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30jul2007 to This Very Daggone Minute

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


31dec2007Resolution 2008: Buy gold

if i had a dollar for every time i had sixty cents, i would be canadatoothpaste for dinner

Not anymore.

Money is the best counterfeit money. — Mignon McLaughlin


30dec2007 — From Donald D. Palmer, Structuralism and Poststructuralism for Beginners:

The old myth that primitive people are like children and think in some pre-logical manner is challenged with a two-pronged argument. First, there are features of "primitive thinking" that are demonstrated as being far more "technical" and subtle than our own, and second, there are areas of "cultured thought" that are revealed as being extremely "primitive."
As examples of the latter, consider certain monuments, like Mount Rushmore, our collections of signed baseballs, the small replicas of the Eiffel Tower we bring back as "souvenirs" of our trip to Paris, the plastic flowers we put on graves, the useless objects purchased at auctions because they once belonged to famous people.
As examples of "hi-tech" primitive thought, Levi-Strauss catalogues hundreds of sophisticated systems of classification of natural objects by native peoples. For instance, the Hanunoo of the Philippine Islands have a botanical vocabulary dividing local plants into more than 1800 mutually exclusive categories, while Western botanists divide the same group into fewer than 1300 categories. The Hanunoo also distinguish among 60 kinds of fish,108 kinds of insects, 60 classes of salt water molluscs and 25 molluscs found on land or in sweet water. (33-4)

Like Freud. but for very different reasons, Levi-Strauss finds reverberations of totemism in "civilized" thought. For example, pet birds tend to have names borrowed from the lexicon of human names (Peter, Bill, Suzy). On the contrary, dogs tend to be given names that are in odd ways like human names but ultimately are nonhuman (Fido, Bowser, Fifi). Why can we afford to give human names to birds but are less willing to give them to dogs, even though both are kept around the house? Because birds inhabit their own parallel but quite separate society (and hence are METAPHORICAL HUMANS), while dogs are an extension of the family (hence are METONYMICAL HUMANS). We do not need to distinguish birds from ourselves, so we can afford to grant them human names, but in order to preserve the distinction between ourselves and dogs at some level, we cannot afford to give them in every instance truly human names. (40)

"If therefore birds are metaphorical human beings and dogs, metonymical human beings, cattle may be thought of as metonymical human beings and racehorses as metaphorical inhuman beings. Cattle are contiguous only for want of similarity, racehorses similar only for want of contiguity. Each of these two categories offers the converse image of one of the two other categories, which themselves stand in a relation of inverted symmetry."
Once again, we see the formula: A is to B as C is to D, and the universal human ability to detect similarity in difference. Realizing this, we can study totemism and see that the descriptions of animal events are algebraic transformations of human events. (41)

All configurations of human behavior are codes, which, vhen decoded, reveal themselves as attempted solutions of universal human dilemmas. Using the basic "mythemes" (categories of food, smells, tastes, sounds, silences, seasons, climates), myths express the contradictions of life in a structured pattern and render them intelligible. Myths function "to provide a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction (an impossible achievement if, as it happens, the contradiction is real)." (43)

There are for Barthes no unities, only pluralities. In fact, Barthes claimed to look forward to the dissolution of his own physical being into dust and memories in the minds of his friends. (52)

In his article, "The World of Wrestling," the popularity of wrestling matches is derived from their ability to signify ideas like those of Justice, Good, and Evil as part of the Natural Order. These are obviously mythical ideas in Barthes' sense. Yet, rather than condemning wrestling, Barthes is obviously celebrating it as a spectacle of excess. He praises the "absolute clarity" of its signs, which are the bodies themselves of the wrestlers. He says, "There is no more a problem of truth in wrestling than in the theatre." It is not a sadistic spectacle, as some of its critics claim; it is an intelligible spectacle. It gives the audience what it wants: not passion, but the IMAGE of passion. (60)

Literature for Barthes is not the bearer of meaning but a critique of meaning. Literature, in refusing to assign any final meanings, can be shown to have an anti-theological mission that is truly revolutionary, because the refusal of fixed meanings is the refusal of God. Barthes does not argue that the authors of literary works necessarily intended this critique. In fact, the critique is at the expense of authors. Barthes talks about "the death of the author." (63)

Derrida invents a name for this conglomeration of semiotic features common both to speech and writing and so essential to each that it absorbs their differences. He calls it ARCHE-WRITING (arche-ecriture in French). "Arche-writing" is the system of cultural signs that will always pre-exist—that is, be presupposed by—both speech and writing in their normal "narrow" definitions. Derrida's "grammatology" is a study of this "arche-writing". But Derrida does not claim that he can find a position outside of arch-writing where he can stand on higher, more neutral ground and look objectively back in on it.
To write about writing is always to write from the inside, and there fore, in a sense, no one can ever escape from logocentrism, but we an at least reveal what is in fact obscured and repressed by that metaphysics. (133)


29dec2007

[Toni] Basil's '80s recording career consisted of only two albums. . . . To date, there have been no fewer than five Toni Basil best-of collections released on CD. (Wikipedia)


28dec2007

The other day I saw on TV a close-up of a male cheerleader holding a female cheerleader aloft on the palm of his hand. I never really realized how much I should have been a male cheerleader.


27dec2007Property Tax: An eternal rent charged to nominal owners of land

I notice that this year for the first time, mailed notices of Pinal County's ridiculously exhorbitant property tax demand (75% higher than last year's already absurd amount) do not order tribute payers to make out their involuntary payments in the name of Dolores J. "Dodie" Doolittle personally. This year it says:

PLEASE MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO:
PINAL COUNTY TREASURER

I'd love to believe the change had something to do with my pointing out that we used to have to make out our checks to Dodie Doolittle, personally (see the scans).
More likely it's a result of the corruption uncovered in Pinal County that sent Stan Griffis to prison and I would bet money it involves the pirate Dolores Doolittle and her crook of a husband, also a sucker at the public teat, Terry Doolittle (former "right-hand man" of Stan Griffis), who should both be incarcerated just like Griffis. There needs to be a serious third-party investigation (i.e., one not run by Richard Romley) of the den of thieves that is Pinal County.

From AZCentral.com: Ex-Pinal manager admits fraud, to repay $600K
A public corruption inquiry that began with an investigation into former Pinal County Manager Stanley Griffis' misuse of $21,000 ballooned into a criminal indictment that left him pleading guilty to six felonies, agreeing to pay over half-a-million dollars in restitution and the possibility of serving up to 51 years in prison.

From the East Valley Tribune: Lee Stein said in a memo this week to the sentencing judge that the 64-year-old Griffis is in such poor health that he wouldn't survive a prison sentence, and had led an exemplary life up to that point as family man, war hero and churchgoer. That is, until he got mad at his bosses, the Board of Supervisors, for not appreciating him, and in one case supposedly trying to force him out of his job. That person was not identified in the memo, but in hindsight deserves a medal. . . .
This is how Griffis, by way of his lawyer, explains embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of developer-donated dollars which will now not be used to relieve congestion around Queen Creek and Apache Junction, and is not likely to be replaced soon by a private sector newly wary of "public-private partnerships."

From the Gold Canyon website: Stan Griffis falsified his paychecks in order to defraud the State Retirement system. Terry Doolittle prepared the payroll and became County Manager as Stan Griffis' handpicked successor. He was dutifully appointed by The Board of Supervisors without challenge, behind closed doors and surreptitiously approved in the consent agenda. Dodie Doolittle, Terry's wife, issued the payroll and signed the checks. She rose to power through the anointment/appointment process whereby Stan's long list of pals and confidants relinquished their elected seat prematurely in order to permit hand-picked successors to run for office masquerading as incumbents. A process used many times and has brought us Laura Dean-Lytle, Carter Olson, Dodie Doolittle and for all intents and purposes, David Snider. I hear more are on the way.

From the Apache Junction / Gold Canyon News: As to the remaining "elected" or "appointed" people in the current administration, Mr. Terry Dolittle, the current county manager, was the right hand man and asst. county manager to Mr. Griffis for years. I leave it to your own judgement as to his credibility. As to his wife, Ms. Doolittle, she was elected to her position (with no opposition) as treasurer after being "appointed" by Jim L. Turnbull as he retired in 2003. It is curious that all the county checks are signed by the treasurer, who happens to be the wife of the current county manager. I could look at the "forward thinking" involved in planning for the future in Pinal County, but it is almost non-existent.


25dec2007Semi-annual X-mess Bash (Pt. 2)

Review: "X-MESS"

If you celebrate only one X-MESS this year, make it X-MESS!

Yes! X-MESS! It blows!

(A message on behalf of the Committee to Re-elect X-MESS for X-MESS ("It blows!")


24dec2007Semi-annual X-mess Bash (Pt. 1)

X-mess is a magical time! A magical time when ordinary stupid people are magically transformed into The Magically Uber-Stupid! And radio stations break out (magically!) the worst songs from the catalog of every singer and band!* Fucking magicalness all over the place! Spilling out into the throughways and thoroughfares and way-throughs! Until we just! Can't! Take! Any! More! (Magically!)

*Except the Waitresses. Maybe.


23dec2007

 

 

Lydia Mendoza

21may1916 -- 22dec2007
R.I.P.

 

 


23dec2007

DoC: When you played here last, you introduced the song "Calling Up Spirits" by talking about the Founding Fathers. I'm curious about your political views.

Dick Dale: They should all be wiped out!

DoC: Political parties?

Dick Dale: Exactly. They should all be taken out! Just put the grassroots people in there. The people running this goddam country have never had their ass in the mud, they've never been in the trenches. If you had a business putting brakes on cars, would you want somebody who's gone to Yale and been "trained" to be the manager of your company, or would you rather have a guy who's been putting brakes on cars for 24 years? It's time for grassroots people to all band together and say, "We're tired of this crap! Let's take back our land!"

(See also)

22dec2007

Thomas Low Nichols wrote of his schooling in New Hampshire in the 1820's:

The education we got was solid enough in some respects, and superficial in others. In arithmetic, geometry, surveying, mechanics, and such solid and practical matters, we were earnest students; but our geography was chiefly American, and the United States was larger than all the universe beside. In the same way our history was American history, brief but glorious .... We were taught every day and in every way that ours was the freest, the happiest, and soon to be the greatest and most powerful country in the world. This is the religious faith of every American. He learns it in his infancy, and he can never forget it. For all other countries he entertains sentiments varying from pity to hatred; they are the downtrodden despotisms of the old world.

One wonders whether Nichols was exposed in the classroom to a bizarre Historical Reader of the War of 1812 written by Gilbert J. Hunt (1817). Hunt, whose book was designed for use in schools and went into several editions, couched it in biblical style, even breaking the chapters up into numbered verses. Thus, the President figures as "James, whose sir-name was MADISON," and Congress as "the GREAT SANHEDRIM"; Satan abets the wicked British; and, according to this latter-day American version of the holy scriptures, Jackson at New Orleans (chapter liv, verse 13)

... spake, and said unto his captains of fifties, and his captains of hundreds, Fear not; we defend our lives and our liberty, and in that thing the Lord will not forsake us:
14. Therefore, let every man be upon his watch ....
15. And ye cunning back-woodsmen, who have known only to hunt the squirrel, the wolf, and the deer, now pour forth your strength upon the mighty lion, that we may not be overcome.
16. And as the black dust cast upon a burning coal instantly mounteth into a flame, so was the spirit of the husbandmen of the backwoods of Columbia.

Marcus Cunliffe, The Nation Takes Shape, 1798-1837, p. 134.


21dec2007

"Sir, I am unaware of any such activity or operation, nor would I be disposed to discuss such an operation if it did in fact exist . . . sir."Apocalypse Now

"I'm not exposed to bespeak any such information to you, nor would I, even if I had said information at this juncture . . . be able."Fight Club

"My sources within the department indicate an individual with the name you gave me was involved in activities similar to what you outlined."Cop attempting to communicate (Aww, cute!)


20dec2007For Your Holy-Day Gift-Giving Crapsideration

 

From Kasper Hauser's SkyMaul catalog (p. 59):

"Twin Towers" Media Storage Center

Commemorate the tragedy of 9/11 as you organize hundreds of your CDs and DVDs in two versatile "Twin Towers." Never forget what the terrorists did to Freedom, and never forget where you put your "Lion King" DVD—it's in the Twin Towers!

From Happy Cruelty Day, by Bob Powers (pp. 396-7):

YOUR COMMEMORATIVE 9/11 BONG IS IN BAD TASTE AND YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF DAY!

No one wants to suck smoke out of a miniature plastic replica of the Twin Towers. I know you think it's because they don't know how to hold the bong without banging their noses on the antenna atop Tower Two, but the real problem is that each time someone takes a hit, everyone has to sit and watch as leftover smoke billows up from Tower One. Consider the mellow harshed.

It was cool at first, true. But that was only because of the inscription at the bong's base: 9/11: WE REMEMBER.

Considering that the "we" in that inscription refers only to you and your pothead friends, it's not likely that all that much is being remembered. More important, everyone's been complaining of bad dreams lately (especially Clyde). Just throw the thing away and break out the R2D2 bong again. Everyone loved that one. Even though you refused to smoke out of it ever again "in protest against the crimes George Lucas has committed against my childhood with the release of episodes one through three," it's safe to say that Lucasfilm Ltd. never got the press release.

Break out R2. Clyde's gonna be by any minute now.

Happy Your Commemorative 9/11 Bong Is in Bad Taste and You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself Day!

(See also: Towers of Light Memorial Flame)

(Father Ratbite LaRue adds: Buildings of Disaster: Oklahoma City Federal Building)


19dec2007 — From Daniel G. Moore's Enter Without Knocking, a memoir of life as a guard at Arizona State "Penitentiary"/Prison in the mid-twentieth century:

Previous administrations had allowed some of the old, long-term, inside trusties to build little shacks at various places in the yard. These were still there, made of scrap lumber, tin cans and cardboard. Each was a potential hiding place for dope or contraband, though seldom was anything found in them during a shakedown. One such shack had been built by a stir-crazy old Mexican who was doing a life sentence for a murder committed at Claypool, Arizona. Old Camacho had dug up the hard earth of the yard to make himself a tiny garden beside his shack. There he planted a few hills of corn and a few rows of chili peppers and beans. These he carefully tended, carrying water for them in a bucket.

Compare that treatment of prisoners to the current treatment of those of us said to be free: In the form of "property tax" demands, I am forced to pay the county rent for land for which I have paid in full; and in the form of "permits," I am forced to pay for the privilege of being told how I may use my own land.

Question for Pinal County overlords: How is it that, in a country people persist in calling free, behavior that used to be allowed to convicted criminals on government property is no longer allowed to free citizens on their own property?

Question for Pinal County residents: How is it that we are content to put up with this?

From CrimethInc's Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook, on life in prison:

You will notice that in some respects the whole situation is a lot more honest with the veneer of consent stripped away. It's all about unadulterated force, and nobody pretends that it is not. You do what you are told, whether you like it or not, or else you get hurt.


18dec2007Blue skies block our view of the universe. Accursed refraction!


17dec2007

We have to call it "freedom": who'd want to die for "a lesser tyranny"? — Mignon McLaughlin


16dec2007It's Boston Tea Party Day, 2007

Let's dump some tea


15dec2007

The Elephant is very intelligent because he does whatever you tell him to do. — Will Cuppy, How to Tell Your Friends From the Apes

I chose guinea pigs because . . . they were smart, yet compliant. — Mark Pauline (of Survival Research Laboratories) in Pranks!


14dec2007Ron Paul Blimp—Inaugural Flight


14dec2007Humor and Inhumanity

The casual racism of Stephen Leacock, Canadian humorist (from Humor and Humanity, 1938):

Primitive races must have begun very early to find incongruities in their first beginnings of speech that would make the first beginnings of verbal humor. The kind of languages that they used, agglutinative, and made of combinations of repeated monosyllables all alike till rearranged or 'resung' in a different way, would lend themselves to it. The Chinese language, still of this form, must be, if I understand it right, one enormous pun. It is as if one struck in English such combinations as "Let's have a ship-shape shop!" (23)

But there are further modes of humor arising out of single words far more subtle and far more legitimate than either puns or bad spelling. One of these is the use of a word that is the wrong word for the sense but the right word for the sound: in other words using the wrong word in the right way. This is seen in the speech of people who try deliberately to use big words, as the Negroes do, or at times sententious Cockneys. (41)

The Negro was and is a believer. For him there was and is no higher criticism, no relativity of history, no distinction of past from present. He took the Bible stories just as he found them, reverently and simply. He couldn't read and write and so he passed them on by word of mouth, and a person with a natural gift of imagery, such as primitive people often have, could tell them in a striking way to an open-mouthed group of auditors. (74)

Now notice how simple, one might say how sweet, this is. A Southern planter walking round in the woods, would of course carry a gun with him. So the darky narrator took for granted that a man as high up as the 'Lawd' would of course carry a gun. (74-5)

Women's fashions, when they first come out, ought to look funny and do look funny to children or Negroes. But for the most of us, the sense of oddity has worn thin by the very expectation of it. 'What next?' is all we ask. (100)

We must have something impossibly long or unexpectedly short; a novel to take in the whole American Civil War, Negroes included, or an utterance so condensed that it can be said in what the Lady Mayoress of New York once called 'a mouthful.' (150)

Now dialect, til it loses its force by custom, has a droll sound to an unaccustomed ear: as witness the everlasting vogue of comic Yiddish-American, comic Negro talk and Pennsylvania Dutch. (152)

Just as Dickens (see Pickwick, Chapter VII) tells us that if Muggleton has its Dumkins and Dingley Dell its Luffey, so we can boast that Ontario has its McIntyre and Michigan its Julia Moore of the late nineteenth century. The latter was probably the greatest super-comic poet who has lived since Milton. Her success was great; her fame extensive; her estimate of herself was in accordance. One poem of hers dealt with the terrible railway accident at Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1878.

Have you heard of the dreadful fate
Of Mr. P. P. Bliss and wife?
Of their death I will relate,
And also others lost their life;
Ashtabula Bridge disaster,
Where so many people died
Without a thought that destruction
Would plunge them 'neath the wheel of tide.

I quoted that passage as an illustration in my larger work on the present subject and often referred to it in public lectures, but I quote it here again for a special purpose. When I was lecturing in Chicago a few years ago, I quoted the fate of 'P. P. Bliss and wife' to what seemed the great hilarity of the audience. After the lecture, at supper, a grave, elderly gentleman said to me, "I was interested in your reference to the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster. I lived in the town as a young man at the time. Poor Bliss! I knew him quite well. He suffered terribly."
With that, for me, all the comicality of the poem was lost in the horror of the reality. I could feel what it was that the crude words and ill-assorted epithets of the Michigan 'poetess' were meant to convey. Again I realized one cannot joke with death. For some time after I couldn't refer even to the death of Rameses of Egypt, except to say, "I see poor Rameses is gone."
This incident is not related here for any personal interest, but in order to enforce again the canon of taste, Let humor keep to its bounds.
(183-5)


13dec2007 — From Lenny Bruce's "Obscenity, Narcotics and Me," in Paul Krassner's Best of The Realist:

It's time for the masquerade. Go to court and it's "Hey, Lenny, you've got to wear a blue suit and get a haircut. "
Why wear a blue suit? So that those who try the facts will not be burdened searching for the felon.
"Which one is he?"
"Don't you know how to spot them? They wear blue suits."
"How about the
real men in blue?"
"They wear their brown suit that day. "
(111)

We forgave the Japanese once, the Germans twice, but the White Southerners we've kicked in the ass since Fort Sumter. (111)

Marijuana will be legal some day, though, because there are so many law students that smoke pot, who will some day become Senators and legalize it to protect themselves.
But there are people in jail now for smoking
flowers.
And yet you wouldn't
believe how many people smoke pot. If anybody reading this would like to become mayor, believe me, there's an untapped vote. Of course, you wouldn't want to be the Marijuana Mayor, so you'd have to make it a trick statute, like "The Crippled Catholic Jewish War Children In Memory Of Ward Bond Who Died For You Bill To Make Marijuana Legal." (112)

If I am incarcerated in Chino, I am going to study. Yes, and learn to play the cello. I will come out an accomplished cellist—and just bore the shit out of everyone. (114)

Anyone who does anything for pleasure to indulge his selfish soul will surely burn in Hell. The only medicine that's good for you is iodine, because it burns; a stone is lodged in your urinary tract because nature meant it to be there. So re-tie that umbilical cord, snap on your foreskin, and drown in the water bag, 'cause we're havin' a party and the people are nice.
The what-
should-be never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. All the what-should-be's just don't exist. There is only what is. (114)


12dec2007We Shall Speak Of It No More

We Shall Speak Of It No More

11dec2007

Near Dark Coolidge Arizona 1981 New Times sun barren terrain sparse one street town This is it Jenny Wright where are you

10dec2007

Last night I dreamed of a girlfriend from high school. Or rather, of her name. She had two older sisters, Janet and Jane. What colossal failure of imagination prevented her parents from naming her Jan? How could they have fumbled the rare triple daughter literatomy opportunity?


09dec2007Good god, we're not even consistent in our busybodyosity

During Phoenix Suns broadcasts the Phoenix Suns Gorilla does anti-tobacco commercials.

During Phoenix Suns broadcasts the Phoenix Suns Gorilla does pro-Budweiser commercials.


08dec2007 — From Malise Ruthven's Fundamentalism: The Search for Meaning:

In a broader context, tradition is simply what occurs unselfconsciously as part of the natural order of things, an unreflective or unconsidered Weltanschauung (world view). In the words of Martin Marty, 'most people who live in a traditional culture do not know they are traditionalists.' Tradition, in this sense, consists in not being aware that how one believes or behaves is 'traditional,' because alternative ways of thinking or living are simply not taken into consideration. (16)

When Higher Criticism, originating in Germany, began to challenge the received understandings of the Bible, for example by using sophisticated methods of textual analysis to argue that books attributed to Moses or Isaiah show evidence of editorial changes, textual accumulations, and multiple authorship, or that the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ depended on a mistranslation of the original Greek text, unreflective tradition (the 'received knowledge' of generations) was converted into reactive defensiveness. From this perspective fundamentalism may be defined as 'tradition made self-aware and consequently defensive.' (17)

In the realm of scientific thought generally textual inerrancy has been easier to defend in the Koran than in the Bible. (70)

Inerrancy is not the same as literalism, and may even produce opposite conclusions. Where literalist readings may logically lead to the 'deconstruction' of texts, inerrancy when pursued systematically requires textual harmonization. Since the inerrant Bible as understood by fundamentalists is supposed to correspond to the historical actuality of real events in real time (as distinct from mythical events whose significance may be understood symbolically or spiritually) conservative commentators try to edit different versions of the same stories into a coherent narrative structure.
A well-known example concerns the New Testament story of the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus, when he threw out the money-lenders. In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) the incident occurs at the very end of his ministry, at the beginning of Passion week (the week of the Crucifixion); whereas John has it at the very beginning of his ministry. Liberal theologians may explain the discrepancy by showing how John uses the episode to illustrate the essentially Gnostic theme of the Word made Flesh that resonates throughout the fourth Gospel. The conservative commentator Graham Swift provides a much simpler explanation: Jesus cleansed the Temple twice. The same methodology produces two ascensions of Jesus into heaven, since Luke has this occur on the same day as the resurrection whilst Acts makes it happen forty days later, after Jesus had appeared to the disciples. Multiple ascensions, like dual Temple cleansings, allow both narratives to be taken literally, as real events that happened in real time, 'out there' in the world. To be avoided at all costs is the liberal position that 'there was no certain knowledge of the temporal sequence, or that quite contradictory accounts existed, or that some source represented the events in such and such a way. not because that was the way it happened, but because that was important for the theological message of that particular source'.
For conservative Christians, including fundamentalists, it is important to sustain inerrancy by ironing out narrative inconsistencies, since the Gospels themselves are literary texts that aspire to narrative coherence. Herein lies an important difference between the Bible and the Koran. The holy text of Islam does not take the form of a narrative, nor is its structure chronological. The suras (chapters) are assembled approximately in order of length, with the shortest at the end and the longest (apart from the Opening) at the beginning. The sequence also corresponds, very roughly, to reverse chronological order: as you might find in a collection of letters or legal documents in a box-file, the oldest are at the bottom, the most recent near the top. (77-8)

Higher Critical scholarship of the Koran, using methodologies adapted from biblical criticism, is still in its infancy, and largely confined to scholars working in Western universities. So sensitive is this area for Muslims that 'Ibn Warraq', a Muslim-born writer trained in Arabic who accepts the findings of radical Western scholarship, has felt it necessary to publish his work under a pseudonym. In the post-Rushdie atmosphere of cultural confrontation between Islamic and Western worlds, criticism of the Koran demands considerably more caution than criticism of the Bible. (79-80)

In the Bible the Children of Israel are commanded by God to massacre the Amalekites, an indigenous Caananite tribe, along with their women, children, and flocks. For fundamentalist militants such as Rabbi Yisrael Hess, formerly the campus rabbi of Tel Aviv's Bar-Han University, the Amalekites of scripture are assimilated to contemporary Palestinian Arabs: an article by the rabbi entitled 'The Commandment of Genocide in the Torah', cited in a book by Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former director of Israeli military intelligence, ends with the chilling words: 'The day will yet come when we will all be called to fulfil the commandment of the divinely ordained war to destroy Amalek.' (91)

On 4 October 1987 in the village of Deorala near Jaipur in Rajasthan, Roop Kanwar, a beautiful 18-year-old bride of less than eight months mounted the funeral pyre of Maal Singh, her 24-year-old husband who had died of gastroenteritis (or possibly committed suicide, after repeatedly failing his medical school entrance exams). Taking her dead husband's head in her lap, in the prescribed manner, Roop was burned alive. In her final moments one arm was seen to stretch out from the flames. Opponents of sati (who included the state authorities and some religious leaders) saw this as a gesture of defiance, or perhaps a desperate effort in her final seconds to escape. The crowd saw it as a benediction. . . .
4,000 visitors attended the anniversary of Roop Kanwar's sati in 1988. When the authorities stopped public transport from Deorala, the pilgrims arrived on foot, by camel cart or private buses, crowded with people on their roofs or hanging from the windows. More than 800 wayside booths appeared, selling souvenirs, snacks, toys, coconuts and incense—along with the inevitable photo collages of the smiling Roop and her husband enveloped by flames.' (95, 96)

In a notorious episode that made international headlines in 2001 fifteen girls at a boarding school in Jedda were burned to death when their dormitory caught fire. The religious police closed the gates on them because they had not covered themselves according to the requirements of 'strict female modesty' prevailing in the desert kingdom. (112)

Fundamentalist fear of homosexuality has crossed the Atlantic, invading the Church of England, in which a significant proportion of clergy is gay. According to one diocesan bishop homosexuality is caused by 'demons in the anus'. (121)

'The object of every national movement is only the seeking for its god, who must be its own god, and the faith in him as the only true one. God is the synthetic personality of the whole people taken from its beginning to its end' wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Possessed. The same insight informs the religious sociology of Emil Durkheim, who equated the sacred with the spirit of community, a projection of the communal spirit onto a supernatural, transcendental Being. like religious communities, the nations are collectivities that transcend the sum of their individual parts; like religious communities nations bear witness to the idea that human blood must be shed in their defence: the war memorials, cenotaphs, and Tombs to the Unknown Warrior that grace our cities attest to transcendental demands the nation makes of its citizens. Such demands, as Anthony Smith points out, are made on the basis of faith rather than empirical evidence. 'For nationalists, the nation, whatever the acts committed in its name, is essentially and ultimately good, as the future will reveal; the conviction of its virtue is not a matter of empirical evidence, but of faith.' (153-4)


07dec2007

Not in time for me to wear both of them simultaneously for the big showdown, but still: They have arrived


06dec2007G00gle Ad5en5e you do tickle mein Mandible

No One WANTS Jaw Surgery


05dec2007$5 for Freedom Day


04dec2007 — From Larry Dixon's "The Reward, The Details, The Devils, The Due," in Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly:

Firefly reassured me that going that extra mile to do your very best really can matter. One of the toughest struggles that a creator has comes when he's pushed himself to the physical and emotional edge and has to come to grips with the dreadful realization that, yes, this might just be as good as it gets. It is a form of facing mortality, but in a creative sense: you might have gone as far as you're going to be able to, and no one's going to care. The only way out, as in so many things in life, is to go through: the creative personality has to accept that even if that's true, the effort is worth it. You have to live with yourself, and know you gave it your best even if it matters to no one else but you. The clouds part and miraculously, while the work is being done, it becomes something infused with the spark of genius; a life is given to it that could never have been there if the artist had settled for doing something merely adequate. Something beautiful can be made, and it counts. But it comes with a price. Firefly was a labor of love in the most sobering sense—a gathering of superb professionals, each giving his and her very best, but in the employ of people who didn't appreciate or understand what they were getting. An artist's greatest external foes may be ignorance and incomprehension, but the fiercest nemeses inside an artist are doubt and despair. Firefly's partnership of creators faced all four and pushed on through to make something inspiringly beautiful. (p. 6)


03dec2007 — From A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, by Captain S. A. Ashe, the last surviving Commissioned Officer of the Confederate States Army:

In ratifying that constitution Virginia and New York particularly affirmed that the people of any State had a right to withdraw from the Union, and there was general assent to that claim, and it was taught in the text book at West Point. (6)

[Slavery] was the very basis of New England's prosperity. At Newport, Bristol, and Providence, some of the most respectable and wealthy merchants were engaged in the trade. Even preachers and philanthropists were advocates. "One elder, whose ventures in slaving had usually turned out well, always returned thanks on the Sunday following the arrival of a slaver that the Africans could enjoy the blessing of a Gospel dispensation." (10)

So it came about that on March 30. 1861, the New York Times, speaking ex cathedra, said: "It is no longer an abstract question, one of a constitutional construction. or reserved or delegated powers of the states to the Federal Government, but of material existence, and moral position both at home and abroad." The North had to have the South even by conquest! And so Mr. Lincoln started the war. He had no purpose to interfere with slavery, but held that under the Constitution, neither he nor Congress could interfere with slavery. After four years of war, he said, in his second inaugural: "The progress of our arms on which all depends. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration it has already attained. Each looked for an easier triumph." Yes, he certainly looked for an easier triumph. We may well believe that had he fully realized what was to come, he would have listened to the pleadings of W. H. Seward, his Secretary of State, and have sought a peaceful restoration of the Union. Instead, he took his own course. And, after declining, in February, 1865, at Hampton Roads, to consider anything but unconditional surrender, in his Inaugural of March 4, he declared : "Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bonds man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, still it must be said, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." And it was all his own doing—from start to finish. So he conquered the South for economic reasons, as most of the wars have been waged in Europe. And it brought him the fame of unnecessarily causing the deaths of more human beings and of destroying more wealth and property and of causing more sorrow, distress. and sectional hatred than attaches to the name of any other person that ever lived up to that time. And yet there are those who speak of him as a good, kindly man! (24)

In framing the Constitution, as some of the powers which the States delegated to the Congress (similar to those delegated in the Articles of Confederation), were national in their nature, the word "national" was freely used in the first draft of the instrument, but as the States were not forming a nation, but only making a more perfect union of the confederation, the word "national" was entirely eliminated; a nation was not to be created—only a sisterhood of States united in union which had national powers. It was "between the States," not over them—so declared in its last article. By virtue of their sovereignty, eleven States withdrew from the perpetual union. (52)

The great sin of Lincoln and the Northern agitators in general was by constant agitation to identify slavery with the pride of the South, and to prevent any steps being taken toward abolishing it. With independence, the South would have been free of these irritating and disgusting interferences, murders and assassinations.
Society in general has its unity of resemblances in all nations. Civilized people in all climes tend to wear the same kind of hats, and the same kind of clothes, and an independent South would have conformed to the ideas of the world at large, Slavery would have been abolished in a manner less hurtful to the South, naturally and peacefully, and in the meantime the South would have advanced in all the elements of prosperity.
(58)

When a member of Congress in 1847, Mr. Lincoln had made a speech in Congress declaring that "the people of any state have a right to withdraw from any Union." But now that the states had withdrawn because he had been elected President, they considering that he was "a dangerous man," it was a personal matter with Lincoln. (59)

The North lost 259,528 men killed in the field and died of wounds and disease, and the South lost 135,000 all told. In this stupendous conflict, therefore, the loss aggregated nearly half a million lives lost and ruined in the armies, and even a greater number of negro lives caused by neglect, disease and starvation, making a total of upwards of a million human lives. Not only this but the women and children on both sides suffered miseries. Then at the South there was desolation and ruin and poverty estimated in the long run at twenty billions of dollars.
The war was unnecessary. Lincoln could have averted it. Emancipation might have been delayed, but would have come in the natural course of events, without the loss of a single man or a single dollar. With the North calling the South all kinds of names the question could not be calmly considered in 1861.
(64)

Secession began when South Carolina, in December, 1860, withdrew from the Union. The other Cotton States followed her example.
Congress was in session and made no protest. Members of Congress, on leaving their seats, made farewell speeches, shook hands with the other members, and returned to their States that claimed to be no longer in the Union but foreign States.
As they made these farewell addresses, Congress did not declare those men rebels, nor the inhabitants of these States to be in insurrection.
Months passed, and in March President Lincoln declared that a State could not withdraw from the Union, and that all the inhabitants of the seceding States remained citizens of the United States, and all who obeyed their States were in insurrection.
Congress had not so declared, but Lincoln took steps to inaugurate a war and called on the States to furnish troops. The Northern States furnished troops.
At the December term of 1862 cases involving the legality of the blockade of the Southern ports were heard by the Supreme Court. In one of these cases, U. S. Reports, Volume 67, Justice Grier, on page 668, delivering the opinion of the court, said: "By the Constitution Congress alone has the power to declare a national or foreign war. It cannot declare war against a State or any number of States by virtue of any clause in the Constitution."
"The President has no power to initiate or declare war against a foreign nation, or a domestic State." "But by act of 3rd of March, 1807, he can use the military forces and call out the militia to suppress insurrection."
(71)


02dec2007GREAT NEWS from the Coca-Cola Corporation Marketing Department!

Who knew sparkling beverages could be hydrating?

It's true. All beverages hydrate, including sparkling beverages. So if you are looking for hydration, but want the delicious and refreshing taste you get from Coca-Cola, don't compromise—go for it! You'll be hydrating your body with each and every sip.

WE OFFER OVER 80 WAYS TO HYDRATE, ENERGIZE, NOURISH, RELAX OR ENJOY EVERY DROP OF LIFE. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE BENEFITS OF HYDRATION, GO TO: [Their bullshit website]

Dear Coca-Cola Corporation Marketing Department,

Um, golly.

So . . . what you want everyone to know is that your product, Coca-Cola, which consists mostly of water, still manages to "hydrate"? That is, that it still consists mostly of water and yet somehow magically retains a certain number of the properties of water?

You're making a special point of letting us know that the other stuff you add to the water you sell us doesn't entirely prevent the water from being water-like?

Great job! (It's also pourable! You should play that up in your next press release.)

Also: "sparkling beverages"? Not "carbonated beverages" (if not "soda" or "pop" or "soda pop")? This is how we're talking now? With question marks after everything? Yes? I guess we are?


01dec2007Writing: It's Automatic

The other morning I awoke to find that sometime during the night I'd written the following in my notebook:

Traditionally having no moving parts, the sternum generally observes the celebration of its own existence in silence.

I may know what this is about. Sometimes my sternum makes a cracking sound. It may have happened during the night and annoyed whoever is in charge of my semi-conscious state—in whose view, clearly, there are times when one's strongly worded letter to the Times just can't wait until morning.

Or possibly I have been working way too hard.


29nov2007

Achewood's Ray: "Chicks are the chess of deucin'."


28nov2007No se.

I don't know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and it is impossible for me just now to know it. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me? — Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus (trans. Justin O'Brien, p. 34).


27nov2007From Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes and More Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes: Little Willie and 48 other Poetic Disasters, by Harry Graham ("Col. D. Streamer"):

CARELESS JANE
Jane, who shot her Uncle Bill,
Said his death did not affect her,
But, which makes it sadder still,
Broke my "hammerless Ejector." (17)

MR. JONES
"There's been an accident!" they said,
"Your servant's cut in half; he's dead!"
"Indeed!" said Mr. Jones, "and please
Send me the half that's got my keys." (29)

INDIFFERENCE
When Grandmamma fell off the boat,
And couldn't swim (and wouldn't float),
Matilda just stood by and smiled.
I almost could have slapped the child. (41)

TRAGEDY
That morning, when my wife eloped
With James, our chauffeur, how I moped!
What tragedies in life there are!
I'm dashed if I can start the car! (44)

QUIET FUN
My son Augustus, in the street, one day,
Was feeling quite exceptionally merry.
A stranger asked him: "Can you show me, pray,
The quickest way to Brompton Cemetery?"
"The quickest way? You bet I can!" said Gus,
And pushed the fellow underneath a bus.
Whatever people say about my son,
He does enjoy his little bit of fun. (57)

BULL'S-EYE
At rifle-practice on the sands at Deal,
I fired at what I took to be a seal.
When later on I learnt 'twas sister Florrie
And that I'd shot her, I was very sorry.
But still it gratified me just a trifle
To find myself so expert with a rifle,
For, with so large a target as my sister,
I should have been a duffer if I'd missed her. (60)


26nov2007Regional lifestyle destinations

PHOENIX, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- A Pinal County, Ariz., regional lifestyle destination today celebrates the debut of the long-awaited first phase. The Promenade at Casa Grande, at build out, will offer more than a million square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment to [a] previously underserved region.

"Regional lifestyle destination" — Is that really what we're calling shopping malls now?

I guess so. Except in Denver, which edges a nose ahead with a "super-regional lifestyle center."

"Regional lifestyle destination"? "Super-regional lifestyle center?" God, it's so sad when unemployed social scientists take jobs as press agents.

The open-air, phased Promenade at Casa Grande meets the need for retail in Pinal County and brings many first-to-market merchants to the region.

"This project is part of a long-term strategic plan to bring market-driven retail developments to Arizona," said Art Coppola, president and chief executive officer, Macerich(R) . "The integrated center will serve as a catalyst for economic vitality in Pinal County. It is perfect for the market and serves the needs of the community now and into the future."

The Promenade at Casa Grande is a part of the deep Arizona development pipeline delivered to the state by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Macerich.

Macerich's Phoenix-based Westcor division, which has a 40-year heritage. . .

"Heritage." We're going to call a history of building shopping malls a "heritage."

. . . built on ground-up shopping centers

They're grinding up shopping centers? How did I miss that grand news?

Todd Chester, principal, WDP Partners: "The vast majority of the center's retailers are first-to-market -- making this truly a regional destination."

Under no circumstances should anyone ever trust someone named "Todd."

Dillard's opened in late October with much community fanfare.

I.e., people bought stuff.

Dillard's Chief Executive Officer, William Dillard, II, commented, "The Promenade at Casa Grande is allowing Dillard's to bring exciting and fashionable choices to the area's growing population. This location is perfectly positioned. We believe the store's tone focused on upscale and modern fashions is an excellent fit for the center."

. . . adding excitedly, "Barblety barble broohah glom glom!"

Macerich now owns approximately 77 million square feet of gross leaseable area consisting primarily of interests in 73 regional malls.

Can someone do math? Is that bigger than Texas?

Man. I guess I'm behind the times; in 2005 CNN, always first on the scene of new retarded phenomena, reported on this:
"Not a mall, it's a lifestyle center":

"Upscale stores have been challenged to find new places outside of malls to set up shop," said Anita Kramer, director of retail development at the Urban Land Institute in Washington D.C. "This format creates a sort of shopping/leisure destination that's an extension of (a consumer's) personal lifestyle."

If that description sounds appealing to you, please kill yourself.

And yes, of course it's a scam:

McEwen estimates lifestyle center sales to be about $400-$500 per square foot versus $330 a square foot at a traditional mall.

I don't care how acceptable CNN makes it sound, I can't imagine anyone saying, "Where are my keys? I need to go to the lifestyle center!"


24nov2007

vs.

Tonight it was AZ Across the Board:

Congratulations to new 3A Arizona state champs, the Show Low High School Cougars . . .

. . . and condolences to outgoing 3A Arizona state champs, the Coolidge High School Bears.

Tonight cougars dance along the Deuce of Clubs!


24nov2007

Show Low vs. Coolidge! Cougars vs. Bears! I don't! Know who! To root for!


24nov2007

This is Howlin' Wolf's New Album. He doesn't like it. He didn't like his electric guitar at first either.

23nov2007GFY

Yesterday around the dinner table I mentioned Deadbolt's "GFY" business card to my sister (it was topical, okay?). Then I had to explain to my Baptist ma what GFY stands for. Today I'm wearing a WFMU wool cap that made ma very nervous until I explained that WFMU is a radio station.


22nov2007Good luck!

So you're feeling unlucky because you've got nothing to do over the high holy day(s)? But isn't two, or four, or maybe three days of ponderous time sitting heavy upon your hands pretty lucky? Damn right it is. And don't you feel like celebrating the two hundredth book featured in the Deuce of Clubs Book Club? Well, do ya? I sure do, and to prove it, instead of just one 200th book, there are thirteen 200th books! Not only that, there are two more besides! That's two books luckier than thirteen! How lucky is that?

(Two luckier. I totally gave you that one.)

So, cuddle up with a nice warm CRT and enjoy. I wish you bon-something or other—whatever's French for reading . . . lect- something, maybe. Ask Babelfish. All I know is, none of these 13+2 books of Arizona lore is written in Foo-kwah. That, too, is lucky!


21nov2007

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is now unhappy because he was put into the position of having to tell lies on behalf of the White House.

Given that telling lies on behalf of the White House pretty much the job description of a White House Press Secretary, either (a) he had no idea of the dirty job he signed up to do or (b) his book is a CYA move intended to audition for future prosecutors his value as state's witness in the unlikely event of executive branch bureaucrats ever actually having to answer for their crimes.


20nov2007A personal Oobi story

(See also: Oobiland)


19nov2007 — From Jo Walton's Farthing:

"Do you think he did it?"
"Did it?" Yately looked startled. "Mr. Normanby? He's an MP." There, Carmichael thought, in that attitude, lay the reason why the country needed Scotland Yard and could not rely on the local forces. They were good enough with ordinary criminals—with the criminal class if you like—but their ingrained and perfectly natural respect for those above them made them completely unimaginative in cases like this. "Why would he do it? It's obvious some anarchist did it." (48-9)

"Do you know what books?" Carmichael asked.
The landlord looked at him as if he had taken leave of his senses. "What books?" he echoed. "Just books . . . small ones, mostly," he added, as if that might help. It amazed Carmichael that there could be men in the world for whom the distinguishing characteristic of a book was in its size, or possibly its color. The landlord was by no means stupid. Indeed, he was far more observant than most; he'd have made a good policeman. He had probably left school at eleven or twelve and sunk his talents into managing this little business for a big brewery, his intellectual horizons ending at the far side of the bar. (237)

"They're going to introduce new ID cards with pictures on them, like passports I suppose. That'll make this sort of thing easier, and a lot of other things too. If Brown had one of those, we'd know who he was for sure."
"Any paper we can put out, some villain will find a way around it," Carmichael said, pessimistically. "And you know what they say about making things foolproof—do that, and God will come up with a better fool." (252-3)


18nov2007

Tennessee gave us the blues, via W. C. Handy, country via the Grand Ole Opry, and that strange, swiveling fusion of the two that was programmed into the android that replaced the infant Elvis Presley. But let me answer the question that is really on your mind. To clarify: while similar, and also made from sour mash, "Tennessee Whiskey" is not bourbon at all, but a barroom euphemism for the semen of an intoxicated person after it has been filtered through ten feet of maple charcoal. This naturally will not be confused with the "true whiskeys" of Jack Daniel's and other fine Tennessee distillers, for it is obvious at first taste that these are DELICIOUS WHISKEYS and NOT SEMEN.
— John Hodgman, The Areas Of My Expertise

In other whiskey news:

Historic Whiskey Could Go Down Drain
Hundreds of bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey, some of it almost 100 years old, may be unceremoniously poured down a drain because authorities suspect it was being sold by someone without a license. . . .
Tennessee law requires officials to destroy whiskey that cannot be sold legally in the state, such as bottles designed for sale overseas and those with broken seals.
"We'd pour it out," said Danielle Elks, executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
The estimated value of the liquor is $1 million, possibly driven up by the value of the antique bottles, which range from 3-liter bottles to half-pints. . . .
Christopher Carlsson, a spirits connoisseur and collector in Rochester, N.Y., said old vintages of whiskey in their original containers are highly prized.
"A lot of these bottles are priceless," he said. "It's like having a rare painting. It's heavily collected."

(via Bureaucrash)


17nov2007Irony-free government marches on: Liberty Dollars impounded; a tax on your view is not a view tax

Federal goons finally came down on the Liberty Dollar people. Bastards.

(Someday, under "enhanced interrogation," I'll be forced to claim that by "bastards" I meant the Liberty Dollar people. I'd like to apologize to them in advance. You know how it is, under torture a person will say anything to stop the pain. That's why it's such a reliable and necessary information gathering tool for our Central Intelligence Agency and its outsourced torture chamber operators.)

"According to the e-mail, about a dozen agents arrived Wednesday morning and seized gold, silver, platinum and nearly two tons of recently delivered Ron Paul Dollars. They also took all the files, all the computers and froze the group's bank accounts."

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, tax vultures are taxing your view (although they refuse to call it a View Tax):

The one-room cabin David Bischoff built in a cow pasture three years ago has no electricity, no running water, no phone service and no driveway. What it does have is a wide-open view of nearby hills and distant mountains—which makes it seven times more valuable than if it had no view, according to the latest townwide property assessment. He expects his property taxes to shoot up accordingly.
Bischoff and other Orford residents bitterly call that a "view tax," and they are leading a revolt against it that has gained support in many rural towns in New Hampshire (search).
State officials say there is no such thing as a "view tax"—it is a "view factor," and it has always been a part of property assessments. The only change is that views have become so valuable in some towns that assessors are giving them a separate line on appraisal records.
The change has stirred passions in Orford, a town of 1,040 that overlooks the Connecticut River and has views of neighboring Vermont and the White Mountains (search).
One big reason the reassessment has alarmed townspeople in Orford and beyond is that housing prices—and consequently property taxes—are shooting up in New England because of an influx of vacation-home buyers and retirees willing to pay top dollar for beautiful views. . . .

At a packed legislative hearing, Orford timberland owner Tom Thomson warned that unless the state acts, rising property taxes will force family farmers to sell to developers, permanently altering New Hampshire's rural character. . . .

Guy Petell, director of property appraisals for the state, is sympathetic. But real estate ads and sales prove that properties with views fetch a premium, and it would be unfair to homeowners without views to ignore that, Petell said. . . .

In Bischoff's case, the view added $140,000 to his property's underlying value of $22,900. As a result, he expects his property taxes to jump from less than $500 last year to more than $3,000 this year. . . .

Retired engineer John Chandler objected when a revaluation doubled the value of his property in Hill because of its view of the White Mountains in the distance. Chandler noted that he does not own the view and cannot control it, and said it is increasingly obscured by air pollution.
Besides, he is legally blind.
"I'm not enjoying that view, at least not as much as Avitar thinks I should be," he said.

In an interview, New Hampshire tax collector Guy Petell (603.224.3437) expresses the classic double-think and amorality of the order follower:

Dave Ridley: Mr. Petell, what is the "View Tax?"
Guy Petell: "View Tax?" There is no "View Tax."
Dave Ridley: Thought you would say that. . . .

Dave Ridley: Just on a moral basis, do you feel it's right to force homeowners to pay for a tax that funds things they may not agree with?
Guy Petell: Uh . . . I . . . uh . . . I'm not sure I wanna answer that. . . . We're here . . . to enforce the laws that are passed by the legislature, not to pass judgment on what is passed, on what they want us to do.

Yeah, yeah. Heard it before. Just following orders, you didn't kill anyone, you just typed up the death notices, or drove the trains, or ordered the supplies, or manufactured the gas, blah blah blah &c.

The way I see it, there's a basic problem of approach, here. There's a piece of hardware that would be worth sticking in the faces of people like Guy Petell, but it's not a camera. Petell is one of multitudes who commit crimes on behalf of an abstraction—the state—and doubtless considers himself blameless. Petell is only a thief, but you'll hear the exact same justifications from those who commit murder for the state (Godwin's Law Alert):

"These misdeeds were committed against my will. I did not will the murder."
"I didn't kill them, did I? I didn't hang them and I didn't shoot them. This was done by the government."

To Adolf Eichmann's mind it wasn't he who was to blame for any deaths, but an abstract noun—it was "the government" who killed millions of people. When his interrogators pointed out that it had been Eichmann's job to set the quota of Jews to be deported, he readily agreed but still denied personal responsibility: "Well, yes, but. . .it wasn't me," he said. "These were not personal decisions. They were not personal decisions." This is what becomes of order-followers. "If they had told me that my own father was a traitor and I had to kill him, I'd have done it. At that time I obeyed my orders without thinking, I just did as I was told. That's where I found my—how shall I say?—my fulfillment."

So Godwin's Law me all you want—yes, today's order followers tend to steal more than murder, but the principle's the same. I don't agree that any level of government crime is acceptable as long as it falls short of the fucking Third Reich.

(Apologies for the rant. If you're not tired of reading about amoral shitheads, you can read about the thievery of Dolores "Dodie" Doolittle.)


16nov2007SECRET CODED MESSAGE FOR SLEEPER AGENTS PLANTED IN ARIZONA

Jimmy Smits sounds like Lou Grubb.

Repeat:

Jimmy Smits sounds like Lou Grubb.

Also:

HAPPY HUMAN NATURE DAY


15nov2007

"You don't punish a child for the crime of the parent." — Presidential candidate and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee

"The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." — King James Bible (Num. 14:18)


14nov2007The Deuce(s) is (are) Loose

"Get the Deuce of Clubs in any game and get $5!"

Extra Loose: Get more than one Deuce of Clubs in any game and get a beating from casino goons!


13nov2007Pistol Packing Feds (via LewRockwell.com)

The fundamental difference between government and private entities which perform comparable functions is that government, based upon the supposed notion of a “social contract”, reserves to itself the use of force to achieve its ends. Such coercion at the hands of other, non-governmental, players (for example, price-fixing, abuse of a monopoly position, intimidation of competitors or labour unions, etc.) is rightly deemed criminal and often aggressively prosecuted by the state (with perhaps some of its zeal due to aversion to competition). Yet the very same acts, performed by authorities elected with 51% of the votes or appointed to act on their behalf, is presented to the public and in the legacy media as entirely benign: in "the public interest."
At the peak of the coercive pyramid is the bare fact that the government can kill you and get away with it. . . .
[T]he real power of the state is embodied in government agents who carry weapons and wield arrest authority within its own territory for use against its own citizens and residents. Let's take a glance at the United States, a country of about 300 million people, and see how many agents of its federal government are entitled to pack lethal force and arrest people within its borders. . . .
[F]or about every 3000 residents of the U.S., there is one Federal agent entitled to carry a firearm to murder them on behalf of their consensual government. Now this may not seem like very many, but note that in the United States regular law enforcement—the cops—is entirely the responsibility of state and local government; the gunguys and gungals listed above are a layer on top of that, beholden only to the central power in Washington. . . .
[L]ook at what ultimately happens if you don't pay your taxes: there are 2,777 employees of the Internal Revenue Service authorised to carry weapons to shoot you down. Further down the list, we find that the Department of Health and Human Services has need of 374 pistol-packing Inspectors General to maintain its own departmental health by threatening human life. . . .
The Library of Congress keeps 116 terminators on staff—better return that book on time when you borrow it from them! The Department of Education manages with 97 armed enforcers (do your homework, kiddies), and the National Institutes of Health employs 75 minions authorised to impact the health of those who cross them with the most invasive of therapies. Even the National Institute of Standards and Technology has 28 precision gunsels on its roster, presumably to liquidate those who might try to slip in a spurious leap second in order to slack off after a wild New Year's party.
What's striking about this is that comparable organisations in the private sector seem to get along just fine without all the hired killers.


12nov2007Terror Tops the Bill on FOX News Live (YouTube)

"This is a Fox News alert, and one you need to pay attention to!"

I truly do not understand why Fox News bothers paying salaries to humans to simulate journalists when it's obvious they could produce highly rated Fox News programs by building a miniature news set, placing a series of live chickens behind the desk, and shocking them in the anus for an hour at a time.

News Chicken: BWA BWA BWA BAWWWWWWWWK!
Fox News Viewer: OMG TERRORISM! (Turns TV volume higher)


11nov2007INVESTIGATE FISH FARM


10nov2007Lou Minatti says: "PLEASE REMIND YOUR READERS . . . that November 16 is HUMAN NATURE DAY"

Oops, I seem to have left my human nature at the office.

Lou Minatti adds: "This very important holiday comes up on one like a cold needling feeling down the back of the neck, as the morning light pours in..........."

God, do I remember that feeling. Strangely, it went away about the same time I stopped forcing myself to go to offices.


09nov2007Among the qualifications we sought were a happy indifference to one's personal well-being and a demonstrated aptitude for reasonable mayhem. — Don Kropp, leader of the Stanford Axe Recovery Team

Stanford Axe Stolen! Don Kropp and the Stanford Axe Recovery Team

For those tuning in late, some accounts of the exploit(s) of the Stanford Axe Recovery Team, which inspired this website's slogan-in-chief:

STANFORD REGAINS THE AXE

The Last of the Immortals

Original Pranksters: The "Immortal 21" went down in legend for their infamous Axe theft ("Carl Hayden, a U.S. Senator from Arizona, sent a telegram to Stanford congratulating the '21' for avenging his reputation - Hayden was one of the Stanford students from whom the Axe was originally stolen.")


08nov2007

cleverclevergirl: DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION IS THE NEW PUNK ROCK


07nov2007"Wann fährt der nächste Komet?"

1997 (Wikipedia): Heaven's Gate was the name of an American religious group led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. The group's end coincided with the appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. Applewhite convinced thirty-eight followers to commit suicide so that their souls could take a ride on a spaceship that they believed was hiding behind the comet carrying Jesus.

2007 (Sky & Telescope): The strangest comet to burst onto the celestial scene in our lifetime is easy to see with your bare eyes—even if your sky is fairly light-polluted. . . . Amateur astronomers the world over have been stunned and amazed by the weirdest new object to appear in the sky in memory. And it's one of the brightest, too—it's easy to spot with your eyes alone if you know where to look. On October 24th, periodic Comet Holmes (17P) brightened dramatically—by nearly a million times—virtually overnight. For no apparent reason, the comet erupted from a very dim magnitude 17 to about magnitude 2½. Within a day its starlike nucleus had expanded into a perfectly round, bright little disk visible in binoculars and telescopes. It looked like no comet ever seen.

"No apparent reason"?—or could it be that Marshall Applewhite's calculations were simply off by ten years?

The following message, intercepted in October 2007, originated from behind Comet Holmes (period: 7 years), addressed to the surviving members of Heaven's Gate:

n00bs U TRIED 2 HOP TEH WRONG COMET. AYSOS? RTFM & CU IRL IN 7 YRS KBYE

(Apologies to Michael Jaeger and Gerald Rhemann)

+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=

(Update: At about half past midnight, just after posting that, I was lying on a diving board looking through binoculars at Comet Holmes when a fiery meteor streaked right across the center of the binoculars' field of vision. "Speak, Mother Ship, for thy servant heareth.")


06nov2007In re: Tucson's Hacienda Brothers

Discussing Gonzalez and Penns mutual passion for working on cars, Gaffney offers, "They're both greasers. They'll spot some ol' pile of shit in the middle of a field and act like they've seen a girl for the first time."


05nov2007


04nov2007Glozell: "Kelsey Grammer is an Honorary Black Person!"

My mother who has been out of work is hanging out with my Aunt Mary. My Aunt Mary is a Funeral Crasher... She looks in the obituaries find the best funerals . Auntie Mary goes to a funeral up to four times a week. The young ones have the most people...and the most food.
Aunt Mary helps in the kitchen at the church with her to go containers fix her a plate to go, and eats another plate there.She nver has to cook or buy food! She has been doing this for over 20 years. Most people think that they are related to her because they see her at the funeral. She doesn't even know the people.


03nov2007

The state is a band of thieves writ large

02nov2007Nothing That Couldn't Be Remedied By The 2nd Amendment Department

Pumpkins a taxing problem in Iowa — The Iowa Department of Revenue is taxing jack-o'-lanterns this Halloween. The new department policy was implemented after officials decided that pumpkins are used primarily for Halloween decorations, not food, and should be taxed, said Renee Mulvey, the department's spokeswoman. (via Bureaucrash)

Anything done under the guise of consent can be done by consent. Men and women pretending to be "government" only have to do one thing different . . . provide their services on a voluntary basis like everybody else.The Government Hoax (via End the War on Freedom)

The Picket Line republishes a nineteenth-century account of an unfortunately contemporary-sounding problem: property tax bullshit:

Julia Smith: I asked him why our assessment was more than last year, for we laid up no money and did not intend to. He replied, the assessor had a right to add to our tax as much as he pleased, and he had assessed our house and homestead a hundred dollars more. To be sure it increased our tax but a little, but what is unjust in least is unjust in much.

Abbey Smith: We are wholly in the power of those we have come to address. You have the power over our property to take it from us whenever you choose, and we can have no voice in the matter whatever, not even to say what shall be done with it, and no power to appeal to; we are perfectly defenseless. Can you wonder, then, we should wish to speak with you?
People do not generally hold power without exercising it, and those who exercise it do not appear to have the least idea of its injustice. The Southern slaveholder only possessed the same power that you have to rule over us. "Happy dog," he would say of his slave, "I have given him everything; I am the slave, and he the master; does he complain? give him ten lashes." The slaveholder really thought they had done so much for their slaves they would not leave them, when the great consideration was, the slave wanted control of his own earnings; and so does every human being of what rightfully belongs to him. . . .
We had two hundred dollars taken from us in this way the past year, by the same power the robber takes his money, because we are defenceless and cannot resist. But the robber would have the whole community against him, and he would not be apt to come but once; but from the men of our town we are never safe — they can come in and take our money from us just when they choose. . . .
We have paid the town of Glastonbury during the last six years more than $1000, and for what? to be ruled over and be put under, what all the citizens know to be the lowest and worthless of any in the place. We ask only for ourselves and our property. Why should we be cast out? Why should we be outlawed? We should be glad to stay in our homestead where we were born and have always lived, the little time we have to stay, and to be buried with our family and ancestors, but its pleasantness is gone, for we know we do not hold it in security as our neighbors hold theirs; that it is liable to be taken from us whenever the town sees fit.

In the 21st century things haven't changed in the Land o' Duh Fwee. This year Pinal County is doing me in the eye even worse than they did last year. Check it out:

Last year: $ 959.56
This year: $1,672.12

Last year I considered it robbery enough to hand over $959.56 at gunpoint. Pinal County disagreed, and smacked me with a single-year increase of nearly 75%.

Now, my land receives exactly zero county services—it's remote desert land, where the county doesn't even grade the dirt trails. Not that I want any county services—I don't. But I don't get any, is what I'm saying. Furthermore, most of the money seized from me will be handed over gratis to school districts that are growing only because of rampant new development, which benefits no one but greedy county politicians and local turdhead developers such as Don Diamond—a lump of shit who has destroyed vast tracts of pristine Sonoran desert in exchange for a personal worth of about half a BILLION dollars and who nevertheless tried to steal my little patch of desert from under me by fucking with my deal while it was in escrow. One day I'll piss on his grave, but it'll be lousy satisfaction in comparison to the pissings that scumbags such as Don Diamond rain on the rest of us by using government's monopoly of legal violence to force us to pay to increase their already massive personal wealth—even those of us who have been careful never to spawn any schoolchildren. It's a great thing, this imaginary "social contract"—if you know how to work it (and no conscience prevents you from doing so).

It's alleged that "the homebuilder also is donating 26 acres for two K-8 schools in the area and plans to work with the Red Rock Elementary School District to find funding to build the schools. Red Rock's elementary school has 93 students." No one should be surprised that they managed to "find" the "funding" in the pockets of others.

Personally, (A) I don't want the desert bladed under for any more 4,000-home "master-planned communities"; (B) as mentioned, I have no children, and (C) I despise government schools in the first place. (As a kid, I was forced to endure Pinal County's idea of schooling—believe me, they should be paying me.) Yet, if I don't want my land siezed or to be sent to prison, I have to pay for institutions that I would gladly pay the same amount to destroy.

It's an odd situation. If I were accused of having fathered a child by some stranger and could prove beyond a biological doubt that I had in fact not fathered the child, I could not legally be forced to contribute to the support of the stranger's child. But under this official money-making scheme, even though I can prove I have no children—even if I were to offer proof of a vasectomy—I can never free myself of being forced to contribute to the support of an endless parade of the children of strangers.

Challenge: See whether you can explain (without resorting to the imaginary construct known as the "social contract") how this is consistent with human freedom.


01nov2007Somewhere in the top five of the weirdest things I've ever overheard (at least at In-N-Out Burger)

A four-member nuclear family sits down to lunch. Pa, Ma, Boy Toddler and Girl Toddler. They begin eating. Suddenly:

Father (in a leading tone of voice, as if for the thousandth time): And what's lycopene good for?
Boy Toddler: Prostate!
Father: Yes. Good.

What an incredible household that must be to grow up in.

Father: Hey, little man, guess what you're getting for your birthday? That's right—it's the My First Proctological Exam Playset!
Boy Toddler: WEEEEEEEE! YAAAAAAAAY!
Girl Toddler:ONOESmyasshurtsalready!
Mother: (Overwhelming pride prevents speech)

If the mother hadn't been there, I'd have asked the father WTF?!??, or at least questioned Boy Toddler.

Me: And what's patricide good for?

But you don't question family shit in front of mothers, unless dealing with irrational apeshit behavior turns you on (in which case, you're already married and up to here with it). Guys don't care so much when you question their parenting strategies (except in front of the wife), but mothers themselves? They would gladly crush your skull and tear the flesh from your bones in wide strips. Ask a bear.

Once I heard a fast-food family story about a Buttinski (told by the Buttinski himself, who really had no idea how much of a Buttinski he was) who was eating on the patio of a fast-food place and spied a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette. Being a Buttinski, he couldn't help but approach her in his kindest, most condescending manner.

Buttinski: Excuse me, ma'am? Did you know that smoking is unhealthy for your unborn child?
Mother: (calmly and deliberately exhaling two lungs full of smoke and fixing Buttinski with a withering glare) If I had a gun right now, I would shoot you.

Of course, this was before the nation's Buttinskis somehow managed to take over and get government to do their work for them—nowadays it's pretty much legally classed as child abuse to take your kid to a fast-food joint in the first place.


31oct2007Kissing Hank's Ass


30oct2007News report

BAGHDAD (AP) — A U.S. brigadier general was wounded in a roadside bombing Monday in northern Baghdad, the U.S. military reported. He was the highest-ranking American officer to be hurt since the conflict began in March 2003.

His name: Jeffrey Dorko.

Not even Devo had the balls to go that far.

Think of it: General Dorko.

Come on. Seriously? A guy named DORKO managed to reach the rank of Brigadier General?

This is cause for alarm. Such a man could be unstoppable. If he survives his injuries, such a man could be elected the next president of Warmongeria. Dorko's wounds are in fact reported to be "non-life-threatening," so White House flunkies may soon be saying:

"Welcome to the Oval Office, President Dickwad! I mean, Dorko!"

It takes a certain type of person to thrive in a situation where he knows for certain that every single one of his subordinates goes "Dorko <snicker>" every time he walks past.

(Type of person it takes: An oblivious asshole. See? Perfect for the Oval Office!)


29oct2007"Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase, and so is John Dean."

Their speech also sounds similar, except that John Dean can be humorous at times.

(See also)

And furthermore: "But the book opens with one of the funniest moments, the author trying to contact Bill Murray. When finally reaching Murray on the phone and telling him that she is writing a book on Chevy, he states “What a stupid thing to do! Why on earth would you want to write a biography on Chevy?” He eventually says “F*** you” and hangs up on her."


28oct2007We had ties that could not be broken, except by the passing of time. Like a rock. A broken time rock. And you're very special to me, my broken time rock people.Nathan Fillion


27oct2007"Never go with a hippie to a second location." — Jack Donaghy

The most recent 30 Rock episode hit on nine cylinders.

(Nine cylinders is better than eight cylinders. By one.)

No one gives better reaction shot than Tina Fey. I don't care how many cylinders they have.


26oct2007

lara7 writes: this reminded me of "dedicated/inscribed to the one I love":


25oct2007Helpful Hint

In future, states should perhaps be tested for flammability before being admitted to the union.

Update: Carrie points out how the State of California is once again trying to draft me as a prophet, based on my comments of 05oct. (Sorry, California; I can't afford the tax hit.)


22oct2007Remember the 5th of November


20oct2007

Pamela Adlon, who voices Bobby Hill on King of the Hill, has a role in the ludicrously named Duchovny Showtime series Californication. There are scenes where I think we're suppposed to find her sexy. But that voice. Ummmmm . . . damn. I wonder how her husband handles that. ("She's NOT Bobby Hill [shiver] . . . she's NOT Bobby Hill [shiver] . . . she's NOT Bobby Hill. . . she's NOT. . . .")


16oct2007"Just as every cop is a criminal" . . . don't forget prosecutors

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies have recently been playing some new games—on-duty enforcement competitions that have police watchers across the country crying foul.
One recent competition, described in an internal Sheriff's Department e-mail obtained by The Times, was called "Operation Any Booking." The object was to arrest as many people as possible within a specific 24-hour period.
Other one-day competitions have included "Operation Vehicle Impound," a contest aimed at seizing as many cars as possible. And another challenged deputies to see how many gang members and other suspected criminals could be stopped and questioned. . . .
"It's just a friendly competition to have a little fun out here." ("Deputies compete in arrest contests")

It doesn't get any better the next step up the chain:

At the federal prosecutor's office in the Southern District of New York, the staff, over beer and pretzels, used to play a darkly humorous game. Junior and senior prosecutors would sit around, and someone would name a random celebrity—say, Mother Theresa or John Lennon.

It would then be up to the junior prosecutors to figure out a plausible crime for which to indict him or her. The crimes were not usually rape, murder, or other crimes you'd see on Law & Order but rather the incredibly broad yet obscure crimes that populate the U.S. Code like a kind of jurisprudential minefield: Crimes like "false statements" (a felony, up to five years), "obstructing the mails" (five years), or "false pretenses on the high seas" (also five years). The trick and the skill lay in finding the more obscure offenses that fit the character of the celebrity and carried the toughest sentences. The, result, however, was inevitable: "prison time." (Tim Wu, "American Lawbreaking"; via Boing Boing)


15oct2007 — From White Heart of Mojave, by Edna Brush Perkins:

Walls, the walls of her family, of her feminist campaigns, of her entire privileged, upper-class existence—that's what Edna Brush Perkins wanted to break through. She wanted to let her hair down, exult in the freedom of wild nature waiting for her in the Mojave Desert of Southern California.
Traveling west in 1920 on this tense edge of hope, she anticipated "that sudden sense of romance" indicating "something big" that would take her by storm, and when it came, as many a romantic learns, she almost had more than she'd bargained for. When it came, the kitten had turned into a tiger. The desert ravished her in a way she'd never forget.
(Intro, 3-4)

What unique fun! With their new closeness to the earth, as the great, godlike fun soared up once again, they almost, right there in camp, stripped off their clothes and danced naked with joy. (5-6)

Was the desert just a white space like that? The word had a mixed connotation, it suggested monotony, sterility, death—and also big open spaces, gold and blue sunsets, and fascination. We recollected that some author had written about the "terrible fascination" of the desert. The white blank on the map looked very wild and lonely. We went to Los Angeles on the Santa Fe in order to see what it might contain. (14)

I wondered if we might not go to the Imperial Valley and see that strange thing, the new Salton Sea, a lake in the desert. (17)

We persevered until we found a real old-timer. He was known as Shady Myrick. We never discovered his Christian name though he was a famous desert character. Wherever we went afterward everyone knew Shady. Evidently his name was not descriptive for all agreed on his honesty and goodness. . . . The desert held him for her own as she does all old-timers. He was under the "terrible fascination." (36)

[From the Conclusion, by Peter Wild:] Nearing the end of his life, Francis Marion "Shady" Myrick was exactly as presented and more, if only Mrs. Perkins had known. He was an old-timer par excellence, the Mojave's foremost prospector for precious gems, a rescuer of greenhorns who foolishly wandered off ill-equipped for gold, and a befriender of newcomers. (258)

Perhaps some day a supreme singer will come around that point and adequately interpret that thrilling repose, that patience, that terror and beauty as part of the impassive, splendid life that always compasses our turbulent littleness around. (95)

"You find fellers dead down there," he said. "And they don't die of thirst, either. Sometimes there's water in the canteens. They just go crazy. She gets 'em."
He leaned closer across the table and his voice became lower.
"And you hear 'em in the night," he whispered.
"Hear who?"
"Them. I call it the Lonesome Bell."
"What is the Lonesome Bell?" We found ourselves whispering too.
"You hear it. It's a bell. It rings regular, far off. Sometimes you hear it all night. It sounds like the bell on a burro. But it ain't nothing. Once I had a young feller for a partner, and when he heard it he got up and made coffee for the outfit that was coming. He wouldn't believe me when I told him it wasn't nothing but the Lonesome Bell. He waited and waited and nobody came. And the next morning he packed up and beat it."
(107-8)

[From the Conclusion, by Peter Wild:] Old Johnnie's ghost story about the Lonesome Bell fortifies Perkins' major premise, that the Mojave is a land of mysteries. The miner's story may be nothing more than the whim-whams of an old man addled by loneliness and delighted to have an audience of tenderfeet visibly spooked by his tale. On the other hand, the desert is a strange place that takes men to strange places in their minds. Either way, the story of the ghost bell is both entertaining and perfectly believable as in character for Old Johnnie. (261)

"He ought to have known better. But they never learn. They always think they will make it this time."
Everywhere that attitude toward accidents on the desert was typical. "Old Johnnie" told his most gruesome tales as though the victims were to blame. The valley was an enemy to be out-generaled; if you were a fool, of course she would get you. It was a pity when she did, inevitable and not very important. They were not callous, for they included themselves in the "inevitable and not very important."
(138-9)

What are eight miles or fifteen miles to the modern man accustomed to leap over distance? To the primitive traveler with horses and mules, and until now all travelers throughout the ages have been thus primitive, a mile is a formidable reality. Mojave teaches the truth about it. (150)

We . . . found large white stones laid in the form of a cross pointing toward the east. Another traveler, then, had stopped here. Perhaps he had looked at the red promontory and the spiral cliff and lost hope; perhaps he had prayed for water; or perhaps he had made it as a thank-offering for the blessed coming of cool night. (154)

We now know what becomes of all the old shoes in the world; they are spirited away to the desert. (157)

All three of us packed as speedily as we could. It was a disorderly packing, as we could scarcely stand before the wind, and were almost blinded by the sand. (213)


14oct2007

There are books I cannot finish. I'm not talking about 800-page Dostoevsky novels. Those are cake. I'm talking about a book such as Jordan Fisher Smith's Nature Noir, whose author's personality comes through so clearly and odiously in the first couple dozen pages that it's not worth one's time to continue.

By the time Smith mentions the Beach Ball Baby, it's already obvious who the real ball baby of the story is. A more accurate title for Nature Noir would be The Crybaby Bully Who Thought Himself a Hero.

Jordan Fisher Smith typifies the personality type that covets a uniform and a citation book, a personality type I can't help but despise (and not merely because one person of this type, Mary Martin, wantonly and unilaterally destroyed the Mojave Phone Booth):

I remember I wanted, more than anything, a ranger uniform and a citation book. (3)

Unarmed and entirely untrained for police work, one day I happened to walk into a campsite full of people who didn't think much of my uniform or the government I represented. When the yelling and shoving were over I was physically intact, but the idea that people could always be dissuaded from breaking the law by a lecture or a small piece of pink paper with no immediate consequences was slowly dying in me. (3)

In the case of the rangers who appear in these stories. . . . In their own way each of them did a good job under the toughest conditions imaginable, yet they never wanted to be known as heroes, and now they deserve their peace and quiet. (5)

You hit the lights and siren and drive better than you normally do, think sharper than you normally do. The people in other cars look at you as you pass them on a mountain road and at intersections the cars part for you like the Red Sea for Moses. It is an acceptable substitute for reality; it's fleeting, but it keeps you believing in what you do. (11)

The way it worked with us, as soon as the adrenal part was over, someone would have to pay for all the fun. You paid by having to write the whole thing up, a process that could take an hour of note taking in the field and several hours to a couple of days back at the Ranger station. (13)

Perhaps there was some purpose served by that man's survival, some good he would do later to redeem himself. By the time of the Beach Ball Baby I was beginning to tell myself things like that. In any case, a park ranger is a protector. You protect the land from the people, the people from the land, the people from each other, and the people from themselves. It's what you are trained to do without even thinking, a reflexive and unconditional act. If you're lucky, you get assigned to people who seem worth saving and land and waters whose situation is not hopeless. If not, you save them anyway. And maybe in time, saving them will make them worth it. (19-20)

Once a year, the department's armorer would show up at our ranger station to inspect our guns. One by one, he'd disassemble them, and you could see him shaking his head and lifting his elbows as he applied himself to cleaning out the brown gunk. After a couple of days of this, still shaking his head, he would depart. And in the aftermath of his visits none of us ever received one of those congratulatory memos from headquarters for exemplary care of our equipment, as rangers did in those tidy little nature parks with neat little campgrounds on paved roads and no bullet holes in the signs. (22)

A good many of the men I met in the American River canyons carried guns (in case of rattle snakes, they always told me), so I wore my bulletproof vest every day. (23)

As I'm reading a book, I'm taking notes and writing down page numbers of passages I'll later upload to Deuce of Clubs. Here's as far as I got with Nature Noir:

3 shithead
6 cunt
13 prick
19-20 "without thinking," is right
22 boo-hoo
23 coward

The good side: I got this crappy book secondhand. I already have to cough up money at gunpoint to adrenalin junkie parasites like Jordan Fisher Smith every April 15th—no way I'd give a single nickel voluntarily.


12oct2007

Q: If you had a housepainting business, would you name it SLOSHES?

A: You might, if you weren't all that interested in painting houses. I can't think of a more perfect name than SLOSHES—especially paired with the sloppy paint drips logo—for driving away potential customers. Because, who wants to paint houses, anyway?


11oct2007

1890: New York socialite Frederick Geen releases 100 European lobsters in Central Park. The "great scrambling," as he called it, was part of his poetic effort to introduce to America every kind of animal ever mentioned in Shakespeare. ("[The king] forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer. But I will find him when he lies asleep, and in his ear I'll holler 'Mortimer!' Nay, I'll have a lobster shall be taught to speak nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him to keep his anger still in motion." Henry IV) The result, however: chaos.

— John Hodgman, The Areas Of My Expertise, p. 79


10oct2007 — From Valerie Tarico's Ridding God of His Maggots:

A couple years ago, I sat down in Starbucks with an earnest young couple who hoped to win a convert, and they asked me (among other things), "What is the problem you have with the Bible?" And I said, "Well, for starters, there are those verses in Genesis and Joshua where God gives a bunch of land to his favorite blood line, despite the fact that it's already occupied by other herdsmen and subsistence farmers. And he doesn't just allow them—he actually commands them to kill every single man woman and child, even the livestock—except that in some battles they are allowed to keep the virgin girls for themselves."

And the husband, who spoke for the two, said, "You have to understand how evil those people were. They were engaged in human sacrifice, they were, killing children and laying their bodies on the altar of their god, Baal. They were the first abortionists, they had to be destroyed!"

And I said, "Every person? No baby was to innocent, no old person to helpless, no slave too indentured?"

And he said, "Yes. They were like a poison in the land. They would have seeped into the tribes of Israel and contaminated them, destroying their faith in God."

And I said, "But everyone? Can you imagine any village, any place in which every person is so evil that they deserve capital punishment? Every single person, no exceptions?

And he said, "Yes. I feel that way sometimes about Fremont."

Perhaps you weren't expecting that. I wasn't either. I sat there thinking, "Wow, I am in the presence of the human genocidal impulse. And not only am I witnessing it in this otherwise normal, moral person in front of me, I am feeling it in myself, because what he said is so terrifying to me that if I could push a button and make all people like him disappear right now, I would." I don't know if I was more horrified by what I saw in him or myself.


09oct2007Get back, Jo Jo

Doc: So many people you know and so many people I know are going through hard times right now. What's going on? Good thing I don't believe in astrology.

Babs: I was gonna say, if I believed in something hokey, I could tell you. . . . Maybe Jo Jo the Dog-faced God is upset.


08oct2007MANDIBLE MODIFICATION: ACTIVATED*

Mandible Remix CLEARED FOR GO

(*Team America)


07oct2007Pressure

"Pressure is nothing,'' Hernandez said. "I got more pressure when I live in Cuba and I get up in the morning looking for something ... and don't find nothing.''


05oct2007

There is much less fire in the real world than in the movie world.

Update: And now the movie world is on fire. I have no category for this.


04oct2007Alerted

andre torrez writes:

Alex Ross has been tracking Wagner's rise to #1 on the Amazon mp3 charts.

Someone alert the OG Deuce.

Marginally related: Wagner's Libertarian Masterpiece by Thomas Schmidt


03oct2007

I heard that radio station promo again: "No suggestive lyrics here to embarrass you in front of your kids or clients!"

They went straight from that to "Young Girl." Because how could a song that contemplates statutory rape bother kids or clients?

Young girl, get out of my mind
My love for you is way out of line
Better run, girl,
You're much too young, girl

With all the charms of a woman
You've kept the secret of your youth
You led me to believe
You're old enough
To give me love
And now it hurts to know the truth

Beneath your perfume and make-up
You're just a baby in disguise
And though you know
That it is wrong to be
Alone with me
That come-on look is in your eyes

So hurry home to your mama
I'm sure she wonders where you are
Get out of here
Before I have the time
To change my mind
'Cause I'm afraid we'll go too far

What do you know, they're right! Nothing there to embarrass any kids or clients who happen to be in the Cho-Mo wing down at the State Pen.


02oct2007"Open up! It's the Bros!"

"Don't tase me, Bro!" could be the new "Don't shoot, G-Men!" I like the Big Brother tie-in but I'm just not prepared to call any government employee Bro.


01oct2007TV Spotlight

30 Rock is about to kick off its second season. Great show, and what a great surprise. It's so great when a hidden talent manifests itself. I mean, who knew Lorne Michaels could produce comedy?


30sep2007Unsolicited Commercial Testimonial

"The exclusive DiamondWeaveTM pattern lets just the right amount of shit through to my fingers! No wonder people are batshit for Charmin!"


28sep2007 — From Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning was the Command Line (free download at cryptonomicon.com):

This is exactly how the World Wide Web works: the HTML files are the pithy description on the paper tape, and your Web browser is Ronald Reagan. The same is true of Graphical User Interfaces in general. (18)

Hostility towards Microsoft is not difficult to find on the Net, and it blends two strains: resentful people who feel Microsoft is too powerful, and disdainful people who think it's tacky. This is all strongly reminiscent of the heyday of Communism and Socialism, when the bourgeoisie were hated from both ends: by the proles, because they had all the money, and by the intelligentsia, because of their tendency to spend it on lawn ornaments. Microsoft is the very embodiment of modern high-tech prosperity--it is, in a word, bourgeois--and so it attracts all of the same gripes. (25)

Nothing is more annoying to sophisticated people to see someone who is rich enough to know better being tacky--unless it is to realize, a moment later, that they probably know they are tacky and they simply don't care and they are going to go on being tacky, and rich, and happy, forever. Microsoft therefore bears the same relationship to the Silicon Valley elite as the Beverly Hillbillies did to their fussy banker, Mr. Drysdale--who is irritated not so much by the fact that the Clampetts moved to his neighborhood as by the knowledge that, when Jethro is seventy years old, he's still going to be talking like a hillbilly and wearing bib overalls, and he's still going to be a lot richer than Mr. Drysdale. (28)

In this way the OS business is very different from, say, the car business. Even an old rundown car has some value. You can use it for making runs to the dump, or strip it for parts. It is the fate of manufactured goods to slowly and gently depreciate as they get old and have to compete against more modern products.
But it is the fate of operating systems to become free.
(37)

Why, then, do I say that Microsoft is not such a great operating systems company? Because the very nature of operating systems is such that it is senseless for them to be developed and owned by a specific company. It's a thankless job to begin with. Applications create possibilities for millions of credulous users, whereas OSes impose limitations on thousands of grumpy coders, and so OS-makers will forever be on the shit-list of anyone who counts for anything in the high-tech world. Applications get used by people whose big problem is understanding all of their features, whereas OSes get hacked by coders who are annoyed by their limitations. The OS business has been good to Microsoft only insofar as it has given them the money they needed to launch a really good applications software business and to hire a lot of smart researchers. Now it really ought to be jettisoned, like a spent booster stage from a rocket. The big question is whether Microsoft is capable of doing this. Or is it addicted to OS sales in the same way as Apple is to selling hardware? (37-8)

In your high school geology class you probably were taught that all life on earth exists in a paper-thin shell called the biosphere, which is trapped between thousands of miles of dead rock underfoot, and cold dead radioactive empty space above. Companies that sell OSes exist in a sort of technosphere. Underneath is technology that has already become free. Above is technology that has yet to be developed, or that is too crazy and speculative to be productized just yet. Like the Earth's biosphere, the technosphere is very thin compared to what is above and what is below. (43)

Never mind how Microsoft used to make money; today, it is making its money on a kind of temporal arbitrage. "Arbitrage," in the usual sense, means to make money by taking advantage of differences in the price of something between different markets. It is spatial, in other words, and hinges on the arbitrageur knowing what is going on simultaneously in different places. Microsoft is making money by taking advantage of differences in the price of technology in different times. Temporal arbitrage, if I may coin a phrase, hinges on the arbitrageur knowing what technologies people will pay money for next year, and how soon afterwards those same technologies will become free. What spatial and temporal arbitrage have in common is that both hinge on the arbitrageur's being extremely well-informed; one about price gradients across space at a given time, and the other about price gradients over time in a given place. (44-5)

The word, in the end, is the only system of encoding thoughts--the only medium--that is not fungible, that refuses to dissolve in the devouring torrent of electronic media (the richer tourists at Disney World wear t-shirts printed with the names of famous designers, because designs themselves can be bootlegged easily and with impunity. The only way to make clothing that cannot be legally bootlegged is to print copyrighted and trademarked words on it; once you have taken that step, the clothing itself doesn't really matter, and so a t-shirt is as good as anything else. T-shirts with expensive words on them are now the insignia of the upper class. T-shirts with cheap words, or no words at all, are for the commoners). (50)

Disney and Apple/Microsoft are in the same business: short-circuiting laborious, explicit verbal communication with expensively designed interfaces. Disney is a sort of user interface unto itself--and more than just graphical. Let's call it a Sensorial Interface. It can be applied to anything in the world, real or imagined, albeit at staggering expense. (52)

We Americans are the only ones who didn't get creamed at some point during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have inherited political and values systems fabricated by a particular set of eighteenth-century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But we have lost touch with those intellectuals, and with anything like intellectualism, even to the point of not reading books any more, though we are literate. We seem much more comfortable with propagating those values to future generations nonverbally, through a process of being steeped in media. Apparently this actually works to some degree, for police in many lands are now complaining that local arrestees are insisting on having their Miranda rights read to them, just like perps in American TV cop shows. When it's explained to them that they are in a different country, where those rights do not exist, they become outraged. Starsky and Hutch reruns, dubbed into diverse languages, may turn out, in the long run, to be a greater force for human rights than the Declaration of Independence. (53-4)

Sophisticated people deride Disneyesque entertainments as pat and saccharine, but, hey, if the result of that is to instill basically warm and sympathetic reflexes, at a preverbal level, into hundreds of millions of unlettered media-steepers, then how bad can it be? We killed a lobster in our kitchen last night and my daughter cried for an hour. The Japanese, who used to be just about the fiercest people on earth, have become infatuated with cuddly adorable cartoon characters. My own family--the people I know best--is divided about evenly between people who will probably read this essay and people who almost certainly won't, and I can't say for sure that one group is necessarily warmer, happier, or better-adjusted than the other. (60)

My brother-in-law is a theologian who reads 3250-year-old cuneiform tablets--he can recognize the handwriting of particular scribes, and identify them by name. (71)

But the price that we Mac owners had to pay for superior aesthetics and engineering was not merely a financial one. There was a cultural price too, stemming from the fact that we couldn't open up the hood and mess around with it. Doug Barnes was right. Apple, in spite of its reputation as the machine of choice of scruffy, creative hacker types, had actually created a machine that discouraged hacking, while Microsoft, viewed as a technological laggard and copycat, had created a vast, disorderly parts bazaar--a primordial soup that eventually self-assembled into Linux. (80)

Unix is hard to learn. The process of learning it is one of multiple small epiphanies. Typically you are just on the verge of inventing some necessary tool or utility when you realize that someone else has already invented it, and built it in, and this explains some odd file or directory or command that you have noticed but never really understood before. (86)

After this kind of thing has happened several hundred or thousand times, the hacker understands why Unix is the way it is, and agrees that it wouldn't be the same any other way. It is this sort of acculturation that gives Unix hackers their confidence in the system, and the attitude of calm, unshakable, annoying superiority captured in the Dilbert cartoon. Windows 95 and MacOS are products, contrived by engineers in the service of specific companies. Unix, by contrast, is not so much a product as it is a painstakingly compiled oral history of the hacker subculture. It is our Gilgamesh epic. (88)

Young Americans who leave their great big homogeneous country and visit some other part of the world typically go through several stages of culture shock: first, dumb wide-eyed astonishment. Then a tentative engagement with the new country's manners, cuisine, public transit systems and toilets, leading to a brief period of fatuous confidence that they are instant experts on the new country. As the visit wears on, homesickness begins to set in, and the traveler begins to appreciate, for the first time, how much he or she took for granted at home. At the same time it begins to seem obvious that many of one's own cultures and traditions are essentially arbitrary, and could have been different; driving on the right side of the road, for example. When the traveler returns home and takes stock of the experience, he or she may have learned a good deal more about America than about the country they went to visit.
For the same reasons, Linux is worth trying. It is a strange country indeed, but you don't have to live there; a brief sojourn suffices to give some flavor of the place and--more importantly--to lay bare everything that is taken for granted, and all that could have been done differently, under Windows or MacOS.
(91-2)

Commercial OSes have to adopt the same official stance towards errors as Communist countries had towards poverty. For doctrinal reasons it was not possible to admit that poverty was a serious problem in Communist countries, because the whole point of Communism was to eradicate poverty. Likewise, commercial OS companies like Apple and Microsoft can't go around admitting that their software has bugs and that it crashes all the time, any more than Disney can issue press releases stating that Mickey Mouse is an actor in a suit. (106)

Because Linux is not commercial--because it is, in fact, free, as well as rather difficult to obtain, install, and operate--it does not have to maintain any pretensions as to its reliability. Consequently, it is much more reliable. When something goes wrong with Linux, the error is noticed and loudly discussed right away. Anyone with the requisite technical knowledge can go straight to the source code and point out the source of the error, which is then rapidly fixed by whichever hacker has carved out responsibility for that particular program. (108)

The U.S. Government's assertion that Microsoft has a monopoly in the OS market might be the most patently absurd claim ever advanced by the legal mind. Linux, a technically superior operating system, is being given away for free, and BeOS is available at a nominal price. This is simply a fact, which has to be accepted whether or not you like Microsoft. (143)

I think that the message is very clear here: somewhere outside of and beyond our universe is an operating system, coded up over incalculable spans of time by some kind of hacker-demiurge. The cosmic operating system uses a command-line interface. It runs on something like a teletype, with lots of noise and heat; punched-out bits flutter down into its hopper like drifting stars. The demiurge sits at his teletype, pounding out one command line after another, specifying the values of fundamental constants of physics:

universe -G 6.672e-11 -e 1.602e-19 -h 6.626e-34 -protonmass 1.673e-27....

and when he's finished typing out the command line, his right pinky hesitates above the ENTER key for an aeon or two, wondering what's going to happen; then down it comes--and the WHACK you hear is another Big Bang.

Now THAT is a cool operating system, and if such a thing were actually made available on the Internet (for free, of course) every hacker in the world would download it right away and then stay up all night long messing with it, spitting out universes right and left. Most of them would be pretty dull universes but some of them would be simply amazing. Because what those hackers would be aiming for would be much more ambitious than a universe that had a few stars and galaxies in it. Any run-of-the-mill hacker would be able to do that. No, the way to gain a towering reputation on the Internet would be to get so good at tweaking your command line that your universes would spontaneously develop life. And once the way to do that became common knowledge, those hackers would move on, trying to make their universes develop the right kind of life, trying to find the one change in the Nth decimal place of some physical constant that would give us an Earth in which, say, Hitler had been accepted into art school after all, and had ended up his days as a street artist with cranky political opinions.

Even if that fantasy came true, though, most users (including myself, on certain days) wouldn't want to bother learning to use all of those arcane commands, and struggling with all of the failures; a few dud universes can really clutter up your basement. After we'd spent a while pounding out command lines and hitting that ENTER key and spawning dull, failed universes, we would start to long for an OS that would go all the way to the opposite extreme: an OS that had the power to do everything--to live our life for us. In this OS, all of the possible decisions we could ever want to make would have been anticipated by clever programmers, and condensed into a series of dialog boxes. By clicking on radio buttons we could choose from among mutually exclusive choices (HETEROSEXUAL/HOMOSEXUAL). Columns of check boxes would enable us to select the things that we wanted in our life (GET MARRIED/WRITE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL) and for more complicated options we could fill in little text boxes (NUMBER OF DAUGHTERS: NUMBER OF SONS:).

Even this user interface would begin to look awfully complicated after a while, with so many choices, and so many hidden interactions between choices. It could become damn near unmanageable--the blinking twelve problem all over again. The people who brought us this operating system would have to provide templates and wizards, giving us a few default lives that we could use as starting places for designing our own. Chances are that these default lives would actually look pretty damn good to most people, good enough, anyway, that they'd be reluctant to tear them open and mess around with them for fear of making them worse. So after a few releases the software would begin to look even simpler: you would boot it up and it would present you with a dialog box with a single large button in the middle labeled: LIVE. Once you had clicked that button, your life would begin. If anything got out of whack, or failed to meet your expectations, you could complain about it to Microsoft's Customer Support Department. If you got a flack on the line, he or she would tell you that your life was actually fine, that there was not a thing wrong with it, and in any event it would be a lot better after the next upgrade was rolled out. But if you persisted, and identified yourself as Advanced, you might get through to an actual engineer.

What would the engineer say, after you had explained your problem, and enumerated all of the dissatisfactions in your life? He would probably tell you that life is a very hard and complicated thing; that no interface can change that; that anyone who believes otherwise is a sucker; and that if you don't like having choices made for you, you should start making your own. (148-51)

(More, from Wikipedia:)

The essay was written before the advent of Mac OS X. In a Slashdot interview on 2004-10-20, [Stephenson] remarked:

I embraced OS X as soon as it was available and have never looked back. So a lot of In the Beginning...was the Command Line is now obsolete. I keep meaning to update it, but if I'm honest with myself, I have to say this is unlikely.

With Neal Stephenson's permission, Garrett Birkel wrote an essay in 2004 interspersing his own notes and comments throughout In the Beginning...was the Command Line to bring it more or less up-to-date as of the end of 2004; the original text remains untouched.


27sep2007Favorite ingredients: JELL-O Gelatin Dessert

SUGAR
GELATIN
ADIPIC ACID (FOR TARTNESS)
FUMARIC ACID (FOR TARTNESS)
SODIUM CITRATE (CONTROL ACIDITY)


25sep2007Now I know

I've never had any use for trigger locks before, but recently I thought of a few occasional situations in which a trigger lock could possibly prevent a weapon of my own from being used on me—which really isn't the ideal purpose of a weapon, from the point of view of the weapon owner.

But trigger locks are renowned for being a pain in the ass, and they consume what in a pinch could represent supremely unexpendable seconds. A while back, however, I ran across references to a combination trigger lock with a glow-in-the-dark pad.

Ooh. Gadgety. And, one would hope, faster than a key-operated trigger lock.

But I couldn't find anyplace online or otherwise that was still stocking them. Finally I found one on eBay:

Now, to me—and, I would have to guess, to most people who would rather not get shot—the point of a speedy trigger lock is so you don't have to mess around with a key—you just punch in a code and you're ready to roll. Yet the thrice-repeated notice inside the package says:

WARNING!
Do not use on a loaded gun!

Because I've never bothered with trigger locks, I didn't realize that this warning appears on all kinds of trigger locks as a matter of course—probably required by some dumb law or other.

So a person in danger is supposed to first to make use of a key or punch in a combination, remove the lock, and then commence to LOAD THE GUN? "Time out, I said! Time fucking OUT! Stop shooting at me—I haven't even loaded my gun yet!"


24sep2007

So disgusted was the House of Representatives with Washington that a vote to adjourn for a short time to wish the President a happy birthday was defeated 50-38.


23sep2007For those who retained their ticket stubs: More Nature!

An old cowboy song croons about "the shifting, whispering sands." Sand dunes do shift and they do whisper. Occasionally, under certain combinations of conditions, some even sing and boom. I've never had the privilege of hearing them do anything but sizzle as the wind pushes them along, a process known as saltation. But a place in Gran Desierto is called El Zumbador—the buzzer, and other observers tell us when wind or gravity rubs grains of sands against one another, they may squeak, whistle, grunt, boom, or sing. (Bill Broyles, Our Sonoran Desert, p. 41)

(See also het zingen van het ijs)

Bonus Nature!

Yesterday was The Big iPhone Test, to see whether I can use iPhone's exclusive carrier to access phone & Internet service from the lush yet secluded Sonoran locations of Rancho El Jefe de Mi.

Happily, iPhone's carrier exceeded the service of my current carrier, which works only when I go to the higher points of the mountainside. The iPhone successfully both gave and received of telephonic communication, and then I ordered a Carson Robison CD from Amazon, despite the fact that there would be no possible way for it to be delivered here (". . . then turn left at the 17,000th saguaro, and. . .").

A celebratory commemorative photo was of course taken. A line of saguaros volunteered to take part. They are all that remains of a secret grow operation that sent some previous owners of this property to prison, another to a mental institution, and mysteriously landed the property in the hands of . . . a DEA agent. (Given government's milleniums-long track record, however, one has to assume that absolutely no underhandedness or corruption whatsoever was involved—certainly none that would be of great personal benefit to an upright agent of The Law).

Below: The saguaro raise what are as yet only imaginary arms in salute to remotely accessed technology. Or it could be in dread fear of incorruptible officers of The Public Good. It's hard to tell.

True Coincidence: I did not notice until I lined up the shot that a few of the saguaros were so extra enthusiastic about the test results that they expressed their cellular joy by doing an impression of the cell phone commercial where various items and natural formations imitate cell phone reception bars.

See how amused Wagner was. Awww. I love when he makes that expression.


21sep2007Nature!

Yesterday afternoon I was outside installing a clothesline when an amazing sunshower hit the Arizona desert. A small storm system moved through as the sun was getting low in the sky—maybe three or four degrees above the horizon—so that it was still bright and sunny as the rain began pouring. I could hear loud rumblings of thunder but it was too bright out to see any lightning. The temperature dipped down ten or so degrees to about 82 and the wind kicked up pretty hard. Looking east there were two giant complete rainbows. Looking west, swirls of water droplets reflecting light from the sun were whipped around by the wind. It was like visible wind, or smoke in a wind tunnel. I finally understand how dust gets blown into that one weird place on the porch.

Nature! is at an end. Please retain your ticket stub.


20sep2007

Ernst & Angst:

A. Vaudeville comedy team
B. Dessert topping
C. Floor wax
D. Swiss researchers
E. Dessert topping and floor wax

Check your answer, show all work


19sep2007Postcard from Ma in Hawaii

Hi!

This is a fun
experience.

There's way too much food —
I've had to skip some meals!


18sep2007Sporadically dispassionate Alamo history from three-time Pulitzer winner Robert Penn Warren's Remember The Alamo!:

For a third thing, those tribes that did let themselves be converted were a worthless lot. At the presidio of San Antonio, at Bexar where the Alamo stood, a number of Indians did settle, but even the missionaries agreed that they were stupid and filthy. (3-4)

The Colonel promptly had a full-scale battle on his hands. The schooner bringing the cannon downriver from Brazoria came within range and opened fire, and the rebel riflemen surrounded the fort. Except for the two cannon on the schooner, the Mexicans had the artillery. But a man has to put his hand to a cannon to fire it, and some of the riflemen could hit a hand about as far as they could see it. After a while there simply weren't enough unwounded hands in the fort to man the artillery. In addition, there were some dead soldiers. So the fort surrendered. (45-6)

Fishing, hunting, living with nature and in communion with the Indians—that was no longer enough. So Houston took to brooding idleness. Days would pass while he sat in a deep depression. He had fits of aimless violence, brought on by his despair and grief for his ruined marriage and thwarted career. He took to drink and would lie for hours, sometimes a day and a night, in a stupor. The Indians began to call him Big Drunk. There was a chance that he might become what was not too uncommon on the frontier—the white man who, ruined by life, took refuge with the Indians until, sodden with drink and debauchery, he sank beneath their contempt. (61)

Jim Bowie came early to his strength and his independence. By the time he was seventeen or eighteen, he was in a sawmill business with his brothers, and prospering. But this was too dull. So he and his brothers took some of their profits, fitted out some small boats, and sailed away to Galveston, the stronghold of the "respectable pirate," Jean Lafitte. They intended to buy slaves from Lafitte and run them into the United States. Lafitte took a liking to Jim and ended by giving him almost a monopoly on the business. It was a rough world the Bowies were bred to. (72-3)

Lying in a bend of the San Antonio River, swathed in a fog so dense that the attacking Mexicans could not be detected until the jingling of their spurs gave them away, the Texans were surprised by troops from the Alamo. They stumbled into position and, when the sun had burned the fog away, they held on along the river. Bowie was there, going along the line, saying, "Be cool, boys, be cool. Take your time, shoot to hit. Don't waste powder, boys, shoot to hit, boys." (82)

A bit later, across the plaza, coming into range of the rifles, three Mexican officers appeared with a bugler. The officers wore their swords, no other arms. They were alone except for the bugler. The bugler raised his instrument, and blew the call to parley.
The Texans had not had the advantage of a military education. What they knew about war they had had to pick up as they went along. They had not had the chance to pick up the information that this was a call to parley. They didn't figure it out until one of the Mexican officers, impatient at Texan dullness, waved a white handkerchief. That made more sense to the Texans.
Discussion of terms of surrender began. General Cos demanded that he be allowed to march out with flying colors, that the Texans fire a salute to his flag, that he be allowed to take his artillery, ammunition, and stores, that the Texans provision his army to Laredo, and that his parole should end when he crossed the Rio Grande. He wanted so many other things that he seemed to have forgotten who was doing the surrendering. The Texas commander refreshed his memory. "Powder is as cheap as provisions," he said, "and we still have powder."
(87)

Buck Travis, now lieutenant Colonel Travis, had also been ordered down to the Alamo. He was an ambitious, hot-tempered, red-headed man. (97)

By the time Davy came to Texas he had been many things. He had been a scout and soldier under Andrew Jackson in the same campaign against the Indians in which Houston had served. Like Houston he had made a name for himself. He had been a scratch farmer of the frontier, planting his corn among the burned trees. He had been the most famous hunter of his time, and people even knew the names of his bear dogs—Holdfast, Growler, Deathmaul and Grim.
In Congress he had opposed President Jackson's policy of driving the Indians west. He thought that this broke a treaty with them. "It is not justice," he said. "I would rather be an old coon dog belonging to a poor man in the forest than belong to a party that will not do justice to all." But it was dangerous to oppose Jackson, and so in the end Davy failed to be sent back to Congress.
(103-4)

"Our flag still waves proudly from the walls," wrote Travis in the letter his messenger took out for help. The help Travis seemed to be thinking about was help from Americans for Americans. But the flag flying over the southwest corner of the Alamo was still the Mexican tricolor—red, white, and green. Instead of the eagle in the white bar, the defenders had the number 1824. This stood for the Mexican Constitution of 1824, which had been overthrown by Santa Anna, and under which the defenders were now claiming by their flag the rights of loyal citizens of the state of Texas of the republic of Mexico. (126-7)


17sep2007

I spotted a dollar bill stuck in a crevice high above the bookstore urinal. The dollar was marked "BE BLESSED WITH HEALTH, WEALTH AND LOVE!" So mote it be, witchy-poo. I'll do my part if you'll do yours.

When I was a kid, some friends and I had a few religious tracts that were disguised to bear a close resemblance to folded $10 bills. We put it into a urinal, pissed on it, and hid in the stalls. We expected the fun to be short-lived, but every single guy, after hemming & hawing & finally getting their fingers wet only to discover the ruse, disgustedly threw the tract back into the urinal for the next pisser. Nothing like unexpected extensions of fun. (See also: Talking Rock)

Any currency find for me is therefore unlikely attributable to karma—unless karma likes you to trick people into handling items soaked in urine. Which I guess wouldn't be surprising, in the scheme of things.


15sep2007 — From journalist Brian McWilliams's interesting but not especially quotable Spam Kings:

People are stupid, Davis Wolfgang Hawke thought as he stared at the nearly empty box of swastika pendants on his desk. It was April 22, 1999, two days after the one-hundredth anniversary of Adolph Hitler's birth. (1)

In late March, Hawke decided it was time to host an assembly of comrades in Chesnee. He wanted the First Party Congress to happen on the one hundredth anniversary of Hitler's birthday, but April 20 didn't coincide with Wofford's spring break. So he scheduled the meeting the week before the Fuhrer's 100th. (6)

[DoC note: Neither the Neo-Nazi nor the journalist was very good at fact-checking; Adolf Hitler was born on 20apr1889, making 20apr1999 Hitler's 110th birthday, not his 100th. (Bad Nazi! Bad journalist!)]

The agent was very professional and seemed interested in her case. But he admitted his experience in spam investigations consisted of a one-week course at the FBI's Quantico training center. He said the Toledo office had only one Internet-connected computer and a lone agent working computer-related crimes, who spent most of his time disguised as a 12-year-old, chasing pedophiles in online chat rooms. (97)

With the launch of Amazing Internet Products, Hawke and Bournival debuted a new technique for keeping their spammed sites online. In the past, they had registered only a few sites, choosing relatively memorable names such as producthaven.com, never-paymore.com, and 2003marketing.net. When one site came under attack from anti-spammers, they would use Hawke's Switcheroo technique and modify the domain record so it pointed to a different ISP's webserver, preserving the domain for use in future spams.
The new method, by contrast, treated domains as expendable, The spammers registered scores of addresses with nonsensical names such as jesitack.com, soothling.com, scorping.com, and kohrah.com. Each pointed to one of several web servers, usually located in China or controlled by a Rokso-listed South American spam-hosting company called Super Zonda. If a domain got blacklisted after a spam run, Hawke and Bournival would drop it completely and begin using one of the other warehoused domains in subsequent spams.
(184-5)

On the morning of July 21, 2003, as the jury was sequestered to begin the second day of its deliberations, Kleinberg informed Judge Gleeson and the other counsel of a startling development. Someone outside the courthouse had been handing out pamphlets claiming the jurors had a Constitutional right to ignore the government's evidence under a process known as jury nullification. The pamphlets implored jurors instead to "vote their conscience."
Judge Gleeson was livid. "Does anybody know anything about this?" he demanded.
Vale immediately piped up. "I didn't do it."
"Do you know who did it?" asked the judge.
"Someone I know did it," Vale admitted. "They handed out First Amendment literature, your honor. It doesn't say my name on it."
Judge Gleeson glared at Vale. "There's nothing First Amendment about it. It's an inappropriate attempt to influence a verdict in a criminal case ... if anybody in the courtroom does that, I'm going to direct the marshals to arrest you on the spot. It's an outrage," he said. . . .
"It's a bunch of baloney," Judge Gleeson said of the pamphlet to one of the jurors who had a copy in her handbag.
(242-3)

"Welcome to the death of email, ladies and gentlemen. Would the last person to leave email please turn out the lights?"
That's how a spam fighter greeted the Nanae crowd on the evening of November 22, 2003. Earlier that day, the U.S. House of Representatives had overwhelmingly approved the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act," otherwise known as CAN -SPAM. The measure was expected to sail through the Senate and be signed into law by President George W. Bush. After six years of failure, Washington was about to enact its first federal anti-spam legislation.
So why the dire prediction on Nanae? Many anti-spammers felt the proposed law was in fact legalizing junk email—and, in the process, opening the floodgates to spam.
"I said years ago that government would only screw it up," wrote one spam fighter on Nanae. "Will those who have been calling for Congress to do something, please stand up and slap yourselves upside the head?"
(269)

Shiksaa would never admit it to the spammers, but the events of the past nine months made it clear she was locked in a losing battle. For all her efforts, the spam problem was getting worse, and it was messing up her life in the process. Back when she was getting started, Shiksaa had thought spammers were simply misguided people who would respond to reason. Put a few on the right path, and the tide of spam would ebb. She knew better now. Spam had become organized online crime. The spammers operated in little cartels, with their private spammer forums and closed mailing lists. They knew what they were doing was unethical but they were too arrogant and antisocial to care. (274)


14sep2007Another clarification

My ENEMY OF THE STATE t-shirt (available from Mises.org for a mere $11) does not always seem to have the desired effect. I didn't realize until the other day that people probably think the shirt is a promo for the film Enemy of the State and that Murray Rothbard is merely Gene Hackman:

Public Notice:
Not by a long sight was Murray Rothbard merely Gene Hackman.


13sep2007A clarification

When I named my art car Whip It! I was familiar with the generic term "whip it" for a nitrous cartridge, but I had not heard, believe it or not, of the nitrous cartridge brand name whip-it!—apparently ubiquitous—until I found this crushed box on the ground:

THE TRUTH: SO SMALL IT HURTS.


12sep2007Clean-up time in Sunny Slope

From Edna McEwen Ellis's Sunny Slope:

When I was a kid in Show Low they used to hold an annual Clean Up Day, kicked off by the Clean Up Day Parade. My sister, her hot friend Leslie and I won the second place prize one year: a tiny dollar amount's worth of credit at the local movie theater snack bar, an amount that back then lasted us an appallingly long while. Our winning costumes: I, wearing a toothsome cardboard box on my head, was the fearsome Trash Eating Monster, while the girls, wearing dresses fashioned from newspapers, were, of course, trash.


11sep2007

Funny how only some cities are remembered for famous bad things that happened in them: Dresden. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Waco. Oklahoma City.

But New York—probably partly through luck (in that their badness happened on a date already memorable as a phone number) and partly because they have long suffered a sustained tragedy (the Yankees)— has escaped having its name becoming a watchword.

On the other hand, there's Dallas, which has become synonymous with political assassination. Not only that, but you can't even use innocent words and phrases such as grassy knoll, motorcade, or book depository without evoking the death of JFK.

Unless you're in the UK:

A trade name like that would never work on this side of the Atlantic, where I'm currently entertaining offers of venture capital for my own soon-to-open bookstore, to be called 9/11 World Trade Center Terrorist Nazi Atomic Incendiary Tomes.


08sep2007And the award for Most Alliterative Sentence . . .

. . . goes to Thomas E. Glover for this Seussian doozie:

If the Weiler Waltzes were the wrong ones then it should be the Walddorf Waltzes, and it was.
(The Golden Dream: The Lost Dutchman Mine of Jacob Waltz, Part 1, p. 112.)

Now, some sadly less Seuss-y sentences from the same source:

The phonetic spelling of Waltz's name apparently confused people -- what with Waltz's known heavy German accent coupled with the German `W' being pronounced as a 'V', and the `z' as `ts', as in Nazi. (p. 163).

In addition to the Lost Dutchman Mine, Arizona hosted the Lost Frenchman Mine (p. 186).
(Contrary to ordinary apprehension, the Lost in these phrases refers to the mines, not the Europeans associated with them, regardless of what Waltz's epitaph says.)

Ian Fleming-ish sidenote:
Glover mentions (p. 344) an organization called "Mining, Oil, Exploration, and Leasing"—that would make its SMERSH name: MOEL.

I say again: MOEL.

I have to say, as an organization, MOEL could have used some Yiddish expertise. I offer my services in the form of one of the few jokes I ever manage to remember:
A man walking down the street spots a sign in the shape of a giant pair of eyeglasses. He remembers that he needs a hinge on his glasses fixed, so he steps inside.
Man: How much to fix my glasses hinge?
Shopkeeper: "How should I know? I'm a moel."
Man: "But you have a giant pair of eyeglasses on your sign."
Shopkeeper: "So what do you want I should put on my sign?"

(Brought to you by Jacob Waltz and the letter W.)


07sep2007I love that there can be a whole book about one song

From Greil Marcus's Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads:

On Bob Dylan, his first album, released in March 1962, he appeared as a tramp: not the Chaplin tramp he often drew from onstage in those days, but someone who had slept in hobo jungles, seen men drink themselves mad with Sterno, and forgotten the names of people who for a night had seemed like the best friends anyone could ever have. Many of the songs are funny ("l been around this whole country," he says at the start of "Pretty Peggy-O" of the place-name that in 1962 was a folk signpost, "but I never yet found Fennario"); all in all the album was a collection of old songs about death. They dare the singer—What makes you think you can sing me? Blind Lemon Jefferson rises out of the grave in Wortham, Texas, where he's slept since 1929, to ask, his middle-class Jewish kid, born Robert Zimmerman in 1941, what he thinks he's doing with his "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" on his lips—and the singer throws the dare back: How can you deny me what is mine? (21-2)

In September 1918 in Duluth, near the end of the First World War, a group calling itself the Knights of Liberty claimed responsibility for kidnapping and then tarring and feathering an anti-war Finnish immigrant, Olli Kinkkonen, to set an example for those who might avoid the draft; the report was not confirmed until two weeks later, when Kinkkonen's body was found hanging from a tree outside of town, covered with tar and feathers. His death was ruled a suicide. (28n.)

Now "like a Rolling Stone" is about Hendrix's childhood in Seattle, where as a schoolboy he attended an Elvis Presley show at the Rainiers minor-league baseball park, when Elvis asked all present to rise for the National Anthem and then plunged into "Hound Dog." (90)

This is what happens in "Like a Rolling Stone." The sound is so rich the song never plays the same way twice. You can know that, for you, a certain word, a certain partial sound deep within the whole sound, is what you want; you can steel yourself to push everything else in the song away in anticipation of that part of the song you want. It never works. You lie in wait, to ambush the moment; you find that as you do another moment has sneaked up behind you and ambushed you instead. Without a chorus the song would truly be a flood, not the flood of words of "Come una Pietra Scalciata" but a flood that sweeps up everything before it—and yet as the song is actually sung and played, the chorus, formally the most determined, repeating element in the song, is the most unstable element of all. (97)

Because the song never plays the same way twice because whenever you hear the song you are not quite hearing a song you have heard before—it cannot carry nostalgia. Unlike any other Bob Dylan recording that might be included on Golden Protest, the next time you hear "Like a Rolling Stone" is also the first time. That first drum shot is what seals it: when the stick hits the skin, even as a house tumbles forward, the past is jettisoned like a missile dumping its first stage. In that moment there is no past to refer to—especially the past you yourself might mean to bring to the song.
I saw this happen once, as if it were a play. It was about eleven in the morning in Lahaina, on Maui, in 1981, in a place called Longhi's, a restaurant made of blonde wood and ceiling fans. There were ferns. People were talking quietly; even small children were lolling in the heat. Everything seemed to move very slowly. There was a radio playing tunes from a local FM station, but it was almost impossible to focus on what they were. Then "Like a Rolling Stone" came on, and once again, as in the summer of 1965, sixteen years gone, with "Like a Rolling Stone" supposedly safely filed away in everyone's memory, the song interrupted what was going on: in this case, nothing. As if a note were being passed from one table to another, people raised their heads from their pineappIe and Bloody Mary breakfasts; conversations fell away. People were moving their feet, and looking toward the radio as if it might get up and walk. It was a stunning moment: proof that "Like a Rolling Stone" cannot be used as Muzak. When the song was over, it was like the air had gone out of the room.
(98-9)

There is nothing careful about the language. Dylan usually had the instincts, or the studied judgment, to avoid the momentary slang and contrived neologisms that would date his songs, box them up and turn them into artifacts. Perhaps because of his scholar's sense of how folk ballads and early blues came together in the fifty years after the Civil War—sharing countless authorless phrases so alive to their objects ("forty dollars won't pay my fine," anybody could say that, and everybody did) that even when the phrases passed out of common usage they could communicate as poetry ("drink up your blood like wine," not too many could get away with that, and not too many tried)—Dylan had a feel for making phrases of his own that no matter how unlikely could seem not made but found. His sense of time, or timelessness, only rarely failed him. (112)

Noah Lewis's 1930 "New Minglewood Blues." ("I was born in the desert, raised up in the lion's den," Lewis sang coolly, as if he were presenting himself as the new sheriff in town. "My number one occupation, is stealing womens from their men.") (122)

I have always admired people who know how to interview. The key is not to want to be liked. The key is to be an irritant, a smart-aleck, a fool, a creep. "I heard your mother is a donkey," you might say, expecting the subject to spit in your face and walk out of the room. "Oh, no," the person will say. "How did you ever get that idea? Let me tell you the real story. My mother is a dolphin. And how that happened, I've never told anyone ... " One interviewer I know has a terrible stutter. People will say anything, will talk endlessly about their private lives, just to keep him from asking another question. The best I have ever been able to manage is silence. (143)


06sep2007The Thoroughly Bred Deuce of Clubs

It wouldn't be hard to assemble these names into a "Route 66" parody ("Don't forget Wanona," &c.). Glad I don't do that sort of thing.


04sep2007

The old Papagos still look upon the mesquite bean with respect when they reminisce about earlier days. The aged aunt of my Papago informant, Molly Manuel, listened to the two of us talk about uses of the mesquite beans for several hours. Finally she said quietly, "The Indians ate good food. They never sickened and they got real old." — Carolyn Niethammer, American Indian Food and Lore, p. 43


03sep2007Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?

Golly, how can we have failed to give this question serious consideration?


02sep2007Happy Sunday, infidels!

It's time to stomp out atheists in America. The majority of Americans would love to see atheists kicked out of America. If you don't believe in God, then get out of this country. The United States is based on having freedom of speech, religion, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.), but you must believe. I don't recall freedom of religion meaning no religion. Our currency even says, In God We Trust. So, to all atheists in America: Get off our country. Atheists have caused the ruin of this great nation by taking prayer out of our schools and being able to practice what can only be called evil. I don't care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant.

01sep2007Doc's Letters to the STARZ!

Re: Coogan the Barbarian: The truth about the man who 'drove Owen Wilson to the brink of suicide'

Dear Courtney: It's a little too late to be Madonna. Even for Madonna.

Dear Owen: When your Yoda is Courtney Love, u r FOOKED.

Luv,
Doc


31aug2007That PoetDog is pretty poetic. . .

. . . in a Will Rogers sort of fashion:

he asked me how the lunar eclipse was and i said it was pretty faraway.


30aug2007Non-timely Big Brother crap

"You have taken the uni out of unitard," said Julie Chen.

I thought the ChenBot was actually making a real comment (viz., "Jen, you are a TARD"), until she elaborated: "You've found so many ways to wear that one article of clothing." Oh.


28aug2007Breaking News: Burning Man Burns

Not pictured: The fact that it is not Saturday night, but Monday night.

Pictured all too clearly: Bizarre, cultlike overtones ("In three days, we will have this rebuilt.")

So, Lone Nut or CIA Black Op? Let the conspiracy theories commence!

See also:
Some good comments at Brad Templeton's site
Info from DeuceOfClubs host Scott Beale at Laughing Squid
And a great photo from Danger Ranger, which expresses the sentiment of right-thinking suspects everywhere:


27aug2007 — Lew Rockwell writes:

What a great event today in Texas City, Texas. 1,700 happy and enthusiastic people came to cheer Ron Paul on his birthday. And cheer they did. During a 50 minute talk, I lost count of the standing ovations.

When Ron endorsed "free markets and Austrian economics," we yelled. When he called for abolishing the Fed, the income tax, and the Patriot Act, we stood and huzzahed. But to see a conservative crowd shout and stomp their feet for "a foreign policy of peace, not war," for a pledge to withdraw the Navy from the Persian Gulf and open immediate talks with Iran, for a promise to bring all the troops home from Iraq and elsewhere... If only Murray Rothbard had been there to see it.

Ron Paul is a great man for many reasons: his integrity, his consistency, his dedication to liberty. But to have brought back international peace as an issue on the right, to have begun the undoing of the more than 50-year war crusade of Bill Buckley and the other neocons—that may be his greatest achievement.

Another attendee:

I thought the same thing as I sat there, listening to this man bring the crowd to their feet promising to do nothing for them, other than to do whatever he can to restore and protect liberty.

I am always struck by how eclectic a Ron Paul crowd is. There are blue collar and white collar types, hippies and veterans. I sat next to a man who was at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was a local Texas man who grew up near the Houston area before the massive growth here. He grew up in a different time. He was also a Houston firefighter. And he was clapping and yelling with the rest of us.

My optimism grows as this campaign gains more strength. I remember, Lew, reading your columns when lewrockwell.com was first starting out. You have always written with the same optimism that Murray Rothbard had. I have always been skeptical that the tide could be turned. It never seemed that there were enough people who loved liberty without condition to make a difference. Dr. Paul said something during his speech that reminded me of this. He described how his campaign has awakened what he calls 'The Remnant.' The Remnant are those people who remain attached and dedicated to the true ideas of liberty as promoted by the great founders, people like Washington, Jefferson and Madison. And, Dr. Paul said, he believed that there is hope here because our tradition in the United States is rooted in that philosophy.


26aug2007

Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine, is definitely a person of interest. I'm sure it says that and more in multiple places among the government's file(s) on her, thanks to her militia novel Snow Man.

It's not that I don't want to love a novel that begins with the execution of a U.S. senator. It's that, as in most polemical fiction (see: Left Behind), Snow Man's characters are so overwhelmingly composed of wood.

Left Behind - Jesus + sex = ± Snow Man

Not quite as bad as Left Behind, maybe. Actually, nowhere near as bad as Left Behind—how could it be? Not to question Ms. Chute's piety, but it requires a profound religious faith, and possibly some sort of pastoral degree, to produce truly execrable fiction. But that doesn't mean one ought not to try:

Connie knows. She knows the sound of Congress in session, the sound of a great energetic, well-lighted, rustling, mumbling space, their barks. And their smells. The smell that is nothing like a bunch of mule traders and poultry vendors and fishmongers and slave auctioneers and waddling, loaded-down mercenary scalpers, therefore you'd never think of a bunch of mule traders and poultry vendors and fishmongers and slave auctioneers and waddling, loaded-down mercenary scalpers, but see there!—the next deal going down, the sheer power of the handshake to move millions of lives out of one plane plane of existence to another. (76-7)

Cautiously and deliciously the panelists work through the hypothetical corridors of the killer's psyche. When the time comes, if Drummond is brought alive into custody, whole teams of psychiatrists and psychologists will be deployed to explore this man's dark mind.
If he comes to them dead, nevertheless, whole teams of psychiatrists and psychologists and liberal experts on right-wing thinking will be deployed through a galaxy of media to explore other people's memories about who Robert Drummond was and why he did it. And then to play the composite expert voice again and again and again for as long as profitable. Understand this, the institutional, the expert, the assessed, the educated guess is the only reality and therefore singular, and then into the future this will be condensed into a one-liner of conventional wisdom for all and therefore will be the actual Robert Drummond.
(115)

". . . but, well, let's see . . . gotta choose. Let's see . . . teeth or female exam? Hernia or the leakin' roof? Manifold valve and exhaust system in the truck . . . orrrrr property taxes? Which? Which? (125-6)

And meanwhile, in Washington, Jerry Creighton, just back from Iran only an hour ago, smiles at the lobbyist from Archer Daniels who has just said such a witty thing about D.C. water and corn syrup. (179)

"You don't really get it, do you, baby girl?" he snarls. "You've always lived in a kinda privileged setup. Cops've been nice to you. You drive fast, they look away. You never have to worry about the thing they really hate: expired inspection stickers on an old piece of shit and havin' to be yourself a piece a shit they love to twist into a very crimpy piece a shit." (193)

Somehow, though, it's not Chute's prose that's gotten her ostracized from the literary world. . . .


25aug2007 — From Right or Wrong, God Judge Me: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth:

Nearly seventy documents written by John Wilkes Booth, some of them only brief notes or telegram drafts, are presented in the pages that follow. The meager documentary sum of Booth's life reflects not only the brevity of his twenty-six years but also widespread destruction of his letters and papers, motivated by both hatred of his crime and fear of being somehow implicated in it. While the doomed assassin dodged through Maryland and Virginia in his futile attempt at escape, the government was coming down hard on his family and friends, even his acquaintances and professional associates. Scores of people, almost all of them innocent of any complicity in the crime, were arrested and imprisoned. Even witnesses, who were not themselves suspects, were locked up until they could give their testimony in court. The harsh treatment mirrored the angry mood in the nation's streets, where those incautious enough to rejoice in Lincoln's murder or even to speak out in defense of the theatrical profession were likely to be jailed, beaten, or killed. (ix)

Booth was not alone. Plenty of Americans, in the Union as well as the Confederacy, thought Lincoln had already made himself a sort of king. That Abraham Lincoln was while living the most hated president in the country's history will come as a surprise to those who know only the revered martyr-statesman. . . . With matchless eloquence Abraham Lincoln told his countrymen that the union must be saved to keep alive for "man's vast future" the "last, best hope of earth"—the American experiment in self-government. His opponents, however, argued that the president himself was destroying the experiment by his dictatorial policies, systematic violations of civil liberties, and the consolidation of great new powers by the federal government. (8)

Around 1965, a Baltimore woman cleaning out a desk in her basement suddenly realized that the old letters she was burning were signed "J. Wilkes Booth." The letters that survived the destruction, written when Booth was fifteen and sixteen, are the only writings known from the period before the young actor began his theatrical career. (35)

In the silence of three o'clock on a winter morning in 1873 Edwin Booth and a servant boy descended into the basement furnace room of Booth's Theatre in New York City. Waiting there was a trunk filled with belongings of John Wilkes Booth. Edwin Booth had chosen this secret time to destroy by fire these remnants of the dead brother of whom the great tragedian never spoke. Over the next three hours, he and the boy fed into the furnace all the trunk's contents—costumes from Hamlet, Othello, and Richard III, wigs and jewelry, stage swords and daggers, a photograph, and a packet of love letters. Finally, they broke up the trunk with an axe and burned the wreckage, too. Sparks flew from the furnace, and the heat scorched the boy's face as he worked. It is hardly surprising that he never forgot the night. (47-8)

In 1881 Edwin wrote that . . . "When I told him I had voted for Lincoln's re-election he expressed deep regret, and declared his belief that Lincoln would be made king of America; and this, I believe, drove him beyond the limits of reason." (48)

As the date of Brown's execution approached, the Virginia militia was called out to thwart any attempt to save the old man. Booth talked his way into one of the militia companies, the Richmond Grays, and spent about two weeks on duty. He witnessed John Brown's hanging. Although Booth differed so radically from Brown in his convictions, the abolitionist became a kind of hero to John Wilkes Booth. "John Brown was a man inspired," Booth told his sister, "the grandest character of the century!" (53)

[From a draft of a speech, Philadelphia, late December 1860:]

I am a northern man. But unlike most Northerners, I have looked upon both sides of this question. (55)

And yet my friends I regret to know that we have such men in our midst, who unmindful of the benefits they have derived from the great boon our fathers left us. Unmindful of that liberty which cost them years of toil and blood to gain. who are continually preaching and crying, O we cannot govern for ourselves we ought to have a great central government. Others (a little more moderate) say the Presidents term is too short, that he should be elected for life. bah! such men would throw away their great birthright and kiss the feet of a King to morrow. Heed me, there are such of whom I speak. Aye, both north & south. (55-6)

The South is leaving us. O would to God that Clay & Webster could hear those words. Weep fellow countrymen, for the brightest half of our stars upon the nation's banner have grown dim. (58)

The cesessionists of the south say that all argument has been exhausted, that they can and will use it no more. We have been deaf to the voice of justice. We cannot blame them. What is to be done? If argument has no more resources, it is time for all good citizens who are, or would be conservative to their country, in this, her hour of need to come to action. And not stand Idly by hoping to save a country by fast and prayer. (59)

Grant but impartial justice and our country will stand the shock of ages. (60)

Many will say this is not so. for let the worst come to the worst it will be a peace cesession. bah there is no such thing. Did not our great Webster affirm it. Others may think at all events trade will be preserved. Ay, But how Europe will have the advantage of her trade. We will have to pay at double the rate for things which are now too high. (61)

I hope may I never live to see that day, even should it follow soon, when we are no more a united nation. When our flag must submit to insult and bow to scorn. Such misery would soon make us realise the blessing of the heaven we had lost! Remorse would be so keen you could not live, You would hate and envy the confederation of the south, You would say she is weak in numbers, we are strong, We will force her to submit and once more restore the union. The South will call in the powers of Europe, Fearce Civil War will follow. (61)

Now I don't mean to admit that the south should ceceed nor do I believe a state can ceceed without revolution & blood-shed. But gentlemen the foundation of this great union was justice & equal rights. Our fathers ceseeded in a measure from the power of England. (61-2)

Meny laugh at the cesession of South Carolina thinking that she will come back or that we will force her back or that if she stays out, we will never miss her. It is shear folly, to reason so, And then again there are meny who are for instant coercion. That is madness. The first attempt at force will be the cue for every southern state to aid her. . . . We must not use force against her. if we do then are we greater tyrants! Than George the 3d: ever was towards our fathers! Yet she must be brought back and it must be done with compromise. (62)

Yet say [slavery] is a sin how can it hurt you. You are free of it! The guilty only must be answerable to God for their respective guilt! He can not condemn me for the crime of another. Nor a nation for having in it a few bad men. (62)

My friends, I wish to tread on no mans corns if I do tis in my countrys cause and his corns should yeald. (63)

Show me a paper and for one word of truth you can find a hundred lies. (63)

[From a letter, 1862:]

My goose does indeed hang high (long may she wave). (83)

[Author's note:] All the DeBars were strong Confederate sympathizers, and Ben DeBar and his theater were closely watched by federal military authorities in St. Louis. It was while playing there in 1862 that JWB was arrested for saying that he wished the "whole damn government would go to hell." After paying a fine and taking an oath of allegiance to the United States, the actor was released. (87n)

[Author's note:] "If it weren't for mother I wouldn't enter Edwin's house," JWB told his sister. The two brother disagreed on politics. After playing Buffalo in early July 1863, JWB had visited Edwin and soon found himself in the midst of the New York draft riots, the most deadly urban unrest in U.S. history. As violence ruled the city, JWB cared for a wounded Northern officer (author Adam Badeau), who was also staying with Edwin, and helped to conceal a black servant, whose safety was threatened by the rioters. (90n)

[Author's note:] In one of his performances of Richard III, Booth was badly cut on the forehead in violent swordplay of the last act. Although bleeding heavily, the actor played the scene to its end, thrilling the audience. (92n)

[Author's note:] JWB liked to open his star engagements with Richard III and to repeat the play, sometimes twice, during the course of a two-week run. He was forced to open in Cincinatti, however, in the less strenuous role of Othello on 15 February. (One lazy drama critic didn't bother to attend the opening; the next day his paper praised JWB's acting in Richard III.) (101n; perhaps this was an ancestor of Mitch Albom)

[Author's note:] Despite JWB's professions of friendship to a Northern officer, it was recalled that, on a dare, the actor sang "The Bonnie Blue Flag" on a New Orleans street, a Confederate anthem banned by the federal military authorities who ruled the occupied city. Quickly surrounded by angry soldiers, Booth just as quickly talked his way out of trouble. (104n)

An actress who supported Booth in some of his roles at the Boston Museum that summer remembered that "the stage door was always blocked with silly women waiting to catch a glimpse, as he passed, of his superb face and figure." A quarter century after his death, Clara Morris recalled the indiscretions into which their fascination for John Wilkes Booth led some women: "Let me tell you there were many handsome, well-bred and wealthy ladies in the land, married as well as unmarried, who would have done many foolish things for one of those kisses. Booth's striking beauty was something which thousands of silly women could not withstand. His mail each day brought him letters from women weak and frivolous, who periled their happiness and their reputations by committing to paper words of love and admiration which they could not, apparently, refrain from writing. He gave orders to have his letters sorted in the box office and often his pile of business letters would look small, indeed, beside that which contained epistles which bore anything but the imprint of business on their faces. These fond epistles were seldom read. He instructed his dresser to burn them. (106-7)

[Booth's partner, regarding their oil investment property:] "As arranged, Wilkes preceded me to the base of operations, and when I reached him, I found him hard at work, dressed in a slouched hat, flannel shirt, overalls, and boots. Who that had seen him as `Hamlet,' `Claude Melnotte,' `Richard,' etc., would suppose that such a transformation was possible!" (112n)

I have lived among [slavery] most of my life and have seen less harsh treatment from Master to Man than I have beheld in the north from father to son. (125)

The South are not, nor have they been fighting for the continuance of slavery, the first battle of Bull-run did away with that idea. Their causes since for war have been as noble, and greater far than those that urged our fathers on. . . . Hereafter, reading of their deeds, Thermopylae will be forgotten. (125)

What was a crime in poor John Brown is now considered (by themselves) as the greatest and only virtue, of the whole Republican party. Strange transmigration, vice to become a virtue. Simply because more indulge in it. I thought then, as now, that the abolitionists were the only traitors in the land, and that the entire party deserved the fate of poor old Brown. Not because they wish to abolish slavery, but on account of the means they have even endeavored to use, to effect that abolition. If Brown were living, I doubt if he himself, would set slavery against the Union. (125)

I have, also, studied hard to discover upon what grounds, the rights of a state to Secede have been denied, when our very name (United States) and our Declaration of Independence, both provide for secession. (125-6)

[Author's note:] Booth is reported to have shouted "one more stain on the old banner" just before he was shot by federal soldiers on 26 April 1865. (130)

To My Countrymen: For years I have devoted my time, my energies, and every dollar I possessed to the furtherance of an object, I have been baffled and dissapointed. The hour has come when I must change my plan. Many I know -the vulgar herd- will blame me for what I am about to do, but posterity, I am sure, will justify me. Right or wrong, God judge me, not men. Be my motive good condemnation of the North: I love peace more than life. How loved the Union beyond expression. For four years I have waited, hoped and prayed for the dark clouds to break, and four a restoration of our former sunshine. To wait longer is a crime. My prayers have proved as idle as my hopes. God's will be done. I go to see and share the bitter end. This war is a war with the constitution and the reserve rights of the state. (147)

Until today nothing was ever thought of sacrificing to our country's wrongs. For six months we had worked to capture, but our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done. But its failure was owing to others, who did not strike for their country with a heart. I struck boldly, and not as the papers say. I walked with a firm step through a thousand of his friends, was stopped, but pushed on. A colonel was at his side. I shouted Sic semper before I fired. In jumping broke my leg. I passed all his pickets, rode sixty miles that night with the bone of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump. I can never repent it, though we hated to kill. Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment. The country is not what it was. This forced Union is not what I have loved. (154)

After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gunboats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving, with every man's hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for. What made Tell a hero? And yet I, for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew, am looked upon as a common cutthroat. My action was purer than either of theirs. One hoped to be great himself. The other had not only his country's but his own, wrongs to avenge. I hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone. A country that groaned beneath this tyranny, and prayed for this end, and yet now behold the cold hands they extend to me. God cannot pardon me if I have done wrong. Yet I cannot see my wrong, except in serving a degenerate people. The little, the very little, I left behind to clear my name, the Government will not allow to be printed. So ends all. For my country I have given up all that makes life sweet and holy, brought misery upon my family, and am sure there is no pardon in Heaven for me, since man condemns me so. I have only heard of what has been done (except what I did myself), and it fills me with horror. God, try and forgive me, and bless my mother. Tonight I will once more try the river with the intent to cross. Though I have a greater desire and almost a mind to return to Washington, and in a measure clear my name - which I feel I can do. I do not repent the blow I struck. I may before my God, but not to man. I think I have done well. Though I am abandoned, with the curse of Cain upon me, when, if the world knew my heart, that one blow would have made me great, though I did desire no greatness. Tonight I try to escape these bloodhounds once more. Who, who can read his fate? God's will be done. I have too great a soul to die like a criminal. Oh, may He, may He spare me that, and let me die bravely. I bless the entire world. Have never hated or wronged anyone. This last was not a wrong, unless God deems it so, and it's with Him to damn or bless me. As for this brave boy with me, who often prays (yes, before and since) with a true and sincere heart - was it crime in him? If so, why can he pray the same? I do not wish to shed a drop of blood, but 'I must fight the course.' 'Tis all that's left to me. (154)


24aug2007 — From the (not-recommended, written-in-the-style-of-an-inflight-magazine article) book Carnival Undercover:

So what is a roller coaster, anyway? The answer can be found not only in the name of the ride, but in the title of the first coaster in the world: LaMarcus Thompson's Switchback Gravity Pleasure Railway, which opened at Coney Island, Brooklyn, in 1884.
No, the key word isn't railway, it's
gravity. (113)

Since high g-forces on most coasters last about a second, the effects are temporary and harmless . . . unless you have a preexisting brain or heart condition, like the weakened blood vessel known as an aneurysm. After all, a few seconds without blood to the brain is nothing to a healthy human. But how do you know you're healthy until it's too late? (117-8)

It is important to remember that no one has ever conclusively proven that coasters in working condition kill healthy human beings. In fact, a scientific study sponsored by Six Flags recently "proved" that roller coasters are safer than taking a warm shower (an act that kills hundreds every year). (119) [Beg pardon?]

And therein lies the secret of the fake-animal freak tent: Price. An animal gaff doesn't necessarily have to be realistic, but it must always be priced low enough to keep the disappointed customer from complaining. (148)

In rod-into-serpent, the "rod" is a snake immobilized with a finger to the back of the head and straightened into a stiff, sticklike shape. When the snake is thrown to the ground, it immediately regains its power of movement and slithers away. (153)


23aug2007In 1980 the [Tucson] Toros began a long association with the Houston Astros. Following the lead of the parent club (which was widely criticized for its 1980s uniforms), the Toros introduced what some consider the ugliest uniform in the history of organized baseball: orange pants with yellow and red stripes, and a jersey with a turquoise back, yellow raglan sleeves, and a front resplendent in yellow, avocado, red, orange, and lime green stripes of various widths. (Wikipedia)


22aug2007 — From The Life and Legend of Leadbelly:

The Herald Tribune had run a major story on Leadbelly, describing how [John] Lomax had discovered him in a Louisiana prison and how he had sung an appeal to the governor that had won him a pardon. SWEET SINGER OF THE SWAMPLANDS HERE TO DO A FEW TUNES BETWEEN HOMICIDES read the headline, and people all over town were talking about him. (1)

[Blind Lemon Jefferson's] hearing, which allowed him to tell when a customer tried to stiff him by putting a nickel into his cup instead of a quarter, also informed him if his wife had been into his bootleg stock while he was gone. "He'd take the bottle and shake it," said [Sam] Price, "and he could hear that there were two or three drinks missing. And what he'd do, he'd beat the hell out of her." (43)

Not everybody in the family approved of this life-style. The young niece Viola Betts Daniels overheard Wes Ledbetter warning his son about what was wrong and right. He admonished Leadbelly about the fast life and the ruination that his "starvation box"—his guitar—would bring. But Huddie didn't listen to his father and "was always picking up that gun he carried. My father didn't like that because you were looking for trouble!" (67)

The prison camps, as folk song collectors would later learn, were rich repositories of older songs, handed down by word-of-mouth through generations of singers. Because of their relative isolation, the camps were islands of archaic African American culture that were largely removed from the modern world and its musical fads. During the specific years Huddie was in Sugarland, blues and jazz were becoming a national craze. . . . "The Jazz Age" was not misnamed and had Huddie been able, he would have been right in the middle of it. As it was, he heard little of it and continued to sing songs that were old in styles that were old, and only his own creativity within this enforced tradition kept his juices flowing. He didn't know it at the time, of course, but this isolation would in the end serve him well and form a distinctive repertoire that would win him his fame. (81)

It seems certain by this time that Huddie was commonly being called Leadbelly. He himself had implied that he had used this nickname in Dallas as early as 1912, when he got his first twelve-string guitar, but it certainly seems like a prison nickname more than anything else. (81)

Leadbelly himself said that nicknames in Sugarland were nothing casual; a man without a nickname in prison was like a little bug on the floor with no pallet to sleep on. "He's nobody with nothing. But give that little bug a pallet and he's somebody with something." His own nickname came from his ability to act as the lead man for the convict gangs that worked the cotton fields at Sugarland. He himself worked at a fast pace, and the songs he knew and sung helped make the work go smoother for all of them. One day the chaplain of the prison, the Reverend "Sin Killer" Griffin, came to him. "He says to me, you're a hard-driving man. Instead of guts, you got lead in your belly. That's who you are, old Leadbelly!" (82)

Despite a few inaccuracies in the pardon song, Governor Neff was delighted at this instance of apparent on-the-spot ballad making and with Huddie in general. Huddie said that the governor told him, "`I'm going to turn you loose after a while, but I'm going to keep you here so you can pick and dance for me when I come down.' I thanked him and wanted to go right then, but I was glad that I could please him. I just stayed in the field cutting cane, wouldn't take no easy job." He knew that the governor had another whole year to serve before his term was over, but he could hope that Neff would keep his word. . . . The election came and passed, and still no word. Then finally, on January 16, 1925, in one of his last acts of office, Neff signed a full pardon for Huddie, as Walter Boyd. (87)

Leadbelly had recently developed a severe toothache, and the constant pain was making him surly and irritable. One afternoon Lomax had to leave him in the car outside the prison gates, and he came back to find the car splattered with blood. "Leadbelly had been trying to pull his molar with the automobile pliers. `I couldn't get a good holt,' said Leadbelly; `the pliers kept slipping off.'" Finally Alan was able to find a black dentist who was able to kill the nerve to the molar. (132)

That afternoon he drove to the campus and found their destination: the home of the college's former president, Thomas. As usual, Leadbelly wasn't the least intimidated; he recognized the campus as "one of the famous women's schools" and then commented, "Well, maybe they don't know it, but they is about to hear the famousest nigger guitar player in the world." In spite of his nerves, Lomax was impressed; he later asserted that it was that remark that made him think Leadbelly might be of interest to bookers and managers in New York, and that maybe he might have a career on his own. He put the thought aside for now, though, and introduced his singer to the group at hand. Dressed in formal evening clothes, they listened politely as Leadbelly sand songs like "Dicklicker's Holler" and "Whoa, Back, Buck." Later Mrs. Lit wrote a gushing letter, thanking him for the afternoon, proclaiming him a genius to have been able to see the importance of Leadbelly, but complaining about the fact that Lomax, against her specific request, had still let Leadbelly pass his hat. It infuriated Lomax that Leadbelly had not been paid for the performance in front of some of the wealthiest people on the East Coast and his hat passing had only netted $10.
If the Gulf of Mexico didn't excite Leadbelly, New York did. "Run under a mile of water to get in it!" he said, laughing. . . . Leadbelly now felt he was indeed entering "the capitol of all the states in the world." The problem that had plagued the trio throughout their journey immediately presented itself again: how to work out lodgings for Huddie. Lomax was especially nervous about leaving him alone in New York, but soon found that no hotel or rooming house south of Harlem would let Leadbelly stay with them. Conversely, the Negro YMCA in Harlem would not let the Lomaxes stay with Leadbelly. Grudgingly, they agreed to separate, at least during the nights.
(137)

There was a moment for John Lomax to reflect a bit for the benefit of the reporters. "This is probably the first Negro wedding that ever took place in Connecticut where a white man gave the bride away and another acted as best man. It's done in the South, but we feel differently about Negroes down there. Here in the North, you sympathize with Negroes as an oppressed race, but don't know them as individuals. In the South, though, we don't think about the race as a whole, we get to know and love the individual Negro." The reporters nodded, polite and a little confused. (155)

Coincidentally, an old Texas connection helped to solidify the recording deal between Lomax and ARC. During his undergraduate days at the University of Texas at Austin, Maurice Woodward "Tex" Ritter had been introduced to Lomax's influential book and articles on cowboys songs in a literature class. Ritter was delighted to know that someone had collected and annotated many of the songs that he had known since he was a child. (157)

Like so many commercial record producers, they had a simplistic perception of black folk music. They divided folk and folklike music into two camps: Whites performed hillbilly and cowboy songs, while the black singers played blues and spirituals. A black man like Huddie, whose complicated repertoire ranged across these arbitrary lines, seems problematic for them. They finally did consent to record "Irene," but it was never issued. (158)

As the singer performed, Professor [George Lyman] Kittredge leaned over to Lomax and whispered, "He is a demon, Lomax." When Lomax repeated the comment to Leadbelly later, the singer nodded in agreement. "The demon means the head man. That ol' man knows what he is talkin' about." (176)

George Herzog, the distinguished ethnomusicologist from Columbia University . . . had two complaints that delayed the book's progress. First, he felt that not all of Huddie's songs reflected his black American heritage and that the more white-influenced songs should perhaps be struck from the final draft. Herzog failed to fully understand that the South was the great melting-pot of black African culture and white European culture, and that its music reflected this mixture. The scholar also objected to the Lomaxes' current title, Negro Sinful Songs. . . . (183)

"Leadbelly went on a gin-drinking binge," Fair recalled. "His sister called me to come over on Bogel Street. She said that Huddie's wife became upset when her husband was beating on her and Mrs. Ledbetter walked around Huddie with a razor. Huddie was then a rather fat man. When I got out on Bogel Street he was sitting on a stump on a front yard. And he had razor cuts in a circular pattern around his midriff. But the razor hadn't cut deeply. I called an ambulance and rode with Huddie to Parkland Hospital." Probably because of the gin, Huddie was feeling no pain by the time they got to the emergency room, and sang for the doctors as they stitched him up. After the work was finished, he took up his guitar and sang a few more selections for the nurses and doctors. "It was a most unusual Leadbelly concert," remembered Fair. (184-5)

On March 2, 1936, Lincoln Barnett, the Herald Tribune reporter who had done so much to spread the legend of Leadbelly a year before, found himself writing a new headline about the singer: "AIN'T IT A PITY? BUT LEADBELLY JINGLES INTO CITY. EBON, SHUFFLIN' ANTHOLOGY OF SWAMPLAND FOLKSONG INHALES GIN, EXHALES RHYME" (186)

Like Muhammad Ali in the 1970s, or the rap artists of the 1980s, Leadbelly could cultivate rhymes at the drop of a hat. He would soon add such techniques to his performances, fascinating audiences by his odd, rhymed spoken introductions to songs. (187)

Huddie was still suspicious—he feared that Martha's race—and class—would make her a second-class patient, even in a decent hospital. As the days passed, he found he was right: Martha had a hospital bed, but was not really being treated. When he mentioned this to Margot Mayo, the dance teacher hit upon a plan to bluff the hospital: she arranged for all the prominent people she knew, white or black, to telephone the hospital, inquiring about the condition of Mrs. Ledbetter. The plan worked; in a few days, Martha was operated on and was soon on her way back home. (192)

[In Washington, D.C.] Alan [Lomax] offered them lodging at his little flat near the Supreme Court building. Huddie and Martha spent the first night sleeping on the floor and were awakened by angry voices. Alan's landlord was at the downstairs entrance, shouting at Lomax, "You brought some niggers in my house? I don't want no niggers up there!" Lomax knew that his landlord could bring the Jim Crow laws down upon him and reluctantly agreed to find Huddie and Martha another place to stay.
This was easier to say than to do. The Ledbetters had driven down with Mary Barnicle—in fact, Huddie had driven her car—and a mutual friend named Kip Kilmer. He was the son of Joyce Kilmer. . . . The party set out to find lodging. Huddie recalled, "We rode all around in the rain. No colored people would take me in because I was with a white man." To his astonishment, he soon learned that the mixed group couldn't even go into a place to eat—even to one catering to blacks. "I had so many white people with me, he wouldn't let me in. But she told me just before I left, the colored woman did, that when I came back and didn't bring no white man, I could eat."
(206)

In the summer of 1944, shortly after Leadbelly had arrived, he met an old friend on the streets of downtown Los Angeles: cowboy singer Tex Ritter. . . . Ritter had emerged as a radio, film, and recording star, and had recently signed with Capitol. He urged Leadbelly to sign with the new label, and mentioned the singer to Lee Gillette, one of the Capitol executives. "One night at my house," Ritter recalled, "I had Merle Travis, Lee Gillette, my A & R man that I loved so much, and said, `Instead of auditioning [Leadbelly] at your office, Lee, why don't you just come back to the house tonight?' My wife [Dorothy Fay Southworth] was overseas at that time. And Lee helped sign him and they made an album at Capitol at that time." (230)

Interestingly, [Ross] Russell also suggested some common points shared by Leadbelly and Charlie Parker: "Each had an unshakeable conviction in the rightness of his music, especially in the way it should be phrased. For each, there was only one right way. Both were highly skilled actors and con men, abilities which had been painfully and laboriously acquired and arose out of their experiences as black men in America. They both could instant-cast roles to suit the occasion and the attitudes of those present." (235)

Now in the late 1940s, with Leadbelly one of the lions of the folk movement, young fans were becoming extremely self-conscious about just what to call their idol. . . . Stu Jamieson, still in high school at the time he knew Leadbelly, recalled heated debates among young fans at the time over "the classification name for black people."
Of course, Black was out in those days. And it was either colored or Negro. And Negro had bad associations because of its implications for nigger. Some of them were rather shocked to hear [Leadbelly] kidding around with Sonny Terry and saying, "Hey, nigger." There was a lot of discussion about it and after one of our broadcasts we were standing around talking. Somebody said, "Why don't we ask Leadbelly?"
So we went over . . . and said that we were concerned that we wanted to use the correct nomenclature in talking about his race. . . . He kind of laughed a little bit and looked at me and said, "He can call me nigger because I know him." He pointed to me. It was because I always called him Mr. Ledbetter. He said, "You can call me Huddie or Leadbelly, but you better not call me nigger until you know me better." In short, the lesson was more what you meant rather than what you said. That didn't solve our problems in the slightest. (249)

But one thing Martha did not like flaunted was unfaithfulness. A story told about them by a friend was cast as a joke, but was underneath more serious:
Now [Huddie] says, "Take for instance, I come home and I find Baby with another man. Whoo, I feel terrible. I wanna die. But you think I'm gonna hurt my baby, or hurt that man? What good that do anybody? I take a walk, come back later."
So Martha, his wife, says to him, "Who you trying to fool? You jus' tryin' to fix it as'in I come back and find you with another woman. And you're hopin' I'm gonna take a walk and come back later. Well, I AIN'T! (249-51)

Leadbelly's colorful life and the legends it generated were natural subjects for a book, but no one tried it until the late 1960s. Two San Francisco science fiction writers, Dick Garvin and Ed Addeo, produced The Midnight Special, which was published in 1971. . . . They started off by using one "whole day walking up and down Fannin Street, which was interesting because we were convinced that we were the only white people within ten miles! [We got] very suspicious looks because our car had California plates." Addeo recalls, "I had shaved my beard off because I had really been frightened by Easy Rider. I'd kept my sideburns because that was still groovy. But the closer we got to Shreveport, the shorter my sideburns got. By the time we got to Mooringsport, I looked like Clark Kent." (259)

Toward the end of his life, Leadbelly returned to Dallas. . . . Something happened there that impressed him. As he later told his friend Joe Brown:.
I was sitten out in the back during intermission. Sitten there resting, playin the geetar a boy, maybe ten years old came up to me. He look at me playing the geetar. Listen to me. lookin at me. After a while he says boy you got some pritty good stuff. Ah look at him and I say, thank you son, I been tryin for almost sixty years. That boy look at me. He didn't say nothin, just listen for a while. When he 'bout ready to go, he say, "Goodbye, Mr. Ledbetter. I hope you come back next year." Yuh know, when a white boy in Dallas call a nigga Mistuh, he's just learned something. (266)


21aug2007 — From Robert Sapolsky's Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals:

Dolly, sadly, died in 2003 at age seven, very young for a sheep. She seemed to suffer from some sort of syndrome of premature aging. . . . This precocity occurred for reasons that are still not fully understood but may have to do with her DNA being prematurely worn. The ends of the DNA that constitute chromosomes are called telomeres. With each round of cell division, telomeres get a bit shorter, and when they get below a certain threshold of length, cell division ceases. It could well be that Dolly started off life with the telomeric "clock" in each of her cells already at her mother's age. (26)

If it's her first [CT or MRI scan], the patient will probably get the willies. Unlike pictures of other organs, which inspire a bemused, "Hey, lookie here, that's my liver," brain scans provoke awe. That's your brain in there, with its convoluted surface and all those mysterious subsections. Rookie med students feel the same disquiet in anatomy class when they first hold a cadaver's brain in their hands. The same uneasiness makes neurosurgeons joke, "There go the piano lessons," when they cut into gray matter. (97)

It's not clear whether the small hippocampus precedes and biases toward PTSD or is a consequence of trauma and PTSD. In this case, the critical study requires getting brain images of people before they experience trauma, then following up with more brain imaging after they do or don't succumb to PTSD. While this may be apocryphal, a year ago, as U.S. forces were poised to invade Iraq, a rumor swept through the community of brain-imaging neuroscientists that the military was doing baseline brain imaging on Special Forces soldiers heading off to the front. (104-5)

And amid this all, there's this shared realization that despite the zillions of us slaving away at the subject, we still know squat about how the brain works. (109)

America is one big version of The Alternative Universe, thanks to emigration. Fisherman in the Mekong Delta or dot-commer in Silicon Valley? Wife of a camel herder in Rajasthan or family practitioner/weekend softball-league ace in Houston? At the core of this what-ifing is a key fact—we are shaped by the sort of society in which we live, and we would not be the same person if we had grown up elsewhere. The language you are raised with will constrain your patterns of thought (a finding that has floated around anthropology and linguistics for close to a century). The economic structure of your society will influence whether you tend to cooperate or cheat in formal game-theory settings, as recent research has shown. The marriage structure of a culture will help determine whether the most salient thought of, say, a man during his marriage ceremony is This is the person with whom I will share love for the rest of my life, in whose arms I will die someday or Fourteen cows for a third wife? Damn, I think I got ripped off. And the theology, myths, and urban legends of your civilization will shape how you think about some of the most fundamental questions in life—for example, is life intrinsically beautiful, or sinful? (143-4)

In his Theory of the Leisure Class, the sociologist Thorstein Veblen wrote about the symbols of indolent wealth in different societies. In imperial China, it was useless, bound feet. In the newly settled American West, if a rancher was sufficiently wealthy, he could afford to let some of his grazing land lie fallow and would make sure the land was conspicuously near his house, so that guests could marvel—the invention of the lawn. (150)

Polio was long considered to be a disease of the better-off—catch a chill while yachting and you've got FDR in a wheelchair. Theodore Pincus of Vanderbilt Medical School has written about how this is a distortion. In actuality, the poor, typically living in much higher population densities, would contract the polio virus readily, often in the first months of life. But the key thing is that polio causes only mild and transient respitory problems in a newborn. The poor really did get more polio. They simply got it under conditions where it wasn't detected as such. (151)

Few settings match a state funeral as an opportunity for a government to signal don't-screw-with-us power and solidarity. (192)

Even more bizarre is the story of the eleventh-century Saint Romuald—in his old age, he made the mistake of noting plans to move from his Umbrian town; the locals, worried that some other burg would wind up with the holy relics of his body, promptly conspired to murder him. (193)

(See also: The original New Yorker article version of Monkeyluv's chapter "Open Season")


20aug2007 — From Marshall Trimble's Pulling Legs Attached to Tenderfeet

Another time, Doc Smart and his gang robbed a train near Pantano, then made their getaway on the steam engine. They rode it to the outskirts of Tucson then put it in reverse and jumped off. A posse found the pilfered locomotive a few miles from town and couldn't figure out hwo the culprits got away without leaving any tracks. Detectives weren't able to solve the mystery of the vanishing train robbers until some time later when one of the gang members were captured. He explained that the engine had gone backwards down the track from Tucson until it'd run out of steam. (3)

Since Tucson had no suitable jail, a public whipping post was set up in the plaza. The standard punishment for crimes was a public whipping. But there was a catch. The culprits would be given their punishment in two doses on successive Saturdays. Following a speedy trial, the town marshal would give the rascals a severe public spanking. Afterwards, they were told to come back next Saturday for the second installment.
It goes without saying that when the following Saturday rolled around those villains made sure they were a long ways from Tucson.
(26)

Some never lost their sense of humor despite the grim circumstances in which they found themselves. In Tucson, as they were draping the noose around his neck, Joe Casey mused, "Very uncomfortable necktie, boys." At his hanging George Shears casually remarked: "Gentlemen, I am not used to this business, having never been hanged before. Do I jump off or slide off?" (40)

History failed to record the last remarks of a desperado who loved to twirl his pistol by the trigger guard. He innocently claimed two men he murdered in cold-blood doing his twirl were accidents. Judge Lynch and his hung jury took charge and administered another of those suspended sentences to the culprit. Next morning he was found hanging from the limb of a cottonwood tree with a note attached saying, "This was no accident." (42)

During the 1929 revolution, Patrick Murphy signed on with the revolutionaries to bomb the federale trenches around Naco, Sonora. There are two Nacos, one in Arizona, the other in Sonora. The fighting along the border attracted a number of spectators from towns like Bisbee and Douglas. Folks watched the battles around Agua Prieta from ringside seats atop the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas. Over at Naco, railroad cars were pulled alongside the border so the residents of nearby Bisbee would have good seats. Battles were usually fought during daylight hours, thus providing ample time for the combatants on both sides to sample the night life in Naco, Sonora. (104)

Later, [Pauline] Weaver himself became a victim of the animosity between the newcomers and the natives. One day while out alone he was attacked by a hostile war party. He took a bullet in a vital spot and believing himself mortally wounded, began his "death song," a warrior ritual he'd adopted from the Plains Indians, but unknown among the Yavapai bands. Out on the Plains, enemy warriors waited respectfully while a fallen foe went through the ritual before administering the coup de grace. In this instance, the Yavapai warriors thought Weaver had gone loco and refused to go near him. Sometime later, Weaver realized he wasn't going to die, not yet anyway, so he got up and walked back to his camp. The Yavapai apparently regretted shooting their old friend for during the next few months they continually sent out inquiries as to his health as the old man recovered from his wounds. (112)

Earl Goodrich loved sitting on his front porch of his Cave Creek home in the beautiful, unspoiled Sonoran Desert. Cars were seldom seen on the narrow, unpaved road in front of his house. That all seemed likely to change one day when a couple of county surveyors strolled into what he'd always thought was his front yard and started pounding stakes in the ground. His curiosity was aroused sufficiently to ask what they were doing.
"We're marking out a new street," one cheerfully replied.
Earl didn't say anything but as soon as they were gone he went out to the shed and got out his shovel and wheelbarrow. He loaded the wheelbarrow with rocks and dumped them out between the rows of stakes. When he had enough rocks, Earl shaped them into a mound about six feet long and nailed two boards together in the shape of a cross and drove it into the ground. Then he reached into his pocket, took out a pocket knife and on the cross-board, scrawled the words, "Buck Skinner, 1879-1947, Rest in Peace."
Earl sat on his porch and waited patiently for something to happen and sure enough, a few weeks later a crew with some heavy equipment showed up. Before they could get their engines cranked up, Earl ran up with the look of a true concerned citizen and informed the county men they were about to disturb the remains of one of the pioneer pillars of the community, a stalwart Arizonan who helped tame this wilderness land.
"And, if you don't believe me," he said with poker-face honesty, "go over to Harold's Cave Creek Corral and ask Harold and Ruth Gavagan." Harold and Ruth ran a popular steak house in Cave Creek and had lived in the area longer than most of the saguaros. . . . Sure enough, straight-faced Harold and Ruth Gavagan verified Earl's story. A few days later some officials from the county came out and looked over the burial site. With serious expressions of grave concern they climbed back in their cars and left without saying a word.
Sometime later the surveyors were back in the area mapping out a new street, where a road was eventually built, this one a half mile from Earl's house. Earl passed away a few years ago, but right up to the end he sat with his lovely wife Gracie on their front porch every evening enjoying the unidisturbed view of the beautiful high desert.
(121-2)

Arizona's rivers aren't only the nation's driest, they are also among the most fickled. The Gila River is a good example. Back in the 1880s the citizens of Florence petitioned the territorial legislature to appropriate $12,000 to build a bridge across the Gila. Soon after the bridge was build and dedicated the river changed its course and bypassed it, leaving the lonely structure out there in the desert looking forlorn and out of place. During the 1920s the federal government decided to build a dam on the Gila. After the dam was completed, a great crop of weeds sprang up where the lake should have formed. Undaunted, they named the dam Coolidge after Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge and invited the president to the dedication. He came to the ceremony, gazed at the lake of weeds and was characteristically silent. But Will Rogers was there and he always had something to say. He looked at it and opined, "If that was my lake, I'd mow it!" (123)

Henry Wickenburg found the Vulture Mine, the richest lode gold mine in 19th century Arizona history. He sold his interest to some unscrupulous operators who cheated him out of his share. Broke and disheartened, he committed suicide in the town that was named for him. (136)


19aug2007 — From Drew's Toothpaste for Dinner (p. 145):

last night i woke up and wrote down an idea from a dream i had which i knew would help the country

i read it when i woke up this morning and it said:

800 NIPPLE-HANDS ARE NEEDED TO START THE REVOLUTION

(See also)


18aug2007 — From Up Around the Bend: The Oral History of Creedence Clearwater Revival:

Doug Clifford: Woodstock was great except we had to follow the Grateful Dead. They played a forty-five-minute version of "Turn On Your Love Light." I was so uptight and so upset. They were supposed to play an hour. A good black group playing forty-five minutes is stretching it, but the Grateful Dead. . . . They basically put the audience to sleep; we had to try to bring them back. That was hard.
John Fogerty: We didn't actually do very well at Woodstock because of the time segment and also because we followed the Grateful Dead, therefore everybody was asleep. It's true. They put half a million people to sleep and in hindsight, since so many more people profess to having been at Woodstock, it's probably five million people. It seemed like we didn't go on till two o'clock in the morning. It was way later than we were supposed to go on. We were supposed to be in the prime spot for that evening. But it's an old story, the Dead went on and pulled their usual shenanigans. They tuned, like, for forty minutes and then they played a while and then all their equipment broke and it's, like, classical mythic Grateful Dead, and it seemed like an endless amount of intermission and guess what? They started playing again. So they were on stage literally for two and a half hours, and we had to go on after that. (101-2)

Fogerty:The Hollies's "Long Cool Woman" was Creedence's greatest record! It's the way I feel about Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula"—that was Elvis's greatest record! . . . Just the vibe coming from "Green River" and a little bit of "Bad Moon" and just kind of going off into the Creedence repertoire. And that's okay; unless you're actually stealing the song itself, the sound and the arrangement are just there for the asking, really. (144)

"Zanz Kant Danz" (subsequently retitled "Vanz Kant Danz") presented Fantasy's owner [Saul Zaentz] as a performing pig trained to steal people's money. In retaliation, Fantasy filed suit against Fogerty for "self-plagiarism," claiming that "The Old Man Down the Road" was based on "Run Through the Jungle," whose copyright Fantasy controlled. In November 1988, at the end of an absurdly convoluted trial, Fogerty was acquitted of sounding like himself. (175)


17aug2007 — From some dumb Tarot book:

TWO OF BATONS

Upright: Strength of will bringing ideas to pass. Firm rulership resulting in peace and justice. Riches and authority attained by just means. The responsible wielding of executive powers. Courage and initiative resulting from high motives. Earned success. Wisdom attained through experience.

Reversed: Ambition which will brook no obstacle, the will to power. Wealth attained by improper means. Pride without humility. Great success which ends in feelings of futility and emptiness. The achieving of a goal which turns out to be worthless. Loss of faith in oneself and one's motives.


16aug2007 — From Collateral Damage: The Zodiac Mindwarp American Tour Daries:

America.
Burn it down and start again.
(27)

Up on that stage fan boy, beneath those magic lights, in that hallowed space, reality can seriously go and fuck itself.
I mean, Mick Jagger? Up on his stage, do you really think he sees himself as a skinny, hair-dyed, mentaloid pensioner wearing women's clothes and being an arse when he's running around thrusting and shouting, keeping schoolgirls under his thumb, do you think he's remotely aware of the fact that his wife and pretty much the rest of the world see him as just a dirty old man that can't keep his cock in his trousers?
Do you think Bono has the faintest idea when he's wandering around airports in slow motion that he's just some jumped up Paddy with a Messiah complex and not a man on a mission?
Of course fucking not.
(46-7)

Madonna, the poor cunt, imagine if she suddenly realised that even homosexuals don't find her sexy any more, that she in fact, in dreadful, terrible reality, looks like a hysterical mad old baglady in a stupid bra. (48)

"This man, fucking Paul McCrapney, the fucking bodies ain't even cold yet and him and his creepy fucking millionaire buddies are cashing in on it, trying to raise money to bomb Afghanistan or something," said Cobalt . . . looking at a picture in some New York propaganda lying Newspaper type thing, pictures of firemen being brave all over the place on the front of it.
"Fuck off!" said Dogboy Snakebite, surfacing from the debris of last night's coma. "Has he got his new little spaz girlfriend with him, that thalidomide model chick with one leg?"
"Yeah, man, he's saying that peace-loving vegetarians all over the world should unite in the memory of Linda's vegetables and kill evil poor people in Afghanistan with bombs and stuff dropped by brave firemen or something I don't know, David Bowie's playing, Sting, the usual fucking arseholes. Gay Firemen for War or something, I don't fucking know, you can't tell with these Yank papers there's too much weird bullshit lying crap going on in them." . . .
"Fuck man, they're all fucking at it," said Tex, switching propaganda channels on the American TV, "Fucking Bono, the cunt, he's raising money for gay firemen's and airpilots' families who can't afford to buy any more incendiary bombs to drop on Afghanistan orphans or something."
(59, 60, 61)

Those cold-hearted remote killers in Washington had learned their Vietnam lessons well. No way, ever again, were those reckless Pentax, Nikon, glamour boys going to hijack the propaganda machine and actually start telling the truth about their sordid wars.
Truth is the pill that tastes most bitter to all governments.
(63)

It was a bit of a reality check when some young kid said to us breezily after the gig in Brooklyn "You guys kicked ass, you been down the big crater thing yet?"
"The big crater thing?" I replied, not sure what he was talking about.
"Yeah man, the World Trade Center, you know, the big hole where the buildings fell down." He was smiling when he said this.
(63-4)

I felt redeemed by helping my fellow man and ashamed at the same time because of the selfish reasons that inspired me to want to help my fellow man.
A bit like how Bono and Bob Geldof must feel every day I guess. . . . Altruism baby. Suck my fucking cock and burn a million quid. Go! Billy Drummond, go!
(126-7)

There he was, sitting over the lights in full SS uniform, jackboots, swastika arm-band, everything, wearing a straw cowboy hat, his latest affectation.
I have a deep respect and affection for Lemmy, even though he is a complete tosser.
That's probably indeed why I have such respect and admiration for the man.
He's an arsehole and he knows it.
In rock and roll, this is extra fuckingly absolutely important.
Rock and roll at its core is the elevation of ego to heights and vistas that would put Caligula and the rest of his Roman buddies to shame.
When a man loses sight of this fact he becomes insufferable. Mick Jagger, Elton John, David Bowie, Madonna, Bono of the U2's, I rest my case. When a chap keeps his feet on the ground, indulges himself naturally, but doesn't lose sight of the ball, doesn't think that the little rock and roll fantasy that he is acting out is real, then like Old Sarge, Lemmy, he becomes the real thing. A fucking hero.
(164-5)


15aug2007IN CASE OF REVOLUTION BREAK GLASS

(Photographer unknown; gracias a Cardhouse)


14aug2007 — R.I.P. Phil Rizzuto: Athlete, Poet, announcer's voice on Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

Meanwhile.

On her website, Jane Espenson prominently recommends Bob Harris's Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy! Espenson, formerly of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a fabulous writer, and Joss Whedon wrote a blurb for it, so I sent for the book. It's not Whedonesque. Nor Espensonlike. It's got kind of an annoying tone and lame jokes. But it has good Jeopardy! tips. Espenson's recommendation is explained in the penultimate quotation, below:

The writers can ask about virtually any topic, of course, but they're limited by the brevity of the clues and responses. Using the typeface Jeopardy! prefers on its monitors, in fact, a clue can only contain just over 100 characters. Into that, they have to squeeze enough data to limit all possible responses to one, usually after a clear hint of some kind, and if possible even cram in a small dollop of humor. (34)

At the same instant the buzzers become active, a series of tiny, nameless lights near the game board flash, telling the players it's safe to ring in. Jump the gun, and your buzzer is disabled for what I'd guess is about a half a second. This is an eternity in Jeopardy! time. Someone else will probably ring in before your buzzer works again. (35)

During [a] stoppage in play . . . I inhaled and exhaled and mumbled shy pleasantries, but mostly I tried to stay focused and think ahead, free-associating from the categories and this day's Halloween theme, getting my mental flash cards prepared for the next burst of play. . . . This paid off almost immediately. One of the clues after the break required exactly the response I had just spent an extra second bringing to mind. . . . I made a mental note never to waste a spare second during a Jeopardy! game again. Instead, I would think ahead like this during the first commercial, any technical stoppages, and even during other players' Daily Doubles. (44-5)

Looking back at the buzzer-play in my first game, we find another key bit of Jeopardy! strategy, a bit of Zen that even the best players struggle to achieve: do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to ring in. Ever.
Do not. Touch. The. Buzer.
Unless you are very sure of the correct response.
Here's why: if you and I and your best friend are playing each other on a $1000 clue, and you get it wrong, you've just given us
both a $1000 advantage. This is already twice as bad as simply letting one of us respond correctly. Worse, there's now an excellent chance that one of us will now do exactly that, especially since we have a few extra seconds to think, and you've eliminated one of the possible responses.
In this case, guessing wrong will put you $1000 behind one opponent, and $2000 behind the other. Total loss: $3000.
On the other hand, if your brain turns to grape jelly and oozes out of your skull entirely, bounces with a loud "plop!" off your podium, and finally makes a large purple stain on the studio floor, the worst possible loss is only $1000.
(48)

You don't win by knowing everything. Often, you won't know squat. All you can do is admit it and make yourself comfortable with ignorance until you have a chance to change your situation. (49)

Eighty percent of the thirty-five times my finger moved, my light came on. The other 20 percent of those clues were split about evenly between the other two players. Another way to look at it: when my body decided to tell my index finger to move, I won on the buzzer eight times more often than either opponent, both of whom were often looking directly at a Go Light telling them exactly when to ring in. (49-50)

I had $500 more than twice the second-place player's score. So all I had to do was bet less than $500, and the game was won. Instead, I bet $500 exactly. I was actually playing for a worst-case tie. In non-tournament tie games, both winners return, so in the worst case, my next game would include only one new opponent, in addition to one I could definitely beat on the buzzer.
In a full five-game run, I would normally have eight future opponents. But any one of them could be an Ivy League Serial Killer, an inhuman knowledge machine with a degree from Harvard, someone my Jedi buzzer tricks couldn't possibly overwhelm. Why not cut that number down to seven, while I could?
(50-1)

I had just under three weeks.
First things first: Remember the lesson of Halloween. Consider the broadcast dates for the next four games: November 24 through 27. My potential fifth game was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day. I was about to become rather expert on the
Mayflower. (78-9)

You'll often see a contestant in second or third place get a Daily Double so late in the game that a large wager is their only real chance to win. And almost always—not some of the time, mind you, not most of the time, but almost all of the time—that player will not bet enough to take the lead. Instead, they'll bet small, apologizing to no one in particular with a little shrug.
In that moment, they have
chosen to lose.
Whether or not they respond correctly, they have guaranteed that they will trail entering Final Jeopardy. And since good players respond correctly to most Final Jeopardys, that's usually that.
On the other hand, most players also respond correctly to most Daily Doubles. So a large bet makes a win the most likely outcome of a "risky" large wager, even though the game might have seemed out of reach.
Why do people do this? The same reason my father worked for thirty-seven years in a factory he hated. The same reason I stayed in (and, in truth, cultivated) bad relationships. The same reason you probably do something in your life, right this minute, that you wish you didn't.
All change is hard, even good change, like winning something. It's hard for any of us to imagine real alternatives to our expectations, so they're what we often wind up with. Which reinforces the existing pathways in what can become an inescapable loop.
(83-4)

Part of what made Chuck [Forrest] memorable was his pure bravado. In September of 1985 he pioneered a technique (still called the "Forrest Bounce") in which he selected clues not in simple vertical lines but by hopscotching back and forth across the game board, continually changing categories. . . . His confidence in his own mental agility to change topics every twelve seconds distracted his competitors enough that they never once found their footing. Five wins later, he was $72,800 richer. (85)

Many players dive straight into their strongest subject, hoping to run up a score before hitting a Daily Double, thinking this is the best way to maximize those opportunities. I know that's what I was thinking, anyway. But I was also just trying to get comfortable, and thus reaching for the familiar, so the strategic explanation was really just a rationalization.
I had not yet realized that by attacking your weakest category immediately, you'll probably get the hardest clues off the board with the least possible amount of money at stake. If there's a Daily Double in the weak category, it will barely matter, while hitting it late puts you in a difficult betting situation. And if the Daily Double is in a stronger category, you'll be more likely to hit it when it can do you the most good. If you hit this Daily Double late in the game, you'll have significant control over the outcome.
(108-9)

Before the last break is over, long before the Final Jeopardy clue is revealed, the wranglers always tell you which interrogative to write. As I scrawled down the word "What" I noticed my hand was shaking. (127)

The awarding of new cars to retiring undefeated champions had only begun a few weeks earlier, at the beginning of this broadcast season. Champions were to have their choice of a Chevy Suburban, a Tahoe, or a Corvette convertible. One thing they didn't expect: none of the champs liked SUVs. Everyone wanted the sporty Corvette.
So now they were out of Corvettes.
This is what Glenn asked: Would I mind, then, if they just gave me two Camaros instead? One would be a convertible, at least. I could think of them as "his & hers" Camaros if I liked. Would that be all right?
Umm . . . OK.
(127)

Trebekistan is a location unfixed in physical space and time. It's a place of pure learning, where hard playful work can bring sudden shocks of unexpected perception. In Trebekistan, art and math and geography and science stop pretending to be separate subjects, and instead converge in a glorious riot. Every new detail creates two fresh curiosities, so you know less as you learn, and yet nothing seems unknowable. Trebekistan, oddly, is a place of expanding dimension yet increasing connection, both growing and shrinking with every new step. (134)

Ancestrally speaking, the Windsors of England are more German than English. George V switched to "Windsor" (from "Saxe-Coburg-Gotha") in 1917 when England was warring with Germany. It would be hard to persuade young men to die in the trenches to prevent Germans from taking over if it seemed clear that they already had. (136)

On a taping date, I would have to be awake at 7:30 a.m., and I would play my actual games sometime between noon and 5:30 p.m. During the day at Sony, I would have access to a limited menu of food and drink, although I could surely sneak protein snack bars into the green room. So: with rare exception, every day for four months, I awakened at 7:30, studied most intensely between noon and 5:30 (often standing at the bookcase that doubled as my practice podium), and ate exactly the green room snacks and protein bars I would eat on a game day, plus a Sony-lunch-style sandwich around 3:00 p.m. (137-8)

The phone rang a bit more at night. Men tended to point out a response they knew that I didn't, asserting themselves competitively. Women more often pointed out responses that no one knew, creating safety. Rarely are stereotypes so grossly confirmed. (140)

That was $200,000 on a Saturday.
The money, it turned out, was actually an annuity, payable in tiny bits spread out over a decade. The immediate cash value was thus substantially less. Once the taxes were paid, I'd won only a third of the money they flashed on the screen. Still it was more cash in one day than I'd won in whole weeks of
Jeopardy! For three total questions. If Jeopardy! was a relationship, Greed was a tawdry affair: quick, flashy, loud, and kind of confusing.
Some time after
Greed was canceled, I ran into Chuck Woolery in an LAX terminal. We were both walking toward baggage claim. I introduced myself, and he remembered our game, and he didn't mind passing time with a stranger. He was exactly the same as he is on the air: just-folks, easy smile, no pretense at all.
"
Man, that was a complicated show," he volunteered with a laugh. (219)

My blood-spattered friend David and I often hang out with a fellow named Danny, another actor whose work you might have seen. For several years, Danny had a recurring part on a well-known TV series, a sensitive and realistic portrayal of a teenage girl fighting vampires. Really. . . .
Danny was once in an episode that was centered entirely on his minor character. It was his chance to shine, so he threw a big party with all of his friends. I knew he was talented but I had seen little of the show, so I went to his house prepared to enjoy the evening in portions.
I shouldn't have worried. It was one of the funniest hours I'd ever seen, even though I knew few of the characters. Danny rose to the occasion with a cocksure performance. I was also impressed with how clever and honest and surprising the writing was. I envied Danny the chance to spend time with such talent.
Months later, on our way to a ballgame, I was grumbling to David and Danny about how things had ended with the tall glamorous woman. They both had an idea for a fix-up: the woman who'd written the all-Danny episode. Jane.
(223-4)

Jane had an old $1 token from the Luxor casino from some Vegas trip of many years earlier. (The Luxor delighted her because her knowledge of hieroglyphics meant she could fact-check the walls. She was pleased with the glyphs they got right—the headboard proclaimed "Cleopatra," in fact—but more amused by complete random nonsense. The Luxor, seen clearly, is a transcendent work of art, a compendium of ultimate Dada poetry, unknowingly composed across entire continents and ages.) (245)


13aug2007 — From A. J. Jacobs's The Know-It-All:

Berserkers Savage Norse soldiers from the middle ages who, it is said, went into battle naked. Hence "going berserk." So to truly go berserk, you should take off your pants. Noted. (25)

My dad nods his head. "I've got a good fact for you," says my dad. "You know the speed of light, right?"
"Yes. 186,000 miles per second."
"Yes, but do you know it in fathoms per fortnight?"
"What?"
"Do you know the speed of light in fathoms per fortnight?"
"Uh, don't think I do."
My dad tells me that he has calculated the speed of light in fathoms per fortnight so that he can be the only person in the world who knows that particular piece of information. That, as my mother would say, is "very Arnie."
"It's 1.98 x 1014" he says.
(28-9)

Civil War Before I waded into the Britannica, I knew enough about the Civil War to make sure I wasn't a complete embarrassment to my country. I watched that Ken Burns documentary a few years ago, or at least a half hour of it, before I flipped back to something in color with a zippier sound track. Also, I knew that Denzel Washington led a black regiment to a victory at the historic Battle of the Oscars. (44)

If I'm bored with that game, I can browse the Mensa catalogue, enjoying the Mensa T-shirts, Mensa baseball caps, and Mensa critter stuffed animals, which are supposed to look like Beanie Babies to everyone but Beanie Baby lawyers. (58)

Well, I tell him, he can always be sure of one thing: if a stranger says he was born any day between October 4 and October 15, 1582, he's lying. Why? Because there were no such dates. That's when the Western World switched to the Gregorian calendar, and they skipped those ten days. Never happened. Jeff makes that face that I've come to know well from other people: he purses his lips in a sort of half frown, raises his eyebrows, and nods his head. The universal symbol for "Isn't that something." (73-4)

fondue Legend has it that this dish originated during a Swiss truce in the 16th century, when the Protestants brought the bread and Catholics brought the cheese. Or the other way around—no one's sure. It's a nice story. Sort of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but with more war and religion. (95)

My favorite line in our two hours together comes when I ask him for his philosophy of knowledge. Trebek thinks for a moment, then responds: "I'm curious about everything—even things that don't interest me." I love that sentiment. It's totally contradictory, but I know what he means. (102)

Or there's my radio ritual. When I turn off the radio, the last word I hear has to be a noun. No verbs, no prepositions, no adjectives—I need a noun, preferably a good, solid noun, something you can hold in your hands. So I'll stand over my shower radio, dripping, pushing the power button on and off and on and off till I catch Nina Totenberg saying something like "bottle" or "car." Only then can I get out of the shower and get dressed. (129)

There are few things more annoying than a busybody friend, the kind who thinks he knows what's best for you and ignores your wishes. . . . The only thing more annoying: when your friend turns out to be right. If Albert had honored my wishes for secrecy, I probably would never have acted on my crush. I'd still be single, lonely, and have no idea what a sconce is, much less have several in my home. (165)

In general, I'm trying very hard to be more selective in what knowledge I impart. I've started to realize that not everybody appreciates brilliant 17th-century parallels. (173)

Las Vegas Mormons were the first settlers. Not sure Joseph Smith would approve of today's topless showgirls and liquor. Though he would like the volcano at the Mirage. Everybody likes the volcano. (179)

Scrabble involves too much luck; I'm always getting stuck with a bunch of hard consonants that look like they might spell a Slavic factory town, but nothing in my mother tongue. (183)

After a busy day of examining torture instruments in the Tower of London and getting mocked for ordering ice in our drinks (the waiter brought us or ice cubes in a pail labeled "Yank Bucket"), we went to the theater. (186)

Madonna The Britannica just added Madonna to the edition this year, and you could tell the editors wrote the entry while wearing one of those sterile full-body suits people use when containing an Ebola outbreak. It's wedged in between write-ups for the first Madonna and British legal historian Thomas Madox, and contains sentences like this one: "Her success signaled a clear message of financial control to other women in the industry, but in terms of image she was a more ambivalent role model." In Britannica-speak, that roughly translates to: "Madonna is a whore. A very dirty whore." (191)

In a glass case, I find a letter [Einstein] wrote to his wife in an attempt to save his doomed marriage. It read: "You will make sure that I get my three meals a day in my room. You are neither to expect intimacy nor to reproach me in any way." (203)

I wander over to another little plaque. This one says Einstein refused to celebrate birthdays. As he explained: "It is a known fact that I was born, and that is enough." This is good. (203)

Isaac Newton . . . Yes, Newton was a complete nut job, the angriest and nastiest scientist in history. The Britannica comes right out and uses the phrase "pronounced psychotic tendencies." (225)

nursery rhyme My favorite Mother Goose fact so far: "Jack and Jill" is actually an extended allegory about taxes. The jack and jill were two forms of measurement in early England. When Charles I scaled down the jack (originally two ounces) so as to collect higher sales tax, the jill, which was by definition twice the size of the jack, was automatically reduced, hence "came tumbling after." Kids love tax stories. (233)

Mushrooming, explains Trent, occurs when one of our soldiers is asleep, and his buddy wants to wake him up in a creative way. The buddy unzips his pants, takes out his penis, dips it in ketchup, then thwacks the sleeping guy on the forehead, leaving a mushroom-shaped imprint. Hence mushrooming.
Huh.
Julie and I spend a few moments processing this bit of military reconnaissance.
"Now that's something that you don't read in the encyclopedia," says Julie.
(236)

I've started to notice something disturbing, a phenomenon my grandparents talk about a lot: time has sped up. . . . The _Britannica_ has an explanation for this: elderly people find time shorter because they notice long-accustomed changes less frequently.
I'm not 100 percent sure what this means. Which long-accustomed changes in particular? They notice the daily setting of the sun less frequently? The changing of the seasons? The rhythms of the body? The Buckingham Palace guards? Regardless, I get the gist. Old people adapt to stimuli. To put it bluntly, old people are less perceptive.
I wonder if I can fight this change. Can I stop the acceleration of time by remaining observant? By keeping my mind open to changes and filled with wonder at the world, instead of tuning it out?
(253)

pigeon . . . I find myself being blown away by pigeons.
Earlier, I was concerned that all this reading was bad for my relationship with the world. I wondered if I wasn't like John Locke's blind man, who learned all about the concept of scarlet but remained totally clueless as to its true nature. Maybe. But I've decided it can have the opposite effect too. It can enhance my relationship with the world, make me marvel at it, see it with new eyes.
And those eyes are constantly shifting. When I read about the hydrosphere, I see the world as a vehicle for water—the rain, the evaporation, the rivers, the clouds. Then I'll read about energy conversion, and see the world as a collection of ever-shifting quanta of energy. There are infinite numbers of ways to slice the universe, and I keep seeing cut after cut.
(261-2)

Pirandello, Luigi The Italian playwright, creator of Six Characters in Search of an Author. Pirandello said in 1920: "I think that life is a very sad piece of buffoonery; because we have in ourselves, without being able to know why, wherefore or whence, the need to deceive ourselves, constantly by creating a reality (one for each and never the same for all), which from time to time is discovered to be vain and illusory. . . . My art is full of bitter compassion for all those who deceive themselves; but this compassion cannot fail to be followed by the ferocious derision of destiny which condemns man to deception." Good Lord. That's a bleak paragraph. That is just the kind of thinking I'm a sucker for. . . . (262)

Proust, Marcel It wasn't a madeleine. In real life, Proust's memories were sparked by a rusk biscuit, which is basically another name for zweiback toast. He changed it when he wrote Remembrance of Things Past. What's wrong with zweiback? I'm just guessing, but I smell a corrupt product placement deal with the madeleine industry. (272)

But medical history in the postscientific age isn't much more heartening. Here's a quote that took me aback: "I believe firmly that more patients have died from the use of [surgical] gloves than have been saved from infection by their use." That's from one of the leading medical experts in the early 20th century weighing in on the surgical glove controversy—a controversy I didn't even know existed. In my encyclopedia, I wrote a little note in ballpoint pen next to that quotation: "Doctors don't know shit." (292)

The thing is, I don't feel intellectually adrift as I used to. I feel that I have a handle on the map of all knowledge—and even if there are some details missing, I at least have the outlines of the continents and islands. (293)

I had noticed a quirk in the way [Who Wants to Be a] Millionaire pays out its reward money. In the fine print of the ream of documents they sent me, it said that $250,000 is paid in one lump sum—but $500,000 and $1,000,000 are paid out over ten and twenty years, respectively.If you factored in inflation and lost investment opportunities, could $250,000 actually be a better deal? I hope so. I figure that would be a great moment in Millionaire history: I stop at $250,000 and explain to Meredith the intricacies of amortized payments. So I ask Eric—the former investment banker—to crunch the numbers.
He e-mails back that $1,000,000 over twenty years came out to $540,000 in today's dollars. That's before taxes, mind you—but it is still more cash than the other options. Damn. Now I really have to try to win the million.
(332)

I decided to start with some good writing advice I'd culled from the encyclopedia. I printed my speech on little index cards to make myself look organized and professional. I begin reading.
First, I tell them to be aggressive. The poet Langston Hughes was a busboy at a hotel in Washington, D.C. While in the dining room, he slipped three of his poems beside the dinner plate of established poet Vachel Lindsay. The next day, newspapers announced Lindsay had discovered a "Negro busboy poet." The moral: get your writing in people's face—no matter how you do it.
Second, I tell them they can write anywhere. If you have a job at the Gap, steal a few minutes and write some lines in the sweater section. No excuses. Hugh Lofting wrote
Dr. Doolittle while in the trenches of World War I. Amid exploding grenades and gas masks and rats, he created a lovely little story about talking animals that he sent home to amuse his children. Be like Hugh. Write everywhere.
Then I tell them that if you write with style and passion, you can make any topic interesting. Any topic at all, as William Cowper proved. Cowper was a poet whose friend challenged him to write a long discursive poem about a sofa. He did, and it was a smash success.
(334-5)

university The first one was in Bologna, Italy, in the 11th century. When universities began, teachers charged fees for each class, which meant they had to appeal to the students. Now that's a brilliant idea that needs to be resuscitated. Open classes up to the free market! Set up a ticket booth outside Psychology 101 and Advanced Statistics and watch the professors scramble to spice things up. (342)

urine Dalmation dogs and humans have strangely similar urine (they're the only two mammals to produce uric acid). This could be useful if I ever smoke pot, apply for a government job, and have access to Dalmations. Regardless, the unexpected connections continue to amaze. (342)

She's got some opinions, my aunt. There's liberal, there's really liberal, then there's Marti, a few miles farther to the left. She lives out near Berkeley, appropriately enough—though even Berkeley is a bit too fascist for her. (345)

"I'd like to ask the audience," I say. I get to do this only once, but I figure now's the time. Back in the greenroom, one of the producers had told us about the Colombian version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, in which the audience purposely votes incorrectly just to torment the poor contestant. (354)

"The B-29 spent 10 minutes over Kokura without sighting its aim point; it then proceeded to the secondary target of Nagasaki, where at 11:02 AM local time, the weapon was air-burst at 1650 feet with a force of 21 kilotons."
I had no idea that the Japanese city of Kokura was the primary target. I'd never even heard of Kokura. But what a strange fact. Imagine how many lives were affected because of this. Seventy thousand dead in Nagasaki and thousands of people spared in Kokura because of cloudy conditions.
I think about those ten minutes when the plane was buzzing over Kokura. All those people going about their day—making phone calls at the office, playing with their kids, eating their meals—totally unaware that a bomb of unimaginable destructive power was hovering overhead, ready to vaporize their bodies. But they surived because the bomber couldn't spot its
X. (357)


12aug2007

If the Internet had existed pre-Hitler, who would have served as the Godwin's Law equivalent, in arguments when they wanted to conjure Ullllltimate Eeeeeeevilllll?


11aug2007

Today I saw an example of actual 12th-grade homework. It consisted of a photocopy summarizing Mutiny on the Bounty paired with what amounted to a 3rd-grade-level questionnaire to fill out ("What did Captain Bligh tell the men they would be if they took over the ship?"). And this was in a class called "U. S. Government." I asked the student, "Is your teacher aware that the Bounty was a British ship?"

I can't seriously doubt that John Taylor Gatto is wrong about compulsory government education being about something entirely other than actual education?


10aug2007 — From Norm Stamper's Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing:

We dealt in pukes and assholes in those days. A puke was a longhaired youth who flipped you off, called you a pig, or simply had that "anti-establishment" look about him. An asshole, on the other hand, was a doctor, a lawyer, or a clean-cut blue-collar worker who gave you lip as you wrote him a ticket—or who disagreed with your informed take on current events. The world was conveniently divided into "good people" vs. pukes and assholes. (xiii)

In San Diego in the early seventies Chief Ray Hoobler ordered politically correct name changes throughout the department. "Vice" sounded to hard-edged, so he changed it to the "Public Inspection Unit." He or his predecessor also had our cars painted, from black-and-whites to all-whites: we motored about in a fleet of ghostly cop car facsimiles, replete with a slogan of our suddenly enlightened chief's own choosing: Your Safety / Our Business. (To show his sensitivity to the Hispanic community, Hoobler had the slogan translated into espanol. The only problem being that Su Seguridad / Nuestro Negocio, which he had affixed to all the cars, means, according to my Latino friends, something like, "We'll give you safety if you give us money." (138)

(Which is pretty much the case, if you think about it.)


09aug2007

—Cokie and Steve Roberts wrote a column, headed INTERNET COULD BECOME A THREAT TO REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, warning against the direct democracy of the Internet and saying it could threaten the "very existence" of Congress.
— A commentator on Court TV argued that acceptance of government regulation of the Net was the equivalent of growing up.
Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes called for the removal of undesirable information from the Net. Asked on what grounds, Stahl replied, "That it's wrong, that it's inaccurate, it's irresponsible, that it is spreading fear and suspicion of the government; 10,000 reasons."
A writer in the Washington Post warned that without gatekeepers of information—e.g., the Washington Post—"our media could become even more infested with half-truths and falsehoods."
On Crossfire, Geraldine Ferraro breathlessly warned that "we've got to get this Internet under control." (13)

. . . the voice of New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani: "Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do." (66)

—Quoted in Why Bother: Getting a Life in a Locked-down Land


08aug2007

 

 

Lee Hazlewood

09jul1929 -- 04aug2007
R.I.P.

 

 


07aug2007 — From Alexa Albert's Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women:

Baby had worked on and off at Mustang Ranch since 1979. In addition to being one of Mustang's most seasoned prostitutes, she was also its most successful and well respected. (27)

One licensed brothel operating today in the northeastern town of Elko, called Mona's II, has been in business since 1902. (36)

Panicked that the outcome of the Cunningham case endangered all of Nevada's brothels, rural libertarian lawmakers hurriedly signed a bill that explicitly gave counties the "local option" to legalize brothels. But powerful prodding from increasingly influential casino owners forced the governor, Vail Pitman, to veto this bill. He defended his actions by saying that legalization would result in "sensational and sordid publicity" throughout America. (39)

Feeling that [brothel owner Joe] Conforte was making a mockery of law and decency, Washoe County district attorney William Raggio (who served from 1958 to 1970 as D.A. and today is the Nevada State Senate majority leader) became incensed. In his first act of aggression—many were to follow, in a long-ensuing feud between the two men—Raggio charged Conforte with vagrancy whenever he came into Reno. Raggio also got word to Reno's main gambling houses and restaurants that Conforte should not be served. (40-1)

Raggio still wasn't satisfied. He managed to persuade Storey County authorities to use the precedent set by the Cunningham case to close Conforte's Wadsworth brothel on the grounds that it was a public nuisance. Not convinced that this alone would stop Conforte, Raggio also persuaded the Storey County district attorney and Sparks Fire Department chief to descend upon the Wadsworth pasture with him one night with media in tow, and torched it. Raggio claimed he had a right to burn down the brothel because of its status as a public nuisance, even though the brothel was located outside of his jurisdiction. (41)

While most of the women at Mustang Ranch lined up for black customers, about one-fourth wouldn't. Most of these women told me that their men at home had asked them not to accept black clients. Curiously, most of those men were themselves black. Rather than deep-seated hatred of their own race, this prejudice seemed to reflect fear of losing their women to another black man. (53)

Irene suggested that Eva begin the time-consuming process of getting licensed, and then the brothel runner could drive her home to collect some of her possessions. Irene also gave her a list of essentials: water-based lubricant; condoms; Betadine and baby wipes to clean the customers; mouthwash; vitamin E capsules to insert in her vagina to soothe the irritation of frequent intercourse; Mentholatum to spread on tampons, also to help relieve vaginal soreness; a bathrobe; and a disinfectant to wipe down the toilet seat and bidet after each client. (57)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, [HAR] Eva would need to wait a minimum of twenty-four hours to "clear," or receive the results of her STD tests. Once the tests came back negative, she would be a licensed prostitute. (64)

Still, they explained, most women who did enjoy sex with their clients didn't speak openly about it in the brothel for fear of stigmatization and of upsetting their partners at home. Baby said she had no shame admitting it to her peers, but there were consequences. She had to put up with cruel gossip and derisive remarks: "Baby freaks for her customers"; "Baby loves to get nasty with her tricks."
Instead of denigrating the women who refused to enjoy sex with customers, Baby said she felt sorry for them. "I try to make my sex life good anytime I'm having sex. If you're gonna have sex with strangers, your best bet is to try to make the most of the situation, you know. Honestly, I think some of the most uptight, sexually frustrated, sexually repressed women I've ever met work in whorehouses."
(136-7)

When I asked the women why they hadn't organized to form a union or joined together to purchase a brothel themselves, most of the prostitutes rolled their eyes and said they could never trust "another ho." (160)

The need for police expenditure on vice squads was largely eliminated, because illegal prostitution was virtually nonexistent in counties that permitted brothels. (182)

"You can't help but get jaded," Brian said. "When people ask me if I like working in a brothel, I say, `Sure, if you like working around fifty-four girls with multiple personalities who are all on the rag at the same time.'" (207)

Mustang was going to survive, she said; we just needed to believe and have faith. I wanted to believe her, but I hesitated to put too much trust in her spiritual insights. One aprevious visit, Josie had told me about the prophetic voices that spoke to her and divulged that Hillary Clinton would soon come out as a lesbian, while Bill would be president for a third term. (250)

By the last week, however, the frenzy had given way to somber resignation. . . . All the vendors came by to pay their final respects, among them Ann Marie, Mustang's Avon representative for over twenty-six years, who earned her living selling lipsticks, fragrances, and bubble bath exclusively to Mustang prostitutes. (252)

In an act of defiance, Baby managed to sneak one latecomer into her room to turn a final trick several hours after the Feds had closed out Mustang's register. She smiled triumphantly at me ninety minutes later as she walked Mustang's last, unofficial customer back to the front gate. (257)

A neighboring brothel, the Kit Kat, was sold recently to a couple of novice but venturesome entrepreneurs—a former federal attorney in the Bush Sr. and Reagan administrations, and an ex-golf resort manager from northern California. (262-3)

Opposition to brothels continues despite Mustang's closure. After his botched attempt to stage his own disappearance, the relentless John Reese founded a new organization, the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage. He petitioned for an initiative on the November 2000 ballot, which would have made it a misdemeanor for anyone to engage in prostitution anywhere in Nevada. No surprise, he failed to collect the required 44,009 signatures. Reese and his wife filed for federal bankruptcy protection in late 2000. (263-4)


06aug2007Invasive Virus

Seems to me that if you're trying to spam your way into my heart, or onto my hard drive (if there's a difference), you would choose a sender name other than:


05aug2007 — From Bart Ehrman's Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into The New Testament

Even though millions of people world-wide read the New Testament—whether from curiosity or religious devotion—very few ask what this collection of books actually is or where it came from, how it came into existence, who decided which books to include, on what grounds, and when. (1)

Scholars have long noted that this ascetic ideology stands at tension with the "pagan" writings that are most similar to the Christian Acts and probably served as their model—ancient pagan Romances (sometimes called novels), which celebrate sexual love and the bonds of family that it creates. Numerous subplots tie the Romances together with the Christian Acts—travels and dangers on sea and land, shipwrecks, piracy, kidnappings, stories of broken marriages and frustrated love. But whereas the pagan romances affirm what today some might call "family values," the Christian Acts denounce these as worldly concerns to be overcome by the true believer. For the authors of these books, it is the true worship of God and the spread of the Christian gospel that are of ultimate importance, with society and its institutions seen as impediments to the goals of the Christians' existence, which is to be directed to life in heaven, not life on earth. (92)

The same Simon is elsewhere portrayed as the first Gnostic and arch-heretic (see, e.g., the Epistle of the Apostles, above), although here there is less attention paid to his theology than to his claims of divine superiority. These claims are completely refuted by Peter, who through the power of God is able to make dogs and newborn infants speak and to restore smoked tunas and dead people back to life. (135)

The account ends with Peter's arrest and execution, in which, at his own request, he is crucified upside down; hanging on the cross, he explains to those nearby the symbolic reasons for his request, utters a long prayer, and then dies—only to appear to one of his followers afterwards to upbraid him for providing him with such a lavish burial. (135)


04aug2007 — Some reviewer on IMDB re: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:

The pilot is very poorly directed and acted. The story is as superficial as one can expect from a long running series which have lost the initial spark... it is absolutely not something one would expect to be the pilot for a new TV show. To watch it was a waste of time, but I'm sure people have wasted, and continue to waste their time on shows even worse than what this gave the impression of being. It was my choice to remain watching until the end, so I can only blame myself. Will I check out the next episodes when they come? Yes, I think I just might do that...

Good choice, reviewer. Sure, judging by the size of the holes they make, the terminator's pistol somehow fires 50-caliber bullets, which manage to easily penetrate automobiles but not leisure furniture, as long as Sarah Connor is hiding behind it. On the other hand, Summer Glau gets to say, "Come with me if you want to live." H-O-T. I'm in.


03aug2007 — From Buck Tilton's How to Die in the Outdoors: 100 Interesting Ways:

The Kiss of Death: Conenose Bug:
Smooth and oval-shaped, brownish in color, the conenose bug (or kissing bug, or assassin bug) is a
Triatominae, a vinchuca to Spanish-speaking humans (meaning "one who lets himself fall down"). Less than an inch long, conenose bugs have long, narrow cone-shaped heads with two antennae and a proboscis that curves under. On the sides of the abdomen you might see narrow stripes of light yellow or red. It uses its two pairs of wings like a parachute to drop out of bushes and thatched roofs onto the faces of sleeping humans to feed on blood.
Once comfortable, most often near your mouth, the bug "kisses" with a scalpel-like extension of its proboscis and sucks your blood for about 20 minutes, ingesting many times its own weight. As it feeds, it poops, and its poop contains a parasite,
Trypanosoma cruzi, the cause of Chagas' disease. You rub your irritated wound after the bug leaves, you rub the parasite into you and you get really sick.
This is how it works. After about one week, you'll develop a hard, violet-hued bump where the bug bit. The parasites, clustered at the bump, begin to disperse throughout your body in your bloodstream. They invade your heart, brain, liver and spleen. In children, a severe brain infection may occur and lead to death. In adults, the primary effect is on the heart, where lesions form that gradually reduce the effectiveness of your blood-pumping muscle.
Some humans die in three months or so. Most humans survive initially to slowly succumb to the disease over the next 10 to 20 years. During those years the infected human passes the disease to other humans, via the conenose bugs who feed on one human one time and another the next time. Currently an estimated 16 to 18 million Latin Americans are dying from the kiss of death.
(33)

[Gorillas] will charge you in a most realistic fashion, but physical contact with humans ranks among the rarest of incidences. You'll have to work very hard if you want to be killed by a gorilla. (45)

Roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides) are the most popular parasitic worms worldwide with residences well established in a staggering one out of every four humans. (51)

A full grown adult can be killed by one bite of [hemlock] root, and children have died from simply using the hollow stems as peashooters. (52)

Although they clump together in sociable herds, the encroachment of any human into their territory typically causes an attack by a dominant male or a nursing mother. Hippos kill more humans every year than all the lions, elephants and buffaloes of Africa combined. (53)

Single leopards that have become dedicated to man-eating have ended the lives of as many as 400 men, women and children. (61)

Interesting to note is the fact that ostriches, even the most hysterical cocks, will not kick at or even step on a human lying flat on the ground, although they might peck at you for a while. (78)

When shipped, which sometimes happens, piranhas require one container per fish since that's all you'll end up with anyway. (79)

Black rats are especially susceptible, and Rattus rattus is blamed for the famous Black Death of Europe. In the United States, deer mice and various voles maintain the bacteria. It is amplified in prairie dogs and ground squirrels. Other suspects include chipmunks, marmots, wood rats, rabbits and hares. States in which plague still exists include New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Nevada.
Hikers and campers in infected areas may be at risk if they hang out around rodents. Meat-eating pets that eat infected rodents (or get bitten by infected fleas) can acquire plague. Dogs don't get very sick, but cats do. There is only one known case of plague being passed to a human by a dog, but cats can pass the disease to humans by biting them, coughing on them, or carrying their fleas to them. In the wild, coyotes and bobcats are known to have transmitted plague to humans after the critters were dead and the humans were skinning them.
(80)


02aug2007Lyrics that crack me up every time I hear them, Part II:

"And take off that brassiere / My dear" (Barry White, "Love Serenade")


01aug2007 — IMDB comments on Ultraviolet:

At what point did this movie completely lose you?

WHY HUMANS!? WHY!?

This movie made me want to kill myself and everyone around me.

I...don't know what to say. Her ass. Thats about it.

Isn't it weird that in every assassin movie the killer bonds with a kid?

Awesome Toilet Paper


31jul2007 — From Introducing Time:

The Book That No One Wrote: Let's go a step closer to a contradiction. In the year 2000, at a bookstore on Charing Cross Road in London, I buy Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. I use my time machine to deliver the book to Dickens's door in 1855, a few years before we think he wrote it.
[Dickens:] "I then have access to the entire finished book before I've written a word."
He then copies it and publishes it in serial form, beginning in the year 1859.
The story is widely read, it becomes famous, he dies, and publishers collect it together into a book and sell it for years—and ultimately to me in 2000.
Strange: he had a surprisingly easy time with this book, for he never had to write it at all. But if he didn't write it, who did? No one did! True, every copy of the story in every book everywhere in the world was actually produced by a hand or machine. But if this was the way the world had worked out—and it could have been if there is time travel—then the information and ideas in A Tale of Two Cities were never created by anyone. (72-3)

The philosopher Murray MacBeath has thought of clever ways of avoiding this obstacle to communication involving time-delayed messages. And the science-fiction writer Greg Egan based an entire story on this idea. . . .
If we could find a time-reversed galaxy we could bounce our personal diaries off it . . . and so . . . we would receive accurate diaries of our entire lives before we live them!
(163)


30jul2007

I don't remember whether I already posted this, but I ran across it on the hard drive just now. Not even McG. wrote his own obituary, but that didn't stop Phil Sunkel, of the ever-retarded Arizona Republic:


To Deuce of Clubs