Monday, June 30, 2003

Machines of loving grace

We had a dinner party tonight, and for a couple of hours I was in the joyous position of being the sole male in a room with five beautiful women... for awhile there life seemed pretty nice. Caitlin, who we met on a Green Tortoise trip to Baja, is in Portland for a few weeks, another stop on her amazing summer of volunteer work for various organizations all over the country prior to returning to the Bay area to start grad school at Berkeley. Paige, who we also met on the Baja trip but who lives in our town, was present, as were Samantha (Anne-Marie's sister) and Jen, a friend of ours, and of course the incomparable Anne-Marie.

Unlike other times I have mentioned in these pages, I really felt like I connected with everyone... there was so much beauty, so much love, such good people to share some time and space with... when the night was over I was left feeling honored to have been a part of the interactions with these people.

Halfway through the night Anne-Marie left to pick up Hannes at the airport... he's a friend of ours from Germany, currently travelling in the Americas (Ecuador for three months, now here). Hannes lived here in Portland for 4 years before returning to Germany to finish his schooling. He's an electrical engineer, who hasn't had the life beat out of him by the system (yet). Hannes is in town for a few weeks; he's planning on going to the country fair with us, just like the good old days.

Coming soon: Califone is returning to Portland... I can hardly wait for this show. These guys are the best damn music I have heard in a long time, funky ethereal American South porch music with cough-syrup haze, yet somehow pulling it all together into a coherent whole that blows your mind. Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella have somehow figured out how to insert silences between the notes that carry as much weight as the notes themselves. Every time I listen to them I discover something new, some thread that suddenly jumps into the foreground and changes everything about the song. Beautiful.

Time to sleep, and dream of beautiful friends.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

O... mah... gawd...

I just spent the whole night converting this site over completely to CSS... I removed all of the tables and really cleaned up the template code. Everything was fine as long as I used Opera or Mozilla... but Internet Explorer completely fucked up every time. The whole point of an HTML standard is to have a clearly defined language that will be interpreted correctly by any standards-compliant browser... so of course Microsoft chose to add to their long list of dastardly deeds by releasing a browser that is not compliant. People get the browser with a new install of Windows, and most just stick with it. I typically use Internet Explorer once on each machine: right after installing Windows, I use IE to download a real browser. Opera is excellent, and Mozilla and Phoenix/Firebird are really coming along... I really like Firebird, which is the embodiment of a revolutionary new idea: make a browser that is capable of surfing the web correctly. Period. No web-page authoring, no email handling, no built-in chat, just a fucking browser that does its job very well.

The only complaint I have about Opera turns out not to be a problem with Opera itself, but rather yet another problem with Microsoft. There is documented proof that Microsoft's deliberately messes up style sheets when it detects that the browser is Opera... specifically it sets some margins to -30 pixels, which moves some of the text behind other text and images, making the page unreadable. This style sheet issue is verifiable and repeatable, and is one more reason to wish that Microsoft would just make software and quit trying to take away people's right to choose how they use their computers.

Anyway, I tested the page on Opera 7.11 build 2880, Phoenix 0.5, Firebird 0.6, and IE 6.0.2600, and finally got it working in every browser. If you are using some other browser to view these pages, and they look all messed up (yet you are somehow still able to read this), please send me an email so I can work on making the page more accessible.

Always remember: Fuck the bozos.

The flowers cover everything

Last year for Burning Man Anne-Marie and I made an art piece for our camp, an 8-foot lotus flower batik with electroluminescent wire ("EL wire") sewn on and an electronic controller to make it flash and spin. Since our thoughts are turned to this year's projects, I thought I should document the old project before I get too far behind. So, here it is, the Amazing Incredible Flying Lotus of Doom.

You can click on the pictures to get a larger view.


We made a wooden frame, over which we stretched white cotton. Then we traced the lotus design onto the cotton.


After that we brushed wax over the outline of each petal.


Then we painted fiber-reactive dyes in each petal, using rainbow colors.


The colors bled through the wax outlines a little bit, so we touched it up.


We got a huge pot full of melted wax, and soaked the lotus. We spread the lotus out on a tarp, with fans on it to cool the wax.


When the wax was cool we crinkled up the lotus, and coated it with blue dye, which sunk into the cracks.


The lotus was hung up on its frame and left to dry over night... the crackled pattern looked very nice.


Out came the irons and a stack of newspapers; we ironed all of the wax off and washed the lotus.


First light... we fired up some of the EL wire to check out the colors.


Anne-Marie spent a heroic couple of nights sewing the EL wire onto the lotus... quite a feat. We fired it up, and it was good.

I designed a controller, with 32 channels of SCR's to switch the high voltage (230VAC) for the petals. Opposing petals were paired, such that each colored ring of petals was controlled by 3 channels. This allowed me to program patterns such as spinning spirals and growing and shrinking. Maybe I'll figure out how to make animated GIFs of this, and post them here.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Voodoo economics 101

I had a good night tonight, basically went out on a date with Anne-Marie. Dinner and a movie, talk of the future... we are getting ready to buy a house, since yesterday's interest rate cuts mean there has never been a better time to buy since 1958. The prime rate is now 1%... there's only so much lower it can go before lenders are unable to make any money, which means they won't lend... and then the housing market will collapse.

I remember when Reagan did the same fucking thing... I have memories of news reports where they were bulldozing acres of half-completed homes, because the funding was no longer in place to complete construction. Hrmmm... first Reagan starts playing fast and loose with tax cuts, and the economy tanks.... then Emperor Bush the First does the same, and fucking hell if the economy doesn't tank again. Lots of rich people (mostly Bush's cronies) got richer, but the Average Citizen got shafted. Bush the First tried to distract us all with a war, but he made the mistake of ending it too soon, so people had a chance to actually re-engage their brains before the election, and he got the boot.

Clinton came into office, and things were actually pretty good for the commoners for awhile, except for the ones who were apoplectic over the fact that he was getting more white-trash lovin' than they were. The nation as a whole got out of debt, the economy really boomed, perhaps even unhealthily, as stock indexes rose off the charts. The rich kept getting richer, but the non-rich also made out pretty well for awhile there too.

Now we have Bush the Lesser, and to his credit he is avoiding some of his father's mistakes: first, he just doesn't give a fuck what the voters have to say, so the concept of re-election is probably as much of a non-issue as his first 'election'... after all, if things don't go his way he can probably get his daddy's friends in the Supreme Court to hand him the next election too. And he's avoiding the problem of ending the war too soon by being very fucking vague about just who the hell we will be bombing next week... is it Syria? Iran? Los Angeles? He's pretty secure in the knowledge that the majority of flag-waving fucktards in this country that can't tell the difference between a war and a football game will continue to shout 'hooray for our side' even if they have no idea what the issues (if there even are any issues) really are.

Does anyone see a trend here? Every time we get a Republican president, we get economic turmoil and war, but patriotism soars. Maybe we are getting the presidents we deserve. Is this the trade-off that the majority of Americans are willing to accept? You can be 'Proud to be an American' (whatever the fuck that means), but you'll pay for it.

Whatever... being unemployed, any of Bush the Lesser's magic tax cuts won't affect me (they are mostly for his rich buddies anyway). If he wants to fuck the country over for short-term gain for his daddy's cronies, he should go for it... at the very least they deserve the reward for handing him the election.

The only bright spot for me is that we can pick up a home for pretty damn cheap right now. Mortgage rates are around 4% today, and might get even better.

Are you thinking of traveling outside of the US soon? This guy (link busted) has a t-shirt for sale that says, in the seven official languages of the UN, "I'm sorry my president is an idiot. I didn't vote for him". It's the 'American Traveler International Apology Shirt'. Be sure to get one if you dare to leave the country. On the other hand, maybe you shouldn't leave the country, since at this point in time US soil is just about the only place on the planet where you can be safe from America's foreign policy. Of course, domestic policy is getting pretty draconian too, so it's a toss-up. Good fucking luck, whatever you decide. Me, I'm going to hunker down in my newly bought home and eye my neighbors suspiciously.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003


There is an article over at the Guardian about the role of technology in the world today: of technology's ends is to reduce our lives to such blob-like stasis that we hardly ever have to interact with other human beings. Another is to distract us from the shame we feel about our decadent lifestyles. Our response to being bored and rich is not to discard our possessions and live more simply, but to buy more stuff to reduce the space in which we might contemplate our shame.

Ya, ok, I'm writing this on a computer, which is hooked to a number of other computers in my house via wireless networking, and from there hooked to an intricate vast network known as 'the Internet' which is primarily a tool for the large-scale distribution of pornography and advertising. I can contact people anywhere in the world... but I don't know my neighbors.

By training and inclination, I am a technologist. But I have a vision of my future that puts me on a farm somewhere, far from the madding crowd. The manner in which my 'culture' uses technology offends me... for example the absurd number of people driving down the highway in SUVs, talking on cellphones as they floor the gas pedal on their behemoth deathmachines. These people feel connected, to some larger cultural vision of success via their acquisition of the SUV, and to the nameless faceless people on the other end of the ether via their increasingly absurd tiny phones... but there they are, one person to a vehicle, stuck in a traffic jam next to an empty carpool lane, which requires only that you have *one* other person in the car with you... (they lowered the definition of 'carpool' to a mere 2 people, and the lane remains empty. Perhaps they will revise the law to include the sheep in the SUVs, allow them to drive in that lane as long as they are talking on their cellphones. Actually this isn't a bad idea... it would get them out of the other lanes, increasing the probability that the rest of us will survive long enough to reach our destinations).

If you get the chance, watch the animation 'More' by Mark Osborne. It is an excellent look at the dehumanizing nature not of technology itself, but of the cultural misuse of technology to keep the sheep in line. (Have you ever noticed that a few years ago in the US, our politicians stopped referring to us as 'citizens' and started referring to us as 'consumers'? What are they selling exactly?) I took a CD of this to work one day and played it for my coworkers... and when it was over most of them hurriedly excused themselves, hoping to hide their tears.

The 'American Dream' tells us that if we consume more, we will fill this aching void we feel inside. Do you think it is working?

Thursday, June 12, 2003

...and you'll *like* it that way...

Wired has a great article about the possible futures of the wired home, particularly the two distinct futures Microsoft is selling: in one of these futures, your home becomes so wired that the process of accessing any media is almost transparent; in the other, digital rights management has a stranglehold on everything, and the built-in measures for protecting the 'rights' of the corporations severely supercede the rights of the people to access media when and where and how they choose.

They do have a point, though: how will they keep the sheep in line if the sheep don't stay plugged into the consensus narrative?

The land of the free?

We watched 'Bowling for Columbine' tonight, and I think there were some very cogent discussions in the film. Most notably, the idea that here in the 'Land of the Free', everyone is scared all the time, and the media feeds into this with reckless abandon.

I was doing some computer consulting work in 1999, and I watched as the fear grew to a fever pitch that our whole society would just crumble and we'd all be living in caves after the Y2K debacle hit. There were record sales of guns, ammo, canned foods, bottled water, oil lamps, and generators in the months preceding the end of the year. Is our society so unstable that a couple of missing digits in a computer database could bring us to our knees?

Many of my clients would call me, asking what they should do to 'protect' themselves. I asked them what they thought was going to happen, and I heard the most absurd irrational bullshit (which incidentally echoed the mediated worldview the government and media were pushing on everyone). When I thought about what they were telling me, I realized that the message ("We are going to suffer") brought up an important question: who is the 'we' that is going to suffer? Is each and every American, or some representative statistical sampling of them, going to be cast into financial ruin by this non-event?

The answer is pretty clear: NO INDIVIDUAL PERSON would suffer as the result of the changeover. Large corporations, on the other hand, could suffer great losses if they didn't have their shit together. And in the American business model (shepherd/sheep model), the corporations have decided that injecting fear into the populace is the best way to keep the sheep entrenched in the consensus narrative, i.e. living in a type of fear that can only be alleviated by consuming. And it worked!!! People were climbing all over each other to get the last bottles of bottled water at the grocery stores, batteries and ammunition were sold out of stock, there'd never been higher sales of generators...

The greatest trick the marketers have been able to pull off is to con everyone into thinking that what is bad for the company is bad for everyone. I know from personal experience that companies who are having record good years will lay off employees to increase shareholder value and insure those large bonuses for the CEOs. We provide billions of dollars in corporate welfare to companies that are doing very well already... why would we do this? To sell the American Dream.

After 9-11, the same fucktards who were saying "if this changes our way of life at all, the terrorists have already won" ad nauseum began doing everything they could to change everything about life in America. The Total Information Awareness program brings the McCarthy era back to life, and the 'Homeland Security' office has it's most recent historical analogue in a similar department in Hitler's cabinet. The American people live in fear; the media and government capitalize on that fear; and the corporations provide a public service by offering you more crap to buy to relieve that dull aching spasm of conscience that remains in some small percentage of the population.

The lies and deceit are driving me insane... I need to get out of this fucking country, a need that is thwarted by the fact that we are not (for very good reasons) very popular anywhere else in the world.

Suddenly Everything Sucks

There have been a couple of replies to my Slashdot post...

Seriously dude, get pro counseling. I say this as a friend, and as someone who has been thru the wringer personally as well. Get yourself healed mentally. Best of luck to ya.


You should have left [earlier]. You are now in the same situation (no job) but the stress level that led up to it has left you scarred. Know when to hold them... know when to fold them...

They are both right, of course... and it is good to hear some kind words, even if the kind words are in reference to me being fucked up.

I can still think rationally about the whole thing, but emotionally I am just so burned out and tired that I find it hard to see any good in the future. My experience at Tek left me drained and bitter... but it somehow fit in with the rest of my life... or at least it seems that way to me now. It's possible that I have just brainwashed myself into seeing the negative in everything... but then again it's possible that everything really sucks, and I see it clearly. Alot of the people I know who think they are happy are clearly delusional, or have truly privileged lives without much to complain about.

Suddenly Everything Sucks

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I can't even *fail* correctly

As long as I am on the subject of my last job, here is another post I made to Slashdot, after someone said that if your job is *really* that bad, just go in and sit down and do nothing until they fire you:

Ummm... I thought of this too, so I looked up the document on our corporate website that detailed exactly what you could be fired for.

It turns out that at my company, coming in and sitting at your desk and not doing your job means you have implicitly quit, and they don't need to fire you... you quit honoring your contract with them when you decided not to do the work they assigned you.

Similarly for coming in late, leaving early, taking 4 hour lunch breaks... none of the 'passive' techniques are defined as a firable offense, they are defined as you announcing that you have quit.

I read that document about a hundred times, trying to see what I could do to get fired. It turns out there is *NOTHING* I could do to get fired that I couldn't also be arrested for.

When tech companies have a structure like this:


it should come as no surprise that you don't have any options... the 'management' and 'marketing' departments make sure that your job is impossible, and the 'legal' department makes sure that if you leave, you do it on their terms.

I'm not exagerrating there... they had all the bases covered. Think about what that means: the protections the unions fought for have been weaseled out of by the corporations. They just redefined the playing field such that any full-time employee is 'exempt' from things like getting paid for all of the time they work.

I finally had to quit, knowing that I had no recourse to unemployment, no health insurance, and no chance of getting another job. My work record was written by the same guy that was taking credit for my work. The market is so fucked that engineers with ten times my experience are getting paid half of what I was making.

I'm in such bad shape from stress-related health issues that I can barely get out of bed most days; I don't really have any hopes that the future will be better than this. I'm slowly cleaning up the messes in my life, so if I decide to check out I won't be dumping them on anyone else. I get about an hour each day when my medication makes me feel 'normal', and I usually spend that time wondering where exactly everything went wrong.

Get back in your box

Today on Slashdot there was a post by a fellow that organized a group walkout at his workplace because circumstances got, in his opinion, untenable.

You suddenly find yourself working 50-60 hour weeks, put on call with no compensation, given unreasonable amounts of work and generally treated like dirt.

Given my experience at my last job, which I am *still* feeling the repercussions of 8 months after I quit, I felt like a little perspective was needed, even if it was just my skewed perspective. So I replied:

Man, at my last job we *dreamed* about getting "50-60 hour weeks, put on call with no compensation, given unreasonable amounts of work and generally treated like dirt". After the first round of layoffs, my job sounded like what you describe...

...but there were 4 more rounds of layoffs after that, and each time someone in my group got axed, I got their workload added onto mine.

Try 80-90 hour weeks, 7 months without a Saturday or Sunday off so I could finish a project that my boss took credit for, denied a promotion because the reports of that same boss showed I wasn't really putting in an effort, and constant Warnings Of Doom from everyone about how if I quit I'd never be able to find another job.

My health got shot to hell, my attitude got shot to hell, my *life* got shot to hell... one day a co-worker asked my boss if he was worried I'd quit, given the ludicrous conditions, and my boss replied "he'll never quit... I *own* him".

I put in my notice the next day.

Months later, I'm still in bad health, attitude hasn't really improved, and I have made the decision to let my college degree gather dust rather than go through that again. I'm looking at going into manual labor, if my health improves enough to allow it, and taking a handful of sleeping pills, if it doesn't.

So what was your problem again? To me, it sounds like you live in fucking SUGAR COATED *FAIRY*LAND*, cavorting with the fucking ELVES and UNICORNS and TELETUBBIES, and you're complaining that you don't like the flavor of fucking MARMALADE they put on your fucking TOAST.

I think that the corporate world has become such a dehumanizing place that the circumstances described by the original poster are the norm... I don't know what it is that he wanted or expected. We go to college and work our asses off to get a degree, so we are qualified to be treated like an animal in the workplace. Hoo-fucking-ray.

I'll never go back. I am a damned good engineer, but I'm not willing to take the amount of bullshit they are shelling out. I miss the payckeck, but not enough to ever do it again. I don't know what my future holds, or even if I have a future... but there are some trade-offs I will not make. They can't take my soul.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Say what you want, say what you will

The other day on kuro5hin there was a post about how Christians were getting upset over Bush's use of his belief in that religion to justify his actions. The writer was basically saying that Christians are all about love and peace, and that killing people isn't consistent with the basic tenets they believe in.

I usually try to stay out of these discussions... arguing with people who believe that they have a big invisible friend just isn't very satisfying for me. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all look the same to me, plus or minus a chapter or two in a book written by fucking goatherders more than two millenia ago. The Hindus were creative enough to invent the same sort of fundamentalist madness without the benefit of the Old Testament. The Buddhists haven't pissed me off yet. Don't even get me started on the fucking Mormons.

One guy summed up the Christian position very nicely:

one of the main reasons why Christianity was able to replace the heathen religions in Europe is that the God of Christianity is a god of peace instead of the war-gods that dominated heathen religions

This sort of talk always makes my brain hurt, so I had to reply. Not that I think it will help; these people are too far gone to listen to rational discussions... once you convince somebody that there is an invisible man who lives in the sky and gets very angry every time they play with themselves, they become too fucked up to handle much in the way of lucid thought.

Anyway, my rant:

And another one of the reasons christianity was able to replace heathen religions in Europe is that if you didn't convert to christianity they would tie you to a pole atop a pile of pitch-soaked wood and light you on fire.

I'm sure that the fact the christians felt they were helping the poor misguided souls of the 'heathen' by burning them to death was a great comfort to the 'heathens' as they roasted.

The god of christianity has *NEVER* been a god of peace. Christianity almost disappeared from this planet, then Constantine figured out that it had more power as politics than it did as religion, and the next thing you know we've got the Holy Roman Empire, and shortly after that, the burnings.

Christians believe the 'peace' story for the same reason most of my fellow americans believe the 'freedom and democracy' story: because it makes it easier to justify the whole thing to themselves.

There's never been a time in my life that this has been more true than the last couple of years... ever since some whackjobs turned a couple of our buildings into auxiliary airplane parking structures, this country has been in incredibly obvious denial about our true imperial nature. We are an empire, in the classical sense... we grow, we subjugate, we march ever onward, stepping on whoever is unfortunate enough to get in our way or be in possession of resources that we consider ours. Some few of us are not happy with all that this implies, but if we mention this we are castigated for it. I always thought that the others knew deep down inside that they were making a tradeoff between their stated moral values and their desire for empire, but lately it's been clear that they literally do not see the absurdity of their position.

Historically it has been an attribute of all political and religious institutions that they create a mythos that neatly explains why, for instance, the process of bringing enlightenment or freedom or democracy or the Good Word to the poor ignorant bastards who weren't lucky enough to be born within the institution often involves killing or enslaving or demoralizing them. People believe whatever they need to believe to make themselves feel good about themselves, and the more extreme the difference between their stated reality and their actual reality, the more extreme and convoluted their denial becomes.

If I believed in a giant invisible deity, I would pray for a fucking plague. It seems to me we're long overdue.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I've got this love/hate relationship with my medication.

I'd rather not take it, since it makes me a bit loopy and removes any motivation I have to do anything... but if I don't take it, the pain makes me a bit cranky and removes any motivation I have to do anything. As you can see, the end result is I don't get much done, while I oscillate between cranky and loopy. How *you* doin'?

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Diary of a lab rat, part II

I had alot of fun last night, but as usual there are little things that bug me... I feel like I really don't connect well with most people, like I'm somehow not hip to whatever it is that allows people to just sit and talk to each other. I think there is something about me that sets people ill at ease (I've been told I am intimidating), which is hard to deal with since I am usually very interested in getting to know people and in talking with friends. Somehow I don't communicate it well. Grrrrr. I went to the show with three beautiful women (my mate Anne-Marie, her sister Samantha, and our friend Jennifer), and there were three times (one with each of them) where I felt like something in the conversation fell apart, and it was probably my fault. (I always think everything is my fault... which *is* my fault).

Some little things bug me more than I wish they did: I wore a kilt to the show last night, and one woman had a very rude and inappropriate reaction to it, like she was morally outraged or something. I'd love to talk with her about why she was so upset, but you can't save everyone.

The themes that the Blue Men deal with in their shows and in their songs are themes that have alot of meaning for me: how conformity and control and cubicles are basically making us into some new dystopian type of creatures, not really human anymore. There are a couple of songs on the new CD that might as well be talking about my life in cubicle-land, and what I had to give up in exchange for a paycheck. You know those experiments they do where they put a rat in a maze, and if it goes the wrong way it gets electrocuted, and if it goes the right way it get the cheese? My job was like that, except every direction led to electrocution, and there was no cheese. Dehumanization for the hell of it.

My old friend Julie is married to Avram Gleitsman, who wrote alot of the lyrics for the new Blue Man CD... he did an awesome job. I hope it all works out well for him... I've never actually met him, but I have some emotional attachment to Julie and sort of vicariously to the rest of her family, and aside from all that I like to believe that intelligent creative people can use their brains for fun and profit without giving up their souls. From what I hear of Avram, and what I've heard of his work, he is intelligent and creative, and I can infer from Julie's relationship to him that he has a soul... which seems a rarity these days.

As I learn to deal with being ill most of the time, I find that I need to adjust my perception of who I am and how I fit into each of my relationships. Being in pain all the time means that I always have something to complain about, which doesn't make for very stimulating conversation. Thankfully I can bitch and moan here on the web without driving Anne-Marie or anyone else insane. I sit here and try to comprehend what is happening with my body, how to deal with constant pain and the loss of alot of the activity and mobility I had before I was injured... it's very strange, I feel like I should be able to just shake it off, but it won't shake off. I have some sort of irrational preconscious feeling that I've done or am doing something wrong, by being sick. I've never had to deal with it before on this level, where my body makes obvious decisions about how my head is going to function. It's almost like meditation... anytime I lose focus, the pain increases. There is no cheese, there is no cheese... *zap*.

Feeling Blue

This evening we went to see the Blue Man Group in concert, a traveling show for their new CD 'The Complex'. As we've come to expect from these guys, the show was incredible.

Tracey Bonham opened the show... I hadn't really heard any of her stuff before, other than the one single the star-maker machinery pasted across every radio station and eMpTyVee a few years ago. It turns out she is very talented... she has an amazing dynamic range, and really put on a good show. I picked up a CD after the show, and I'm going to look up her older stuff.

Venus Hum was second, and other than their contribution to 'The Complex' (a cover of the old disco classic 'I feel love'), I'd never heard of them. They aren't really music that I would choose to listen to, but they put on a very good show... they were clearly having alot of fun, and the lead singer (a small woman with a very big voice) was great... she is from the Portland area, and her family was in the audience, and she sang a song about/for her grandmother; I'm always impressed when I see performers who are still human, instead of thinking they are fucking rock stars who are somehow above it all (which shows a clear lack of perspective, since most 'rock stars' du jour end up playing the county fair a few years later. Fame is usually a side effect of advertising, not of talent).

The Blue Men put on a show that lived up to the standards of their other performances... as usual they incorporated alot of intelligent humor, technology, and visual presentations with their music. Tracey Bonham sang a number of the songs, and some bloke I didn't recognize sang the rest. They had a pretty big band; 3 Blue Men, 3 other percussionists, 2 guitars, 1 bass, and the nameless singing bloke on keyboards. The Blue Men had an instrument I hadn't seen before, a modified bass version of their tubulum... this one looked like the ends of the tubes were closed, and it was played with normal drum sticks (the tubuli I've seen before have open-ended tubes, and are played with a paddle of sorts).

I've always enjoyed the presentations they project behind them as they are playing, and tonight was no exception... some of the songs essentially had music videos to accompany them, while others had visuals that complemented the music without explicitly following it.

I was a bit worried about how accessible this show would be to people who hadn't already experienced a Blue Man show; after seeing it, I don't think there is a problem. 'The Complex' is basically a traveling version of their stationary shows, with more energy and more rock... their signature ethos and joy are clearly maintained.

We try to get to Vegas once a year to see Cirque du Soleil (always 'O' and sometimes 'Mystere') and the Blue Man Group and whatever else we happen to luck into, and it's always a blast, and it's always worth it. This was true of tonight's show as well, which makes it A Good Thing that they are traveling... bringing the show to people who might otherwise never see them. Go see it if you get the chance.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

When people talk about the 'liberal media'...

... what exactly are they referring to? 'Penthouse'?

I made the mistake of reading the news today, where I found that the current Idiot in Chief has been lying his ass off (big surprise there) throughout this whole 'war' (we now return to our regularly scheduled empire expansion). The supposed bunker we bombed to try to get Saddam (what the hell ever happened to Osama?) turned out to be a *farm*; the 'daring rescue' of one of our soldiers turned out to be a scripted farce which the family says they are not allowed to talk about; and Bush's cronies are making billions off of government contracts that didn't follow the usual legally-accepted bid process. These are all being reported as though they are *good* things.

When the previous Idiot in Chief was caught lying, they damn near hung him. The current one talks bullshit every time he speaks, and people wave flags. Up until last year, I believed that the reason people supported such flagrant deceit was that they realized that the American lifestyle depends on imperialist expansion (in this light Bush's lies 'benefit' all members of the empire, so he is to be supported, but Clinton's lies only benefited himself, so he was not to be supported)... alot of Americans seem to view war with something like the same mindset they view football games, i.e. rabid fanatical support of 'our side', but I had always believed that in the back of their minds they were capable of some moral sense, something along the lines of "I don't think we should kill people, but if it keeps our gas prices down..."

Last year I found out that I was mistaken, and it shocked the hell out of me. Brian, an engineer at my former workplace, was a very firm believer in the sanctity of American foreign policy. He would often comment on how the only reason we ever get into wars is to defeat the foes of democracy (remember democracy? I do...), and to bring enlightenment to the poor ignorant non-white peoples of whereverthehell we happen to be bombing this week. I guess it is notable that in the 'have'/'have not' classification, Brian is a 'have', so I assumed that his conservatism grew from a desire to keep what he has. Winston Churchill once said that a young man who is a conservative has no heart, but an old man who is a liberal has no brain... I don't agree with that line of thought, but I understand it, or at least thought I understood it, since I have observed that alot of people talk (too fucking much, if you ask me) as though their actions are moral and honorable, right up until there is a conflict that threatens their self-interest, at which point they 'look out for number one'. There sure seem to be alot of 'number one's out there nowadays.

I hadn't realized that there were people in this country that actually believed that 'God is on our side', that 'Might Makes Right', and that it is our duty to support the President regardless of how reprehensible his actions are. (Well, a Republican President anyway... I often wonder where all of these people with their lofty ideals regarding fealty were during the Clinton lynchings). In recent months, it's become all too clear though... I hardly recognize this country anymore.

I think that the main difference between the Democrats and the Republicans (I know, it's getting harder and harder to tell them apart thanks to the spinelessness of the Democrats) is that the Democrats tell us they are *not* going to fuck us, and then they fuck us, while the Republicans tell us they *are* going to fuck us, and then they fuck us... and to the Average Joe, this lends a certain sense of integrity to the actions of the Republicans.

Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch over something I've said, note this: my glitch is not with a specific party. Both of the leading parties suck, and I think that blind devotion to *any* party is contrary to the premise this country was supposedly founded on, that each person will actually fucking *think* about the issues and then vote their conscience. In practice, it's looking more and more like alot of people don't have a conscience, so they pick whatever party best fits their particular brand of ignorance and hatred, and they start yelling 'go team'.

The thing that really upsets me is that people are so full of hate... and instead of rejecting this, Americans are embracing hate as a value to be taught to their children. Hate people who aren't white, and if they are white hate them if they aren't Americans... and if they are Americans, hate them if they don't belong to the same party we do... and if they do belong to the same party as we do, hate them if they don't support all the same aspects of the party platform that we do. This is the great experiment in democracy? Puke.

I guess I owe thanks to Brian, for opening my eyes to this. He'd probably feel proud. And he'd never stop to think that his world, the world that he helped me to see, is so much bleaker than it needs to be.