal government takes anyone to court, it's a rigged game, because agents of the federal government are both prosecutor and judge. We have "separation of powers" on paper, but the reality is that no judge is going to declare the taxes that support his paycheck unconstitutional. Consider also that every federal judge is appointed by the President of the United States. Can you think of any president during your lifetime who would appoint such a judge?
I can assure you that the legal knowledge you acquire in your self-study on this matter will not stun any of these courts such that they will suddenly change their minds. The constitution is a mere document, and not very good to begin with, so despite any false impressions your government-school civics class may have given you, the constitution is powerless to save you from the feds. . . .
I don't enjoy saying any of that. That close to 50% of a person's labor each year is slave labor for the government is disgusting and obscene, and no one is less happy about it than I am. And just so we're clear, I would find it obscene if it were even 1%, or ½ %, or even one penny, because taxation is slavery, and slavery is wrong, no exceptions. . . .

Sure, sure. Even so, at some undefinable point it all becomes pointless.

05apr2006". . . our purpose was to provide a conducive and respectful atmosphere to honor and welcome the Noble Wolf from his 45-year slumber." — Zeena LaVey (Anton's daughter), in the magazine The Fifth Path (#1, p. 27), on the 1990 "Walpurgis Rally"

Ooh. Code. How dark.
Was ever Anton, even in all his excess, that silly? One hopes that Zeena has since grown into her name, derived from one of the coolest, most neglected films (and books) ever, the noir Nightmare Alley. (Interestingly, the psychologist in the story is named Lilith.)

03apr2006 — Anyone know how Salvia Wash (near Palm Springs) got its name?

02apr2006"Have you visited Delhi? Of course you have. I was in Connaught Place, simply walking, when a boy, a very small boy, stopped me and pointed to my shoe, this shoe." It was a well-made brown brogue, dusty with travel. "To my surprise I discovered that this show was covered in yellow shit. . . . How is this possible? This huge and terrible shit on my shoe. The boy offered, very kindly so I thought, to clearn for me, and when he finished I was so very pleased that I paid him thirty rupees. I then continued my walk. . . . Not five minutes passed before a second boy accosts me. `Sahib! Sahib! Your shoe!' And I look down and there is more shit, a huge ball of yellow shit. But I was suspicious. I have seen no shit on the pavement. I go to an old man shoeshine who cleans for five rupees and he tells me that the boys have invented a shit gun. Yes, they can shoot shit at your foot then they offer to clean! Can you imagine? India is this place where such ingenuity and application of intelligence is used by shoeshine boys. But of course, in a meritocracy we assume that a shoeshine boy is unintelligent, because his mind would help him rise higher, owner of a shoe shop, entrepreneur, founder of a boot polish empire. Yet in a caste society, that assumption is invalid; intelligence, you can say, is spread evenly and nobody can rise, or sink. No movement is possible so the humblest sharp-shooter of shit may be a genius. And likewise the top politician a fool!" He grinned boyishly. — Kevin Rushby, Children of Kali (pp. 49-50)

In all this the Church stood square behind the forces of law and order. Vengeance was an attribute of God and the civil magistrate was his instrument on earth. It was rarely questioned that execution was the correct expression of that vengeance; some went on to suggest that justice for the individual was not the main objective. Archdeacon William Paley, guardian of public morality in the late eighteenth century, was clear that "the proper end of human punishment is not the satisfaction of justice, but the prevention of crimes." This conveniently did away with any need for rigour in proof—the hanged man became a sacrificial lamb to the public good. If he was guilty, it was a bonus and the innocent received scant consolation: "he who falls by mistaken sentence may be considered as falling for his country." (p. 116)

While murder was certainly being done on India's roads in the 1820s and thirties, the British reaction was partial, unbalanced and unjust. Thuggee was a social evil but it was not a religious cult: it was a threat to the opium trade. Then, once the demon of an eradication campaign was released, its history ran a similar course to any other witch hunt, be it of Senator McCarthy's Communists or Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida. Special powers and special laws were granted, then the exoticized and over-blown reaction to thuggee begun by Sleeman came stampeding down the decades, gathering strength from orientalism and pseudo-science and post-Mutiny hatreds, eager for new enemies to crush. (Two months after 11 September 2001, an article in Newsweek by Jonathan Alter called for "an open mind" on torture for terrorism suspects and President Bush's Patriot Act was rushed through. It allows the indefinite holding of immigrants suspected of terrorist links.) (p. 178)

"Kamon achew," I said, my first attempt at Bengali. Nobody moved. (p. 266)

01apr2006I want to write only in an explosive state, in a fever or under great nervous tension, in an atmosphere of settling accounts, where invectives replace blows and slaps.E. M. Cioran

31mar2006Over time, these projects have led to a great phrase that the kids use: "go to MIT." They say this when they think of something to build: when Eli wants a pirate ship that can sink on cue, or Grace wants to add some parts to a play set, the solution is to "go to MIT." Instead of limiting themselves to what can be found on the shelves of a toy store, they're limited only by their active imagination. While their inventions do sometimes stray a bit beyond what's feasible (we spent a while discussing possible approaches to making a horse) or even physically possible (we haven't made much progress on creating a room without gravity), they're growing up thinking of engineering as something that they do for themselves rather than expecting others to take care of it for them. And in believing that, they're teaching me about the profound opportunity and demand for tools of mass construction for all of the people on the planet who can't go to MIT. — Neil Gershenfeld, Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop—From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication (pp. 64-5)

30mar2006This 9-year-old RULES (via Ukelelia)


Consider the classic line from the Baboon Dooley comic strip: "Baboon, the world isn't out to get you—it's out to ignore you, if only you'd let it."

Make this your mantra. I know it isn't as glorious of an attitude as the rebel/outlaw-who's-an-incredible-threat-to-the-system-man pose. But in the long run, it will save you endless hassles with The Man. Or, to quote a hoary old platitude from Dylan: ". . . to live outside the law, you must be honest." (p. 8)

I got a jet stream of skunk piss (or whatever the fuck it is) right in the face. YUCK! But you know, even that was cool in a weird sort of way. For it was a unique experience. Most of the time on the streets nothing is happening. This was a bit of an inconvenience, but you've got plenty of time to kill, after all, and nowhere you have to be in the morning, anyway. So you start to dig everything that happens to you as An Experience, as opposed to a hassle that gets in the way of what you're supposed to be doing. (p. 55-6)

— Ace Backwords, Surviving on the Streets


Certain curious correspondences between Tatum O'Neal: A Paper Life and the narration of Holly Sargis, the character based upon serial killer aider-abetor Caril Fugate and portrayed by Sissy Spacek in the film Badlands:

Holly Sargis: My father . . . tried to act cheerful, but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house.

Tatum O'Neal: Later my father would say in print, to my chagrin, that Paper Moon "answered the question of what to do with this strange little girl I was living with." (40)

Holly Sargis: At this moment I didn't feel shame or fear, but just kind of blah, like when you're sitting there and all the water's run out of the bathtub.

Tatum O'Neal: Stanley Jaffe, the producer . . . once told me that, to relax, he would sit in a full bathtub and then watch the water run out. (71)

Holly Sargis: I've got to stick by Kit... He feels trapped.

Tatum O'Neal: I have to stick by him now because this is the hardest period in his whole life. (192)

Holly Sargis: The day was quiet and serene, but I didn't notice.

Tatum O'Neal: Diana Ross sang about fourteen songs, but after the third one she put me to sleep. (79)


Addendum: Random Tatum

One day Griffin fell off his bike on Gary's job site, landing in the hospital because a stake went straight up his rectum. (86)

I didn't even want to breast-feed newborn Kevin because I thought he might pick up my shock and horror from my milk. (158-9)

I took it as a powerful statement of John's disaffection that he wouldn't even push the wheelchair. It seemed to offend his macho pride—as if John believed Kevin's illness was just some drama I'd manufactured, which made him look weak. That turned my stomach. It was at that moment when I realized I had begun to despise my husband for his profound, unfeeling selfishness; for being such a narcissist that he was unmoved even by the obvious pain of his own five-year-old son. (216) / To give credit where credit is due, I want to thank John McEnroe for being a great dad for my three children. (xii)

I hated it—being locked up for three months with a bunch of women all bellyaching about their need to drink or to use drugs. My roommate had a vanilla extract addiction. (255)


Those Unbelievable Believers: The Blessed Sounds of Incredible Christian Song Demos


From Claire Wolfe:

IT'S NOT A HOAX. REALLY. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives held an art contest for employees' kids, asking them to illustrate what they thought their parents did at work.

This was one of the contest winners:

Little Dixon didn't draw the Branch Davidian "compound" perfectly. But he sure got the idea.

Here's the contest main page.

25mar2006You must always have a secret plan.

Everything depends on this: it is the only question. So as not to be conquered by the conquered territory in which you lead your life, so as not to feel the horrible weight of inertia wrecking your will and bending you to the ground, so as not to spend a single night more wondering what there is to do or how to connect with your neighbors and countrymen, you must make secret plans without respite. Plan for adventure, plan for pleasure, plan for pandemonium, as you wish; but plan, lay plans constantly.

And when you come to, on the steps of the presidential palace, in the green grass beside the highway, in your cell's gloomy solitude, as the wind, the waves, the stars, the sea, ask everything that ponders, everything that wanders, everything that sings, everything that stings—ask them what time it is; and your comrades, your cellmates, the wind, the waves, the stars, the sea all will answer: "It is time for a new secret plan. So as not to be the martyred slave of routine, plan adventure, plan pleasure, plan pandemonium, as you wish; but plan, plan secretly and without respite.

—From Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook, by CrimethInc. Agents Provocateurs

24mar2006 — From Karen Duffy's Model Patient: My Life As an Incurable Wise-Ass:

I decided I'd try and do it like Sinatra. I always dressed up for MTV, and tried to have a swank Francis Albert attitude on camera.
Then I realized. There are no guests, and the only thing I'm serving up is some eminently forgettable videos, so I swung in the other direction. It turned out that working with Alzheimer's patients in the nursing home was better preparation for MTV than watching Frank Sinatra. I learned to command the attention of people with a two-second attention span, and my elocution had to be crystal clear so the message got across. I used to have a bad nervous stammer, but I overcame that in the nursing home—I had to be completely uninhibited because I had to get a reaction from somebody. And, of course, I learned to work in a business full of excrement
I'd open up every show with a slam, like "MTV—we play the classics because you fear the unfamiliar." I got in a lot of trouble for saying things like, "Every once in a while a singer comes along with an amazing voice, whose talent has been poured into making an incredible song, and the video which captures that performance approaches the level of art. But until that happens, here's Mariah Carey." . . . I used to get calls from managers all the time. . . . I got in real hot water for joking, one January, "I know that a lot of men beat their wives on Super Bowl Sunday, so Frank Gifford, if you're watching, get a crack in for me."

I just couldn't understand the culture at MTV. Everyone suffered from the collective delusion that working at MTV was "cool." The staff were all "nonconformists" in the same machine-stamped conformist way. They cluttered their offices with "hip," "ironic" bric-a-brac. My boss had a surfboard hanging in his office (he didn't surf). One guy had a box of Quisp cereal sitting on his desk for three years—not to eat it, but because he thought the box was "cool." Work is not cool, and working at MTV is really not cool. You're a cog in a monopolistic corporate machine. But these loudmouthed know-it-alls would compete with each other for the most encyclopedic knowledge of the most obscure subsets of music, as if that made a difference to their job. They tried to bully their co-workers with their refined musical tastes in much the same way they were probably bullied in high school. Meanwhile, all the funny office toys in the world and the rarest twelve-inch singles couldn't disguise the fact that MTV is all about the next 'N Sync world premiere video. (40-1)

I wondered, Do I deserve this? I've done some bad things in my life—announced Michael Bolton videos on MTV, starred in Disney's Blank Check—but hell, I'm too young to be put to bed with a shovel for a dirt nap. Didn't TV Nation make up for at least a few of the stinkers I'd done? (60)

I also spent a lot of time glued to VH1's Behind the Music. I would root against all the washed-up musicians and marvel when they told the cameras how much happier they are now that they're sign painters or computer programmers or touring in a reconstituted version of the original band. They don't miss the limos, the girls, or the wild parties, and they don't miss the fans, because now they can eat dinner in a restaurant (probably Arby's) in peace. Whenever I saw one of these guys, I thought, I'd like to strap you to a lie detector, because you are the king of lies. I was once a cheesy MTV VJ with al ittle bit of fame and fortune, and as I lay in bed watching washed-up rock stars, approaching my middle age as an invalid, I was bitter. I missed it all, and I never even had any talent. I guess maybe Leif Garrett never had any talent either, but you know what I mean. (64-5)

I still don't know why they wouldn't give me a helping-hands monkey, though, because I actually could have used one. These are little monkeys that are trained to do things for disabled people. They'll brush your teeth, comb your hair, wash your face, get you something to drink, and if you drop anything, they'll pick it up. Plus, it's a monkey, and monkeys are funny. Even now that I can do all of these things for myself, I'd still like a little helping-hands monkey to get me Scotch. (68)

I have a friend who used to make commemorative paper plates for friends and acquaintances who threw up in public, similar to the Franklin Mint commemorative dishes you may have seen in advertising supplements in the Sunday paper. I highly recommend one to anyone who's ever thrown up in public, but unfortunately he's moved on to other projects, so I've taken over the business. If you have a vomiting event you'd like memorialized, get out your checkbook and send $10 and a description of your public emesis to Karen Duffy, Cliff Street Books, New York, NY 10022. (123)

(Of course, there are special recreational therapist skills and tricks I learned in college and during an internship at U.C. Berkeley, but if you think I'm going to reveal that knowledge for the price of a lousy book you must be kidding. If you really want to know how to be a recreational therapist but don't want to spend four years training, send $10,000 to me care of my publisher, and I'll give you the lowdown.) (138)

I don't know whether Gandhi was really doing himself any good by drinking his own urine, but pee does have medicinal properties. The urea is good for your skin; in fact it's an ingredient in many moisturizers. And there are at least two medicines made from women's urine. One of them, Pergonal, is made from the tinkle of menopausal nuns in Holland, because the risk of their urine being contaminated with STDs is presumably very small. It's true. Monks make beer, the nuns make water. (180)

I can't stand the New Age knuckleheads who say piously, "Everything happens for a reason." . . . Right now, there is no known reason for my getting sarcoidosis, no cause to blame or explain. That's the way life goes sometimes. Experiencing severe illness pushes some people to make changes in their lives that turn out to be positive (as I did), but people don't get sick as a warning that they need to make positive changes in their life. When alcoholics get cirrhosis or smokers get lung cancer, the message is "you drank too much" or "you shouldn't have smoked those two packs a day." We know the medical cause for those diseases, so you don't hear anybody mooning about some mystical "reason" for the illness. Nobody knows exactly what causes breast cancer—what's the message there, New Agers, what's the reason? That one in nine women are receiving a message from the Great Spirit to get in touch with their astral soul? Bunkum. (183)

I have a friend who's been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), and for a while now we've been planning to have a Tuesdays with Morrie bonfire. We've both received many copies of the book, and frankly, it stinks. (220) [See also] [And also]

The poor unfortunates stricken with Selective Mutism can speak, but simply choose not to. For the life of me, I can't imagine what support groups for these people are like. (221)

I'm not all better, though, and I never will be. I still have sarcoidosis in my lungs, eyes, and intestine. Sarcoidosis in these organs is typically less malicious than in the spinal cord, but I take nothing for granted. Nothing about my case has been typical so far. And the scar tissue from the mostaccioli in my spinal cord will never go away. I'm in nun-kicking, bunny-stomping pain all the time. Morphine is my friend to the end. If I'm late with a dose, not only am I in pain, but I get Jimmy-legs—nervous bouncing—from my body's craving for more opiate. Living with sarcoidosis of the central nervous system, even in remission, is living with the threat of death. I won't consider myself cured until I die of something else. (239-40)

When I was first trying to get this book published, my agent sent the proposal out to twelve editors. Eleven called back to express interest. The twelfth sent a letter saying, "We like the idea, but we're afraid we won't have an author for a book tour." . . . I sent the rat bastard at Dell Publishing a sympathy card saying, "Sorry, I'm not quite dead yet. By the way, I'm working with HarperCollins, a real publisher." (244)

If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing, with the possible exception of sitting through Phantom of the Opera. That's two hours of my life I'll never get back. (245)

(Bonus: Karen Duffy slathered in whipped cream)

22mar2006 — I just found out that the legal pirates of Pinal County are going to triple the penalty for trying to pretend to own property in their dominion.

Fucking TRIPLE.

I can squeak by in this world on my own, financially, and that's all I really aspire to do in that arena. But there is no way I can do it while carrying a cartload of criminals on my back. Something—or someone—is going to have to give.

CNN, 20feb2006: Joe Lieberman delivers a sound bite saying that we need to "protect ourselves from cyber attack."

In that cyber is a Greek root from which we get our word government, I couldn't agree more, there, JoJo. We really do need to protect ourselves from government attack. As soon as I think of a way to do it, you'll hear about it.

21mar2006One type of dumb-assed mail one receives when one owns rapidly appreciating land

Can you relate to any [of] the following questions regarding your property?

Did you have plans to retire in this area, but you changed your mind and now you feel stuck with this property?

Did you inherit your property and have no intention to move there, but you are having trouble selling the land?

When you bought the property did they promise you, that the property area would be developed into something like the next "Palm Springs" but soon you realized that nothing could be further from the truth?

Are you just holding on to you [sic] land because you think selling it is too much hassle?

20mar2006 — Moments from Joss Whedon's Serenity audio commentary:

This was a really important character moment for Mal. . . . It comes from the idea that Mal is in a bad place. He was in many ways the hero of the TV show, and we needed to put him in a place he had an arc, where he didn't go from hero to hero—because I wasn't making Air Force One.

You give an audience just enough logic to get them through, and I think they're grateful for it. They don't want to hear, "We can give the aliens a virus!" They want to hear how—even if it's just a little bit of gobbledegook, scientifically speaking. Just enough to believe it.*

What [Mal's] basically saying is, if I actually become somebody who cares about things, I might become a bigger monster than I am right now. And that's a piece of information that I find vital, because when he does care about things, he asks the crew to lay their lives on the line, and if you've seen the movie, you'll know that some of them do. And that's the thing that I find so fascinating . . . the person who believes—like The Operative—is capable of terrible things. A leader is, by nature, something of a monster.

[*Wikipedia suggests: Advocates of the film point out that alien virus protection could have evolved to such a high level that archaic viruses might have passed under their notice due to a need to allocate processor power to more advanced scanning. They also suggest that the modern computers of the film may have been developed based on technology recovered from the Area 51 craft, thus making the two systems accidentally compatible. Another set of ideas suggest that the aliens had to modify their own computer systems to interface with the earth's satellite network, thus making them vulnerable to viruses. An idea that could conceivably explain a number of the plot holes is that the aliens are to a certain extent a hive-minded race; such an orderly alien society would have no concept of a malicious computer virus or of one of its fighters going "rogue." However, other than the seemingly psychic abilities of a captured alien, there is no evidence for this theory other than conjecture.
(All of which, for the record, sounds like horseshit to me.)]

18mar2006 — Even if I weren't dangerously sympatico with its themes, I'd have to wish V for Vendetta well solely because it has to frustrate the hell out of Bush that his party does not yet have the amount of power depicted in the film.
As for me, any movie that approvingly depicts the blowing up of government buildings, is produced by "Anarchos Productions," and manages to finish with the song "Street Fighting Man"—and do it thematically—gets an A+. Maybe some of those people who ape what they see on movie screens, like the dorks who allegedly got hurt lying down on highway center stripes after seeing some dumb movie about high school football, will finally do something smart-dumb, for a change.

[Related: That oddly timed post from September 10, 2001]

17mar2006 — From Mark Paytress's Siouxsie & The Banshees: The Authorised Biography

Of course, punk existed partly so that Rick Wakeman need never trouble himself with another concept record again. (11)

SEVERIN: I got the drinks. Simon came rushing out and said, "They [the Sex Pistols] were brilliant. The singer blew his nose on stage!" (30)

SIOUX: I picked up my beer, got off stage and walked through the audience. There was a pause, then everyone started clapping. As I walked away, I had no idea I'd be doing this for the next 30 years. (54)

SEVERIN: I walked into RAK the day we started work on The Scream and there were dozens of reels of two-inch tape stacked by the console window. They were recordings of Yes jam sessions that probably ended up as a quadruple album. My great regret is that I didn't have the foresight to run a magnet down them and erase everything. I could have saved the world a lot of pain. (69)

SEVERIN: We were able to play our instruments by then, which helped. It's surprising how quickly we became comfortable with songwriting and recording. I vividly remember playing the bass one day and thinking, "This is so easy. There is no excuse for anyone to ever write a bad song." (69)

SIOUX: We kept on auditioning for a guitarist. That got so boring, watching an endless stream of long-haired musos wailing away at guitar solos so feverishly that I had to unplug them to get them to stop. I was amazed at how many completely crap guitarists there were and how they genuinely thought they were perfect for the band. Half of them wanted to be in The Clash, the other half wanted to be in Genesis. Which meant none of them could be in the Banshees. (94)

BUDGIE: We hit a bar in Pearl Harbor for a serious session of tequila shots.
SIOUX: As we left, roaring drunk, we bumped into this group of American sailors in their white outfits. They took the piss out of Budgie, calling him a poof, and we all started shouting at each other. One little wiry guy did that kung fu "Yee-hai" thing that stupid boys do and kicked Donna in the head. Budgie piled into the biggest guy, who palmed him off and knocked him out cold. . . . I was wearing stilettos so I took them off, straddled Budgie and waved them at the sailors shouting, "Come on, then." (131)

SIOUX: I need fresh air for my voice, so I get paranoid about air conditioning and always turn it off and open a window. This particular hotel room had suicide locks on the windows because Japanese businessmen tend to get a bit stressed, check in and then jump out. I was getting freaked out because we had a load of shows coming up and I didn't want to ruin my voice. I decided there was only one option—so I picked up the telephone and threw it through the glass. As all this fresh air came through, I thought, "That's better!" Robert Smith was a real copycat, and when he heard what I'd done, he had to do it, too. (131-2)

SIOUX: Robert started to act like Severin's little brother. He started to wear the same clothes as Steven. . . . And he nicked loads of clothes off me, too.
SEVERIN: We went to a club called Legends in Mayfair after seeing The Birthday Party play and someone had a load of opium, which Robert decided to try. He then asked to borrow Siouxsie's lipstick and smeared it wonkily around his lips. That's how he got his trademark look. (133)

GINI BALL: At one point, as Robert was trying to explain himself, he literally fell into the piano and said, "It goes something like that." (135)

JON KLEIN: My brief was to play anything I wanted so long as it didn't sound like a guitar. One of my first tasks was a request from Siouxsie to play "an exploding horse going over a cliff." (167)

SIOUX: As "Peek-A-Boo" was charting, an odd story appeared in the Mirror claiming that I'd had plastic surgery. I decided to sue but the barrister told me that I couldn't get them on the fact that they'd lied. It was only when I told him I'd written a song criticising plastic surgery that he said we had a clear case, because the story had made me look like a hypocrite. The law works in mysterious ways. (177)

SEVERIN: We were being interviewed . . . when Budgie started leaping around like a lunatic. He was convinced something was wrong so we ended the interview and went to the dressing room. We called a local doctor out and he fiddled about in Budgie's ear, then pulled out this fucking enormous moth. It must have been giving Budgie hell, but even that didn't put a damper on the evening. (181)

BUDGIE: [Nine Inch Nails] used to smashed their guitars up on stage, but each day before the show they'd go out and buy cheap ones to abuse. When they were about to leave the tour, the crew from the other bands secretly swapped the guitars so they ended up smashing the expensive ones by mistake. Nine Inch Nails were wondering why it was taking so long as they were blithely destroying thousands of dollars' worth of their own equipment. (202)

16mar2006 — From Adam Gorightly's, The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture:

As Kerry [Thornley] and Greg [Hill] walked down the main Whittier drag, the cops pulled up and told them that the next time they were caught walking around and making merriment at such odd hours they would be arrested for vagrancy. Greg replied, "I live here!" The cops shot back: "That doesn't matter: you're keeping unusual hours with no general purpose in mind!" (p. 46)

[Thornley:] "I felt that at some future time I could drop out and mull over all this input and evolve from it a more consistent personal credo." (pp. 84-5)

[Thornley:] "In a few months, when the warm weather starts, I'm dropping out totally (from the economic standpoint). . . . I've discovered the joy of foraging, and also the ease, and am rapidly coming to suspect these days that civilization is a put on. Like they fill the people up with propaganda about how you can't make it on your own. . . . But one person can still go away and not be missed. This April is the last time I pay taxes." (p. 88)

In some instances, "Operation Mindfuck" took the form of press releases the group issue offering a non-violent anarchist method to awake and mutate the sleeping robots of society. . . . [One] concept along these lines was PUTZ: Permanent Universal Tax Zap [coined by Robert Anton Wilson], in which everyone stopped paying taxes. (p. 138)

The John Dillinger Died For You Society was another milestone in the annals of Discordian mindfucks, initially engineered by Mordecai the Foul—under the auspices of the Chicago Cabal Discordian Society—its secret headquarters situated somewhere in Bob Wilson's head. Wilson and gang expounded upon the Dillinger legend, thus creating a whole mythology around the notorious bank robber that was later expanded upon in Illuminatus, which featured John Dillinger as a major character. (p. 149)

15mar2006 — Bureaucrash: People are in prison so a concrete bull can get his ass spackled.

14mar2006Old friends say that ever since the time of their engagement at the University of Belgrade, Mira and Sloba have used a kind of baby-talk with each other, like teenage sweethearts. Even while they were pushing Yugoslavia towards a decade of wars, ruined cities and corpses thrown into mass graves, they chirruped between themselves like the lovebirds on a Valentine card. . . . She blew the Nokia a kiss. Then she turned to me and, as if to pre-empt a question, said, "That was my husband. We love each other very much, and that is a well-known fact. The two of us are old-fashioned sentimentalists. In the West you have described us as bloodthirsty dictators. On the contrary, we are sentimentalists. Yes, as I've said before, I still find Slobodan Milosevic very attractive. A fascinating man. A really handsome man, my Sloba." — Slobodan Milosevic's equally criminal wife, Mirjana Markovic, in Riccardo Orizio's Talk of the Devil (p. 171)


This all seemed too random, until I remembered, duh, Randumb. So:

The other night I kept dreaming of micturation. I did need to micturate, but I don't mean the usual dreams of micturation. I mean that I dreamed of the word micturation. I'm not even sure I knew that I knew the word micturation, but obviously I did. Physiologically acceptable; perhaps less so psychologically.

Solomon Ho'opi'i, (1936-2006)

Having just finished reading a second consecutive British-authored book, I am sure it will be some time before I am happy to read brilliant as either adjective or interjection.

Gu h-araid
'S toigh leam a bhith a lorg laraich-linn neónach. rudan mar seo: 'S e sgeulachd mu dheidhinn ciodhosg fhón anns an fhásach ann an California. Siuthad ma tha!

People say that Hitler ruined the name Adolf for the foreseeable time to come. But what about Dolph Lundgren? Hrmm? How about it?

Penn Jillette: Remember Janet Reno? When she was taking away our rights, instead of the people who are now?

11mar2006The Voice of America:

"DOOD, LET'S BOMB US ALL THEM COUNTRIES WE DOESN'T KNOW WHERE THEY'S AT!": shocking on-the-street encounters with Americans whose ability to mistake Australia for Iran, North Korea, and France fails to mitigate their desire to bomb the shit out of the place.
(via the indispensable Bureaucrash)

08mar2006 — There's a new polygamy sitcom called Big Love coming to HBO. I think it's a sitcom, anyway. I mean, how could it not be? It'll probably be good, because Bill Paxton is great at playing the wackjobs.

And while we're on the subject of polygamist wackos, how about those Mormons, huh? I'm pretty sure those Osmonds are Mormons.

07mar2006 — You know this tune. Help name it. [Link defunct, lo siento]

07mar2006Free blow jobs from - Request Lyrics Forum!


Posted by: poppy
Date: January 31, 2006 04:46AM

In the newest coca cola commercial, while the young man is sipping off his soda in a convenience store, this song begins to play, with a mid to late seventies riff, with the lyrics: "I'm a criminal, sent to swipe and steal". What song, who sings it, anything? I've searched the internet d-bases and can't find it, and I used to be a DJ! Any help will be appreciated


Posted by: poppy
Date: February 1, 2006 04:07AM

God, how many people here are older than 16? Ask about a song more than ten minutes old and no one answers. . . . Thanks alot blow jobs.


Posted by: blow jobs
Date: February 1, 2006 08:38AM

Paul Reddick's "I'm a Criminal"


Posted by: breeze929
Date: February 22, 2006 11:07PM

could you please tell me the artist of this song and if this is the actual name of it. thank you


Posted by: Some more blow jobs
Date: February 23, 2006 01:48AM

Paul Reddick, I think, if I'm not getting my songs mixed up.


06mar2006More Oscar banter:

Susanne Somers, questioned on the red carpet about her glittering purse that features her initials in large, black letters:

This way, I never lose my purse. Unless there's, you know, some Storm Trooper in there who takes it.

06mar2006Monday morning religion roundup

1) A very devout woman asked me who had won the Best Picture Oscar. When I said Crash, she said, "Oh, good! I didn't want that other one to win." It was easy to guess that she meant Brokeback Mountain. "Because it glorifies the gay lifestyle," she said. "Doesn't it?" She hasn't seen the film. Neither have I, but I had to ask her whether she is in favor of the murder and rape and mayhem lifestyles glorified in most of the films she watches every day on television. (She said she wasn't.)

2) Two Bible verses that always confused a bored kid stuck sitting every week on Babdist church pews:
Ephesians 5:4. — In a letter, Paul says: Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.
Galatians 5.12 — In a letter, regarding people preaching circumcision, Paul says: I wish those who trouble you would even emasculate themselves.

3) Pat Robertson pronounced Ariel Sharon's stroke to be Divine Judgment. How about a guy who dramatically dropped dead while playing gospel piano onstage? Maybe gospel piano imperils the soul. Someone better warn Jimmy Swaggart. (Don't bother about Jerry Lee; he already knows.) (See also)

Not especially religion-related, but still in the Oscar orbit:

Tennis star Serena Williams, inexplicably queried about her Oscar thoughts by an E! reporter, said she was glad to see an Oscar go to "Philip Semen Hoffman."



Harry Browne

1933 - 2006


Harry Browne's final published article

04mar2006During high school, I played electric bass in the school jazz band. The night of the final spring concert, we were performing one of our band director's favorites, "MacArthur Park"—a song well established in the Pretentious Trash Hall of Fame. We get to the very end of the song, the band plays "BOM! BOM! BOM!"; the band director pauses to give the signal for the last crashing chord . . . George Roth, a senior trombonist, stands up (in the front row), slaps his forehead, and says, "Oh, Jesus! The CAKE!" —Dave Barry reader Lee Jones, quoted in Barry's Book of Bad Songs (p. 19)
(See also Herbert's Pledge of Allegiance)


Just got back from Harrod Blank's new art car museum-in-the-works, where some art cars are already housed in the in-the-process-of-being-converted former glass shop on the Mexican border in fabuloso Douglas, AZ. Fun times. Ponyboy, whom I hadn't seen since 1999 at the Mojave Phone Booth, flew in from Indianaland to ride along.

It was kind of a reunion, with Philo, Marilyn, Kelly, Ponyboy, Duke, Colleena and I all together in the same place for the first time since the 1997 art car caravan to Houston, and Charles the Grape, Daniel Paul, and Leonard Knight all appearing on pre-Douglas portions of the trip.

All the art cars (with my artless van alongside) were able to pull into the building's large courtyard behind two huge Spanish doors that Harrod had hecho en Mexico so that nothing was detectable from the street (except maybe the Paolo Conte and Gianmaria Testa floating out of Hunter's CD player). It's a good thing I hadn't gone with my original plan to forego directions and instead find Harrod's place by just driving around Douglas until I saw art cars parked all over.

I almost didn't get to go because my back was screwed up but it finally improved enough to allow me to walk on crutches and drive. I was down to just one crutch on the trip. Philo asked whether my crutch was temporary. "Cos if not, dude, get a cane—they're much more stylish." The crutch did lead to impromptu social experimentation whereby I discovered that if you're using two crutches, people look on with sympathy, but using one crutch is apparently a lowlife move, so you get a lot of dirty looks.

The first night Harrod and his elves cooked up a spaghetti dinner for everyone. Afterward, Kelly began painting large birds on Shalom's brand new hybrid car and a gypsy band played a lot of great minor-key stuff around the campfire. It even inspired Colleena to give my crutch a lap dance. Don't knock it if you haven't seen it. Given that it can inspire such things, I can't believe I forgot to get a gypsy music CD. One of the gypsies turned out to be the long-lost stepdaughter of one of the art car crew. Be forewarned that the world is small when you're a gypsy. I asked one of the guys for the band's name and he told me they were the Mother Clucker Chicken Lickers. "Fine, don't tell me," I said. But he wasn't kidding. I'm not sure whether the band was there because of Harrod's well known love for chickens, but it's possible. He currently has one hen and one rooster. The latter he saved from the cock-fighting pens of Mexico (Douglas as well, most likely). Harrod and his rooster with no name performed a traditional ritual chicken dance, wherein Harrod skips around, the rooster follows him and pecks his leg real hard, and Harrod says ouch. I say again, don't knock it if you haven't seen it. Much funnier than cock-fighting.

An art car museum should fit in well in Douglas, which is full of characters. I don't know whether I ever posted photos of Wagner's first pilgrimage to The Holy Water Heater of Guadalupe, but I will tell you that the clerk at the post office had a name tag that said Duck but his stapler said Duke. "I can't make up my mind," he explained. Interestingly, he didn't remember the relevant portion of Unforgiven. Ah, I guess I did post the photos, so behold: The Holy Water Heater of Guadalupe!

One night, across the border at this restaurant in Agua Prieta, we got rolled like a bunch of tourists. The food was cold and bland and so was the service, in addition to being slow, and despite the fact that we ordered our margaritas by the pitcher, by way of some cockamamie ad hoc per-drinker calculus employed by the waiter, we ended up being charged the equivalent $22.00US for each pitcher of margaritas with no discernable alcohol in them. Weeeee. Suckers.

I hadn't planned on joining the night's border crossing because I hate being the focus of attention for authority in any of its forms, so coming back to the U.S. is always a struggle. But Harrod assured me that he sees these guys all the time and they know him and sure enough, even though Harrod was still at the restaurant when I crossed, fate had used up its one crushing humiliation coupon that night where our group was concerned. I carefully placed myself in line where there were a good number of the group both before and after me, so the border goons didn't even run a check on me, just glanced at my ID and waved me through, which was especially good because I'm 90% sure that one of the border goons was the same guy that the Cardhouse Robot and I had to face after filling up bags with candy from an Agua Prieta dulceria several years ago (him for his candy cigarettes collection, me for the sheer candy-eatingness of it all):

Border Goon: You two are dressed . . . strangely.
Me: (only in my head, fortunately): Speak for yourself, uniform boy; we are wearing our usual attire, muchas gracias. Oops, I mean, thank you.
Border Goon (addressing the Cardhouse Robot): So. What's in the bags?
Cardhouse Robot (sheepishly): Umm . . . candy.
Border Goon: Hrmm. [To me:] And what's in your bag?
Me: Umm . . . candy. (Thinking: No, I never really have wondered what a cavity search is like, why do you ask?)
Border Goon: Hrmm. [Long, long pause so he can stare at our eyes.] Okay. You can go.

They must give that guy the really hard cases to crack, what with his penetrating questioning & all. Good thing, probably, that I'd left in my van a book I had brought to Douglas: a kid's book all about the greatness of bordergoonhood. I'd planned to get it autographed by as many goons as possible, just to see what would happen. But my back was clearly not going to cooperate in any quick escape plans, so I donated the book to the museum's library-to-be.

Later that night we pulled poor Frank Bruno out of bed for a late-night visit to the huge old Douglas hotel in which he lives all alone, surrounded by period furnishings and probably a period ghost or two, judging by the fairly disturbing visions he puts onto his canvases.

All in all a huge blast of a trip, and topping it off, at Nico's Taco Shop in Tucson, I heard a Spanish-language version of "The Night Chicago Died." (Anyone know who does that song? Got. To have that.) Best of luck to Harrod and his new museum. That's good work, is what that is.

(See also Jillian Northrup's photos)

21feb2006 — I've been down for almost two weeks with back trouble. When my back starts to get better I'm like Charlie Brown with his homework; I can barely remember what the deal was. I really can't remember the quality of the pain—almost as soon as the pain fades, so does my memory of it. I know in a few days I'll think I should go skydiving or something. But speaking of memories I'll be glad to say goodbye to, here's . . .

Audio commentaries for the ages, Vol. XVIII: Total Recall

Unscripted Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger chatting. Which is to say, OMG, Paul Verhoeven's Dutch accent vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Deutsche accent. Three examples of the confusity goodness:

Verhoeven: The trick is already before! So that's why it looks so convincing in the second part when you start to realize that there is a trick! Because it is no trick! The trick was before but you didn't pay attention!

Verhoeven: Certainly, and very importantly, it was about showing that there was no air on Mars. That outside all the buildings there is a vacuum, and—
[Onscreen: the face of the artificial woman in whom Arnold is hiding begins to distort.]
Schwarzenegger: Now things—
Verhoeven: Huh? . . . Go ahead.
Schwarzenegger: I just wanted to say dat now things are going wrong with duh face. Duh uncontrollable distortion of duh face and everything, and dat's what busts me, actually, right now. Because duh face does not stop and says duh wrong things all duh time.

Verhoeven: At this point I think we asked Sharon Stone to take part of her clotheses off. But she was very timid here, remember. She makes a little thing there, but . . . I think I took revenge in Basic Instinct, you know?
Schwarzenegger: HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Idioms repeated dozens and dozens of times and which consequently Verhoeven should avoid on future DVD commentaries,
Or, alternatively expressed:

The Schwarzenhoeven DVD Audio Commentary Drinking Game

Take a drink whenever Verhoeven utters any of the following:

  • idnit?
  • let's say
  • basically

Or whenever Arnold says:

  • right
  • exactly
  • absolutely

Caution: No more than twenty minutes into the film all non-Finnish players will be suffering from acute alcohol poisoning.

Adjunct—Schwarzenegger sound bites for remixer drop-ins:

(at 6:36) Now, we are in duh fu-tcha!
(at 46:44) It's all part of duh big rolla-coasta ride!

20feb2006Ponderings of an Anonymous Law-Abiding, Free Man

My opinion is that we are fools. The only reason I wade through the morass of obscure legalities is that everyone else does so, too. If we all simply ignored the absurdities, we would be free. They can't jail us all.
For that matter, I wish they would try to jail someone. But they never do. Given a feeble excuse of the sort mentioned, the BATF will break into your home and confiscate anything resembling a firearm, firearm accessory, and probably your computer and filing cabinet to boot. But they will press no charges. They know the laws are absurd.
They know there is no jury in the country that will send you to jail because one part on your rifle was attached with 1000 F solder instead of 1100 F solder, or because the rifle had one too few U.S.-made parts on it. They'll just ransack your house, seize your property, and ruin your life. You will not get your day in court.
We should ignore them, but who will be the first to show up at the rifle range with a "flash suppressor"/"grenade launcher" on his rifle? Not me. I could lose my property and my life could be destroyed. Who, then, will lead the way? No one. What are the odds of everyone defying the laws, en masse, starting on a pre-arranged date? Zero.
And that is the beauty of the system. The screws are tightened gradually, so people are pushed over the edge and into defiance one at a time, and are thus easily vanquished. . . .
Think of "standoffs." One person hits the limit of tolerance for bull and quits playing the game. He starts living in defiance of the crushing burden of the laws and regulations under which we are all groaning. Now he's a "criminal" and his place is surrounded by the thin blue line for a few days until he's hauled off, shot, or burned. Each person has a different limit, and we hit them at different times, easily taken out by the authorities singly or in tiny groups. There will never be widespread open revolt. Modern bureaucracies have learned how to avoid that.
I have never spoken my mind in public on this subject. I don't talk about this on Internet bulletin boards, or in e-mail. I am afraid to. I'm worried about sending this letter to you, even under a pseudonym. I'm not a newspaper editor. If my words attract the attention of the wrong people I could be the next faceless owner of an "illegal arms cache" that ends up as a news item at the bottom of page 31. . . .


Anyway, he was a good sort o' kid, polite, city-like and we all liked him. . . . I still don't know what all the fuss is about. The kid was one of hundreds who got the desert bug and took up living in the Moki ruins. The only thing I can see that's so special about him is that he succeeded in getting himself lost or killed. That don't seem to be such a great accomplishment to me. . . . You know, you remind me of Everett a little. You have that same friendly way and you ask the same stupid questions he asked. — Utah desert rat Hap Marshall on celebrated, disappeared wanderer Everett Ruess, in Mark Taylor's Sandstone Sunsets (p. 27)

For many Alaskans, the problem is not necessarily that Christopher McCandless attempted what he did—most of us came here in search of something, didn't we? Haven't we made our own embarrassing mistakes? But we can't afford to take his story seriously because it doesn't say much a careful person doesn't already know about desire and survival. The lessons are so obvious as to be laughable: Look at a map. Take some food. Know where you are. Listen to people who are smarter than you. Be humble. Go on out there—but it won't mean much unless you come back.
This is what bothers me – that Christopher McCandless failed so badly, so harshly, and yet so famously that his death has come to symbolize something admirable, that his unwillingness to see Alaska for what it really is has somehow become the story so many people associate with this place, a story so hollow you can almost hear the wind blowing through it. His death was not a brilliant fuck-up. It was not even a terribly original fuck-up. It was just one of the more recent and pointless fuck-ups.
I Want To Ride In The Bus Chris Died In

15feb2006Whipped Cream & Other Delights Rewhipped!!!

(Further Whippery & frippery)

14feb2006You Got Served

By now you may have heard of One Red Paper Clip, a project whereby Montreal resident Kyle started out with one red paper clip and hopes to barter his way to a house. So far his red paper clip has been bartered all the way up to a cube van. But nothing's free with bureaucrats around, not even gifting and bartering. Remember what happened to all those people who got "free" automobiles from Oprah Winfrey that in the greedy eyes of the Internal Revenue Service bumped up their "incomes" by almost thirty thousand dollars per recipient? It appears that the Canada Revenue Agency—official slogan: "More Ways to Serve You!"—has the same cynical definition of service as the Internal Revenue Service. Which is to say, both are bureaucracies, which means that they service their unfortunate captives in the same way that a bull "services" a cow. I'm not going to waste even two seconds trying to decipher grabby governmental legalese, but what do you think the bureaucrats will do to Kyle if he reaches his goal of getting a house and doesn't have a giant lump of cash sitting around that he can hand over to them if they demand it? (Broad hint at left)

13feb2006News You Confuse

When I read the headline Danes urged to leave Indonesia, my first thought was, Waitaminnit—I thought it was Thailand, where she got thrown into that prison?

On the other hand, Cheney shooting somebody? I guess that's newsworthy, in that he did it himself for a change instead of getting other people do it for him. I can respect that. (Plus, the victim was a lawyer.)

And how weird is it that Peter Benchley died during Discovery Channel's annual "Shark Week"?
(Well, about 1 in 52 in some year, I guess)

Update, a couple of hours later: CNN's on, but muted. The closed captioning informs the world that U.S. gold medal contender Lindsey Kildow has suffered a tragic and severe "hip confusion." Do you SEE what I'm up against here? Not just confusion, but palpable confusion. I ask you.


I remember this one night wired on speed when I realized I had lost a twenty-dollar bill somewhere. I spent the next four hours obsessively searching through everything I owned, looking for it. Then I thought: mabye it had fallen out of my pocket on the walk back to my place. So I spent all night retracing my steps through the deserted city streets looking everywhere for that twenty-dollar bill. Of course, the next morning I remembered I had spent the twenty on speed.

— Ace Backwords, Surviving on the Streets (p. 133)

Egbert Sousé: Was I in here last night and did I spend a twenty dollar bill?
Bartender: Yeah.
Egbert Sousé: Oh boy, what a load that is off my mind! I thought I'd lost it.

The Bank Dick (1940)

08feb2006 — Claire Wolfe, in 1996 (in 101 Things To Do 'Til the Revolution, p. i):

America is at that awkward stage.
It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards. . . .
Something's eventually going to happen. Government will bloat until it chokes us to death, or one more tyrannical power grab will turn out to be one too many. Maybe it'll be a national ID card (or datachip), maybe random, roving wiretaps on our telephones. . . . Something will snap. The time will come, and we'll all know it. People will force change—maybe from the barrel of a gun.

Meanwhile, back in the "real" world:

07feb2006I asked him what he thought it was about orchids that seduced humans so completely that they were compelled to steal them and worship them and try to breed new and specific kinds of them and then be willing to wait for nearly a decade for one of them to flower. "Oh, mystery, beauty, unknowability, I suppose. Besides, I think the real reason is that life has no meaning. I mean, no obvious meaning. You wake up, you go to work, you do stuff. I think everybody's always looking for something a little unusual that can preoccupy them and help pass the time." (p. 38)

If the ghost orchid was really only a phantom it was still such a bewitching one that it could seduce people to pursue it year after year and mile after miserable mile. If it was a real flower I wanted to keep coming back to Florida until I could see one. The reason was not that I love orchids. I don't even especially like orchids. What I wanted was to see this thing that people were drawn to in such a singular and powerful way. Everyone I was meeting connected to the orchid poaching had circled their lives around some great desire - Laroche had his crazy inspirations and orchid lovers had their intense devotion to their flowers and the Seminoles had their burning dedication to their history and culture - a desire that then answered questions for them about how to spend their time and their money and who their friends would be and where they would travel and what they did when they got there. It was religion. I wanted to want something as much as people wanted these plants, but it isn't part of my constitution. I think people my age are embarrassed by too much enthusiasm and believe that too much passion about anything is naive. I suppose I do have one unembarrassing passion - I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately. (pp. 40-1)

To desire orchids is to have a desire that will never be, can never be, fully requited. A collector who wants one of every orchid species on earth will certainly die before even coming close. (p. 54)

Orchid hunters had important and consequential but ultimately invisible lives. They discovered hundreds of plant species, but they are mostly unremembered for it. They were the first to trail-blaze many parts of the world, but no place is named for them, no plaque marks their landings, no one recalls that they traveled across many of those places long before the royally commissioned explorers who are credited with discovering them. What they brought out of the roughest jungles was not just gorgeous and astonishing but also essential to science. They saw more of the world than most men of their time, but finally the world forgot them. (pp. 68-9)

From the first time I'd heard of Laroche, I had been fascinated by how he managed to find the fullness and satisfaction of life in narrow desires—the Ice Age fossils, the turtles, the old mirrors, the orchids. I suppose that is exactly what I was doing in Florida, figuring out how people found order and contentment and a sense of purpose in the universe by fixing their sights on one single thing or one belief or one desire. (p. 245)

"It's not really about collecting the thing itself," Laroche went on. "It's about getting immersed in something, and learning about it, and having it become part of your life. It's a kind of direction." (p. 279)

At this point I realized it was just as well that I never saw a ghost orchid, so that it could never disappoint me, and so it would remain forever something I wanted to see. (p. 281)

— Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief (See also: Adaptation)

06feb2006 — Matt Welch jumps from Reason to UnReason (the Los Angeles Times) and consequently gets to pee-pee into a cup

Also: US plans to 'fight the net' revealed (via Police State USA). Excerpt:

And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum". US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".
Consider that for a moment.
The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet. . . . the scale and grandeur of the digital revolution is matched only by the US military's ambitions for it.

Q: What difference might it have made if the Internet had been around during the rise of the great collectivisms of the twentieth century?
A: None. (Look around you.)

05feb2006The wrong Nazis

11may1941: Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, has just skydived into Scotland in a bizarre attempt to broker a peace between Germany and Great Britain. Winston Churchill's private secretary, Jock Colville, is sent to Scotland:

By coincidence, Colville had been reading a popular book of the day, The Flying Visit, by Peter Fleming[older brother of Ian Fleming]. This was a fantasy about Hitler parachuting into England to make peace. By further coincidence there was a secret belief that Hitler might be sky-jacked and flown to RAF Lympne in Kent by his private pilot, Hans Bauer, who was reported to be dissatisfied with Germany's conduct of the war. This information had come from the British air attache in Bulgaria and was so convincing that Air Vice-Marshal Arthur T. Harris . . . made arrangements for the reception. . . . It was thought that Hitler's personal aircraft . . . would approach the airfield with its wheels down. Two platoons of soldiers were stationed at Lympne to act as guards, and other detailed arrangements were made. A date for a possible arrival was given as 25 March 1941, but when the aircraft did not turn up the arrangements were held in place until the end of May, when the plan was abandoned. Colville was probably aware of Goering's proposal to visit England in late August 1939 as well as Germany's peace overtures to Britain after the collapse of France. In his biography he wrote, "I felt sure that either Hitler or Goering had arrived." However, he was thinking of the wrong Nazis.

— Roy Conyers Nesbit and Georges Van Acker, The Flight of Rudolf Hess: Myths and Reality (p. 64)

Did you know. . .
The word Aryan is derived from an ancient Indo-European root that is thought to express a fervent hope for the invention of tweezers and orthodonture?


Quickstart Guide to Current New Orleans Social Intercourse

New Orleans sociologist and Evil Dentist,

Dr. Cliff

There are a few questions which are always asked, the first time you see a friend since the storm (nobody says "Katrina" except amidst a colorful string of profanity).

The opener is always "Where ya been?" which will get you some freaky tale of cross-country evacuation, or an even freakier tale of not evacuating. Then it's down to business:

1. "How IS everybody?"
This is a thinly-veiled invitation to tell me who you know that died.

2. "Where ya stayin' at?"
The general presumption is that your former home is fucked. Answers range from "my house" to "my truck" to "Mario's couch." Housing is a strange bird here. There are not enough safe places to live right now.

3. "How's ya house?"
And there's an established format for your answer: water damage first, then wind damage, then any "special" fuckage, then your prognosis. So my answer would be "2 feet a water inside, lost a little bit of roof, garage is destroyed, 2 cars in the driveway went under. I'm buildin' it back."

4. "How you holdin' up?"
This one is mostly "are you still married, etc." but can also include answers from the whimsical to the overtly suicidal. Be ready to clink beer bottles or buy fresh beers at this point. This one's just a courtesy question since you know how someone's holding up the second you see them. I have a lot of friends who look 10-15 years older than they did in August.

5. "Were you insured?"
Do NOT ask this question unless you're in a bar, and you've got some time on your hands. There is no "yes" or "no" for this one. Get ready for some long, painful answers that will demand your undivided attention. the answer may not even be about insurance but maybe FEMA or SBA or the latest bitch-slap we got from DC. Find a cue to interject "geezus" or "fuck" and buy a round of drinks immediately. This is really THE question, more important than "who died" or anything else. Dead people are no longer issues—they're dead and we're still here. Insurance companies, FEMA, SBA—these people are writing checks for the future of the whole fucking city. So this is the important one, the whole reason you're going through this whole silly dance in the first place.

01feb2006We saw a fresh cougar track near the redwood cabin and heard the animal's piercing screams coming down the rugged canyon. For over twenty years Hicks had been wandering throughout the West, stopping now and then to fix fence on some ranch, help out at a logging camp, or work at construction jobs. He looked up at the animal's sounds and said thoughtfully: "I'm a lot like that cougar up there. He's not hostile or vicious, but he doesn't like to be cornered. He likes to be left alone, to have his own way of living. Both the cougar and I can stand just so much of people and civilization. I'm a loner. I guess you could call me a Human Cougar." — Lloyd L. Morain, The Human Cougar (p. 12)

The Human Cougar is an endangered species. Roaming about, free from regimentation, overlooked by bureaucracies, and largely outside of social welfare systems, he often escapes notice. Yet this outsider is very much a part of American life, and the West as we know it was largely created by this brand of working drifter.
Our heavily institutionalized modern society is inhospitable to the Human Cougar, but there are millions of individuals among us who have a latent Cougar strain. They are independent, hard working, and law-abiding, though they resist authority for authority's sake.
(p. 7)

From the day he entered the classroom, the whole formal educational system was alien to the Cougar. "I didn't like the teacher up there telling me what to do" is the way one eighth-grade dropout explains his attitude toward school. This need not be surprising. (p. 57)

The Cougar achieves his freedom just in the nick of time, perhaps sometimes a little too early. But it permits him a strong sense of self-identification and self-containment. He makes whatever he makes on his own, and his feelings are his, not those of the merchants or the fashion-mongers, the institutionalized social cliques or his family. He is never ashamed to say what he likes. If he likes the country music of Merle Haggard and Jerry Reed, he says so. If he hates acid rock, he doesn't pretend otherwise. If the poems of Edgar Guest are to his liking and he regards Jack London and True magazine as literature, he does not hesitate to say so. Without the encrustation of institutions, his entire being is exposed to the environment. Thus, he is less vulnerable to inner stresses but more vulnerable to ostracism by the man on the street. (p. 61)

"Have you been in San Bernardino?" asked a Cougar. "There's a guy up there, a rich man with a big mansion seeing up by the mountain there in San Berdoo, and he's got back of his house a great big yard which used to be lawn and shrubbery. He lets these hobos and tramps and Cougars and whomever build little shacks on that property. If a guy doesn't have any money or if there isn't room in one of the shacks for him, he'll send a man with a note to the lumberyard so he can get enough lumber to build his own. The fire department got after this rich guy, who then got five-gallon garbage cans with stovepipes hanging out of them to satisfy basic cooking requirements. This fellow often sleeps in a shack even though he's got that mansion." — Lloyd L. Morain, The Human Cougar (p. 88-9)

"My footprints are back there in Oklahoma, but I won't ever go back to fill them." — A Cougar leveling with himself (p. 93)

What drove us across the continent? It wasn't gold . . . most of the pioneers weren't prospectors. Nor were they looking for land. Land was still available in the east and many even sold their farms in order to move west. These settlers were searching for freedom and the chance to make a new life for themselves. They wanted freedom from government, freedom from community standards, freedom from past mistakes and, most of all, freedom to be judged for what they were. These were people who didn't like traditional society and wanted to live without its restrictions. The West was . . . a new land and a new beginning. Nobody really cared if you were a drunken son of a duke or somebody who had tangled with the law. A person was judged by what he had done out West, not past mistakes. The past was forgotten.
One example of the West's tolerance for previous failure is the tale of a young man who in the early part of the 1800s built a promising political career and even was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. His political future, however, was ruined by killing a rival in a duel, drinking, and a short, unhappy marriage with a socially prominent wife. In disgrace he left society and lived with the Indians before leaving for Mexico. There, he joined the Texas Independence movement, became the leader of their army, and captured Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto. He became the President of the Republic of Texas and died a widely respected man. His name was Sam Houston.
Today Sam Houston would be a failure. Who would give a job or credit to a man who had killed someone, drank excessively, was divorced, and had "dropped out" to live with savages for many years? Even if he did manage to keep a house and job, he would have problems living in a world where long grass and improperly painted houses are considered crimes.
— Harold Hough, Freedom Road (pp. 5-6)

31jan2006Building Codes. Some may ask, "What about code? Will the dirt cheap homestead meet building code?" Sometimes you make me smile. I'm in denial on code. Besides, I don't believe for one second that a building inspector—a sleek, pampered bureaucrat working for the county—will put himself to the bother of driving 17 miles on back-bruising washboard to see what some disgruntled, perhaps demented and heavily armed hermit is doing out in the middle of God-forsaken nowhere. Particularly since nobody is complaining.
Usually, it's your next door Nosy Parker who rats out the unpermitted granny unit because he's worried that jackboot construction will cheapen his property's value. Out here, property value already is pretty much zero. Nobody has a permit to do anything, so nobody can afford to throw the first stone. Besides, the Hobo once told me that if a building is 10' by 10' or less, doesn't have a foundation, or if it's on skids or wheels, then it doesn't need a building permit. I proceed on this assumption, whether or not it's true, and will make no effort to inquire further.
(p. 18)

Finally, I applied to one of my roommates, more sagacious than the rest, for advice. "Dave," I said, "I'm broke and without prospects. I've blown my GI Bill on flying lessons. I can't hide out here in college much longer. What should I do?"
"Well," he said, "at this crucial juncture, you need to coldly appraise yourself. I've only known you these few short years, but it strikes me you wouldn't be good for anything important; I'd have to say you're lazy, self-absorbed, glib and facetious, always ready to mock the suggestions of others, but never offering anything positive of your own. Intellectually shallow, no tap root anywhere, spiritually neutered, without feeling or compassion, unsteady of focus, lacking the fortitude for the long pull, with no fixed belief in anything."
I shook his hand and thanked him. The acuity of his analysis made my path clear. I could see it immediately. My only hope lay in daily journalism.
The beauty of daily journalism is that it has no entry rules. You need no punch, badge, or diploma to get in. That doesn't mean anybody can do it, any more than anybody can solve algebraic equations. No talent is needed of course, but a slight bump does help. You needed a facile, nimble mind and twinkly fingers at the keyboard.
— Phil Garlington, in the highly recommended Rancho Costa Nada, (p. 35) [Loompanics, which published Garlington's book, is now very unfortunately out of business, but you can get the book directly from the author]

30jan2006Showgirls triumphs in that every single person involved in making the film is making the worst possible decision at every possible time. It is this incredible density of failure that makes Showgirls sublime. — Self-described "professional Showgirls commentator" David Schmader on his commentary DVD track for the film

28jan2006In many respects, fundamentalist Islam is structured much like fundamentalist Christianity, which is to say there is very little real structure to it at all, little hierarchy and no absolute arbiters or authority. Guidance is contained in the core texts and the interpretations of these texts by historical figures. But the modern world is a complicated place, profoundly different than the world in which the founding figures of the religion lived. Things they could never have anticipated—recombinant DNA, rhythm and blues, liberal democracy—cry out for interpretation and the holy texts don't always present obvious assistance. Into this structural void every willing preacher walks with impunity, a virtual free agent, able to think and say whatever he believes. The preachers compete with one another for congregants. — Terry McDermott, Perfect Soldiers, p. 3.

[Mohammed Atta] blamed the Jews for almost every wrong imaginable. Once, when he and Nickels were alone in the flat, [Atta] went to the bathroom to relieve himself. In the course of it, he made so much noise Nickels heard him from the living room and couldn't help but laugh. When [Atta] emerged, he blamed the Jews for having built the bathroom's too-thin door. (pp. 67-8)

Arab governments would disperse U.S.-based scholarship students if fears emerged that any kind of religious-political cabal was gaining traction. One high official said it forever amazed him not just how many of his country's students were changed, but which ones. "We had a lot of our students coming back from the U.S. radicalized. I'm not talking about religious guys going to the U.S. and coming back as fundamentalists. I'm talking about cool guys," he said. (p. 116)

Bin Laden asked each of the Hamburg men if they would join ranks with him, pledge their loyalty, and—harder still—accept suicide assignments. Becoming martyrs in a holy war was something they had talked about for years. Some of them had long dreamed of the opportunity. They had debated the morality of martyrdom, had talked of how dying for Islam differentiated the death from suicide, which was expressly forbidden. Martyrs, they believed, would reach the highest level of paradise. There had been periods back in Hamburg when they talked about these issues every day for hours. What was their responsibility, not to Bin Laden or Al Qaeda, but to God? (p. 179)

By nightfall, Moussaoui was in jail. . . . One [FBI] agent even wrote in the margin of his interview notes that Moussaoui was the type of guy who might hijack an airplane and fly it into the World Trade Center. (p. 226)

27jan2006Push the Blue Button

26jan2006Eighty-eight children died playing baseball between 1973 and 1995. Sixty-eight of these deaths were caused by a simple blow to the chest. If the ball strikes you in just the right spot—during the tenth of a second in which your heart is preparing to beat—a powerful shock wave can be sent into the organ, jolting it into an arrhythmia and resulting in a heart attack. — Greg Emmanuel, Extreme Encounters, p. 154

This phenomenon has a name: Commotio Cordis. I once broke a third baseman's sternum with a batted ball (he was charging toward the plate because on the previous pitch I'd showed bunt). We all thought it was pretty funny at the time but gee, mister third baseman, whoever you were, I'm glad you didn't go all Commotio on us.

25jan2006Lincoln himself contributed to later misunderstandings by his rhetorical appropriation of the words and image of Thomas Jefferson . . . . There was not a single element of the Jeffersonian program – states' rights, agrarianism, strict construction of the federal constitution – that Lincoln, as a Whig and then as a Republican politician, did not reject with passion. Nevertheless, he realized that if the Republican party was to be more successful than the failed Whigs, it had to recruit Democratic voters in the West and the border South who idolized Thomas Jefferson . . . . Lincoln's solution was to turn Jeffersonian rhetoric against Jefferson's own Southern Democratic political heirs, by a kind of intellectual ju-jitsu . . . . Lincoln turned the Declaration of Independence, a manifesto of secession, into a symbol of Unionism, arguing that the preservation of the Union was necessary to achieve the goal of the Declaration: equality. This was sophistry of the highest order. Thus did Lincoln, one of the most cunning debaters in American history, enlist Jeffersonian rhetoric for Hamiltonian ends. — Michael Lind, What Lincoln Believed (quoted by Thomas DiLorenzo)

23jan2006When he decided to break with Norman Petty and J. I. and Joe B. decided to stay with Norman Petty, he come by and brought a bass around and said, "Learn to play this—you've got two weeks."
What I did was memorize every song he ever recorded with it. And after I'd been out on the road a couple of weeks, I realized that the bass is the first four strings of a guitar, and it was amazing to me. And it almost ruined the whole thing.
— Waylon Jennings, on Buddy Holly in The Outlaws: Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings

[See also]

20jan2006IF you get to it, and you canNOT do it, well then, there you jolly well are—whew!—aren't you? —Lord Buckley

19jan2006 — Living in paradise for a handful of days can make you forget what a mess you've left behind. . . .

Christian Science Monitor: The arrest clearance rate for reported homicides recently dropped to about 60 percent compared with about 90 percent 50 years ago. This means that a murderer today has about a 40 percent chance of avoiding arrest compared with less than 10 percent in 1950. The record for other FBI Index Crimes is even more dismal: The clearance rates have sunk to 42 percent for forcible rape, 26 percent for robbery, and 13 percent for burglary and motor vehicle theft, all way down from earlier eras. It's not that America's cops haven't been making arrests—in fact, their total annual arrests jumped from 3.3 million in the nation in 1960 to 14 million in 2004, a staggering number that helps to explain why the United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world. So, if reported crime has been going down and arrests have gone up, what accounts for the plummeting arrest clearance rates for murder, robbery, rape, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft? Part of the answer must involve drug law enforcement—victimless offenses that aren't reported to the police or included as FBI Index Crimes. Instead of arresting suspects for burglaries and other serious reported crimes, cops today spend much of their energy going after illegal drugs. Their arrest rate for drug possession (especially marijuana) has shot up more than 500 times from what it was in 1965.

The Picket Line comments: in the United States the police have mostly given up on fighting real crimes and have become big vice squads. . . . I'm guessing there's some sort of bureaucratic pathology at work here. Police departments get financially rewarded both for shifting their resources to making cheap-and-easy marijuana arrests ("look at how many arrests we're making nowadays—we need more money!") and for failing to make arrests in more difficult non-vice crimes ("look at how many horrible crimes are going unsolved—we need more money!") and those rewards translate into more personnel, promotions, and institutional power for the vice-squads.

Wired (via End the War on Freedom): At half-past noon on Jan. 9, cable TV contractors sinking a half-mile of cable near Interstate 10 in rural Arizona pulled up something unexpected in the bucket of their backhoe: an unmarked fiber-optic cable. "It started pulling the fiber out of the pipe," says Scott Johansson, project manager for JK Communications and Construction. "Obviously, we said, 'Oop, we've hit something.'" As the fiber came spooling out of the desert soil like a fishing line, long-distance service for millions of Sprint PCS and Nextel wireless customers west of the Rockies blinked off. Transcontinental internet traffic routed over Sprint slowed to a crawl, and some corporations that relied on the carrier to link office networks found themselves electronically isolated. In the end, a hole dug out of a dirt road outside a town called Buckeye triggered a three-and-a-half hour outage with national impact. It wasn't even a very deep hole. "We ran into their line right away," says Johansson. Experts say last week's Sprint outage is a reminder that with all the attention paid to computer viruses and the latest Windows security holes, the most vulnerable threads in America's critical infrastructures lie literally beneath our feet.

I watched as they put fiber-optic cable in beside the access road along I-10 between Picacho and Tucson, faster than I would have believed possible—probably because the trench wasn't very deep. Along that same stretch of road are those spinning discs that let natural gas company workers quickly find a gas leak. 19th-century Apaches would cut telegraph lines and tie them back together again with rawhide, so that the break could take days to spot and fix. How long would it take to detect the problem spot(s) if someone deliberately cut the fiber-optic lines and covered up where they dug?

Speaking of telecommunications and national security and over-reaching government (and why not throw in the stolen election of 2004 while we're at it?), I just re-read the quotation in this post from 10dec2001. What was it, that thing that repeats itself? Oh, right. History.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled paradise. Or, barring that, you can at least say hello to paradise via telephone.

18jan2006 — Back on the mainland, for some reason. I waited about two hours for the phone to ring at Waikiki (or, to those of you looking in from the future, IK-IKI). But, nyet. It's called phoneSWARM, peoples, so let's BUZZ IT UP out there!

(Also, armed with a portion of the provided information, some Metafilter member can soothe a harassed psyche.)

12jan2006 — (Leaving the mainland; back next week.)

11jan2006 — Erotic news from the animal kingdom, delivered by an autistic animal lover:

Brahman bulls are so affectionate that when you collect semen from a Brahman bull you have to pet them a long time first. They'll refuse to give the semen for twenty minutes because they want twenty minutes of throat and butt scratching; that's the stuff they really care about. Then they'll give it to you. They'll delay the sex in order to get some good, serious stroking. With some of them you have to walk away and leave or they won't give you the semen at all. You have to let them know that if they don't give the semen they're not going to get stroked.
Pigs could be bred naturally, too, but a lot of the time breeders use artificial insemination instead. Breeding pigs commercially is an art. I talked to a man who had one of the most successful records for breeding sows out there and he told me things no one's ever written in a book as far as I know. Each boar had his own little perversion the man had to do to get the boar turned on so he could collect the semen. Some of them were just things like the boar wanted to have his dandruff scratched while they were collecting him. (Pigs have big flaky dandruff all over their backs.) The other things the man had to do were a lot more intimate. He might have to hold the boar's penis in exactly the right way that the boar liked, and he had to masturbate some of them in exactly the right way. There was one boar, he told me, who wanted to have his butt hole played with. "I have to stick my finger in his butt, he just really loves that," he told me. Then he got all red in the face. I'm not going to tell you his name, because I know he'd be embarrassed. But he's one of the best in the business—and remember, this
is a business we're talking about. The number of sows successfully bred by the boars translates directly into the profits a company can make.—Temple Grandin, Animals in Translation (p. 103)

Unrelated political jab from another animal book:

Quickness in catching on to new ideas or skills is, after all, what supposedly separates the kids who get into Yale (well, the ones whose last names are not Bush, anyway) from the rest of the pack. -- Stephan Budiansky (writing in election year 2000), The Truth About Dogs (p. 125)

10jan2006Jefferson on "consolidation" (Federal usurpation of power):

I see, as you do, and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic; and that, too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power. Take together the decisions of the federal court, the doctrines of the President, and the misconstructions of the constitutional compact acted on by the legislature of the federal branch, and it is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of that department are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities, of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic. Under the power to regulate commerce, they assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures, and call it regulation to take the earnings of one of these branches of industry, and that too the most depressed, and put them into the pockets of the other, the most flourishing of all. Under the authority to establish post roads, they claim that of cutting down mountains for the construction of roads, of digging canals, and aided by a little sophistry on the words "general welfare," a right to do, not only the acts to effect that, which are specifically enumerated and permitted, but whatsoever they shall think, or pretend will be for the general welfare. And what is our resource for the preservation of the constitution? Reason and argument? You might as well reason and argue with the marble columns encircling them. The representatives chosen by ourselves? They are joined in the combination, some from incorrect views of government, some from corrupt ones, sufficient voting together to out-number the sound parts; and with majorities only of one, two, or three, bold enough to go forward in defiance.

09jan2006 — Nice comment on those moronic yellow ribbons: The adapted Gadsden flag

(At least, I hope it's a comment, rather than a co-opting.)

07jan2006 — Do film directors these days jot down things on the set that they think they might like to say later on the audio commentary for the DVD of the film they're shooting?

05jan2006You're all heart, CNN

(See also)

Families outraged
Hatfield's announcement sent Anna Casto, who lost her cousin, into a tirade. "No, he strictly told us they was alive," Casto said. "Three hours later, he come back and said they wasn't. We want to know why, and how people can get by with this," she said. Casto said the tragedy has shaken the faith of some in the community, who "don't even know if there is a Lord anymore," she said. "We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us." John Casto was at the church when the false report arrived and later, he was there for the terrible news. After the first report, "they were praising God," he said. And after the second "they were cursing." [Link]

Having just criticized CNN's heartlessness, I'm going to go ahead and admit that it's somewhat heartening not to see the usual Candide-like optimism that attributes survivals of near-disasters to god but never blames omnipotence for less cheerful outcomes. (See also)


Always keen to publicity, O'Donoghue made himself available for interviews and kept at hand comments he penned in advance, but uttered casually as though off-the-cuff. [In a New York Times Magazine story on the Lampoon (December 10, 1972), author Mopsy Strange Kennedy was taken with O'Donoghue's act: "He sits on the windowsill and stares off into space, looking as if he's trying to remember somebody's last name, and then comic-strip light bulbs seem to come on in his mind, and he tries out some new joke or idea. `How about soap ballets? "Love of Life" danced? Yes?' " In the days of Johnny Carson this was known as "panel," the bits used during an interview that a comedian thought too weak for his act—or in O'Donoghue's case, the Lampoon.] —Dennis Perrin, Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue, p. 220


We think it's time for Congress to heed the warning of George Orwell. To that end, we're asking for your help: Mail us or drop off your tattered copies of "1984." When we get 537 of them, we'll send them to every member of the House of Representatives and Senate and to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Feel free to inscribe the book with a note, reminding these fine people that we Americans take the threat to our liberties seriously. Remind Congress that it makes no sense to fight a war for democracy in a foreign land while allowing our democratic principles to erode at home. Remind President Bush that ours is a country of checks and balances, not unbridled power. Perhaps our nation's leaders can find some truth in this fiction and more carefully ponder the road we're traveling.


Before you do ANYTHING else with your computer today—and I do mean ANYTHING—go read about this problem and then download and install the fix.

All patched up? Good. Now, on with the show.

Football is straight-out ability. Football is physical — strength and instinct. Baseball is mental. Big difference, man. You can't master baseball, you can just learn more about it. That's why there are so many damn alcoholics in baseball. — Deion Sanders (1995)

01jan2006 — Ran across this old note to myself, dated ca. 1989:

New genre: mix two (or more) songs together, weaving them in & out of each other

Resolution: Stop writing notes to yourself unless you're really going to do something with them.

(See also)

Update, 19may2009: And if you want to see what a dumbass I am, see this

To Deuce of Clubs