Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Ah, now I understand...


We erred when we reported that a pacifist had been given a small fine for a peaceful protest outside an Army recruitment office while a soldier convicted of torturing an Iraqi prisoner to death was given 6 months in prison. In fact it was the soldier who tortured and killed the prisoner who was given a small fine, and the pacifist who was sentenced to 6 months in prison. We apologize for any confusion.


While waiting for our clueless leader to tell us abuut the State of the Union, here's a primer on how the U.S. government is designed. Pay attention, as there's a quiz at the end:

Our System of Checks and Balances

Our government consists of three, coequal branches: Legislative (the Congress), Executive (the President), and Judicial (the Courts). Congress enacts the laws, the President executes the laws, and the Courts interpret the laws. When the President has to sign a law he doesn't like, he adds a "signing statement" which says he doesn't have to abide by it. If the Courts say he does, he has someone whom he has employed for the purpose tell him he still doesn't have to abide by the law, so he doesn't.
Reading Comprehension Question: Which of the three branches of our government can pretend the other two don't exist?

from www.ironictimes.com

Munich and Match Point

Warning: if you haven't seen these films and are planning to, you might want to skip this discussion.

Munich. Verdict: disappointing. I'd read the reviews calling this Spielberg's greatest, most courageous film and so on. What I saw was a well-acted, well-filmed action movie with a bit of confused moralistic mumbo-jumbo thrown in and a whole lot of loose threads left hanging. The film basically amounts to little more than a series of assassination scenes. Where's the profundity? What's so courageous about saying that terrorism and retribution (interchangeable terms in most cases) are morally treacherous?

Specific problems:
- Papa. Whoever he is, we are led to believe that he is very deep in the shadows. He's got information and sells it at a very high price. Avner has to wear a blindfold when he's taken to see Papa, so there's no way he could discover Papa's true identity, location, etc. But we're supposed to believe that this ultra-cautious underworld figure would bring Avner to his country home and introduce him to his extended family, including about a dozen grandchildren? Huh? "My identity must be kept ultra-secret, but let me introduce you to my clan and show you around the house." Right.
Papa's organization arranges a safe-house for Avner and his boys in Athens, after being paid well over a million dollars by Avner thus far (i.e., Avner is a good client). We are to believe that this organization confuses the dates somehow and puts the Israelis in the same room with the PLO terrorists? Come on, now. Either this was done intentionally to get them all shooting each other, or it's utterly unbelievable. Add this to Papa's having given Avner the wrong explosives, almost resulting in Avner's death (not to mention innocents), and we're left with three choices:
- Papa's organization is very, very sloppy (unbelievable, given the nature of their business -- if you're sloppy, you don't last long in the espionage underworld)
- Papa's organization is trying to fuck up Avner's mission (seems the obvious choice to me, but since Avner doesn't seem to take offense at the fuck-ups, or even question them, this was apparently not intended to be the story line)
- It's just a case of sloppy thnking/writing (the only conclusion that makes sense, though I find this one hard to believe as well). Do you see other viable possibilities?

Another thought: at the end of the film, when Avner is thinking his family may be in danger, he calls Papa from a phone booth in New York. He's shocked that Papa knows his name. I'm shocked that Avner had Papa's home phone number! So much for secret identity, secret location!

Match Point. Verdict, same as Munich, overrated and sloppy. Plot points that just don't work:
- He's been a tennis pro for years, close to the top of the rankings. He's now teaching at a top-flight club and is invited to dinner at the home of a very wealthy client (who can help him immensely). He sees a sexy woman at the house and starts coming on to her like an alley-cat? No way! He would be very cautious to find out who she was before risking everything that way. Furthermore, the whole plot turns on him becoming obsessively attracted to this woman -- who is sexy, but not very smart or interesting or useful to him in any way other than sexual. Not believable. He's been a tennis pro for years; are we to believe that he's easily infatuated by sexy women? Please.
- Here's a plan: Go to an apartment building and shoot someone with a shotgun in the street-level apartment, then hang around for an hour or so. Great plan! You've got neighbors right, left, above and possibly below you, as well as people walking by on the street. You think nobody's going to hear the shotgun blast? Nobody? Right. Sloppy bullshit. I'm done with Woody Allen.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Who left the seat up?

Here's a question that may rock the firmament of your world view: Why is "down" the default toilet seat position? Seriously, let's walk through this one. If the seat is up, nobody's pissing on it, right? How many times (guys) have you walked into the men's room and found the toilet seat down and pissed all over? Who's gonna raise a pissed-on toilet seat? Unless I happen to be wearing my Haz-Mat suit, I'm not touching the thing! But if it were up by default (imagine a small hydraulic device standard in toilet seats) nobody would be pissing on it. Not til later in the evening, anyway.

This has the added benefit of removing one of the perennial triggers of male/female domestic conflict as well.

This is today's contribution to world-betterment.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

On the wrong side of history

Growing up in the USA in the 60s and 70s, I was taught that I lived in a country uniquely founded on freedom and respect for human dignity. For better or worse, my first serious intellectual passion was centered on native American cultures and their destruction by the freedom-loving Americans, so by the time I was an adolescent I was all too well-aware that this glorious mythology was a cover story meant to obscure the innocent blood and deceit in which the American dream is soaked.

But still, even within all the hypocrisy there seemed to be some remaining sense that America really was somehow different and better than other countries. When Watergate embarrassed the nation into electing Jimmy Carter, there was a brief moment of hope. I know that even then we were supporting thugs in Guatemala, the Phillipines, Iran and elsewhere, but there was something ennobling in the declaration that we held human rights inviolate -- even if our concern was demonstrably hypocritical.

In those days, the American government quoted the annual reports from organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to buttress its own critiques of oppressive governments -- those aligned with the Soviet Union anyway.

Those days are now long gone. Gone is the noble hypocrisy. No longer do we claim to be "better;" now it's enough to assert power. The latest report from Human Rights Watch spells it out:

The 2006 World Report is not easy reading for those who believe in and value human dignity.

"New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counter terrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights.

The evidence showed that abusive interrogation cannot be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior U.S. government officials. The policy has hampered Washington’s ability to cajole or pressure other states into respecting international law, said the 532-page volume’s introductory essay."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Welcome to the new location. This site seems to be more flexible and allow me to publish photos along with the text. I also found it frustrating to have comments come in but not know who I was talking to. So I hope this one will work out better.

If all goes well, there should be a photo of me at the beginning of this entry and a photo of the cats at the end.

When a man loves a woman...

Percy Sledge is full of shit. In his biggest hit, "When a Man Loves a Woman," Mr. Sludge opines that a man who is truly in love will do the following:
- turn his back on his best friend if he criticzes the woman
- spend his last dime on her
- give up all his comforts and sleep in the rain.

I don't know much about Sludge's personal life (in fact, I know absolutely nothing about it), but I'd bet my bottom dollar that he didn't spend much time sleeping in the rain, and if he did, it had more to do with some mind-altering chemical than it did with his one true love. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that Mr. Sludge -- being a famous singer of love songs -- went through women in a manner wholly inconsistent with what his famous song advises to the rest of us.

For the record, women aren't impressed with the type of man who will dump his closest friends, squander all his money and sleep in the street. These are not advisable ways of demonstrating love. If we're worried about violence in the media planting the wrong world-view in our kids' minds, shouldn't we also be concerned with the self-destructive, unrealistic vision of relationships planted in their hearts by silly love songs?

Anyone know some realistic love songs? I nominate "I need a woman who won't drive me crazy" by John Cougar (pre-Mellencamp). Save your last dime, fellas.

On the other hand, is there any more egregious example of shamelssness than Elvis singing "Suspicious Minds?" It's a song sung to a suspcious woman by a man who is SHOCKED that she'd suspect him of infidelity. Come on, Elvis! Reminds me of Richard Pryor's line when his wife catches him in bed with another woman, "Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" Go with your eyes, ladies.

And if Mick Jagger can't get no satisfaction, what hope do the rest of us have?

American Taliban

If you've ever been to a beach in Thailand, you've no doubt noticed that Thai women don't go for the bikini look. The back-story to that is quite interesting. Apparently, back in the days when the European powers were colonizing Sout-East Asia, the King of Thailand decreed that Thai people were never to be seen in public without being fully dressed. He theorized that the Europeans looked down upon public nudity and were thereby encouraged to colonize. As Thailand is the only country (kingdom) in the region never to have been a colony of a western power, he seems to have been right.

But what do we make of this? http://www.wholesomewear.com/page-4.html First they outlaw fur underwear in Uzbekistan:

Fur lined knickers banned
Fur-lined underwear has been banned in Uzbekistan after authorities deemed it too sexy.
Sales of the furry slips have rocketed in temperatures that have hit the region of below minus 20C.
But the government has now banned the lingerie saying they want to protect citizens from "unbridled fantasies" caused by wearing the soft fabric.

Now we've got wholesome swimwear for women. Things are already far too wholesome for me.

The future of beauty

Being a redhead, I have never found another redhead sexually attractive. My sister (another redhead) confirms that this is her experience as well. I strongly suspect that there is a genetic mandate that two redheads NEVER mate, as their kids would seem to have a snowball's chance in hell (i.e., they're likely to be albinos). I'm no geneticist, so none of this is based on science, but the voice of personal experience is LOUD in this case. Anyone out there know of two (natural) redheads who have hooked up?

Anyway, the beautiful Sasha is the daughter of MNL -- of pasty blue Ukranian stock -- and his lovely Congolese wife, whose skin tone is at the other end of the spectrum. All three of their kids are amazingly beautiful (and smart and healthy). So forget about "like attracts like." If you're gonna have kids, be sure to mix up the gene pool.

mini archive

Switching over from previous blog host. I didn't like that you weren't prompted to identify yourself when leaving a comment, so I was never sure who I was talking with. This one seems to work a bit better. If you're joining us late (as they say), I've pasted in previous postings here:

1/11/06 01:32 pm - Anniversary of my Death

You probably don't come here looking for poetry, but check this out. Great concept, and beautifully written. Read it out loud to appreciate the beat:

for the anniversary of my death

every year without knowing it i have passed the day
when the last fires will wave to me
and the silence will set out
tireless traveler
like the beam of a lightless star

then i will no longer
find myself in life as in a strange garment
surprised at the earth
and the love of one woman
and the shamelessness of men
as today writing after three days of rain
hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
and bowing not knowing to what

w. s. merwin, 1967

1/11/06 01:26 pm - Albert Hoffman turns 100

The man who invented LSD (by mistake) turns 100 years old today. I was invited to the party (thanks to my friend Stanley, who is an old friend of Hoffmann's) but couldn't make it, due to various complications. It's a shame though, as I can't imagine a birthday party I'd want to attend more than this one.

I've been thinking about Hoffmann and the hypocrisy that leads the US government to more severely punish possession of LSD than 2nd degree murder (look it up: 10 years mandatory minimum for possession of LSD with intent to sell vs. an average of 7.5 years sentenced for 2nd degree murder). Here's a guy who invented the stuff, has used it responsibly for decades, and will now be dancing at his own 100th birthday party. But the bullshitters in Washington keep telling us how dangerous it is. Right.

Meanwhile, we've got a raging, stumbling drunk at the helm of the ship of state. How many times now has the most protected man in the world shown up with his face all fucked up? Clearing brush? Choked on a pretzel?

Do the lies ever reach a point where they collapse in on themselves? I thought we'd passed that point long ago, but still no collapse. Gay escort/false journalists in the White House, obvious alcoholism, illegal wiretaps, cocaine use, desertion from the National Guard, the lies and shameless use of 911, the tax cuts and unpaid war.... When does reality intrude?

1/5/06 08:17 am - Diminishing Marginal Utility

Coming across this phrase today, it occurred to me that this concept has been humming away in the background noise of my life since forever. The idea is that a little of something is worth more than a lot of it, on a unit basis. So the difference between a $5 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle of wine (a $5 differential) is far greater than that between a bottle that costs $100 and one costing $105. In fact, I'd argue that this difference is even greater proportionally -- that is, it's a greater increase in quality than what you'd get going from a $100 bottle to a $200 bottle.

Aside from eschewing overpriced wine, what's the importance of this? Well, if you follow the logic, you find a whole approach to life in this concept. Where and how one spends money is far more important than how much one spends. Having good taste in music is more important than having an expensive stereo system. Each additional unit of investment is likely to return less than the previous unit, so it's important to be sensitive to the point at which one's time/energy/effort/money is being squandered.

Maybe "diminishing marginal utility" is just a high-brow justification for laziness. Hard to be sure, from where I'm sitting.

12/13/05 10:43 pm - Miniature Animals

Well, it turns out that one man's spare-time musings is another man's breeding program. Mark points me to these breeders of miniature horses (still not small enough for a little box, but still) and bizarre short-legged cats:


Muchkin cats:



12/13/05 09:28 am - Bonsai Animals

We've got two new kittens, so I've been thinking about how they are really miniaturized leopards or tigers. Ferociousness reduced to easily manageable dimensions is cute. A roar becomes a meow. What would be decapitation becomes a scratch on the wrist.

So what if we could miniaturize other animals? Imagine tiny horses galloping around the house, or a little polar bear curled up on the bed. Elephants are supposed to be smart. How about a few of them in the yard? I'm sure it's just a matter of time...

12/11/05 02:16 pm - Adult/adolescent sex

Another round of morality-lynchings under way in the Homeland. I keep reading stories about female teachers getting busted for having sexual relations with their teen-aged male students. Instead of my muddy face, on this entry there's a photo of one of the latest of these criminally generous women. Is there a heterosexual man alive who can tell me he wouldn't have welcomed "abuse" from this woman when he was 16 years old?

Tellingly, the young men involved have invariably refused to testify against the women, and claim that the relations were consensual. Even the judges find themselves conflicted, with one of them daring to say that the young dude was a victim "only in the legal sense...he was certainly not victimized by you in any other sense of the word." No shit!

Anyone who's ever been a teen-aged male can tell you that having an older woman willing to show you the ropes would be a God-send, and certainly not a case of victimization. Of course, if there is evidence of coercion, then we're talking about something else. But there's a name for the crime of coercing sex: rape. But there isn't any evidence of manipulation in these cases, so my question is, why is it anybody's business but theirs?

Man, it's becoming more and more obvious to me that the Puritans were "prosecuted" in England -- and thereby urged to fuck off to the New World -- because they were just a big pain in the ass! And they still are.

Aside from the offense caused to the sensitive, puritanical souls running the show in the Homeland, there is no evidence that these sorts of relationships are damaging at all. This, from the New York Times:

"The most controversial study was published in 1998 in Psychological Bulletin. The article, a statistical re-analysis of 59 studies of college students who said they were sexually abused in childhood, concluded that the effects of such abuse "were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women."

The researchers questioned the practice, common in many studies, of lumping all sexual abuse together. They contended that treating all types equally presented problems that, they wrote, "are perhaps most apparent when contrasting cases such as the repeated rape of a 5-year-old girl by her father and the willing sexual involvement of a mature 15-year-old adolescent boy with an unrelated adult."

In the first case, serious harm may result, the article said, but the second case "may represent only a violation of social norms with no implication for personal harm."

They suggested substituting the term "adult adolescent sex" for child abuse in some cases where the sex was consensual.

"Abuse implies harm in a scientific usage, and the term should not be in use if there is consent and no evidence of harm," said Bruce Rind, an author of the study and a psychology professor at Temple University."

What kind of country destroys lives and throws people in jail for "only a violation of social norms with no implication for harm?" Think of marijuana laws and the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of otherwise innocent people now suffering and becoming angry and bitter in prisons across the USA.

Land of the free? Far from it.

12/11/05 12:47 pm - Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection

Just read an great essay on the various forms of bullshit and how to protect yourself from them. I would say it should be required reading for any and all. Important stuff, bullshit:


12/7/05 11:42 am - Persons

Why do people say persons? The plural of person is people. But it's becoming ever more common to see "persons" used -- especially in pretentious medical or psychological titles: Treating persons with disabilities.

Formality is bad enough, but incorrect formality? Give me a break, persons!

12/7/05 07:59 am - Custom Fit Radio

My buddy, Mark, who is an incredible source of all things interesting, turned me on to a very cool web site. You tell them what music you like and they put together a play list of music similar to what you chose, then stream it to you. So if you say you like Eva Cassidy, for example, they'll put together a radio that plays female vocalists with acoustic instrumentation. Pretty cool. Here's the link:


12/6/05 08:21 pm - Ironic Times

As good as The Onion sometimes. Here's the link:


For example:
Administration Didn't Know Pentagon Paid Iraqi Papers to Print Propaganda
According to fake news item planted in U.S. media outlets by government.


Baghdad Times: Iraqis Love America
Story by reporter Abu-Jeffari al-Gannon describes how deeply Iraqis admire U.S. and its president.

If you don't get this one, maybe you don't know who Jeff Gannon was. If not, you're unaware of one of the most surreal political situations imaginable. Google him.

12/6/05 01:24 pm - Deadwood

If you have HBO (or the capacity to download avi files) and haven't been watching Deadwood, you're really missing something. I'm not a big fan of TV, to put it mildly, but this is art I'm talking about now. The characters are compelling, complex, subtle, surprising. It's basically The Sopranos set in the wild west. Check it out and tell me Al Swearingon isn't the most lovable mother-fucker around.

12/6/05 12:26 pm - kidney stone vs. pregnancy

As you may know, I'm currently the proud father-to-be of a bouncing baby kidney stone. I haven't delivered yet, but I've enjoyed the passage from kidney to bladder, which had me crumpled in a corner of the E.R. one night a couple of weeks ago. At that point, we didn't know what was causing the pain, so we were relieved to hear that it was a non-life-threatening situation.

About 95% of the people who hear of my condition respond by telling me that this is the only pain men can feel that is comparable to having a baby. This is precisely what I want to hear, of course. So I'm just waiting for the onset of excruciating pain at any moment. No chance of a C-section, no joys of motherhood to follow. No cards on Mother's Day. Talk about unfair!

I hope it's cute, anyway. If it is, maybe I'll have it mounted on a ring. Seems there should be some reminder of the heroic delivery.

12/2/05 02:05 pm - Grizzly Man

Casi and I watched this documentary a couple of nights ago. Highly recommended. It's about a guy named Timothy Treadwell, who basically came to believe that he'd figured out the psychology of grizzly bears to the point where he could live among them -- unarmed and unharmed. He managed it for 13 summers in Alaska before he and his girlfriend found themselves on the menu. He took a video camera with him the last 5 summers, and much of the documentary (by great German director, Werner Hertzog) is composed of this footage. It's an amazing, unique film. It's like reading the man's diary, but even more immediate. He speaks to the camera with an intimacy and openness I'm sure he never would have risked had he known that he wouldn't be around to edit out those bits.

The impression I was left with is of an obviously unbalanced psyche seeking redemption in the one thing he feels he can do better than anyone else. In his case, he seems to be a bit of a nut-case, but what if he'd focussed this energy on being the best concert pianist, software developer or athlete instead of trying to cultivate his understanding of bears? It would be the same obsession, the same imbalance, the same distorted life -- but he'd be seen as an example of greatness, the "quest for excellence" and all that bullshit. If your insanity leads to wealth and recognition, you're an example for kids to emulate. If it doesn't, you're a fucking lunatic. Go figure.

12/2/05 01:39 pm - Torture

Here's something that's been on my mind of late: What's with all the outrage about Cheney and the CIA seeking exemption from the no-torture provisions? Do these supposedly well-informed commentators not know that torture and assassination has long been covertly practiced by the United States? Have these people never heard of The School of the Americas in Georgia, where American experts train Latin American military personnel in torture and assassination techniques? Have they no sense of what the US has done in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, etc.? I'm talking about recent history here, not going back to Vietnam, Iran, and so on.

It seems to me that the only thing "shocking" about the current situation is that, for some reason, Cheney wants to be somewhat "legal" about the torture.

12/2/05 01:23 pm - First Entry

For a guy who has bought and sold about a dozen computers in the past few years, you might say I'm way behind the curve in starting a blog.

Opinions, yeah, I've got a few. I'll post some of my recent thoughts up here -- those suitable, or even marginally suitable for public consumption, that is. Send me your comments. If I don't think anyone's listening, I'll just go back to muttering to myself, as I was before (and sending people like you too many unsolicited emails).