Sunday, May 30, 2004

patriotic correctness

Over at Ryland's place there's a good post about 'patriotic correctness' with some insightful comments following.

why? because we like you

Mocky's got a new music video made entirely of images found using Google's image search. It's like rap translated into the visual medium. (Streaming Quicktime or Windows Media Player formats).

one thing I can tell you is you got to be free

This could be the best Shockwave Flash video I've ever seen: the Beatles Come Together. From the logs I see that not many people are following that link - GO SEE IT. It is stuff like this piece that is the reason Flash exists. Brilliant work.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

they're coming right for us

Riiiight... apparently the 'Homeland Security Department' isn't doing a good enough job of frightening US citizens into accepting absurd legislation (and extralegal activities) in Ashcroft's eyes. It seems the HSD was surprised to hear the announcement that Al Queda was going to attack within the US, especially since they are the ones in charge of giving out those announcements. The news conference in which Ashcroft and Mueller exercised their homegrown brand of terrorism excluded Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge - not the first time this administration has sidestepped official channels (even ones they themselves set up) to further their agenda.

But even so I guess the message is clear: they want you to be afraid, be very afraid... I just think that as long as you're being all fearful and everything, you should be afraid of Ashcroft as well, perhaps even more than you should fear the fanciful and uncoordinated terrors they are using to wrest control of the country away from, well, the country.

Wow... our very own fascists running the nation. I had hoped I wouldn't live long enough to see that happen. Hopefully a few years from now it will all just seem like a faded memory of a nightmare.

yatta huh?

Every once in awhile something comes along that makes me feel like there must be a whole lotta shit going on I don't know anything about. These guys (ASF video, 7.7MB) are at the top of that list right now.

angry white man

Al Gore's recent speech echoed Kiesling's concerns about the direction this country is going... but most of America is content to sit back and laugh at anyone who dares to say things aren't just fucking peachy.

How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words "We Are All Americans Now" and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world -- to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.

To begin with, from its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of "preemption." And what they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but rather an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat. All that is required, in the view of Bush's team is the mere assertion of a possible, future threat - and the assertion need be made by only one person, the President.

Now personally I think Gore might have been driven insane by having the presidency stolen from him by Texas cowboys and Florida fascists, but he's sounding pretty rational here, and he makes a few valid points. We've lost so much, and the worst of it hasn't hit us yet. Our defiance of the rest of the world, the alienation of our allies, our disregard of the Geneva Convention, Abu Ghraib... do any of you remember that 4 years ago things weren't like this? 9/11 made us look human to the rest of the world - they hadn't been sure, since we don't behave very well most of the time, but there was this great outpouring of support for us from most of the world. Now many of those countries are trying to put as much distance as they can between themselves and us so they don't get hit by the fallout when the bill comes due on our arrogance.

So, laugh all you want at the silly man and his blustering speech... but remember that the joke is on us.

(BTW, Gore mentions 'the horror we all felt' when we saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib, but the predominant reaction from the conservative side has been "this is war, shit happens", not horror. Ass Limbaugh said it just looked like the soldiers were just letting off some steam, accused the liberals of making a big stink over nothing. I think the only people who felt horror at what they saw are the ones who haven't become horrors themselves, and it is a terrifyingly small part of the population that is acting like this is a horrible thing our nation has done.)

the 6th nicest python vs the FCC

As long as you're downloading MP3's off the net, check out Eric Idle's response (MP3, 3.1MB) to the FCC's new crackdown on the word 'fuck'. We can have a fucking idiot inbred fucktard running the fucking country right into the fucking ground, no problem, but someone says 'fuck' on the air and a whole lotta dustfarters get their panties in a bunch and beg for more restrictions on free speech. Fuck 'em, I'm with Eric.

this is what you get when you mess with us

You know how some days you wake up, and you want to listen to some music, but you can't decide whether you're in the mood for Radiohead or country/western? Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman over at have solved your problem but good with a little Rodeohead (MP3, 4.49MB), a country/western medley of Radiohead songs.

Friday, May 28, 2004

last man standing

I was just rereading the text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell... I think it deserves more attention. This guy was a career diplomat who gave it all up when he saw that all the diplomacy in the world couldn't fix the madness Bush was creating.

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

There's more, most of which won't make you feel any better about the stewardship of our nation. But then again, like the bumper sticker says, if you aren't already outraged then you aren't paying attention.

moore adventures forthcoming

Finally... someone in the movie industry grew a pair and worked out the bullshit preventing the release of Michael Moore's new film 'Fahrenheit 9/11'. Disney/Miramax wimped out on it, though you've got to admit they do have a point in being afraid of some sort of retribution from the Bush dynasty. I am at a loss, however, to explain how we can all accept that and still pretend we've got free speech in this country.

Anyway, kudos to the Weinstein brothers, who conservatives think are leftyhollywoodgoddamjews anyway so they've got nothing to lose, for taking on this project. They formed a company (Fellowship Adventure Group... F.A.G.??? wha???) to handle the deal, and all of the costs and liabilities fall on them. Any profits that would have gone to Disney or Mirimax will be donated to charities to prevent them from being tainted by liberal money.

I've seen Moore's movies, read his books, and even heard him speak a few times, and though I often think he's being a bit reactionary I think it is possible that his position is as extreme as it is because it is in opposition to something that is even more extreme.

Update: fuck, why do I even write these things when the folks at Defamer do it so much better?

Harvey Weinstein: "Okay, is everyone on the line? Good. Eisner, nice job, you totally seemed like a tax-break mongering douchebag. Moore, you went to Cannes, won that silly prize from Quentin, and made a suitably big stink. Bob and I get to look like all-time champs of free speech. I think that about covers it. See you boys at the Oscars."

snow and ice

Wow... these pictures of the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival taken by photographer R. Todd King are impressive.

Snow sculpture

rake in the serenity

With any luck this Flash virtual Zen Garden will make the headache I got from reading the news go away.

Cassini Rising

With all of the attention Mars has been getting lately, it's easy to forget that Cassini is still hurtling towards a rendezvous with Saturn in two months. The pictures it is sending back are pretty impressive. Check out the latest images from Cassini, or the full collection in the Cassini section of the Planetary Photojournal.

Saturn, up close

truth, justice, OR the american way

I recently posted an entry about the way online news sources change or even remove stories that might be politically sensitive, and how the folks at The Memory Hole archive all of it in an attempt to slow down the almost instantaneous historical revision that makes Americans feel better about the horrendous acts their country commits. This sort of service is becoming more and more relevant, since the Bush administration acts pretty fast to cover up their indiscretions. Not that it matters a whole lot, since most Americans are sheep who forgot that 'democracy' is the opposite of 'go where you are led'... it sickens and amazes me that the conservatives in this country have managed to convince themselves that unthinking allegiance to despots is patriotic - 'straight-ticket' voters have more in common with fascism than democracy.

The Bush administration has done many things that I would consider unAmerican, so it doesn't surprise me much when something like today's news pops up: access to The Memory Hole, a site that merely documents official governmental releases for comparison with the revised and redacted versions that come later, has been blocked for US Army personnel serving in Iraq. After all, it wouldn't do to let them know that back home we're figuring out that the reasons they were sent over there turned out to be lies.

This is just one more instance of the contempt this administration has shown for the citizens and soldiers of this country. Isn't anyone getting tired of flagwaving yet, when it's almost like our government is going down a list of ideals this country supposedly stands for, and crossing them off one by one? Hello?


This letter to a number of nameless cicadas was filed under 'Missed Connections', a forum usually reserved for people hoping to hook up with chance encounters, on craigslist:

To the little fucker who dive bombed me on my way to lunch. You retarded, blind, little shit. You flew into the back of my ear while I was crossing the street! People laughed and pointed while I had, what looked like, an epileptic seizure. Bitch.

To the sneaky bastard who tried to smuggle himself into my office after lunch. My boss spotted you on my shoulder. I looked like a fucking sailor with his bug-parrot. I hope you liked the smack down I gave you.

To the beltway hitchhiker(s). For stupid bugs, you guys sure have good aim. Who would've thunk that two little shits like you could fly INTO a moving car! The first one landed on my passenger seat near Georgia Ave. You are more retarded than most of your friends (which is impressive). All you could do was fall over yourself and get stuck in the seams of my car seats. I didn't even have to fuck with you. Your friend though.... oh that muthafucka.... He flew into my driver's side window and smacked me in the throat! At 60mph!! That shit hurt. I almost rear-ended the Saturn in front of me because of you! But I had the last laugh... After you kamikazied my throat, your dumb ass got scared and flew to that back of my car, right at the base of the rear windshield. As soon as I saw your ass camped on my speakers, I cranked up the stereo. I hope you enjoyed 110dB of Dandy Warhols from half an inch away!!!

Love is in the air... or maybe it's just cicadas.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

life, death, stolen thunder

The March/April issue of Clamor has a piece by Sharon Wachsler where she talks about the socially ignored aggression young girls display towards each other... she refers to Rachel Simmons' book Odd Girl Out as the catalyst for her personal introspection on the issue. But that's only peripherally what this post is about.

By way of introducing her situation, Sharon says

Lately I have been very ill. I have a chronic illness, so in itself that's not too shocking. However, the devastating level of sickness I've experienced lately is akin to when I was first felled by illness and could only lie still for days on end, coming to grips with the challenge of not doing a thing, but simply being. Letting thoughts sift through my mind, my body so demonstrably fragile, has led me to think about death -- not to wish for it, not to fear it, but just to feel its closeness.

I wanted to write an update on how I am doing, but Sharon said it so clearly and so simply and I don't think I could do it any better. Maybe tomorrow.

"Because 2004 is 20 years too late."

If all of that touchy-feely talk about truth in mass-media is getting you down, Students for an Orwellian Society can set you straight again with a healthy dose of double-plus-good newspeak.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the separations between these last few posts have been in the wrong place? Perhaps I subconsciously intended to write a Very Big post...

a glimmer of journalistic integrity...

... but not yet bright enough to read by.

One of the things that scares me the most about this country is the way our media nurtures our short attention spans. It's something I've noticed more and more as the web has become my primary information medium - I'll see something interesting, tell someone else to go check it out, and in the time between the first and second viewings the content is changed, often in such a way as to completely alter the feel of the piece. I finally started printing out copies of pages that were at risk of being worked over by the Ministry of Disinformation, so I'd have proof when my coworkers started talking about 'tinfoil hats'.

But the thing is, there *is* proof. If you get your news from a single source (and thanks to Bush's relaxation of the media control laws it is now very probable that even if you get more than one newspaper in your city, they are still the same source), you are almost certainly being fucked. Don't think so? Take an hour or two, pick an 'important' news item, and check out 50 different news sources online, covering a few countries at the very least, covering many countries and a few languages if you can do so. You will find that the disparities in the news sources you read are so extreme that you're often not sure they are even talking about the same event.

Of course, here in the USA we know why this happens: because all of those *other* guys are spinning their stories for political reasons... our news is the pure ideal baseline upon which all of the other sources are judged and found to be faulty. How incredibly fucking arrogant and naive this country is. We believe that our news sources are sacrosanct - even if they get rewritten to contradict themselves over the course of the day.

Fortunately the web has provided a mechanism for you to figure things out on your own, if the talent and inclination to do so haven't been breed out of you yet. There are even a few resources for keeping track of things over time, like The Memory Hole, which is a great place to go looking for information that has been disappeared, and disinformation, which tries to keep the stories straight.

Today over at MemeStreams I saw that the New York Times has just printed an in-depth analysis of their own reporting practices over the past couple of years, and what they've found isn't pretty: regarding Iraq, they were more often than not lying to you. In many cases it was because the government was lying to them; in many cases they just wanted to sensationalize stories for higher ratings, and in some cases it was a deliberate reworking of the information to tell a story that would be more palatable to an American audience that doesn't ever want to hear they are doing something wrong, especially when it is so obviously true.

On Sept. 8, 2002, the lead article of the paper was headlined "U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts." That report concerned the aluminum tubes that the administration advertised insistently as components for the manufacture of nuclear weapons fuel. The claim came not from defectors but from the best American intelligence sources available at the time. Still, it should have been presented more cautiously. There were hints that the usefulness of the tubes in making nuclear fuel was not a sure thing, but the hints were buried deep, 1,700 words into a 3,600-word article. Administration officials were allowed to hold forth at length on why this evidence of Iraq's nuclear intentions demanded that Saddam Hussein be dislodged from power: "The first sign of a `smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud."

Five days later, The Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view ("White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons"). The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That challenge was reported on Page A10; it might well have belonged on Page A1.

Part of me wants to applaud the Times for following up on their stories and showing us their mistakes, but the rest of me knows that they are only printing the story now to distance themselves from the sources of bad intelligence, and to capitalize on the 4 seconds of introspection this country is going through over the Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg stories before we turn on the tube and watch 'Friends' reruns. The possibility that the news will ever say "these people are the source of the misinformation" is so slim as to be virtually nonexistent... recall that even after Nixon's death, we still weren't allowed to discuss what a weasel he was, and we'll be finding more shit about Bush, Clinton, and Li'l Bush for decades to come. I think we as a culture can handle it now - just so long as they don't put it on the front page of the news, or tell the story using precise language.

Keep your eyes open in the near future... in a recent L.A. Times article, Rumsfeld spoke of creating a terrorism group of our own to "stimulate reactions among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to counterattack by U.S. forces". (Damn, I knew I linked to that Onion story too early.) I thought this was supposed to be a 'good guys vs. bad guys' game... where are the good guys?


Monday, May 24, 2004

We're screwed

It's rare that I get email spam that I even read, let alone enjoy... but this one got me:

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a lightbulb?
  1. one to deny that a lightbulb needs to be replaced
  2. one to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the lightbulb,
  3. one to blame the previous administration for the need of a new lightbulb,
  4. one to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of lightbulbs,
  5. one to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton Industries one million dollars for a lightbulb,
  6. one to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the lightbulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag,
  7. and finally one to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country.

I think that the purpose of this kind of humor is not just to make you laugh because it is funny, it is to make you laugh so the truth doesn't hurt as much. You can test that idea for yourself over at The Onion.

Perhaps they should try "do no evil"?

Let's see... "speak no evil" didn't work, despite censorship that sets a new record for deception in this country. And since they couldn't shut everyone up, "hear no evil" didn't work either... these dusty old despots don't seem to realize that the world is wired now, information seeps through the cracks. It was only a matter of time before they tackled "see no evil": Rumsfeld has banned digital camera phones in Iraq, because an informed nation just gets in the way when we ignore the rules of the Geneva Convention.

Perhaps these compassionate neocons should try "do no evil" next? I realize it's a long shot, and I'm doubtful they'd think of it on their own, but maybe we can try to get the message through to them when the next elections roll around.

monkey see monkey do

Bush or chimp?

The emperor has no clue

So Bush decided not to attend his daughters graduations, and tried to make it look like he was doing everyone a favor. As usual, there's some insightful commentary from Six Different Ways, whose link to the article is tagged "they even lie about little things". Of course they do.

Laura Bush said the necessary madness of presidential security is too much to impose on the parents of other graduates... On Friday, however, the president gave a commencement address at Louisiana State University. Yeah, right. He just didn't want to endure the huge protests and all the boos an appearance at both UT and Yale would bring. Pussy.

Bush is in the paradoxical position of needing to mingle with the commoners to stump for re-election while hoping to avoid any actual contact that would expose him to criticism. If his handlers have more than a brain cell between them they'll do everything they can to keep the idiot as far away from cameras and microphones as possible right up to the elections. Especially when he looks like shit after getting beat up by a bicycle while enjoying yet another one of his record-breaking vacation days. (We should be grateful, as a nation, that it wasn't another terrorist pretzel attack.)

circles in spirals, wheels within wheels

I think I been heepmotized watching the interesting and creative effects here and here (Shockwave Flash).

Saturday, May 22, 2004

i'm not here. this isn't happening.

4AM and a nightmare has ridden me for hours... there are times when I take my sleeping pills and it is only a misfiring neuron, some electrical potential dimmed by lack of a fundamental vitamin perhaps, that keeps my hand from tipping the whole bottle back and getting some decent rest for once. It is amazing how bad the pain can get when it returns from a day's respite; two days ago I took my first walk through the neighborhood surrounding the house we bought in November, and yesterday I managed to go upstairs for the first time in months. The book of the movie of my life had better have more creative segues from the relative excitement of those two events to the curled-in-a-ball ferrets-gnawing-my-guts cheeks-wet-with-tears calling-out-to-the-gods-as-though-I-believed misery of this night than "and then he spent the rest of the day/week/month/year/his life writhing on the bed in pain".

amateurs in a professional universe

Summer, 1977. Naropa Institute, Boulder Colorado. Allen Ginsberg assigns Celestial Homework to his students, a reading list of modern and 'antient scriveners' whose writings influenced the Beat generation. The site has links to online versions of many of the works, which run from Antonin Artaud to Williams Blake, Burroughs, Shakespeare, Carlos Williams, and Butler Yeats, through Emily and Ezra and Edgar to Rimbaud, Cocteau, and Shiloh, Kerouac, Kafka and Keats. I remember that same year, having exhausted the rest of the bookshelves in the house, stumbling upon Kerouac and Ginsberg's books in my father's study and realizing that maybe the best we have to offer the universe in exchange for our tenancy here is the uniqueness of our point of view.

Nick's father speaks

Michael Berg makes it plain.

George Bush's ineffective leadership is a weapon of mass destruction, and it has allowed a chain reaction of events that led to the unlawful detention of my son which immersed him in a world of escalated violence. Were it not for Nick's detention, I would have had him in my arms again. That detention held him in Iraq not only until the atrocities that led to the siege of Fallujah, but also the revelation of the atrocities committed in the jails in Iraq, in retaliation for which my son's wonderful life was put to an end.

He mentions something that I wish more people really *heard*: that 9/11 was a wakeup call, an opportunity to change the world for the better... and instead, we have followed our 'leaders' ever further into madness. What's it going to take to get this country to wake up?

Photoblogging madness

Photoblogging just got easier due to a collaboration between Blogger and that makes sending a picture to your blog easier than emailing it to a friend. The photos are autofrobbed to create an inline-sized version and a full sized version, they are inserted directly into your blog with or without accompanying comments, and most importantly, they store the photos for free

This service can be used outside of the realm of blogs... in fact, they have created a client that basically becomes one of your IM buddies, to which you can send a photo just as with any other IM buddy.

The inaugural photoblog post here at WitL: saying goodbye to fellow burners on a Very Dusty Day, final day of Burning Man last year.


Friday, May 21, 2004

where have all the rational people gone?

If you know me you know that I think you can take all your ideas about a 'liberal media' and stick them up your ass, if you can manage to slip them past your head. There *is* a liberal media in America... it's that guy trying to sell you the 'Street Roots' paper for a buck in the subway station, or one of a couple of magazines that you aren't *ever* going to see because they aren't sold in megamarts. Accusing any of the mainstream media in the US of being liberally biased isn't just fucking absurd, it's terrifying, because it means there are a few Bad Things happening:

  • Either the majority of the country has swung so far to the right that 'moderate' looks like 'communist', or
  • the assholes in the White House have put so much spin on everything that people don't know which way is up, and will therefore follow the loudest braying beast they hear (yeah, that means you, Rush, and about 50 other fascist hatemonger media figures), or
  • (and this is the worst bit, now, because it's so dead on) the average American is a fucking idiot whose logical faculties rank somewhere between the kid on the porch in 'Deliverance' and a potted fern.

Yesterday Fox News aired the results of a poll that shows that 33% of those surveyed think the media is too easy on Kerry and 42% think the media is too tough on Bush. Now think about that... if 33% think the media is too easy on Kerry, then 66% either think that they are doing an accurate portrayal, or that they are being too hard on him. If we had a liberal media, the headline would have been "66% think media is too tough on Kerry", but because we don't have anything even resembling a liberal media, we are instead told what percentage thinks the media is soft on Kerry.

Similarly, if 42% of the people think the media is too tough on Bush, then 58% of them think the media reportage is either fair or too easy on him. I didn't see any headlines saying "58% of Americans think media is soft on Bush"...

The problem is one of abstraction. We don't have a liberal mainstream media, period. Welfare mothers are not the primary cause of states financial woes. Despite what the media tells you, 'Supporting the troops' is a liberal concept: support them enough to get their asses back home, before our megalomaniacal president gets any more of them killed. The calculus of hatred that these people have been working on for decades has abstracted almost every concept so thoroughly that it looks remarkably like its supposed opposite. But you have to admire them, they've done a great job of making a country of ignorant flagwavers who hate what they are told to hate, because it's their patriotic duty (and or because Jesus told them so).

When the rally-round-the-flag spikes appeared in the graph of Bush's approval rating, you didn't see any media outlets saying '40% of the country disapproves'... you saw flags waving and G.I. Bush landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a warhead stuffed down the front of his pants to symbolize America's virility. Exactly the way a CONSERVATIVE media would report it.

Sheesh you people make me fucking sick.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Stalking the Bogeyman

A year ago David Holthouse was going to kill a man - he had a gun, a silencer, a well-developed plan, and the pain he'd carried for the 25 years since he was raped at the age of seven. He had decided that murder was just one more shameful secret he would take to his grave, that the horrors of any act on his part could never be as bad as the shame he had dealt with daily for most of his life. But chance and circumstance, the most random of events, saw to it that things didn't work out as he had planned. His story is a tough read; if you think it might upset you too much, do not read it.

After testing the gun and silencer in the desert, I stored them in Phoenix and flew home to keep scheming. It seems a little insane to me now that I was actually going to kill a man instead of just bringing what he had done to me out in the open. But that's how kiddie rapers get away with it. They depend upon shame and fear and embarrassment to keep their victims quiet. And there are so many victims. The commonly accepted estimate among law enforcement and sexual-abuse treatment specialists in Colorado is that one in four women and one in six men who live in this state were either molested or raped before the age of eighteen, most of them by a man or teenage boy they knew.

We live in a culture where late-night television looks on the possible molestation of children by a famous music star as joke material, where near-weekly revelations of priestly malfeasance have blurred into background noise, but for people who have been abused there is nothing funny about this, and it remains in sharp shameful focus. Read David's story, if you can - there is no sensationalism, no dramatization, no holds barred. There is just one man staring The Bogeyman in the eye, and asking "why?".

hard hearts in the homeland

If y'all don't mind, I think I'm just going to crawl under the covers and stay there until election day, hop out long enough to vote, then dive back in where it is warm and safe. My president and his self-righteous hatred disgust me. My country and its self-righteous hatred disgust me. The behavior of a large number of my fellow Americans, on both 'sides' (whatever that means) disgusts me - it's not just disgusting behavior for Americans, it's disgusting behavior for humans in general.

I am continually astounded at how easy it is for so many Americans to justify to themselves the most hateful and just outright fucking evil points of view, and the way they so skillfully wrap their hatred in morally superior trappings, always granting themselves absolution beforehand, makes me want to fucking puke. If your belief system is so abhorrent that you need to create a whole support structure to camoflauge the absurdities and provide some sort of referents for internal consistency or else you'd feel like a bad person, well, guess what: you *are* a bad person, and insufferably self-righteous to boot.

I live in a city where 4 out of 5 SUVs have the same two bumper stickers: one is an American flag (numerous variations on this one; "these colors don't run" is particularly popular these days, but "proud to be an American" is also well-represented) and the other says "Caution: in the event of The Rapture this vehicle will be unmanned", and I can tell you truly that these people's desire to be lifted into heaven is not a tenth as strong as my desire to see them get the fuck off of this planet.

Until then, I'm going to be right here huddled under my blankets... would one of you please come get me when all of this is over?

ball of dirt is like Lonely Planet for the people: it's a free service that lets you publish your itinerary, photos, travel notes, journals, stories, tips, and maps on the web.

Your friends and family can follow your travels and see things through your eyes as you travel around with automatic email alerts- no need to write long boring group emails... You can also use it to research ideas for travel, or just show off your photos.

You can browse through what other people have put up already, or start an account and document that dream vacation to Prague you've been holding off for so long.

Seriously, this is a great idea... on our last Green Tortoise trip to Baja, I set up a Yahoo group that had about a tenth of the relevant functionality that BallOfDirt provides. It looks like a great way to keep in touch with the folks back home, learn about places you'd like to go (or avoid), and document your trip for all time with less hassle.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

knock knock. who's there?

BTW just in case you don't already know about this, here's the scoop on BugMeNot - sometimes when you are surfing the web, you get to a page that won't show you the news or whatever until you login, because they need to analyze usage patterns to target specific demographics and increase their advertising revenues. Often I just say 'fuck em' - actually, that's true now that I think about it, I do say that quite often - err, 'cause just about anything behind a gate at one site on the internet is right out on the lawn at another site, so 'fuck em'.

Occasionally, however, I actually want to read the article. That's where BugMeNot comes in... go there, type in the name of the website, and if they have them (they have data on over 2100 sites) they'll tell you a user/password combo to get you in. If they didn't have the site already, what the fuck, *you* set it up and enter the data at BugMeNot.

If you run into this problem a lot, use their bookmarklet on your toolbar to simplify the process... clicking the bookmarklet will scan their database and give you the info automagically.

If the place you are having the problem with is the New York Times, there is another useful solution: Aaron Swartz's New York Times Link Generator transforms an URL that would lead to a login screen into one that leads to the archived version of the story, which exists if the story is more than a few minutes old. Aaron has made a bookmarklet for this as well, so as soon as I see the NYT login page I click on the bookmarklet and the problem goes away. Aaron also released the python source code for the conversion tool that gets triggered by his bookmarklet if you want to see how it's done.

And finally, if you don't know what bookmarklets are or you do and want to find more cool stuff, go to

andy are you goofin on elvis?

Andy Kaufman is alive and well and blogging the 20th anniversary of his faked death. He had always said he would come back 20 years later to the day... so this week, Bob Zmuda ran ads in 100 newspapers to remind Andy of his calendarial obligations, and held a party on Sunday night to welcome him back. No confirmed sightings, yet, however.


Are the rumors true? Are you really Ann Coulter, like you were Tony Clifton?

Andy Kaufman:

I am in fact, Ann Coulter.
Kaufman is Coulter. Coulter is Kaufman. Sorry to all those I had sex with while posing as Ann Coulter.

It's good to have you back, Andy. We missed you.

kaufman returns

head like a hole

Trent Reznor just updated his Nine Inch Nails site (btw: that doesn't just look like typewriter letters, every link is a little picture of typed words) with an access page that includes answers to questions people have sent him:


i've noticed that you now have links to chomsky and in the resources section. in the past you expressed little interest, if not outright apathy when it comes to politics. does the addition of these links indicate anything in terms of your lyrical direction for the new album? or is it merely a reflection of a newfound political awareness or awakening?

response from trent:

today's political climate does not allow the luxury of apathy.


Found that link over at Six Different Ways, which also had a piece about Bush's approval rating... *this* picture better mean *more* than a thousand words, it better mean millions of people getting off their asses and voting.

off-road all-terrain preidential approval rating

Of course, according to the White House, Bush doesn't need to worry about the election: USNews reports that the administration 'expects' one or more terrorist attacks leading up to the election, and they've been busy working up plans for how to deal with it. Various reports list ideas from martial law to just not having elections. See that big spike on the graph? On 9/10, even the Republicans knew GWB was a fucktard. They still knew it a week later, too, but people tend to rally 'round the flag (that's what it's there for, actually), and the graph could spike again if it seems that there is something worse happening to the country than what our idiot president is doing to it. Considering the hornet's nest Bush has made out of US-Islamic affairs, I wouldn't be surprised if that's his entire re-election plan: just wait for someone to bail him out again, just like the rest of his life.

...and we've always got the somewhat less-publicized mess Bush has made of North Korea if some miracle occurs and the billion pissed-off muslims decide to play it cool.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

bugs everywhere

Gizmodo has a peek at a new *extremely* customized VW bug... this is past 'hobby', out somewhere near 'fetish'. This one's gold-plated filigree is a bit fancier than the previous one's wrought iron, but both of them are clearly the result of artistry and obsession.

The new bug was made by a company in Croatia that's done many other cool projects.

i know that we will always be but time pass fast and slow

The Playing With Time project shows you ordinary events at extraordinarily fast or slow speeds... landscapes and eyeblinks and pregnancies and explosions. I particularly like the ones where you can choose from a number of time scales: a second, a minute, and hour, a day, a month, a year... some of them even go further using simulations. There are also links to other cool sites, such as António Cidadão's time-lapse astronomical animations, one of which is shown below.

moon animation

(btw the title of this post is a line from the Incredible String Band song 'Dear Old Battlefield', and the picture above was used without the permission of Mr. Cidadão because his contact info was not up to date. Mr. Cidadão, please contact me if you would like me to remove the picture.)

more shit they didn't tell you

The UN has posted 10 stories that the world should hear more about, things that aren't sexy enough to put on the evening news. We just love those little doe-eyed kids (As Seen On TV!) that can be kept alive for 20 cents a day, but 7 million people are slaughtered in Central Africa and the average American hasn't heard the news. Read up, open your horizons.

Cold Turkey

At the age of 81, Kurt Vonnegut is still waching humans in their natural habitats, still all-a-wonder at the strangeness of their ways, and still unafraid to point out that something is not right about the way we are doing things when we forget to care for each other.

Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.

The rest of the article goes on to talk about war and politics and the things Vonnegut thinks are contributing to all of the madness in the world today - specifically, the way industrial nations are making obvious attempts to control the world's dwindling oil supply. Since so many of our rich and powerful (think Cheney, Bush, and the rest of their beady-eyed little gang) got that way via fossil fuels, war with Middle Eastern nations was already a foregone conclusion... Bush told his staff to prepare for it long before 9/11 went down, but he's just so fucking happy that it did go down because it made it so much easier to get the sheep to support his warmongering. And now we're in a fuckload of debt and the whole world hates us and we are the best thing that ever happened to terrorism but those fuckers got their pockets lined so they are happy, and besides it's not their kids dying over there.

Vonnegut likens the behavior of our government to that of junkies who are commiting violent crimes to obtain more of whatever they are hooked on in the face of an impending shortage. I'm glad people like Vonnegut can talk about this with some measure of clarity... when I think too much about it, I get a headache and The Fear and start wondering if there are any countries on the planet who will still let Americans emigrate.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

the morninator

Now I know why I was never able to adjust to working in a cubicle all day - my morning routine didn't sufficiently prepare me for the soul-numbing horrors of the workplace. This guy has figured out that if you want to be an 'emotionless, cyborg badass', you need to plan ahead. Notice his post is anonymous? I bet it's my old boss. Fucker.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

time, time, time, see what's become of me

For my friend Julie, who has been thinking about the passage of time:

Moving on from 'young and hip' doesn't necessarily mean moving into 'old and unhip'... it just means finding a new label, if you require one, for the fire within you that you previously thought was the mark of your youthful hipness. You should find some joy in the realization that you were wrong, the whole time, about the connection between spirit and age... something you've proven by being someone who defies your own definitions. Let them go.

There's not really anything you can do about the current batch of young hipsters who feel the same way you did when you were their age... right now, the joke is on you, but give them another 20 years and they'll figure it out as well.

When I was at university I never really thought about my age; I always just assumed I was one of the crowd. I should note that aside from people who are very young or very old, I can't really tell the age of most humans by looking at them... if I try to guess, I might be off by a decade or more, which tends to piss just about everyone off, so I don't even try anymore. So there I was, blissfully unaware that in reality I was about a decade older than most of my peers, to all of whom this age discrepancy was quite apparent.

I studied Japanese as hard as I studied calculus... I actually studied and practiced the dialogues that we would pair up and deliver in front of the class. My dialogue partner was a young woman who never studied; she was very afraid of speaking in front of other people and had apparently decided that if she didn't learn the words, she couldn't be forced to say them in front of the class, so her part of the dialogue usually consisted of staying silent until the teacher said the line for her. There was always a freeform Q&A period afterwards where the teacher would ask us questions pertaining to the dialogue and we would reply in Japanese; this was the roughest part for my partner, who would usually just blush her way through it saying as little as possible.

As the term came to an end, my dialogue partner had progressed to the point where she could usually break through her embarrassment enough to squeak out a word or two, but overall she was very insecure and had learned very little, and it was rare that she would complete a whole sentence in Japanese. One day the subject matter of the dialogue was 'dating', and during the Q&A session the instructor (who had given up on getting my partner to speak, resorting instead to asking her questions that were likely to make her squirm even more) asked my partner if she would ever go on a date with me. For a moment the poor girl looked terrified, but then in the most assertive voice she had managed all term, without the slightest trace of embarrassment or hesitation, in perfectly flawless Japanese, she said "oh, no... he's much too old."

Hrmmph. Young people... what the hell do they know anyway?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

a web of your own

Google hasn't moved it's Personalized Searching feature out of beta yet, but I've been using it for awhile and it looks like the beginning of a good idea. Enter in a profile of things that interest you, fairly general categories like 'gardening' or 'electronics' - these will be stored in a cookie. Then search as you normally would, and Google returns a page of results that is very similar to what the normal Google search would give, but at the top of the page there is a slider bar that lets you control how personalized the results are. As you slide the bar over to the right, you see some of the search results move lower in the list, or even fall right off the page. Crank the thing all the way over to 'max', and the results that remain are a combination of the search terms you entered and the profile you created, and should therefore be (theoretically) more useful to you.

I should *DO* this next thing, instead of pontificating about it - I think that this sort of personalized searching is the next killer app. Google is taking the first step in the right direction, but there are two factors working against them: the large number of people using their service, and the extent to which checkboxes in a number of categories can capture the essence of a person's interests... there's just too much to store in a little cookie.

Sci-fi authors have long envisioned a future where the technology that surrounds has become very personalized - the morning paper only shows you items that you will find to be of interest, your web browser spiders the web collating useful links in the background while you sleep, and any advertisements you see are for products or services that you might actually need. has been working on that last bit for awhile: based on your previous purchases, it often recommends other things that might interest you. I spent an hour once going through the recommendations at Amazon, clicking 'Not Interested' on anything that didn't apply to me, and since then I rarely see a recommendation that misses the mark.

RSS aggregators have already made some progress into personalizing the web... you decide which feeds to subscribe to, which is a good first-order winnowing of the data, though not quite as useful as deciding what sort of information you wish to see - the RSS model is more of a trust model, in that you trust the feed source to deliver the type of information you would like to see.

I've thought quite a bit about a desktop app that would scour the web, storing interesting articles for you. When you read an article that interests you, you could give it a higher rating, and similarly less interesting articles would receive a lower rating. These ratings would then further refine future searches. I don't think it would take long before the system was proficient in rerturning only those results that interested you.

Of course, one of my greatest interests lies in learning, in being exposed to new ideas, so I suppose the software would have to randomly insert results from outside of my declared (and computed) areas of interest. It would still be able to use previous knowledge to weed out pages that were high in advertisements or annoyances (like injudicious and excessive use of the blink tags).

Monday, May 10, 2004

finding your own voice

Someone asked Jim Henley what advice he had for someone who wanted to try their hand at poetry, and his advice seems pretty sound for writing of any sort. Actually it can be abstracted into many fields... studying electrical engineering I found that many textbooks make the mistake of teaching things backwards, covering advanced ideas early on and apparently hoping that you'll pick up the little details later. I think "learning the little details" is basically the same thing as "developing intuition", since once you've really understood the essence of a thing you've been changed by that understanding, and you view higher-order problems from a new place. I recall a few times that I suddenly understood something so deeply that months of other work just fell into place - ideas that had previously had no foundation crystallizing into a cohesive whole by something so simple as hearing or reading a single line.

What would I recommend as far as "trying your hand?" Start by slavishly imitating poets you admire. This is the opposite of the standard advice that you need to concentrate on "finding your own voice." Don't take this wrong... but fuck your own voice. Your own voice will take care of itself as your craft matures. Your own voice will, if you're going to have one, insist on emerging. In the meantime, learn the craft.

Develop intuition, make it your 'second nature', and those loftier goals will seem to be a natural extension of who you are. Or possibly you find that your new point of view shows you that going further on a certain path is not for you... either way you learn and grow. I think Henley's got the right idea - don't let who you are get in the way of doing what you want to do. If you really want to do something, change who you are to the point that the thing you want to do is just the most natural thing in the world.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

feline recursion & the mirror project

Hrmmm, that sounds like a good name for a band.

The Infinite Cat Project works like so:

  • display the last cat picture from this page on your monitor
  • take a picture of your cat looking at the cat on the monitor, if they will consent to do so
  • send your picture in, where it will be added to the end of the list
  • rinse and repeat, with different cat and human

It's interesting that while some of the cats react to the picture on the screen with that total disregard or even contempt that cats are soooo good at, many of them are playfully engaged and others are in territorial mode, bristling at the presence of this other (digital) cat in their domain. I wonder what cats see... does a monitor that shows a picture look like like any other window in the house?

The Mirror Project doesn't necessarily involve cats and usually has only one or two layers of recursion. All that is required is the presence of some sort of reflection. The pictures range from the obligatory I-just-bought-a-digital-camera self-portrait to reflections of the picture taker in a pets eyes... the ones I like the most are random reflections, usually not the main point of the picture, just a subtle unintended addition to the content.

I've previously posted a link to another infinite picture project, the infinite polaroid.

cracks in the veneer

An interesting(ly sickening) article about how widespread mistreatment of prisoners is in the American penal system. (Yeah, I know it's probably a lot worse in many other places, but we've got a vested interest in marketing our 'Good Guy' image, which directly conflicts with reality just about everytime someone provides a glimpse behind closed doors).

Human rights advocates and inmates have long alleged that physical and sexual abuse of prisoners is a big problem, but interestingly enough in the fallout from this Iraq prison thing those 'humanist' voices have been joined in their observation by corrections officials, who repeat the allegations but then add "so what?"

The corrections experts say that some of the worst abuses have occurred in Texas, whose prisons were under a federal consent decree during much of the time President Bush was governor because of crowding and violence by guards against inmates. Judge William Wayne Justice of Federal District Court imposed the decree after finding that guards were allowing inmate gang leaders to buy and sell other inmates as slaves for sex.

The experts also point out that the man who directed the reopening of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year and trained the guards there resigned under pressure as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after an inmate died while shackled to a restraining chair for 16 hours. The inmate, who suffered from schizophrenia, was kept naked the whole time.

No surprises there... under Bush the "compassionate conservative" "smaller federal government" assclown Texas jails reached a new historic low, to the point that it required federal intervention. And it is just fitting that this administration set a like-minded sociopath direct the Iraqi prisons.

Point, point, come on Michael, what's the fucking point? Still the same rant, I guess, still the same observation that the forcefulness with which we assert our alignment with the side of Freedom and Justice and Truth is inversely proportional to the degree those ideals inform our actions - it's like mass cultural hypnosis, and it's working very well... Bush has fine-tuned it into an art form, not even trying to disguise it anymore, he says one thing and then publicly does another, and if anyone dares to point out the inconsistency he just denies it exists. Just think how much more efficient our government is, now that they no longer need to develop elaborate cover stories to hide their machinations... just slap a flag on anything, and the people will buy it.

umm, yeah, ditto

Ryland and I are often on the same wavelength, but as usual he's more concise and less irate.

Friday, May 07, 2004

You've come a long way, baby... *not*

As my 'elegy' post shows, I've been thinking a bit lately about how culture informs a specific worldview: us and them, Christian and Muslim, man and woman... when I run into different perspectives, I try to look at things objectively instead of just assuming that 'our way is the best way', and not let the American worldview they're selling you on TV affect my judgement.Often I can see that there are just many ways of doing things, which means from my point of view the other guy is doing it wrong, but from his point of view, I am doing it wrong. Occasionally, however, I run into issues that I just can't see another way around... some things are just fucking wrong.

Case in point: an Afghanistan village council ruled recently that a rich landowner, whose honor was being threatened by a young (and poor) farmer who was involved with the mans daughter, was entitled to rape the farmer's daughter, who is 16, and daughter-in-law, who is 22, to avenge his honor. This is wrong on so many levels that I think I just had a fucking aneurysm.

It should be noted that over 80% of the women in prison in Pakistan are there because they failed to prove they were raped. if the rape conviction is successful, then legally the women were raped, but if it isn't successful, then the women have just admitted under oath that they had adulterous relations and unless they can prove that they did not have sex with anyone (which is a bit difficult in any court case, but even more difficult when the whole basis of the case is the woman's assertion that she was raped). Remember that this is a society where you can still be sentenced to death by stoning, and that the Islamic tradition treats women as property... women are faced with silence or imprisonment.

There are some other things that happen in the middle-east that I'n not very accepting of: buzkashi, for one. This game, which is to middle-easterners what cricket is to the British, was brought into the middle-east during Ghenis Khan's 13th century hackslashrapeburnpillage tour of the area. The game is a lot like polo... except the tool you hold in your hand is a metal bar with a big meathook on the end, and the ball is a goat carcass.

These guys are starting to strain the seams on my "be open to other cultures" circuits.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

personal update 6 May 2004

Well, Anne-Marie has recuperated from her illness in her usual style: the other day she was out back hauling firewood, her IV line wrapped close to her arm with an ace bandage. We removed the line (ick) on Tuesday, and now we're back to just one sick person in the house, a role I fill more than adequately. I've had a pretty rough week, going 4 days without sleep, then crashing pretty hard after getting violently ill. The only good thing about being so ill is that I am occasionally able to sleep without the use of drugs, although my dreams lately have left me a bit shaken. I wouldn't say I'm depressed; from where I am you might just be able to see 'depressed' if you looked up with a telescope.

Spring is a double-edged sword... the world is waking up, and everyone I know is waking with it, but things aren't really changing for me. The little bit of the world I see out the window is covered with leaf and bloom, but more than that I see it in the eyes of Anne-Marie, the light that fights back the months of winter darkness and looks forward to summer's promise. I wish I felt like this was a trip I was going to be taking as well, but right now my hopes aren't too high.

On the bright side: Anne-Marie put a little bowl of birdseed on the porch-rail outside my window, and the bluejays come to visit quite a bit, when they are sure there aren't squirrels about.

what's a little torture among friends?

Wow... Bush chastized Rumsfeld over his handling of the American abuse of Iraq soldiers... he was specifically upset that he first heard the news while watching '60 Minutes'. Don't these people have meetings?

I'm a little surprised that Bush even bothered to respond... his voting block are treating the whole abuse thing like it's just business as usual... we're the good guys, after all, so any number of indications to the contrary can be overlooked. Rush Limbaugh summed it up pretty well when a caller commented that the pictures of US soldiers arranging Iraqis into a "stack [of] naked men" was "like a college fraternity prank":

"Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?"

I do think it is exceedingly strange that people are getting more upset over this issue (the poor treatment of living opposition soldiers) than they do over the killing, but then again I guess it just goes back to the whole deal where we need to continuously justify our status as the Good Guys: killing them is ok, because we are Good and we are fighting Evil, but abusing them is not ok because it makes it seem like maybe we aren't as Good as we thought.

BTW, yesterday Bush announced that he wants an additional $25 billion for next year's war coffers, a figure that even the House Budget Committee has concluded is only about half of what is needed. Presumably he'll ask for the other half after the elections? The guy can't lose, at this point: either he is re-elected, which will convince the Republican congress that there is a 'mandate' from the people to justify the whole thing, or he loses, and whoever replaces him gets remembered for all time as the loser who had to clean up the mess: if they pull out, they are thought to be weak, and if they stay there, it's the same old can of worms. I can't figure out why anyone would want to run in this election... it's a losing battle.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


At Pat Tillman's funeral, the speeches were mostly about the selfless sacrifice Tillman made for his country, when he had more to lose than many people. After 9/11, Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to serve in the military, which cost him his life - on April 22, in Afghanistan, Tillman was killed by 'friendly fire' while leading his team to help comrades caught in an ambush. His whole life - not just the bits that a made-for-TV movie could be based on, but his personal relationships, his position in the community, and his complete dedication and commitment to friends, family, and cause - reads like the archetypal hero's journey.

The politicians and celebrities and sports figures that gathered at his funeral, some 3000 of them, had a lot to say about sacrifice and patriotism and doing one's duty to God, Family, and Country... so much to say, in fact, that they seemed to forget that up until a few weeks ago, Tillman was a living breathing human being. In a sense they were only doing their part - both sides of every war have always required a chorus of voices proclaiming their side's deep connection with God... it's what helps justify the cause in the minds of all the people back home, and there is little qualitative difference between the Christian homily "he's with God now" and the Islamic promise of gloried martyrdom for those who die in battle.

It helps us deal with the pain of death, abstracting away the complicated realities, replacing them with simpler more palatable concepts. But this abstraction works too well - it keeps the reality of the situation so far from the minds of most people that they can go about their lives as though there is no war, after all it's just something that happens on the news, and besides when the other side dies they were evil anyway, and when our side dies they get to be with God... doesn't sound too bad, does it? Your president understands this all too well... in past wars our presidents would meet the planes at the airport, standing witness to the flag-draped coffins that brought our soldiers back home, but this guy goes down to his ranch in Texas, plays a little golf, and tells the whole country that our soldiers deaths are a matter for their families to deal with, not something that should concern the country at large. Bush's disrespect for those that died fighting his little war shames us all, but most people don't seem to care.

Tillman's younger brother Richard probably won't be remembered for his speech at the funeral... Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger will be quoted, as will John McCain and a few NFL luminaries. The soaring speeches that brought a tear to everyone's eyes and made their hearts burn with pride and patriotism will be absorbed into the collective rhetoric and used to abstract away more deaths and more wars. But suppose for a moment that Bush isn't just being dishonorably self-serving (I know it's a stretch, but work with me here), and that a soldier's death is the family's concern and not the concern of the people the soldier fought for... if that's the case, perhaps we shouldn't listen to the celebrity flagwavers who acknowledge the politically useful dead while ignoring the hundreds of other deaths. Perhaps we should listen to Richard Tillman, for whom the war is something more than just a blurb on the news:

Thanks Pat. [toasting him with a glass of Guiness beer] I didn't write shit because I'm not a writer. I'm not just going to sit here and break down on you. But thanks for coming. Pat's a fucking champion and always will be. Just make no mistake, he'd want me to say this: He's not with God. He's fucking dead. He's not religious. So, thanks for your thoughts, but he's fucking dead.

Regardless of your position on this war or wars in general, the fact remains that people are fighting and dying for a cause they believe to be true; they surrender themselves to what they perceive to be a greater cause, and follow the orders their leaders give them. That their leaders should unnecessarily place them in harm's way, that their deaths should be unacknowledged by the country they died for, that their memories should be whitewashed with abstractions, these things are disrespectful of their sacrifice. Think about all of the little things we use to make ourselves feel better about their deaths, when we shouldn't feel better about it, it is supposed to hurt, to remind us that it matters... because we should be able to trust that their lives would not be squandered on issues that did not matter. You aren't supposed to get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when you hear about Tillman or any of the other 847 coalition soldiers that have died on 'our side' in this war, let alone the thousands that have died on the other side... they are fucking dead. The least we can do is remember that.

Richard Tillman toasts brother Pat at funeral

How do we know we love Mother Russia?

... because Mother Russia tells us we love Mother Russia. Part II

Disney executives have forbidden the distribution of Michael Moore's new film by their Mirimax Division because they fear retribution (in the form of fewer tax-breaks for their holdings in Florida) from Governor Jeb Bush. This, to me, isn't even surprising any more... the Republicans were already known for their dirty tricks before the current administration, and the fact that NONE OF YOU FUCKING SHEEP woke up when they put that assclown in the Whitehouse has emboldened them to the point that they don't even feel the need to hide it anymore. Think about it... land of the free, freedom of press, freedom of speech, fear that speech critical of government figures will result in retribution (like when Joseph Wilson did his job and reported the truth as he saw it, that there was no weapons threat sufficient to justify the Iraq invasion, and the administration compromised his wife's identity as an undercover CIA agent)... which of these things just doesn't belong here?

By the way, can we stop pretending that the weapons had anything at all to do with the attack on Iraq? Seeing so many adults maintain such a flimsy charade for so long is tiring me out, people... give it up. Things would be so much easier if Bush & Co would just admit that they are hateful and corrupt... it wouldn't surprise anyone, and such candor might even win them the respect of many Republicans.