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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I AM Leonardo da Vinci! 

When I was a kid, my parents got me a book about Leonardo da Vinci. Apparently, when he was a kid, he expressed an interest in painting, so his folks got him some paints. He painted for a while, then got tired of it and became interested in science. So his folks got him some science books and he went off doing experiments. After a while, he got tired of science and became interested in inventing things. Then he got tired of that and went to sculpting. He bounced around in other fields, occasionally moving back to earlier interests.

I'm exactly like this. One week I'll spend hours and hours obsessively engrossed in HTML design; then I'll hear a song I like and rush off to work on music. Then I'll get distracted by cartooning or crossword puzzles. The more I try to control it, the less happy I am with my free time.

So I just continue bouncing from passion to passion, shifting with the winds like a kite in a spring gale.

Why I Link to Amazon 

Please don't buy stuff from Amazon, unless you have no choice. Local book and music stores need your business and do much more to make our communities than the warehouse-based Amazon.

The only reason I link to Amazon.com on a regular basis is because they provide free samples of the music they sell, thereby allowing my readers to sample the goods oin the fly. So check it out, have a listen; and if you like it, call your local jamshop and get the hookup.

Power to the Peeps! 

If you're like me, you've always wondered what Peeps look like while they're being sprayed with their radioactive neon-glow sugar coating. Well, wonder no more! Huzzah for Yahoo! News Pictures.

HalliBush Wars, Inc.

The big news, of course, is of the four American contractors who were killed in Falluja, Iraq today, and then had their corpses dragged through the streets and then hung from a bridge over the Euprates. Obviously Dick Cheney was right -- we are being "greeted as liberators."

Sigh. Imagine how their families must feel. And for what?

I would tell you about how some twit from the Pentagon left some important notes on a table at Starbucks, but I'm sure you've already read about it elsewhere.


Chasm looked fun, and it was for a little while. Kinda like Myst as a cartoon, with a much less bloddy plotline. But then just as I got within a hair of winning, it froze and I smashed my computer. Now I have to buy a new computer. So don't play it, whatever you do. Instead, check out A Brief History of Peeps.

If you refuse to listen and play Chasm, you'll get stuck in the pipes. When that happens you can use this walkthrough. Lemme know what happens when you win.

Today I'm listening to: Digable Planets!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

And Then It Was Gloomy and Grey 

Stupd latitude. (TPCQ: "What do you get for living in a climate like this, green stamps?")

Psycho Kids in Asia

Recently we reported on a kid who threatened his parents with a knife after they unplugged his video game. Well, coming between a teenager and her cell phone can be just as deadly.
The terrified mother locked herself in the bedroom and police arrived at the scene on Saturday to see the girl in a frenzy, hacking at the door with the knife.
I can't think of a funny post-script.

Things That Look Like Other Things

Who says Richard Hoagland is a Loony Toon Froot Loop? Anyone can plainly see that this rock on Mars is really a stove! And this bag or whatever is actually a Martian Bunny. A conspiracy at NASA! And clearly this thermograph is a cathedral from an ancient alien city.. And this one is a power plant.. And this blurry super-distorted jpeg is obviously a "machine fitting".. And this man is a total screwjob.. And these seed capsules are actually alien skulls.. And this rock is obviously a bowl.. (TPCQ: "And we are back with more of People Who Look Like Things.")

Now this Phil Plait character -- he's the nutcase. Trying to convince us that Lenin appeared on his shower curtain. Gimme a break -- that's obviously Robert McNamara!

And finally -- check out this nebula that's flipping us the bird. (TPCQ: "This is an unbearable strain, but I'm doing it as hard as I've ever done it.")


Gloomy Girl is a pretty interesting comic. I like how the people refer to each other. I wish there were more episodes.

Let's hear it for Lynne Truss, the punctuation vigilante!

Check out these old-school rap album covers. A history of the genre as told through the LP fronts.

I want my digital camera.


Speaking of old-school rap, three cheers for DreamChimney for hosting several videos from Yo! MTV Raps, back when MTV played decent rap tracks instead of the nonstop blingbling gangsta wannabe crapola.

Today I'm listening to: Madame Mercury! (Huzzah for women DJs.)

Monday, March 29, 2004

And Then It Was Spring 

And when I stepped through the doors of the school, I was blinded by the sun. Blue sky lapped at the furious glow, whispered by cottonclouds. I stumbled and waited for my eyes to adjust, then spread my arms and hugged the warmth.

Sunglasses on, then over to the car. Windows down -- breakbeats up. The first warm-weather drive home of the year is always the best one. My car's piece o' crud CD player refused to play halfway home, but it hardly mattered.

And then I walked my dog; we were met along the way by a tiny pug, who insisted on walking with us and sniffing as we went. A minute later, his owner -- a boy of maybe ten -- came trotting after him; the boy was followed soon after by a half-dozen his age. And then some guys came out to shoot hoops; clearly the first game of the season.

And then I hopped on my bike and tore off -- going nowhere and everywhere, no longer bounded by the vicious ice or acid winds. Weaving around cars, blazing along the bike path. My head itched from the sweat and my ears pounded with the breakbeats (how ridiculous for the CD to play more perfectly on my bike).

And then I came home and poured a huge glass of apple juice and blogged.


And now for something completely different: X. Don't stop until you get to the tree.

Today I'm listening to: da damn phreak noize phunk! (Intriguing side note: I did a Google search for "phreak noise phunk" and it asked me: "Did you mean: 'phreak noize phunk'?" Why, yes -- I did! Google is more hip to band names than I am.)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Fog of "The Fog of War" 

This weekend Diane and I saw the Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War, the latest film from Errol Morris (left) about former Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara (right). I'm trying to decide what I think about it.

There can be no question that the film is masterfully made. The intense visual representations (the dominos, the skulls, the juxtapositioning of Japanese city names with names of US cities) blend superbly with Philip Glass' score to entrance the viewer.

But something bothers me about this movie. My main question as I came out was this: Suppose someone (let's call him Fred) believed that the Vietnam War (and war in general) was fundamentally just -- but that we made some mistakes about how we undertook it. Suppose Fred came out of the movie feeling that McNamara was basically a decent guy, who has learned from his mistakes and wants to make sure we don't repeat those mistakes again (say, in Iraq). Does the filmmaker have any responsibility for this erroneous feeling?

I'm well known (and widely criticized) for preferring message to subtlety (although I don't believe a movie can excel if it contains neither). Ergo, I didn't care much for Morris' Fast, Cheap and Out of Control because it felt very undirected. On the other hand, I did enjoy -- very much -- this approach in his examination of Hawking's life and theories in Brief History of Time; probably because those questions are so fundamentally unanswerable (for now, anyway) that the director has no role in guiding the discussion (and if he did, there's no way he could match wits with Hawking).

But in Thin Blue Line, Morris is not absent from the discussion -- he presents the case without explicit prejudice -- and yet the director is commenting; he must. There is obviously an injustice at play, and Morris recognizes his need to counter the prosecution's contention (and that of the loonies who testified against the innocent guy) that the wrong man had done the deed. Because Morris stepped up to the plate, an innocent man was released from prison.

Obviously, Fog of War is a very different movie, with very different goals. This film is much more about the psychology of this one individual, and in many ways Morris does a very good job of letting McNamara dig his own hole. (Insert Chemical Brothers reference here.) But I still think Morris left some of his job undone. I went looking for commentary, that I might better crystallize my thoughts; mostly I found glowing reviews (the Tomatometer is at a whopping 98%). I sought out opinions that clash with the chorus of wild applause; they've helped me figure out what I think is wrong.

Jonathan Rosenbaum makes an interesting point about the style of the movie, although I'm not sure I fully agree.
[O]ne might question the use of meditating on Robert McNamara as opposed to thinking analytically and critically about him. If we meditate on charts and figures or feel existential dread about them without even knowing what they say, there's a danger that we'll think we're doing something serious just by gaping at what's in front of us. The same thing applies to gaping at McNamara even when we know what he's saying, in part because of the high gloss of that chugging Glass music.
Again, I'm not totally on board with this; I believe there is a use in watching the flashing charts (and hearing the lying man) and thinking critically later. A much more significant point is made by Colin Speaker.
McNamara, even with only a sentence or two on a particular issue, gives the audience plenty of material to think about well after the film has ended. Yet Morris, in an off-camera questioning style that reminds you of a presidential debate crossed with old home video narration, usually fails to follow up on McNamara’s thought-provoking comments. Instead, Morris is content to allow the material to speak for itself, even when McNamara’s remarks beg for a response.
This, I think is my biggest problem -- as in Blue Line, the filmmaker has a responsibility to correct the lies put forth by one side. It doesn't have to be dogmatic or even very visible; and when the truth isn't clear, obviously the audience should decide for itself. But in some cases, the lie should be called out.

Case in point: McNamara at one point admits that if the US had lost WWII, he and other officials would have been hanged as war criminals. He asks why that's the way it happened, and the visuals sort of trail off into a Koyaanisqatsi-esque montage. But this isn't a vague or unanswerable question -- as Chomsky has pointed out, there's a very specific answer to McNamara's question.
How did they decide what was a war crime at Nuremberg and Tokyo? And the answer is pretty simple. and not very pleasant. There was a criterion. Kind of like an operational criterion. If the enemy had done it and couldn't show that we had done it, then it was a war crime. So like bombing of urban concentrations was not considered a war crime because we had done more of it than the Germans and the Japanese. So that wasn't a war crime. You want to turn Tokyo into rubble? So much rubble you can't even drop an atom bomb there because nobody will see anything if you do, which is the real reason they didn't bomb Tokyo. That's not a war crime because we did it.
So that's historic record that Morris could have -- should have -- known about. Did he have a responsibility to call McNamara on it? Or should we let the audience -- once again -- flail about on their own, left to discover this bit of info in some obscure Chomsky speech (or referenced in some shlub's blog)?

In a review for The Nation, Eric Alterman claims that the movie presents McNamara as the dove and Johnson as the hawk; whereas Alterman believes -- in accordance with the popular conception -- that Johnson was undecided and McNamara was the hawk. This distinction is important, I know; but there are deeper issues for me. Morris has responded to Alterman's claim on the movie's website (a Flash site -- thank you for making it difficult to quote text), saying in part:
It is not my intention to exonerate McNamara for his involvement in the planning of the Vietnam War. What I do intend is to help correct a common misconception that President Johnson was bullied into a war that he had no intention of fighting. . . . What do you do if you serve a bellicose President who wants to go to war no matter what? What protections are provided for this contingency within our system of government? What recourse does a cabinet member have if he disagrees with the President's policies? Should he go to Congress? To the public? Or, should he stay and try to change policy within the government?
What he seems to say here is that he believes that McNamara "disagree[d] with the President's policies," and that he needed "protections," or at the very least did what he did because of a sense of duty. Morris is indeed heard asking McNamara why -- if he didn't agree with Johnson -- he didn't protest, especially once he'd left the cabinet.

But as I said, there are deeper issues at play. I don't believe that McNamara's actions call for this kind of simple "inside the system/outside the system" discussion (more suitable, perhaps, for someone at the EPA). If your boss is committing war crimes, and you can't stop him, you leave. Period.

I know this is very black-and-white, and Fog would be a very different movie if Morris painted it this way. I guess I'm coming at the project as a teacher; I'm thinking about young people watching this film (or really, anyone who doesn't have a comprehensive understanding of the record and its nuances). I believe the filmmaker has a duty to clear up what can be cleared up, rather than just putting it all in the kettle and letting it simmer. (Note again please that I say "what can be cleared up" -- I recognize that many, many parts of the discussion do not apply.)

Alxander Cockburn points out that some of these points can and should be clarified, especially with regard to the assassination of Diem and the Gulf of Tonkin.
In fact I.F. Stone offered a remarkably accurate account of what really happened in the edition of his Weekly dated August 24, 1964. It shouldn't have been beyond Morris's powers to pull up that, or a piece by Robert Scheer, published in the Los Angeles Times in April, 1985, establishing not only that the Maddox was attacked neither on August 2 nor 4 but that, beginning on the night of July 30, South Vietnamese navy personnel, US-trained and -equipped, "had begun conducting secret raids on targets in North Vietnam."
Cockburn also points out that McNamara was not in any way opposed to stockpiling nukes, despite his current protestations that "there can be no learning curve with nuclear weapons."
Defense Secretary McNamara ordered the production of 1,000 Minuteman strategic nukes, this at a time when he was looking at US intelligence reports showing that the Soviets had one silo with one untested missile.
I think of it like this: If General Wiranto (who was responsible for massive violence in East Timor) went on camera and talked about how Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman had been inciting the crowd in the Santa Cruz cemetery to violence, would it suffice to let the lie pass? Or would the filmmaker have a responsibility to correct the record? Isn't Fog now part of the record, albeit one starring an unreliable narrator?

Ruth Rosen makes a very good point in her review at ThinkingPeace.com:
McNamara blames the "fog of war" for the mistakes and misperceptions that led to and sustained the war in Vietnam. But it was not the fog of war that killed 58,000 American soldiers and 3 million Vietnamese people. It was the fog of power that kept senior officials from admitting they were wrong.
In closing, I want to make it clear again that I did indeed enjoy this movie. My overall review would be positive -- I think it's an important story and well-told in nearly every respect. I will see it again. (TPCQ: "It was much better than Cats.") There is indeed a place for non-judgmental documentary, as Diane reminds me, and I was enthralled by this exploration of McNamara's sociopathy. (Kind of a "Non-Beautiful Mind".) I can't endorse it uncritically or without reservation, but I do endorse it.


In the course of my research (for funk's sake -- who does this much research for a stinkin' blog read by five people?), I came across an interview in which Chomsky responds to McNamara's book In Retrospect. It seems an appropriate note on which to end.
Q: Long before McNamara wrote this book you had compared him to Lenin. What did you mean by that?

A: I compared some passages of articles of his in the late 1960s, speeches, on management and the necessity of management, how a well-managed society controlled from above was the ultimate in freedom. The reason is if you have really good management and everything's under control and people are told what to do, under those conditions, he said, man can maximize his potential. I just compared that with standard Leninist views on vanguard parties, which are about the same. About the only difference is that McNamara brought God in, and I suppose Lenin didn't bring God in. He brought Marx in.
I haven't been able to find any comments from Chomsky about the movie itself. If/when I do, be sure they'll appear in this space.


Check out the trailer at apple.com. (Quicktime)

Today I'm listening to: Ascend!

Friday, March 26, 2004

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part 

Yesterday I ordered a FujiFilm FinePix A205 digital camera, and already I feel like Calvin waiting for his propeller beanie. (TPCQ: "Hey, maybe the mailman made two trips today for some reason and he just dropped it off at our house.") It's been years since I've owned a decent camera (actually, I've never owned a really decent camera -- my last one was a piece of crud auto-everything two-bit toy), so I'm very excited about being able to snap pics of stuff. And digital cameras are so much cheaper than regular photography! Huzzah! I usually don't get excited about shiny electronics, but this one's really stirring my gravy.

HalliBush Wars, Inc

Thanks to Diane for linking us to Kurt Vonnegut on the Bush administration.
I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka "Christians," and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or "PPs."

Remember when everyone freaked out because Michael Jackson held his baby out of a window, fifty feet in the air? Well, weren't we being worrywarts -- turns out babies can survive four-story drops! Well, Korean babies can.
The Korea Times newspaper reported a shop sign broke the baby's fall after the mother threw him out the window because she did not want her boyfriend to find out she had given birth to another man's child.
There's a paragraph that wouldn't make any freakin' sense out of context.

What does Cuba need? Bowling! Actually, the Creole bowling described here sounds a little like curling.

Yeah, I was printed in Chicken Soup for the Soul -- and that gives me a right to get drunk and harrass my neighbors!
Some residents of her subdivision said Travoss drunkenly harassed them after a volatile Homeowners Association meeting, where she had lost an election to the board. . . . "She said I was going to be sorry about the way I voted," said the resident, who asked not to be identified. "And then she started singing the National Anthem. I told her, 'I know it's you, Jill, I have Caller ID.'"
Jill is currently working on a poem for the upcoming book Chicken Soup for the Drunken Sore Loser's Soul.


Spybotics (Shockwave). Takes a little getting into, but it's pretty fun and addictive.

Today I'm listening to: Digitally Imported! (Ahh, no one ever follows the link anyway.)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

For a Shaolin Monk, Your Crotch-Kicking's Really Lousy! 

A group of Shaolin monks from SongShan, China, recently made their first visit to the USA. They met with Former California Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (at left), who kicked one of the monks in the crotch. (TPCQ: "Milhouse, stop that!")

Hurray! New Blog!

Noam Chomsky has a blog: Turning the Tide. Huzzah! Sound the trumpets!

"Corporate terrorists" vs. "Evil" Col. Sanders

PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] is at it again; they've launched a new campaign against KFC, to push for more humane treatment of chickens. Celebrities from Paul McCartney to Pamela Anderson to Cornel West have offered their support.

The campaign includes blood buckets filled with info-props, which PETA will be "handing out . . . to kids at KFC locations nationwide." Also, activists in Germany recently doused the CEO of Yum! Brands (which owns KFC) in blood.

KFC, for their part, is borrowing a Paige* from the US Secretary of Education: "We don't comment on the corporate terrorist activities of PETA," said KFC spokeswoman Bonnie Warschauer. "They are corporate terrorists and just like the United States government, we will not negotiate with corporate terrorists."

I've been a vegetarian for over ten years, and while I'm often frustrated by PETA's sexist projects, I'm not sure what to think about this one. There's no question that chickens are treated cruelly on their way to our dinner plates. Is this the way to capture America's Attention Deficit?

* Sorry, I couldn't resist.

HalliBush Wars, Inc.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide: The Green Zone is becoming less safe.
A recent spate of attacks -- including a previously undisclosed mortar strike that killed a Bechtel Corp. subcontractor last Thursday -- has pierced the sense of security inside the U.S.-led coalition's well-protected Green Zone.
Hey, I didn't realize it before, but some of these Iraqis are angry! To make things worse, the danger isn't limited to mortar attacks and suicide bombers.
Adding to the anxiety, military officials have warned Green Zone dwellers in recent days about a wild dog and a rabid monkey -- which presumably escaped from the nearby zoo -- that have bitten several people, one area resident said.
Jeez, I thought Bush said the rabid monkeys would greet us as liberators! Well, I'm still Proud to Be an American, a sentiment well-expressed in the essay "Very Proud and Worried" by David G. Bancroft: "Since America and its allies are engaged in the liberation of Iraq . . . I am not going to second guess . . . Who is right or wrong?" Yeah, that's what being an American is all about -- dropping questions about who lied through their teeth in order to convince people to send their kids to die for oil! The most bizarre line, however, comes at the end: "I hope God's guiding hand will minimize loss of life on both sides, and that a resolute end to this liberation comes quickly."


There is No Spoon?

The best essay I've ever read about online existence is A Rape in Cyberspace by Julian Dibbell. He does an amazing job of confronting vital questions about what it means to virtually be somewhere, to exist in two places at once (one real, one simulated).
Months later, the woman in Seattle would confide to me that as she wrote those words posttraumatic tears were streaming down her face -- a real-life fact that should suffice to prove that the words' emotional content was no mere fiction. The precise tenor of that content, however, its mingling of murderous rage and eyeball-rolling annoyance, was a curious amalgam that neither the RL nor the VR facts alone can quite account for.
It's long, but you really ought to read the whole thing. Best cyber essay EVER. Dibbell also wrote a piece on digital media called Unpacking My Record Collection (after Walter Benjamin). It's okay, but I wasn't blown away the way I was by ARIC. I'm sure JB will like it.


Thanks to Josh for linking us to Richard Simmons "b****-slap"ping a man in an airport.


I know I've posted this cool drum Flash before, but it's just so freakin' good!

Today I'm listening to: A conference call! (Shh, don't tell anyone on the EC.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A New Pledge 

Do I think the phrase "One nation under God" should be struck from the pledge of allegiance?

No. I think we should scrap the whole thing. My students always ask me why I don't say the pledge of allegiance, and the answer is very simple: I do not pledge my allegiance to flags, or the republics for which they stand. I pledge my allegiance to ideals like democracy and human rights. Ergo, when this republic (like all republics) puts its own narrow interests ahead of those ideals, I cannot be loyal to it.

I propose this new pledge instead:
I pledge allegiance to the ideals of
human rights, democracy, peace, and justice.

I will keep my mind open to new ideas and reject fanaticism of all kinds.

These are my duties as a member of a world community, with responsibilities and obligations to my fellow humans.
Now that's a pledge I would make once a day.

Sorry today's post is so short -- I'm off to Go! More tomorrow, promise.


Check out these cool false perspective photos! Fun stuff, courtesy of b3ta. (Check out that one about the SpongMonkeys!)

Today I'm listening to: Urban Cuban!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Essays, Schmessays 

I am sick to my stomach acid with essays. Deliver me from these things! Why didn't I teach a class that allows for more ScanTron tests, like math? Curse you, fates! You get in here and grade these things.

Actually, once I get going, it's not so bad. But it's the getting that's tough. Anything else that I can find to do (like, say, blogging) becomes an appropriate excuse to put it off (or in this case take a break). Bleah.


It's spring! It's finally spring! Huzzah! I can go ride my bike, finally. Here's to Ra! Remind me to take my sunglasses with me to work tomorrow (I had a squintfest on the way home). I also get paid tomorrow. Mmmm, paid.

Lesser Evilism

Hmm, so Chomsky has endorsed John Kerry for the President of the US. Interesting.
Kerry is sometimes described as Bush-lite, which is not inaccurate, and in general the political spectrum is pretty narrow in the United States, and elections are mostly bought, as the population knows. But despite the limited differences both domestically and internationally, there are differences. And in this system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes.
Well said; I planned to vote for Kerry all along. Still, some leftists are arguing that it's not sufficient to pick the lesser of two evils. Quoth Phil Gasper at GNN:
Making decisions about the presidential election on the basis of the minute differences between the two major party candidates is ultimately a mug's game. Whoever wins in November, we'll need the biggest and most militant social movements on the ground to fight their policies, but when activists get sucked into support for the Democrats the movements are weakened and sometimes destroyed. . . . If we choose Kerry over Bush, we make it more difficult to do the only thing that ever makes a difference for our side -- building real activism on the ground.
In other words, accepting Kerry is not enough -- we need to go far beyond just settling for this lesser of two evils. Okay, I don't have any problem with that.

But to think that we're doing better under Bush than we were under Clinton is facile and silly. I don't want to romanticize Clinton, but does this guy really believe that fascism is good for the left? Besides, does anyone think that Chomsky believes that Kerry defeating Bush shall be the end of it? If only he had some kind of track record or legacy of struggle we could check out to decide. Hmm.


Hey, we don't care if the whole world condemns our actions. We're Israel! As long as the US is behind us, no one else matters! IDF chief of staff Moshe Yaalon made it all clear today:
"For a short time it may strengten the motivation to commit attacks but in the long run it will reinforce moderate (Palestinian) elements," Yaalon told a security conference in Tel Aviv.
Yeah, that's right -- these Islamic fundamentalists will react to the extrajudicial killing of their spiritual leader by being more moderate. Brilliant!


Never mind that brain surgery they keep paging me for -- I need my croutons!


Uhh . . . Japanese commercials are weird. Do our ads look this bizarre to them, you think?

Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad!

Monday, March 22, 2004

And We're Back 

Sorry for the disappearing act, folks. I'm trying to post every day, but I had some problems with an FTP client this weekend, which caused my directories to crash. Hugs and kisses to Josh for helping us to get back online.

Take This Occupation and Shove It

Colin Powell made a surprise visit to Baghdad over the weekend, but as he and Paul Bremer were starting in on how great everything is, swarms of Arab journalists stood, read a statement, and walked out of the conference to protest US involvement in the death of two journalists from Al Arabiya television.

Did Powell express shame for US troops' mistake (or war crime, depending on your perspective)? He started in the grand American tradition of starting with a pat on our own back:
The journalists just left to express their feelings, something that could never happen in earlier times in the history of Iraq, certainly not during the last 30 years. . . . I also regret the loss of life of the two journalists. . . .
However . . .
Let's be clear who is responsible for this: the terrorists, those individuals left over from the old regime who do not want to see Iraqi people live in peace. They do not want to see democracy take root.
Journalists killed by US forces? It's the terrorists' fault. Stock market down? It's the terrorists' fault. Space shuttle blew up? Terrorists!

I don't want to downplay the significance of terror, or ridicule the very real horror and tension that our troops must be experiencing in Iraq, where every car speeding toward you might be a suicide bomber. But for our diplomats and envoys to refuse any responsibility for this sort of atrocity is simply unacceptable.

Speaking of Extra-Judicial Killing...

Today Israel assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas. As expected, Palestinian militants instantly realized the folly of violent resistance and laid down their arms. Muslims and Jews were seen dancing joyously across the Holy Land, and all Palestinian claims to self-determination have been abandoned.

Certain bleeding hearts like Kofi Annan (noted hater of freedom) and the entire European Union strongly condemned the assassination. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw put it quite well: "I don't believe Israel will benefit from the fact that this morning an 80-year-old in a wheelchair" was assassinated.

Condoleeza Rice denied charges that Sharon (who oversaw the assassination personally) phoned Washington to inform them of the strike (which is without question not allowed by international law, for anyone who may be wondering). However, she stopped short of actually condemning the attack. "Let's remember," she said on NBC's Today show, "that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheikh Yassin himself has been heavily involved in terrorism." Katie Couric failed to ask Rice how she defined terrorism, and whether the assassination of George W. Bush for his illegal invasion of Iraq would be similarly acceptable.

Already in response, a guy with a knife stabbed three people on a bus in Tel Aviv; and then a different man attacked Israelis with an axe outside an army base. The IDF is sure to answer any Palestinian violence with more violence and house destructions and collective punishments.

Pass the ipecac!


What's up there, enormous strawberry-shaped buttercake? Mmmm . . . 24,000 pounds of cake.

Thanks to Garrett (I guess) for linking us to Dee Snyder's homepage. He's never looked better! Twisted Sister 4-Ever!

Hey, just because the Bush administration has banned the import of goods from Burma (in response to that nation's oppressive dictatorship) doesn't mean he can't use clothes from Burma in his bid for re-election! How is he supposed to keep those war coffers full if he has to pay a living wage to the people who make his gear? You liberals!

If you like Hello Kitty (and HP Lovecraft), you'll love Hello Cthulu! (via MeFi or MoFi, I don't remember which.)


Does your computer frustrate you at times? Then smash it! Virtually, natch. Impressive level of detail in the kinds of destruction you can dish out here. I hope v.2 includes weapons! (A hammer would be so cool. How about a chainsaw?)

Today I'm listening to: Coldcut! (You gotta see their Japanese ad.)

Friday, March 19, 2004

People Attacking People, Seafood 

Take that, World Bank!
Wolfensohn and Mramor were attacked on the street in front of the government palace with green paint by anti-globalization protestors.
Call it payback for firing my people in East Timor. (As well as condemning billions around the world to brutal neoliberal economic "auterity" measures.)


Thanks to Dallas for telling us about the kid who pulled a knife on mom and dad after they unplugged his video game. (TPCQ: "Try some decaf, Gunga Din!")

Item! Red Lobster to cut back on the all-you-can-eat deals. (TPCQ: "That man ate all our shrimp! And two plastic lobsters!")


Look -- I can see a tiny patch of blue sky! There it is! Oh, it's gone. Well, at least it's warmer than it was yesterday. Probably a lot warmer in Florida, tho!


Have some fun with Tower Blaster. Random and enjoyable.

Today I'm listening to: New Kingdom!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Math, Myst, and Mythology 

Isn't this a cool graphic? It comes to us from Fergus Murray, via MoFi. Huzzah!

Hallibush Wars, Inc.

Representative Henry Waxman's office recently completed a report entitled Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq. So there can be no doubt that Rumsfeld did indeed say Iraq poses an "immediate threat", despite his claims to the contrary on Face the Nation. (That link takes you right to a Windows Media File -- and yes, that is Thomas Friedman, of all people, calling him out.)


It snowed this morning. Not too bad -- but it gave me a chance to test out the new tires. You know, I don't mind this weather so much, now that my wheels have some tread on them! Warmer, too. Keep it up, Ra!

Uru: Ages Beyond Myst

I've been a fan of the Myst games since the first one hit the shelves of my local game shop. I've made it through the sequels Riven and Exile, and I've been eagerly awaiting the fourth installment, Uru, which was supposed to be an online multiplayer version.

Alas, it's not to be. Worse, there's no Mac version available right now. Curses! What a slap in the face -- Myst I was created entirely on the Mac, and for a while it wasn't available on the PC. Now that a different company has taken over, they've left us Mac users out in the cold. Humph!

Of course, I'll still buy it when it does come out. I just hope they learned from their mistakes in Exile and put gameplay before design. (In one of the Exile worlds, I can't see what the heck is going on, and I just click wildly until I hit the right thing. It's stunning but impossible to play.)


Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black. Funny, polished, and informative. A good time. [Flash]

Today I'm listening to: The Crystal Method! Classic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Best Hans Blix Quote EVER 

Today NPR's Morning Edition featured an interview with former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, who restated his belief that the Bush and Blair governments didn't have sufficient cause to invade Iraq. "If you sentence someone to death," he said, "or you sentence someone to war, you'd better have some evidence. And we didn't feel there was evidence."

Bob Edwards closed by asking Blix about the charges of wire-tapping.
BE: Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair will neither confirm nor deny reports that the British bugged UN offices in New York. Do you have reason to believe you were bugged?

HB: Well, sometimes I thought so. We always assumed that it was likely -- and it's an uneasy, an unpleasant feeling. However, it didn't worry me unduly because I was not saying anything very different on the internal lines than I did publicly. So the substance didn't bother me -- but it's an unpleasant feeling.

Now I say, somewhat jokingly: Look, it's one thing that they bugged us; I wish they had listened more attentively to what we said.
Take that, Bush re-election campaign!


We had some blue sky today. Warmer, too. But I don't understand why a seagull would hang out in the ShopKo parking lot.

Candy Bar Watch

I also don't understand why anyone would pay fifty cents for a package of ReeseSticks when a whole bag full of chocolate-covered peanut butter wafers is maybe $2.00. They taste exactly the same. Next!


Virtual Paper Football is for people who have no friends or aren't coordinated enough to flick real paper footballs.

Today I'm listening to: BassDrive!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Ye Olde Computers 

Last night during an essay-grading break, I stumbled upon Catakig, an Apple //e emulator for the Mac. Huzzah! Now I can play all my old favorites, like Karateka and Pool of Radiance. Of course, they haven't stood the test of time, but the nostalgia is still fun.

I'm having much less success with Bliss, the Intellivision emulator. I got AD&D to show up on my screen, but none of the buttons do anything. (TPCQ: "This whole ship's a bunch of buttons!")

Now if I can just find an emulator for the Timex Sinclair, I can almost exactly replicate my entire adolescent computing/electronic-game-playing experience. Who's up for a rousing game of "Lemonade Stand"?


Molly Ivins wrote a good piece recently about the Texas education budget.
Combining his hitherto unknown passion for the briny deep with the exigencies of the school funding crisis, Cap'n Rick [Perry, Governor of Texas] decided the thorny problem could best be resolved at sea. He decided to hold a seminar on school finance at Abaco, in the Bahamas, aboard a 54-foot yacht.
The miracle lives!


Today the guy in front of me at the supermarket bought $135.00 worth of Splenda artificial sweetener.


The skies have been grey and bland for days. This is especially unpleasant during the weekend. It's a sad state of affairs when the sky in your PS2 is more appealing than the sky outside your window. The temperature has also been cool, but not cold enough for me to put on a proper jacket when I walk my dog.


Atomic Pongling is kinda cool. Arkanoid goes bowling.

Today I'm listening to: Ocean's 11! ("BAAA bum ba-da da-da bum...")

Sunday, March 14, 2004

A Setback for the Autonomous Killer Robots 

Yesterday the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA, the same people who designed and constructed the US share of the internet] held its monumental Grand Challenge for Autonomous Ground Vehicles. DARPA offered US$1,000,000 to the first autonomous robot-car that could cover 150 miles through the Mojave Desert in less than ten hours.

Alas, the machines have lost this one; every single robot-car broke down. Even the NaviGATOR (see picture at right), developed by Gainesville's very own Team CIMAR. Why is the Pentagon spending $13 million on this "event"? The Grand Challenge FAQ makes it clear: "Congress and the Department of Defense view unmanned vehicle technology as a critical element of our future military capabilities."

Don't you see? Unless we develop robot-cars that can drive themselves and kill people (or blips on the screen that look like people), we'll be woefully unprepared for the future! And then how will we protect John Connor? (I suppose it's just a coincidence that the finish line for the race was in California.)

Elsewhere in killer-robot news, UC Berkeley's Human Engineering Laboratory, under the leadership of Dr. Frank N. Stein, has made some significant advances recently on its Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton [BLEEX]. (Check out that video!)

"The exoskeleton is not going to magically transform people into killing machines," insists Homayoon Kazerooni, who directs the project. "They're really good, it turns out, at enabling firefighters, soldiers, post-disaster rescue crews to carry heavy loads over great distances for hours." In other words, this robotic contraption will merely enable us to transform people into killing machines -- it has dozens of other, non-killing-machine applications as well.

Naturally, only people who hate Freedom will make connections between the obvious military uses to which this cyborg technology can be put and the fact that this project is funded primarily by DARPA.

On a totally unrelated note: Bush administration officials reminded the world today that the US simply doesn't have any money to provide medicine to people dying of easily curable diseases, or to feed the six million kids under the age of 5 who die from malnutrition each year.

Government, Etc.

Did you know that after Neil Bush was banned from the banking industry for his disgraceful role in the S&L fiasco, he changed gears and founded an education-software company called Ignite! Learning? Interestingly enough, the company offers tools to help kids pass standardized tests -- so beloved by his brother President George. What a remarkable coincidence! Check out Democracy Now! for details.

Oh, you thought COINTELPRO ended in 1971? No, no -- silly rabbit! It's turned into the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive [NCIX]. (TPCQ: "We don't die -- we muliply!") Download and proudly display the NCIX Screen Calendar. ("Sound CI Mitigates the Fear Factor"!) "What can you do to mitigate the fear factor in your organization?" the NCIX asks. Well, I am a member of a terrorist organization, according to the Secretary of Education.

Candy Bar Watch

Apparently, the Hershey corporation has been flooded recently by people screaming for a return of the Reese's White Chocolate candy, because they're "back by popular demand." Maybe it's me, but this seems like just another case of altering one ingredient to pretend you've got a new candy bar. (EG, Milky Way Dark -- excuse me, Milky Way Midnight -- and Twix Peanut Butter.) White chocolate is very good -- my favorite Lindt Truffles are the white chocolate variety -- but I'm not wild about the White Reese's Cups. Stick with the classic.


Why buy SunTzu's Art of War? The text is online!

Shaddup, Aristide! No one needs to hear your bellyaching.

Hey, look -- a three-headed frog! Probably doesn't have anything to do with global warming. Hand me the keys to my Hummer.

That woman who tried to use a million-dollar bill needs to be sent to the loony bin, not the state pen! (TPCQ: "Montgomery Burns, you're under arrest: Grand, grand, grand, grand larceny.")

This sausage is delicious! You can really taste the human body parts! (TPCQ: "But without the grease, all you can taste is the hog anus.")

Man, I really ought to grade some papers.


This is the reason Flash was invented: I Know Where Bruce Lee Lives. Remix old kung-fu movies. It's like EBN in realtime. (My favorite combo: Victory / space / C) The group responsible is doing some nice work. This one would be supercool if it weren't so sexist and degrading.

Today I'm listening to: Pigface!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Happy Birthday, Diane! 

Today is the anniversary of the birth of my special lady friend, Diane Farsetta. I want to publicly wish her a joyous day and reaffirm my love and devotion. (Alas, there are no quality pics of Diane online yet, so I've used an image of her favorite PowerPuff Girl, Buttercup.)

Diane has been the most wonderful part of my life these past few years. We have grown closer in hundreds of ways; we share commonalities aplenty, yet still challenge each other on every topic under the sun. She makes me laugh, she makes me feel better when I'm low. Her smile is the light of a billion dawns; her eyes are supernova incarnate.

I love you, DLF. I love the life we share, and I thank the gods every time I hold you in my arms, that I could be considered worthy of such incredible affection. (Even if I do sometimes wake you up too early by typing on my computer at 6:45 AM.) Happy birthday!

Everyone -- please add your birthday wishes in the comment box here.


Enjoy the first Flash movie I ever made.

Today I'm listening to: The coffee pot brewing!

Friday, March 05, 2004

Deep Space, Decorating, and Dangerous People 

I find it hard to believe that this NASA image from the Hubble Telescope isn't retouched. Those stars look a little too sparkly. Regardless, it's a pretty cool pic. I just have a feeling we're going to get a Mea Culpa from NASA soon about how they Photoshopped it up a bit.

Speaking of interesting things on film -- thanks to Nate for telling us about the Passion movie tickets that had the mark of The Beast on them.
"It's from our computer and it's absolutely a coincidence," Smith said. "It has nothing to do with the film company or any vendor. It's completely in our computer."
Yeah, right, Smith (if that is your real name). I suppose it's a coincidence too that your snack bar offers a treat called "Chocolate-Covered Sinners' Heads"?

Crooks at the Top

Martha Stewart was found guilty today. I'm not as fired up about this as I am about WorldCom's Ebbers, but it's interesting to think about how she'll spruce up that drab prison cell. Actually, the worst torture she'll probably endure is likely to be having to hear that joke over and over for the next twenty years. Good thing it never gets old!

HalliBush Wars, Inc.

Former UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix has announced that the US/UK invasion of Iraq was illegal and that the nations involved had no lawful justification. "I don't buy the argument the war was legalized by the Iraqi violation of earlier resolutions," Blix said, while still insisting that Bush and Blair probably acted "in good faith."

Meanwhile, the Shiites aren't signing on to the new Iraqi constitution. "The interim constitution," reports the Associated Press, "is a crucial part of the U.S. plan for handing over power to the Iraqis on June 30. The Bush administration is eager to carry out the transfer well before the U.S. presidential elections in November." You can understand their rush -- a constitution isn't something you want to argue over forever.

Candy Bar Watch

In keeping with the tradition of making candy bars out of things that shouldn't be candy bars, Nestle has introduced the rather nasty Toll House Candy Bars, available in both "Soft and Chewy Cookie" and "Rich Brownie." I bought the cookie one, and I didn't realize it was Nestle until I got it home. (I usually don't buy their stuff because Nestle is evil.)

Anyway, it's horrible. I like cookies. I like candy bars. This cookie/candy bar thing is disgusting. Next!

People Attacking People

This is going to be quick, because we gotta go see the SPHS play. A school board member in St. Louis doused an assistant superintendent with ice water, then threatened to use violence against anyone who questioned her mental health. Why did she use water? "I like old movies," she said, "and I recall how Dorothy in the 'Wizard of Oz' dealt with the Wicked Witch of the West." Clearly, her mental health is fine.

Also, two old men in Winter Haven, Florida got into a fight at a salad bar when one of them started picking through the lettuce.
Hocker told Thoss no one wanted to eat food he had been playing with. Thoss yelled and cursed at him, Hocker told police, and Hocker called him a nasty name. Then, witnesses said, Thoss then began punching Hocker in the face.

In the buffet melee that followed, Allen Croft, 79, tried to grab Thoss, who bit him on the arm, reports said.
What is there to say? Don't mess with the man's lettuce.


Thanks to MoFi for linking us to MusicPlasma. It's pretty neat -- give it a try! It was odd that they linked Consolidated to Nirvana, but it's an intriguing project.

Today I'm listening to: Deep Forest!

Thursday, March 04, 2004

A Family That Blogs Together... 

My brother now has a blog. Sound the trumpets!

What's up with that picture, you ask?

HalliBush Wars, Inc.

I don't get it. Why would the families of victims and firefighters from 9/11 object to Bush's latest use of the corpses to win votes? What, do they hate America or something?

Today Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega (no relation) was grilled by members of Congress over former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's claim that he was kidnapped and forced out of office by the United States. Democracy Now has footage of the hearing. US officials, of course, continue to insist that Aristide's claim is "wrong, and absurd."

Speaking of absurdities -- lots of those Europeans seem to think that our invasion of Iraq has increased the threat of terrorist attacks.
While a majority in each of the countries polled except the United States said the terrorism threat was greater now, fewer than one in 10 in any of the European countries said the terror threat had been decreased by the war.
Kinda like throwing crack rocks at dealers to win the War on Drugs.

Crooks at the Top

Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers has been indicted for fraud in that corporation's $11,000,000,000.00 embezzlement fiasco. I need to start a collection of mug shots from corporate criminals. They make my heart smile. Throw the book at him! Send him to Oz! Make him Schillinger's cellmate!


Spiders are cool. That site has over 700 pictures of 220 spiders. Not a place for arachnophobes. Man, that was a cool movie. John Goodman rocks!

Thanks to Jim Moore for linking us to Curler's Corner, your one-stop curling shop, and home of the "Curling Is Good Fun" song. You must hear it right now. ("The hero who can curl / Always gets the girl.")


What, you have more time to waste? Very well -- why not Launch a Warthog? Nice game design, very addictive.

Today I'm listening to: Mad Professor!

Monday, March 01, 2004

Hurray for Charlize Theron! 

In case you missed it: Last night ubermodel Charlie Theron won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as prostitute-turned-serial-killer Aileen Wuornos in the knockout film Monster. I was happy when Mike won last year (and hats off to him for poking fun at himself in the opening video montage), but I think I was happier this year. Theron did a truly remarkable job with this important story; not a happy movie, but very well done. At the website you can watch the trailer or see how she became Wuornos.

Wuornos herself is on the left there; Theron is in the middle and on the right. About.com has a pretty good interview with the actress.

New GNN: BattleGround

Speaking of great movies: You may remember the Guerrilla News Network for their magnificent culture jam 9-11 Redux. Well, they also do actual journalism, and their latest project, BattleGround, looks to be one of their best yet.
In late 2003, two filmmakers from the Sundance award-winning Guerrilla News Network spent three weeks on the frontlines of this simmering guerrilla war, gathering intelligence, dodging bullets, and capturing the untold stories of what has become the world's most covered, and misunderstood, conflict.
They're only giving a preview so far, but it looks like a refreshingly diverse collection of perspectives from Iraq -- from soldiers and citizens alike.

HalliBush Wars, Inc.

I found this interesting quote on AWOLBush.com:
"I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed . . . managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. . . . Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country."

Colin Powell,
My American Journey, p. 148

Tell it, Colin.


The snow has become rain. The icy crust has nearly melted, washed asunder by the tiny drops of water. The parking lot behind my building has become a large mud puddle. My dog got very wet on today's walk. The sound of cars going by has doppelganged into ocean waves. I miss Ra, but I know that the sun has made the bitter frost into the slow drizzle we now enjoy. Soon it will be spring.


Depressed? It's because you're defective. Fix yourself with Proloxil®.

Today I'm listening to: Blackalicious!