Friday, August 27, 2004

*poke* *poke*

Oh the goddam glorious unending *joy* of my life.

Years of unsuccessful treatment of my health issues have convinced me that western medicine is faith-healing at worst, statistics at best; I am without faith, and just about every facet of my life is way off to one end of the bell curve or the other, so NO MOJO FOR YOU. I've become so cynical about the whole thing that I am now doing the willing-suspension-of-disbelief thing and getting acupuncture once a week... I've been pretty cynical about acupuncture, and that combined with my abhorrence of needles have kept me from trying it, but now I have nothing to lose (except my gall-bladder if the acupuncture doesn't help).

My first impression of acupuncture is just a gut-level reaction to the fact that they put needles in my skin.

Needles. In my skin.

Needles poking out, channeling chi... or whatever. The guy is like "do you feel the chi moving?" and I'm like "I feel NEEDLES sticking out of my SKIN." I don't know what moving chi is supposed to feel like... so far the predominant sensation is physical and mental irritation from being poked and prodded.

If the acupuncture works, I'm going to have to re-evaluate everything. I mean, like *everything*. I don't have any beliefs that would be challenged by successful treatment, but I do have disbelief or non-belief in just about everything. (Questions of the form "do you believe in ___" have never made sense to me... there are things I know, and things I don't know, and "believing" seems a lot like "pretending you know something you don't". There are things I believe, but I don't believe that the things I believe are true.)

My life's been just fucking loaded with surprises these last few years, like discovering that my personality is sensitively dependent on the presence of a microscopically small amount of a chemical compound that my body doesn't produce enough of. And discovering that I can't trust the messages that my body sends me, since it's a liar. After those things, finding out that you can fix a gall-bladder by poking me in the feet will be just another thang.

burning sensations

Right now I'm taking a break from packing for Burning Man. We planned to leave early tomorrow morning, but I've been laid up for large parts of the last few days and Anne-Marie is currently walking the Portland-to-coast route, so the car is still astoundingly unpacked. Time constraints and heavy rains seriously impacted the work we were doing on our monstrous new shade structure, so we are going to commit the #1 Burningman newbie fuckup and beta-test the thing onsite - various parts of it have been built, but the whole thing has never been completely assembled. I'm taking alot of tools and about a mile of duct-tape and a bunch of extra rebar and rope. If you see me chasing our structure across the playa, feel free to grab a rope and help tame the beast.

I'm more than a little worried about going on this trip in the physical condition I am in, but I could use the spiritual recharge... and I'm usually (on days when I don't have to pack the car for long roadtrips) pretty good about pacing myself, taking some time to lie down and chill before the pain and cramping get too bad, if I have a choice. Depression-wise, I need this trip... on top of my ongoing Oscar-worthy performance pretending I'm not in pain or about to puke all the time, I also find that I need to set aside my depression to interact with the neighbors... not that it's a bad thing, just that every once in awhile I'll feel the oomph go out of my smile and I get hit with a wave of depression so severe that I about fall over, but I'm still in the middle of a conversation and I have to fight to keep going, using energy I don't have. Hopefully I'll have more energy when I get back from this trip.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

que sera sera

Sarah Brown, August 20 2004, on the imminent arrival of Josh:

[Josh] is due to roll into Penn Station around 11 am tomorrow. I will do my damnedest not to wake up married or in jail or on a railroad train headed west come Sunday morning, but I make no promises.

Sarah Brown, August 24 2004, on the events of the preceding 3 days:

When someone says to you, "Let's get married," and you say "okay," and then they say, "No, seriously: if I can find a priest tonight, will you do it?", this is pretty much going to be the best thing anyone ever says to you.

Keep in mind that it's 3am on a Saturday morning and they're in the Bowery drinking... dredging up someone with the proper credentials could be difficult. Well, maybe not too difficult... there's probably a large number of Universal Life Church ministers to be found there.

So it was that Josh Parish and Sarah Brown were married on the sidewalk in front of CBGB's. The groom placed a lovely ring of folded gum-wrapper on the bride's finger, and she in turn drew a ring on his finger with a marker. Scroll down this page for pictures of the new couple and the literally blushing bride (putting the lie, incidentally, to her claim of being "not too terribly attractive").

All told it was a great story - until she got to the last line and broke my heart: "God, being young is so fucking awesome." Aye, it was, if my fading memories are correct. Now I'm going to drag my old self away from the computer before someone else depresses me even more.

no ripcord

I've been reading for a while now, partly because Heather is brilliant and funny and human and partly because she and I share a common viewpoint on the wacko fundamentalist cult we were both raised in. Also I think she might be the reincarnation of Lenny Bruce... she swears like him anyway. (So many women just can't say motherfucker very convincingly. Or fuckbucket. Heather, on the other hand, can write things like BRIGHAM YOUNG SUCKED COCK in a post to her Mormon BYU-student brother without breaking her stride. I adore her.)

You might have heard about Heather when she lost her job because of her blog. You can learn a lot about her just by reading the Things that charm me and Things that annoy me sections of her website.

In the past her posts were about things like Drunken Underpants Remodeling, but since her pregnancy and the birth of little Leta her posts have inevitably turned towards baby poo and/or breastfeeding, which probably isn't surprising to anyone who has breeder friends.

(I wonder how many new mothers read that sentence and thought "I don't always talk about baby poo, and besides, if I did, little Wingnut is so full of goddam *cute* that even Wingnut poo has it's own mystical charm, and besides, if I don't talk about it how will the other mothers [and innocent civilian bystanders] know about My Superior Diapering Technique? And oh, isn't it just *precious* when little Wingnut's face scrunches up and you think, uh oh, baby made a...". You know who you are.)

Heather has also written a bit about other things new parents discover, like sleep deprivation psychosis and the lack of maps for the territories out beyond frustration and the tidal wave of emotion she feels when she looks at Leta and the constant worrying (am I doing this right?) and the heartbreaking (and heartbreakingly slow) reappearance of any little glimpse of personal space.

And now this:

The reason you won’t be hearing anything from me for several days is because this morning Jon is driving me up to the hospital and I’m going to check into the psychiatric ward. I am very scared that if I don’t go ahead and do this that I may experience some sort of nervous breakdown.


Back in March when Leta was just a little over a month old I wrote this:

The deal is that when Leta was born all these maternal instincts were slammed into the ON position — the instinct to protect, to nourish, to comfort. And no matter where she is sleeping or pretending to sleep, whether it be in our bed, on top of me, in a bassinet beside the bed, or in her crib all the way over in her own room, I am having to re-train my body to sleep. My instincts tell me that when I sleep Unknown Things happen, and my body totally resists the urge to fall asleep. Instinctually I am listening for the sound of her breathing or to the sound of her swallowing, and if those noises sound okay then I’m listening to the sounds of the house to make sure monsters don’t come out of the walls to hurt her. I have every reason to believe that this instinct will become numb with subsequent children, but Leta is my first-born, and I have no idea how to turn it off.

Six months later and I still can’t turn them off, or even turn them down. These instincts have turned into demons that terrorize me from the moment I get out of bed in the morning to the hours and hours that I try to sleep at night. I never have a moment of peace.

Here's hoping that Heather finds that moment of peace, and another, and that those moments stretch out into a lifetime. Best wishes to Heather, Jon, and Leta.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

thanatopsis geography lesson

Forbes magazine has a list of the best places to die in the US. Utah is in first place, and Oregon is in second. This works out pretty good for me, since I'm already in Oregon and there's no way in hell I'll set foot in Utah again. (Seriously - I won't even get in a plane that's flying over Utah... just in case.)

Their analysis is based on health care quality, legal protection, the percentage of cancer patients who die in the hospital versus those who die at home or in a nursing home, the percentage of Medicare patients using hospice services when they die, and the severity of estate taxes. With Utah at #1, I'd expect to see something in there about how happy people are that an imminent death will finally get them out of that state... maybe they rolled that into the 'quality of health care' number?

[via farkleberries]

pirate geography lessons

Pirate Bay, a Swedish file-sharing group, recently received a cease-and-desist letter from Dreamworks protesting the group's sharing of the film Shrek 2. This might seem like a reasonable thing for Dreamworks to do, but the way they went about it was just fucking stupid: they invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a piece of American legislation that is proof that while the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin are still uncountable, the number of politicians you can fit in your pocket is apparently known to someone in the RIAA/MPAA.

In response to the cease-and-desist letter, the foks at Pirate Bay chose to educate Dreamworks on some of the subtleties of international law:

As you may or may not be aware, Sweden is not a state in the United States of America. Sweden is a country in northern Europe. Unless you figured it out by now, US law does not apply here. For your information, no Swedish law is being violated.
It is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are fucking morons.

Regardless of the morality of their acts, they do have a point... the US just loves legislating things that are *way* out of our jurisdiction, as though the rest of the world was just a suburb. Dreamworks could have made some sort of case based on international copyright law, but instead they chose to use the jackboot & strongarm method that has been so successful in the US. I'm happy to see someone stand up to them.

As long as the subject is pirates, I should point out that we are a mere 25 days away from International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Aaaarrrrr...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

survival research labs DVD is out

SRL's Ten Years Of Robotic Mayhem DVD is out now. It contains the 3 of the previously released videos (A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief, The Will to Provoke, and The Delusions of Expediency: How to avoid Responsibility For Social Disintergration By Acting Without Principle Under the Pretenses of Utility) as well as a number of smaller documentary clips. There's a review of the DVD here... the video quality is pretty good, considering that they've been releasing tapes of their shows since '83.

Two days ago the tamest SRL creation ever was born: Jake Edward Pauline. Amy Critchett and Mark Pauline are going to have a hell of a time raising that kid, when his brothers and sisters are all mechanical monsters.

Friday, August 20, 2004

being john gilmore

Greplaw has a great interview with John Gilmore on spam, terrorism, drugs, encryption, government gone out of control, and sarongs.

Who is John Gilmore?

I'm a civil libertarian millionaire eccentric. I started out in my teens as a middle-class programmer, worked my way up to senior technical jobs, then learned business in Silicon Valley. A combination of luck and skill brought me through several successful startup companies and gave me the opportunity to decide what I want to do, rather than what I need to do. I decided I want to work to keep individual freedom alive and thriving. So that's what I'm doing.

Gilmore has been spending a lot of time and money fighting Ashcroft's creeping fascism in the courts, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (of which he is a founding member) is constantly fighting for your digital rights. And if you've ever checked your email over the wifi connection at Burning Man (10 more days, baby), you did so on the satellite link that he and Clif Cox set up.


Schoolkids in India are learning to use computers thanks to the wifi-enabled computer-toting bicycle rickshaws of the Infothela program.

With only 12 computers and four Internet connections per 1,000 people, India has one of the world's lowest Internet usage rates and much of rural India remains oblivious to the sweep of technology. But the villages involved in Infothela all lie within a 50-mile wireless corridor created by the Institute of Technology and linked by high-rise Wi-Fi antennae and amplifiers along the highway.

The disparity between India's cities and villages is astounding. The gulf between them is so great (much, much greater than it is in the US) that it can be quite difficult for a rural student to change their lot in life - fewer educational resources, economic disparities, and even the caste system all contribute to maintaining this divide. Infothela is an ingenious way to provide people with more opportunities without the need for costly infrastructure - it's an elegant hack.

(There's a whole separate issue about whether increased personal mobility is ultimately good for the country as a whole - young people are leaving the villages in droves, heading to the cities to seek their fortunes, and the effects this has on family, village, and larger societal structures is at the present time somewhat deleterious. But India has an astounding flexibility - they weathered the significant social changes imposed by the Mughals and the Brits, and I suspect they will survive the technological revolution with something of their innate cultural essence intact.)

The article focuses on the negative in a way that makes it sound like all Indian villages are illiterate and out of touch with the modern world, which is misleading. In many places the Indian government (which can be quite progressive at times, if an idea can survive running the bureaucratic gauntlet) has instituted programs that attempt to equalize the playing field (such as a quota system that aims to open the educational system to disadvantaged students), and as a result some areas of India (particularly in the south) have a higher literacy rate than much of the US.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

MD5 collisions discovered

On the cryptography front, Chinese researchers Xiaoyun Wang, Dengguo Feng, Xuejia Lai, and Hongbo Yu announced this week their discovery [57KB PDF] of a relatively simple method for generating MD5 collisions, demonstrating such collisions for the MD5, MD4, HAVAL-128, and RIPEMD-128 hashing algorithms. While they have not as yet released the details of their implementation, there is little doubt that they've discovered a serious flaw in MD5 given that brute force attempts like MD5CRK have been working on this problem for some time without results (leaving the $10000CAD CertainKey prize unclaimed), while their paper shows two pairs of unique collisions for each of the 4 related algorithms. On hearing the news, MD5CRK announced that their project (which had been running for about 6 months and had reached 3,824 Million MD5 transforms per second) would be shut down within 48 hours: thank you, drive through.

The MD5 hash (see RFC1321 for implementation details) is a one-way function that is used (in conjunction with public-key cryptosystems such as RSA) to establish a secure connection almost every time you purchase something online or log into your bank's webpage. Theoretically its job is to generate a unique identifier for any piece of data - for example, your password won't be sent in cleartext over a secure connection; the hash of your password (combined with other unique session data) will be sent instead. Anyone snooping the line in between would be able to see the hash but would not be able to reverse engineer the password from it. On the receiving side, the server generates the hash as well, and the two hashes are compared... if they match, you just managed to transfer information without any of the sensitive bits ever getting into the clear.

An MD5 collision occurs when two different pieces of information generate the same hash. The discovery of the existence of these collisions doesn't mean your 'secure' banking is no longer secure - but it does mean that patterns can now be found in the relationships between data and its hash, and cryptanalysis is just tools for exploiting patterns in encoded data to reveal the plaintext source. The paper describing the collisions only shows that a collision can occur... it's another issue entirely to leap from there to being able to create a specific message whose hash collides with another.

netiquette breach of Olympic proportions

Apparently the Olympics are going on right now, but not being a television watcher this really hasn't entered my radar until now. You'd think I'd have run into something on the web; the reason I have not might have something to do with the Athens 2004 policy on linking to their site:

For your protection and ours we have established a procedure for parties wishing to introduce a link to the ATHENS 2004 website on their site. By introducing a link to the ATHENS 2004 official Website on your site you are agreeing to comply with the ATHENS 2004 Website General Terms and Conditions. In order to place a link embedded in copy interested parties should:
  • Use the term ATHENS 2004 only, and no other term as the text referent
  • Not associate the link with any image, esp. the ATHENS 2004 Emblem
  • Send a request letter to the Internet Department stating:
    • Short description of site
    • Reason for linking
    • Unique URL containing the link
    • Publishing period
    • Contact point (e-mail address)

Once the request has been mailed, interested parties can proceed to include the link and will only receive a response if ATHENS 2004 does not accept the link.

Here we go again with the "mail us a letter to validate something web-related" thing, which in addition to being as silly as sending someone over to your neighbors house to ask if you can call them on the phone also makes some incorrect assumptions about nature of information on the web.

I especially like the 'for your protection' bit. How exactly am I endangering myself by linking to one web page from another?

If it's on the web, it's fair play. When are they going to figure that out? The whole fucking point of the web is to link information together - 'web' wasn't a randomly chosen word, it is descriptive of an architecture of information. Yet it seems like every month or so some company decides that the web is more like television or hard-copy print publications, and they try to impose out-dated rules on the medium. Even if they had some right to enforce a linking policy (they don't), you'd think they'd at least have enough clue to make the method of contact be email.

Here's a bunch of links to the Athens 2004 web site... I think I'll declare here and now that if anyone objects to these links, they must follow *my* notification requirements:
  • write your complaint on official Athens 2004 letterhead
  • wrap the complaint around the handle of the Olympic torch
  • have a team of relay runners hand-deliver the torch to my home

Any deviation from this policy will result in the letter being recycled instead of read. If these requirements are met to my satisfaction, I will respond (please allow 4 to 6 weeks) using either smoke signals, carrier pigeons, or just by thinking real hard.

Saturday, August 14, 2004


Yooha! News is a cross between Yahoo! News and The Onion. It's got the finest collection of Bush photos I've ever seen.

(Umm... *that* sure didn't sound right. It's probably going to get me some unusual Google hits in the referrer logs.)

Friday, August 13, 2004

paper-thin stereotypes

Paper Napkin:

So here's the scenario: You're out at a bar, riding transit, or even just walking down the street, and some bozo who desperately wants into your pants starts up a conversation with you. Rather than make a scene or make them upset (which, hey, could be dangerous), you're polite and at least nod at the proper times. Then, of course, they ask you for your number. Except this is 2004, so maybe they ask for your email address instead.

This net service that lets you (perhaps less than tactfully) give someone who's hitting on you a bogus email address, When the poor bastard sends you an email, they get an automated reply that begins with:

Subject: Sorry, you've been rejected.

Dear Rejectee,

We are a third party rejection service. This email is a rejection notice directed toward yourself from someone who gave you this bunk email address. That lovely person wants to communicate a message to you. In short, they are not interested.

It then proceeds to make disparaging suppositions about the possible reasons for the rejection, which include
  • you're ugly/unkempt/undesirable

  • what you call a 'personality' is really just a collection of behaviors you use to try and get laid

  • if you're a guy, perhaps your ego is inversely proportional to the size of your dick

My first thought is that if the person isn't honest enough to tell you flat out that they're not interested, or creative enough to come up with a better solution than this, you're probably better off having been rejected. I think back on times I've been at shows in bars and women have offered to buy me a drink, and I'll politely decline, talk with them a bit but let them know I'm there for music, not the meat-market, and the protocol of such things is that they usually just shrug it off and that's that.

The other thing about this is the weight of preconceptions it embodies: it's obviously tailored for women to fend off the advances of men, and the baggage that comes with this (for both genders) is pretty heavy. Our culture predominantly believes that sex is something men do to women, though there is a portion of society that has evolved (relatively) to thinking that sex is something men do with women. (Fortunately there has been some progress in recent years, with some guys getting a clue and some women taking responsibility for their own sexuality, and for these people sex has become something two people do 'together' instead of 'to each other'.)

This active/passive division of roles (reinforced by the 'stud/slut' stereotypes) isn't really helping people develop meaningful relationships - it's the source of the 'war between the sexes'. I thought the point of finding a mate was to form a mutual support system, not to have convenient access to the enemy.

It amazes me how many women believe that the only card they have to play is their body, and how many don't realize that their acceptance of this traditional script implies a greater acceptance of all of the rest of the crap that comes with the traditional gender roles. I'm less amazed that guys accept their role in this game... the hunter has less reason to deplore the hunt than the prey does. But I am surprised at how many people of both genders don't associate the resultant relationship fiascos with their original assumptions.

Years ago I was having a conversation with my friend Blaine about this, and I made the comment that on some cosmic level males are passive/receptive and females are active/creative. He quickly pointed out that I was wrong, but when I asked him for examples to back up his assertion the only one he could think of was the act of sex itself (which surprised the hell out of him). In all other things, men are receptive - it it the female that gives birth, bears fruit, brings forth, and the male that receives. It's phenomenal how abstract social conditioning can reverse the perception (in the minds of both women and men) of something so obvious.

Barring some evolutionary leap in our society's perception of gender roles, it looks like we're stuck with this for awhile. So in the meantime, women can use the Paper Napkin service to reinforce their acceptance of the 'weaker sex' role, and men can... I dunno, lift heavy objects and kill spiders or something while they're busy not getting laid.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

stupidity should hurt

Majority Report Radio has a report about Bush speaking to the minority journalism conference... it's so awkward that it's hard to listen to. I mean, more than usual. The journalists actually laugh at Bush's response to a Native American journalist's question on what Bush thought about the sovereignty of the Indian tribes in this country.

Reading his response doesn't do it justice... you need to hear it [MP3, 472KB] to fully appreciate it. It's like when someone asks Homer Simpson a question, and you can see that Homer is thinking "donuts... donuts... donuts...". Bush could hardly have done worse if he had stuck to the official administration reply ("go fuck yourself") to difficult questions.

Does anyone remember the first big Clinton press conference? He answered a bunch of questions rather intelligently, and then a reporter from New Zealand asked him if he would reconsider Bush I's take on New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance (New Zealand law prohibits nuclear powered naval vessels in their ports, and the US felt that this restriction showed New Zealand to be unfit for participation in the ANZUS military alliance). Clinton started to answer, looked thoughtful for a moment, and said "I must admit that I haven't given that question a moments thought."

Bush could learn something from this (assuming for the moment that he is capable of learning at all... work with me people) - a strong and sane leader isn't afraid to say "I don't know". Instead, Bush just spouts whatever comes to mind, or in many cases, sadly doesn't come to mind. Despite the rhetoric you hear from the Bushies about Kerry, Bush's tendency to speak without thinking results in "flip-flops" at best, babble at worst.

I'd like an intelligent president again (an intelligent electorate would be nice too), but failing that, could we at least have one that can fake it better? This is just fucking embarrasing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

weasels... umm, ferrets, that is

The Business Software Alliance, whose mission is to enforce software licenses and copyrights for big players like Microsoft and Adobe, has decided that buying off your representatives isn't enough... so now they're going after your kids.

The BSA has been a major force behind the passing of draconian laws like the DMCA. Now they're publishing cartoons in the Weekly Reader, whose materials are used by over 90% of the school districts in the US. The cartoons feature a 'Copyright Crusader' weasel (they claim it's a ferret) which the kids will have the opportunity to name in a contest on the BSA's website.

The campaign also includes an online game in which the ferret races to destroy pirated copies of software while collecting valid licensing agreements.

Gee, Wally, that sounds like a lot of fucking fun. Sure to be more popular than Doom III.

This campaign is aimed at 4th grade students. At a time when millions of kids are being left behind by the 'No Child Left Behind' program, they're teaching your kids about valid licensing agreements? Some of those kids can't even *spell* 'valid licensing agreements'.

The interesting thing about the campaign is that they talk continually about teaching kids to 'safely' use the internet. What is it they'll be safe from once they've been appropriately brainwashed? They'll be safe from the BSA and their pocketed politicians. It's the same business model the mafia uses.

Whatever your stance is on *any* issue, do you want your kids curriculum to be decided by corporations? Your tax dollars are being used to help these companies turn your kids into über-consumers... as if they stood a chance anyway, spending their whole young lives in the thrall of eMpTyVee and Nintendo.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised by all of this: they were trying to sell us a load of shit when I was in the 4th grade too... but at least then it didn't have a brand-name on it.

Leonidas and the 300

On this day in 480 BC Spartan king Leonidas I, leader of the Greek forces facing Xerxes at the Battle of Thermopylae, dismissed all of his soldiers except for his personal retinue of 300 young Spartan men and engaged in his final battle against what may have been the mightiest army the world had ever seen.

Herodotus wrote that Xerxes' army was 5 million strong, and that when they encamped they drank rivers dry and exhausted the supplies of entire cities. Other historians state the size of Xerxes' land forces to be closer to 2 million, but either way they greatly outmbered the Greek forces, which might have had as many as 7000 soldiers at the start of the battle a few days before. When Xerxes saw the laughably small size of Leonidas' armies, he said "you have no hope of winning... my army is so vast that when my archers all shoot at once, the arrows blot out the sun"; to this the Greeks replied "then we'll fight in the shade".

Leonidas had chosen to fight the Persians on a narrow pass between the cliffs and ocean, where the land gave him and his soldiers a tactical advantage despite the huge disparity in numbers. The Persian army was getting whomped for two days until a Greek peasant defected to the Persian side and showed Xerxes a hidden mountain pass that skirted the Greek defenses. When Leonidas learned that his defenses had fallen, he let everyone go home except for his 300 "come back with your shield, or on it" Spartan guards and launched his final attack.

In three days of fighting, the Greeks had killed something like 20,000 Persian soldiers, including many of the elite 'Immortals', Xerxes best fighters. On the final day of the battle, surround by the Persians, the Greek hoplites knew they were going to die, but they made the Persians work for it. At the end of the day Leonidas and all of his 300 men were dead, but so were two of Xerxes' brothers and many of the Immortals.

When the rest of Greece heard the tale of Leonidas and the 300, they were inspired to rise up against Xerxes and drive him out of their lands, and a little over a year later the decisive battle was fought at Mycale. Xerxes returned to a Persia that had become disenheartened by the defeat and fallen into a decline from which it never recovered. Xerxes himself became more interested in his harem than in his heritage, and eventually he was killed by his own vizier.

This story was told in Herodotus' Histories, which I didn't read until after I'd seen the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, which in turn inspired Frank Miller's *excellent* graphic novel 300. The graphic novel is the way to go on this one... Herodotus is a bit thick in places, and while the film is good, it was still made in 1962, and the fight scenes (basically the whole movie) are lacking some of the sophistication and realism we've come to expect from similarly-themed films like Braveheart.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Terrorphonic Spree brought to peaceful conclusion by TiVo

Polyphonic Spree singer Brian Teasley unwittingly and unknowingly shut down a whole terminal of the Dallas Fort Worth airport when a microphone in his luggage was mistaken for a pipe bomb.

When his luggage didn't show up on the carousel, Teasley filled out a lost-luggage form and walked away, unaware that behind him the feds were locking the place down. When he got home, the Men In Black were waiting for him:

"I had Taco Bell in my hand, and all of a sudden, these cars block me in my driveway. They've all got tinted windows, 'X-Files' style," he said. "Then here comes one guy with a bulletproof vest on, another with a gun showing. It was a very harrowing day."

Teasley explained that the item in question was not a pipe bomb, but a microphone.

"I told them we had just used it when we were on Craig Kilborn's show," he said. "I still had it on my TiVo, so I was like, 'Come watch it with me.' After they figured out I was telling the truth, they were pretty cool. I was talking to them about music. But thank God for TiVo."

Damn, snatched from the jaws of The Man by a souped-up VCR... I just wonder if they did a controlled detonation on his suitcase. I mean if they actually opened the damn thing, how arcane can a microphone be? Form follows function - or maybe that's just what the terrorists want you to think.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Overdosing on hatred and lies

The new anti-Kerry book 'Unfit For Command', written by the Swift Boat veterans mentioned in the previous post, is now's #1 highest selling book despite the fact that it won't be released for another 9 days.

So a few million people get a book full of plausible sounding lies. How do I know they are lies? I'll let Kerry's accusers handle that:

Adrian Lonsdale contradicts his own story:

Now: "he lacks the capacity to lead."

Then: "As far as I was concerned, the war was won over there in that part for that period. And it was mainly won because of the bravado and the courage of the young officers that ran the boats, the SWIFT boats and the Coast Guard cutters and Senator Kerry was no exception. He was among the finest of those."

Kerry's former CO George Elliott retracts his criticism of Kerry:

Now: 'George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star'... reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star. "I still don't think he shot the guy in the back."

Then: "Kerry lied about what occurred in Vietnam... for example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back."

Larry Thurlow is just plain confused:

Now: "Thurlow was claiming that during Kerry's rescue of Rassman, there was no enemy fire at all, and hence Kerry didn't deserve a purple heart or a bronze star."

Then: "Along with a third Purple Heart for the injury to his right arm, Kerry was also awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery, as was Larry Thurlow." Uh huh. So Thurlow got the same award for what he is claiming was a non-event that involved no bravery in the face of no enemy fire.

This is the sort of deceit that has characterised the Republican party since the Reagan years. It's hateful, divisive, and dishonorable. It's also all we're going to hear from now until November. (Actually it's all we're going to hear for years... they won't stop the slander if Kerry wins. The same people who reviled Clinton currently say that it's our duty to support Bush because right or wrong he is our President - how long do you think that sense of patriotic duty will last if Kerry wins?)

Were people always this hateful, and I just didn't notice, or has the US become diseased in the past few years? I am inclined to think it is the latter... ignorance breeds hatred, and the majority media breeds ignorance. I don't see a way out of this downward spiral.


Republican Senator John McCain, in my estimation, is Not Like The Others. He and I disagree on some things, but I respect him because he appears to behave honorably even when it costs him (like when he lost the Republican nomination because of the Bush camp's coordinated campaign of lies about his military service). He is the only Republican I've ever decided I would vote for, but I didn't get the chance because the malicious fucktard who is in the White House right now has no honor whatsoever and played as dirty during the campaign as he has during his presidency.

Now Bush supporters are starting the same smear campaign against Kerry, a tactic which McCain calls "dishonest and dishonorable". He's even urged the White House to condemn the smear campaign (they declined, of course). He's going out on a limb and risking retribution from his own party because he believes in honor and fair play. No wonder they didn't make him president... how the hell could they fuck the country with a president that has scruples?

The thing about Kerry's service record is, the facts are there for all to see. On the one hand, you've got the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, what appears to be a hate-group making television ads that contain false information. On the other hand, you've got the official records of Kerry's military service, and the people that were actually on his boat call him a hero. But then again, most of America gets its news from FOX, which might as well be the National Enquirer in terms of verifiable factual content, so more people are going to hear the lies on TV than will read the truth on the web.

Some of this is a moot point, because I don't think that military service automatically makes someone a better presidential candidate. It potentially speaks to the claim that the individual has a history of making sacrifices to serve their country. Cops and firemen do that too, by choice. Most of the people in Vietnam were not there by choice. When I hear someone slandered because they didn't serve in Vietnam, I generally think 'lucky them'... with all due respect to the people that served in that war, their government unnecessarily put them in harms way based on specious data and outright lies... much like our current situation. Those soldiers did what they were told to do, which is the highest and most honorable mode of conduct for a soldier. The fact that the things they were told to do were based on manipulation and lies is a separate issue.

I thought McCain could help heal the country a bit. I still think a Kerry-McCain ticket would have been the sanest solution to the problems we face right now - with many Republicans withdrawing their support for Bush (who, let's face it, has abandoned *every* plank of the Republican platform except for "run up the national debt"), a mixed-party ticket would get votes from both sides, and the quasi-'coalition government' that resulted would suffer less from internecine conflict because they'd be shooting themselves in the foot. Or they would fight so much that they'd get nowhere, which is better than our current situation, which closely resembles being driven home by a drunk friend.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Bush finally speaks the truth

Alright, I know it's not polite to pick on people with mental deficiencies, but this guy just keeps raising the bar on idiocy. I feel like we're living in a comic-book alternate-universe USA.

President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of "Bushisms" on Thursday, declaring that his administration will "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people."

Bush misspoke as he delivered a speech at the signing ceremony for a $417 billion defense spending bill.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No one in Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted.

Of course they didn't. They've all read the memos, they know the score.

art of the state

Art Of The State, which is probably the most well-designed punk site I've ever seen, has (among many other things) a gallery of Banksy's graffiti art.

girl with a balloon

Banksy is still blurring the boundaries between vandalism and art, but I find his art and message preferable to the corporate vandalism ('advertising', they call it) that covers just about every urban surface the bastards can get their hands on. Banksy is giving away an alternate point of view, something people can use, as opposed to the crap the marketers assault you with.

Less bugging

If you're a Firefox user, things just got easier again. There's now a BugMeNot extension that lets you right-click to fill in those 'compulsory registration' fields on websites that just Don't Get It Yet. If the first user/password combination doesn't work, a second click opens a small BugMeNot window so you can cycle through until you find one that does.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

they can't even pretend to be human while campaigning

The news is getting to the point where I can replace the names 'Bush' or 'Cheney' with 'Stalin' or 'Big Brother' without loss of context.

The Bush election campaign, which is nominally an attempt to reach out to the people of the country, unsuprisingly only wants to reach out to white republicans. In Arizona, the Bush campaign insisted on knowing the race of a journalist assigned to photograph Cheney. Apparently Cheney thought that 'Mamta Popat' sounds a bit too much like it could be the name of someone who might hold a grudge if, hypothetically for instance, the administration inadvertently pissed off the entire fucking Muslim world.

Popat's employer, The Arizona Daily Star, refused to give the information, citing it's irrelevance to the job at hand. Thanks to the 'Patriot Act', the secret service can just look up that info on their PDA's anyway, so I don't know why they even bothered to ask... other than to show their continued disdain for the American people.

This happened just a few days after citizens in New Mexico were denied entry to a Cheney speech unless they signed a pledge or 'loyalty oath' to support President Bush. Registered members of the Republican party weren't required to sign anything, presumably because it was assumed that they are sheep anyway.

I remember being taught in elementary school how heinous this sort of behavior was - when it was done by the Russians, Chinese, or Germans, that is. It was assumend we would never stoop that low. Funny how much a country can change in just a few short years.

Bush should just change his campaign slogan to 'Fuck freedom and democracy, and fuck you too'. The candor would be refreshing.

second-class citizens

The Pope (you know, the guy in the pointy hat) wants to see women 'put back in their place'... the Vatican just released a 37-page document on the role of women in the church, the latest effort in a campaign to protect 'the Christian family' - or in plainer words, to protect the male power structure they've been honing for a few thousand years.

The document reserved its toughest language for what it called recent "new approaches to women's issues," saying an emerging tendency is to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning.

"The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels," the document said, asserting it has inspired ideologies that "call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father."

It also warned of challenges to fundamentals of church teaching, saying the blurring of differences "would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form."

Read that again - they are concerned that there is an 'emerging tendency' to avoid the domination of one sex over the other, and they think that's a bad thing. And their justification for this doesn't acknowledge (in fact, it denies) that the sexism inherent in their religion has anything to do with outdated cultural prejudices... instead they invoke the Divine Willy. It's very difficult to have a decent discussion with someone about this issue when their philosophy is predicated on a belief in their imaginary friend's cock.

This just adds more fuel to my belief that female Christians, like gay Republicans, are idiots... why join a group that considers you to be substandard? Male Christians at least have the excuse that their mythology places them right in front of the finish line, where they won't have to do any actual work trying to be a better person - while this is base and crass, it is at least understandable that such a belief system would have an appeal to men who buy into the 'traditional' gender roles. The whole system claims to engage people on the highest spiritual level, but in practice most of the philosophy revolves around animal territorial issues - the 'top dog' syndrome.

... the church seeks "active collaboration between the sexes precisely in the recognition of the difference between man and woman."

In stressing that men and women are different, the document said, "From the first moment of their creation, man and woman are different, and will remain so for eternity."

But it said the "temporal and earthly expression of sexuality is transient," and cited Scripture suggesting that a married couple's existence in heaven would be celibate.

Yet one more reason to miss that particular bus. This is the highest truth they can come up with? Fucking neanderthals. I find myself wishing they were right, that Jesus would come back, just to see the look on their faces when they see how little they've learned, how they took a bunch of prejudices written down by goatherders and fishermen 2-3 thousand years ago and somehow managed to preserve all of the worst bits while ignoring the few scraps of potentially useful doctrine.

'What Would Jesus Do', faced with the current 'dilemma' over women breaking their chains? If they're right about his positive qualities, he'd fucking puke when he saw how the men reacted to it all. Guilt, fear, and self-righteousness seem to be informing their philosophy more than loving kindness and charity.