Tuesday, June 28, 2005

electrified pool of water blog

A little poem that popped into my head this morning:
Moneypenny, roaming on the banks of the Thames,
Sighs beneath her scented breath, “James, James, James….”

The critics speak!
New York Times: WAR OF THE WORLD is “reasonably entertaining.”

That’ll get the throngs back to the theatres!

Here we go again.
From Reuters: “A Louisiana woman has sued restaurant company Applebee's International Inc. , charging that she found a severed fingertip in her salad.”

That’ll get the throngs back to the theatres!

When will this show up on CSI?
From Reuters: “A young mother found at the scene of a car crash near Tokyo in which her husband and infant son were killed had already been dead for at least a day before the accident happened….”

Oh, shut up dept.
Responding to Tom Cruise’s outburst last Friday, the American Psychiatric Association has released a statement: "Rigorous, published, peer-reviewed research clearly demonstrates that treatment (of mental illness) works. It is unfortunate that in the face of this remarkable scientific and clinical progress that a small number of individuals and groups persist in questioning its legitimacy."

Dead Chickens 1
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium plans to stop Boy Scouts from slaughtering chickens and other small animals at summer camp, despite Scout leaders' defense of the practice as a lesson in wilderness survival.

The Health Ministry said in a statement issued Monday that one Scout group had refused to stop teaching its lads how to carry out the bloody task even after complaints from parents.

"These kids have to be taught how to kill an animal in order to feed themselves," the ministry quoted one of the group's respresentatives as saying.

However, the ministry took the view that the Scouts learned nothing from using animals in this way.

Dead Chickens 2
In today’s Wall Street Journal I leaned of a Dutch chicken farmer, Harm Kiezebrink. As a child, he learned to kill male chickens (because they don’t produce eggs, and are too scrawny to eat). As an adult, he is now much in demand as a consultant in the mass killing of chickens, as a hedge against the spread of Avian influenza.

Apparently, he has a machine, called the AED-100, “which kills about 10,000 birds an hour, catching them by the feet and dragging their heads through an electrified pool of water.”

I want one. Please? For Christmas? Or at least donate one, in my name, to the Belgian Boy Scouts?

Finally, a boring yet oddly fascinating story from the Dakotas, a boring yet oddly fascinating region in its own right.
From AP: Woman Seeks to Return Steak Knife to N.D.

A Washington state woman is seeking to return a steak knife to this city [Jamestown]. Connie Hilty, of Richland, Wash., said she found the knife after her mother died five years ago.

It has the words "Farmer's Elevator Company, Harry Nitschke, Jud, North Dakota" inscribed on the blade.

"Because it had someone's name on it, I didn't want to pitch it," Hilty said. "It's in really nice condition, and I would just be glad to turn it over to whoever it might belong to or their family."

Hilty said she has no idea how her mother got the knife. The family lived in South Dakota when she was born but later moved to Washington, she said.

"I know we didn't have family in North Dakota," she said.

Hilty said she knows the importance of a family heirloom. "I just think things like that are really important to family," she said.

And to the never-ending process of killing chickens. Oh wait. I just made up that last part.

Monday, June 27, 2005

gig, zadar, cruise

My New Gig
Hello, gentle readers.

A new job beckons – well, a gig, actually, that could possibly blossom into jobhood. It required required the signing of non-disclosure agreement, which I mailed off immediately after receiving it a week ago Friday.

After waiting a week for a work-for-pay contract, and wondering what was going on, on Saturday, the envelope containing the signed NDA was returned to me. I had used stamps that had been previously been placed on other, unmailed envelopes, which is apparently a no-no with the US Post Service.

So this morning, I delivered the NDAs by hand (fortunately the company is here in San Francisco).

I’ve been out of the corporate environment for a while, so the soullessness of the building in which this company takes residence rather took me aback. The six-story building consisted of office suites overlooking a central court – rather like certain Hyatt hotels. But there was no reason to enter the central court that I could tell. Its desolation and emptiness was marked only by some wilted and pale (if large) potted plants.

Sometimes I just don’t get architecture. If the point of the building is create hundreds of cubicles to warren the dreaming beavers who hope to construct the world of tomorrow, or at the very least, the next hot thingie, what is the point of wasting half of the space on an uninviting, intimidating, and slightly sinister public plaza?

Zadar! Cow From Hell!
Thanks to the efforts of its director, Duck’s Breath’s first (and only) feature film is available on DVD. Go to ducksbreath.com for ordering info, if you’re interested. Here’s the press release:
Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre has been bringing you fine comedy in fits and starts since 1975. To celebrate their first 30 years in show business, they have already created the collector’s edition of the DUCK’S BREATH 30th ANNIVERSARY DVD.

And now they have something really special….



Before FIELD OF DREAMS (okay, around the same time), there was… ZADAR! COW FROM HELL!

Duck’s Breath’s lost cinematic treasure, ZADAR! COW FROM HELL, is now available on DVD – only at www.ducksbreath.com.

Filmed on location in Iowa, this 1988 full-length feature (showcased at the Sundance Film Festival!) is the story of a director who returns to his hometown to shoot a low-budget horror movie.

Clashes between the Hollywood filmmakers and straightforward Iowa citizens lead to an angry mob, a haunted house, a possibly Swedish mime who may or may not be an alien, and (of course) a giant radioactive cow. With musical score by Greg Brown, it's the epic and unique tale of a community forging its destiny - through cheesy special effects.

At the time, ZADAR! was nominated for best picture in the first (and perhaps only) Iowa Film Awards.

The critics spoke!

"An udderly funny movie" -- Iowa City Press-Citizen

"Zadar is a good first film by Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre, with flashes of both human insight and strong comedy" -- Cedar Rapids, Iowa Gazette

The Ducks had hoped that ZADAR! would become a cult favorite. Let’s make that happen! For only $19.95!

All the Ducks are here in their youthful cinematic glory!

Merle Kessler plays the director (and wrote the screenplay, based on a Duck’s Breath scenario), Leon Martell his beleaguered assistant, Dan Coffey the pompous hero, Jim Turner the possibly Swedish mime who may or not be an alien, and Bill Allard as the entire Mafia.

The production was directed (and the DVD created) by Robert C. Hughes (who also did the Ducks’ DR. SCIENCE children’s show, for Fox Television).

Go to ducksbreath.com for your own DVD of ZADAR! COW FROM HELL. And while you’re there, get the collector’s edition of the DUCK’S BREATH 30TH ANNIVERSARY DVD, taped live at San Francisco’s Great American Musical Hall in August, 2004.Act now! The Ducks won’t be 30 forever!

Cruise on.
Karl Rove’s snipe at liberals and Dick Durbin’s apology for his (indirect) comparison of Guantanamo Bay conditions to that of Nazi death camps notwithstanding, I find myself obsessed with Tom Cruise these days.

Okay, there’s the Katie Holmes thing. I am married a to Child Bride myself, so I cannot go after him on that one. His demeanor seems a tad hysterical, but whom am I to judge? I’m more of a phlegmatic type myself.

But then there was his strange encounter with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show last Friday, when he began lecturing the host on the evils of psychiatry – in an interview supposedly arranged to promote his new movie WAR OF THE WORLDS.

I know that Scientology has it in for Freudianism, though I don’t quite see why. They share something, I believe- the tenet that events we have hidden from ourselves prevent us from achieving what we could. With Freudians, these events are buried in our subconscious. With Scientologists, these events manifest themselves as “engrams,” which can be cleared, with time. And money, of course.

Today’s Salon theorizes that Tom Cruise may actually have become an OT-VII – that is an “Operating Thetan,” in the next-to-final stage of ultimate priesthood in Scientology. That is why he is suddenly being so – well, giddy.

According to Salon, “…Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta who has published articles on Scientology and Hollywood, also said that Cruise's behavior strongly suggests OT-VII.”

Cruise, according to Kent, "feels he's more in control over his environment and can convince more people to look into the organization. In the high OT levels one supposedly gains the skills to master one's universe. One is removing countless entities that have been holding people back. Cruise feels that he has freed himself from thousands of errant thetans, and he seems to be in a kind of euphoria he hasn't experienced before."

So Tom Cruise may be leaving this whole movie star deal behind, to become a kind of Billy Graham for the Dianetics set.

Here’s the Scientology backstory, by the way, courtesy of Salon:

“About 75 million years ago, a nefarious intergalactic warlord called Xenu rounded up the inhabitants of numerous planets, killed them, and brought them to Earth, then set off a chain reaction of cataclysmic volcanoes (the volcano pictured on the DIANETCS cover was Hubbard's favorite symbol for the notion of breakthrough and self-actualization), which dispersed their thetans into the atmosphere. These thetans now fester inside the bodies of all humans. They are to be located in specific body parts and summoned out.”

Scientology owns more than half of Los Angeles now, I believe. Errant thetans, beware!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

movies tennis n flag blog

Among the things I don’t lose sleep over.
From Reuters:

Wimbledon referee Alan Mills has had enough of noise pollution -- he wants to crack down on grunting tennis players.

Defending women's champion Maria Sharapova was recorded by a tabloid newspaper's unofficial "gruntometer" at 101.2 decibels on Center Court Tuesday.

The noise, almost as loud as a police siren, was said to have broken her previous record.

"It is something I would like to see stopped," Mills told Reuters Wednesday.

Movie lines
Some organization of import – the American Film Institute? I forget– has released its top 100 movie lines of all time. I hate lists. And yet… I read them.

Anyway, here’s some of my favorite movie lines.

“Clyde, Clyde, I lost my shoes, Clyde. I think the dogs got ‘em.”

“If they move – kill ‘em.”

“She cut off her nipples with garden shears. You call that normal?”

“So. That happened.”

“What are you gonna do today, Napoleon?”

“It’s called bogarting, and it’s very rude.”

“You people of earth are idiots!”

“Goddam! You’re one suave fucker!”

And let’s not forget—

“Fuck you, you fucking fuck.”

And so. On.

The Flag
The House of Representatives, in its infinite wisdom, has voted for a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to ban desecration of the American flag. It may actually pass in the Senate as well.

Well, this is certainly a remarkably stupid waste of time. How may flags have been desecrated by U.S. citizens since we became a sovereign nation? Enough to warrant a constitutional amendment?

And what does desecration mean? Setting fire to it, that’s a no-brainer. But putting a flag in a commercial? Having a shirt made out of a flag? Draping the flag to cover a fat ass at a Nascar rally? Putting little chintzy paper flags the size of a postage stamp on sale at your local five and dime? What if you fly a confederate flag? Is that desecration by default?

The trouble is that the flag is ubiquitous. Some ways in which it is used are offensive to me – when it is employed in advertising as an incentive to buy a product or service, for instance. Or when some chucklehead waves it at a football game, or the equivalent. But the flag belongs to all of us. There is no law restricting its representation that I know of. Any jerk can wave it. It’s one of the perqs of a democracy.

But at least the hippie who burns a flag affords it some respect. You don’t burn your shoes in protest, after all, or incense.

Maybe what we need is a tighter control on ways the flag is represented. Pass some laws. You can’t put it on your clothing. You can’t put it in your ads. You can’t hang it in your yard or put it in your window.

It must be made of only the finest cloth, hand-painted by virgins.

On second thought, maybe what we need is just one flag, one true flag, locked up in a vault in Bethesda Maryland, and watched over by Mormon Marines. And nobody can look at it. Even the Mormon Marines have to enter the vault blindfolded. Why do we need to see it? We all know what it looks like. All we need to know is that it’s there.

That’s what I’d do. If I were king.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

skin friendly polymer blog

Kids Today
The Los Angeles Times editorial page, under the guidance of Michael Kinsley, late of Slate, and other venues, recently set up an experiment, called “wikitorials,” emulating the roll-your-own, open editing wiki philosophy. (If you don’t know wiki, here is its manifesto, such as it is: http://wiki.org/wiki.cgi?WhatIsWiki)

To inaugurate the “beta” version of this experiment, readers were invited to edit, last Friday, a 1,000-word editorial, "War and Consequences," about the Iraq war.

“What they had not planned for,” writes the New York Times, “was hard-core pornography, which the paper's software could not ward off. Its open-source wikitorial software allowed readers to post without vetting from editors, who could take down posts only after they appeared.”

”‘Nothing bad happened really until after midnight on Saturday,’ said Michael Newman, deputy editorial page editor. At 8:32 p.m. Saturday, a posting on www.Slashdot.org, which bills itself as ‘news for nerds,’ directed readers to the Times wikitorial.

“’Slashdot has a tech-savvy audience that, to be kind, is mischievous and to be not so kind, is malicious,’ Mr. Newman said. ‘We were taking stuff down as soon as it went up and staving them off. Finally we had to go to bed. Someone called the newsroom a little bit before 4 a.m. and said there's something bad on your Web site, and so we just took the whole site down.’"

From today’s SLASHDOT:
“…Batman isn't from outer space and wasn't born with a mutant gene --he uses his riches, raw determination and technological know-how to equip himself to fight evil. So why couldn't the average geek do the same? I've written a story for Forbes.com that breaks down the Dark Knight's expenses and explains what it would cost to become a real-world Batman using commercially available training and technology.”

Good for you geek boy. Now please shut up.

Female Orgasms!
I got this from Reuters:
A Dutch research team took ”brain scans of 13 women and 11 men, aged 19-49…while they were being sexually stimulated by their partner and during an orgasm and compared them to images of their brains at rest.”

Team member Gert Holstege told a fertility meeting Monday, "Women can imitate orgasm quite well. But there is nothing really happening in the brain."

During a real orgasm, it seems, areas of women’s brains are “deactivated.” But they stay active when women fake it.

Holstege claimed, "The deactivation of these very important parts of the brain might be the most important thing necessary to have an orgasm.”

Well, that kind of takes the fun out of things, doesn’t it? Unless being stimulated to orgasm while wearing a helmet on your head and being observed by graduate students is your idea of a good time. Come to think of it….

From Netscape:
Archaeologists digging in Leipzig, Germany had quite a surprise when they found the remains of two Stone Age figurines that when joined together appear to depict a man and a woman making love, report Great Britain's Guardian newspaper and Germany's Spiegel magazine.

The statues, which are approximately 7,200 years old, seem to shatter the idea that sex was a forbidden subject in that time. Until now, the oldest sexual scenes found by archaeologists were on frescos that date to the time of Christ.

But what really has historians excited is that this is the oldest male clay figurine ever found. Discovered by archaeologist Dr. Harald Strauble of the Archaeological Institute of Saxony, the male figurine was found in two pieces. He dubbed the statue Adonis.

Although Strauble allowed that the figures could be depicting a ritual dance, he dismissed that and said in a news release announcing the find that this is "the oldest representation ever of a pornographic scene."

He told The Guardian, "This is such an interesting discovery, as these figurines are not stylistic, but realistic. They open up a gateway for historians and anthropologists to discuss whether sex really was a taboo subject in the Stone Age."

In other news…
Dick Cheney was interviewed on Fox News Channels’s HANNITY & COLMES. (Wow. What a scoop.) Asked about Howard Dean, he said, "I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell."

Cheney is very fond of doing this sort of thing. Remember when he dissed John Edwards during the debates? “Oh, I think his record speaks for itself. And frankly, it's not very distinguished.”

Does he spend all of his time researching the accomplishments of Democrats? Or running around trying to find people who love Howard Dean? When does he find time for his job?

Howard Dean responded that he didn’t care if Dick Cheney likes his mother or not, which is very Howard Dean-ish, isn’t it? He’s got the outrage, which is nice, but he never quite hears what has actually been said.

Back to sex…
I got this from Popbitch, a Brit gossip newsletter:
“The Nazi created the world's first sex doll: Borghild. The ‘field-hygienic project’ was an initiative of Himmler, who was concerned about the ‘unnecessary losses’ the German army suffered from in France from prostitutes.

“Borhild was created in Dresden in 1941 using ‘skin-friendly polymers’ and ‘a realistic organ.’ Borghild was meant to reflect the beauty ideal of the Nazis: white skin, fair hair and blue eyes. Its creator said it was based on ‘an artificial face of lust... exactly like the common wanton's face.’"

Where, exactly, do these common wantons gather?

Finally, from UPI
“Two makers of adult movies plan to sell their products for the console as early as July, and several other pornographers are apparently ready to follow, Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun reported Friday.

"’It is utterly undesirable, but we cannot stop software makers from selling such videos,’ a public relations official at Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. said.

What about me?
I have eliminated the need for sex through daily vitamin injections. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Wall Street Journal Blog

Found Reading Matter!
I found a stray Wall Street Journal on the street Friday, which gave me some fine reading for my public transportation journey.

First, there was Daniel Heininger’s essay on the op-ed page, the point of which was unclear to me. He started out talking about how support for the Iraq war is dropping in the polls, a phenomenon he seemed to link to the reporting of car and suicide bombings in that beleaguered region.

He wrote: “Precisely what conclusion is one expected to arrive at from any of this? If George Bush had never invaded Iraq, none of this would be happening?…. If we removed our troops from Iraq, the terror would not stop.”

That may well be true – who knows? A culture of death does seem to dominate the area. But so what?

The thing is: As more of our young people come home in body bags for no apparent gain, support for the war will continue to drop. It happened in Viet Nam, and it is happening in Iraq. Is that so hard to grasp?

What is it with conservatives? They’re constantly blaming the media when bad news happens. The media aren’t killing people, you know. What is killing people there is what Heininger calls “the death march of homicidal zombies.”

Heininger concluded “…that our own news coverage of these repeated slaughters of civilians in Iraq also lacks any normative or moral context unfavorable to the perpetrators.” I have no idea what that means. The normative context is implicit, isn't it? The fact that the killing of innocent people is senseless is what makes it news in the first place.

What are reporters supposed to write? “Homicidal zombies struck again in Baghdad today. The psycho ragheads killed 23, along with themselves. Spokesmen for the American military say we are turning the corner in the battle against Islamo-fascist scum.”

More nuggets from the Wall Street Journal!
Then there was the always-wonderful Paul Johnson (isn’t he, like, 200 years old now?). I greatly enjoyed his book, THE INTELLECTUALS, and still go back to it quite often for a chuckle at the expense of pompous hypocritical dead philosophers.

Here, he was weighing on the recent woes of the EU: “What is notoriously evident among the EU elite is not just a lack of intellectual power but an obstinacy and blindness bordering on imbecility.” Yeah! Represent!

His essay concluded, wistfully, “The Eu has no intellectual content. Great writers have no role to play in it, even indirectly, nor have great thinkers or scientists. It is not the Europe of Aquinas, Luther or Calvin – or the Europe of Galileo, Newton and Einstein.”

True. Europe - like the US, and everywhere else - is run by bureaucrats, plutocrats, corporations, and weasels. Speaking of weasels, let's take a look at Jeb Bush.

Once again, Florida amazes.
From the AP:
Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband found her and when he called 911.

Bush said his request for the probe was not meant to suggest wrongdoing by Michael Schiavo. "It's a significant question that during this ordeal was never brought up," Bush told reporters.

In a statement issued by his lawyer, Schiavo called the development an outrage.

"I have consistently said over the years that I didn't wait but 'ran' to call 911 after Terri collapsed," Schiavo said in the release.

In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, the governor said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

"Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."

McCabe was out of state Friday and couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but Bush said McCabe has agreed to his request.

On Wednesday, Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said his client didn't wait to call for help and has conceded that he confuses dates and times. He has said that if Michael Schiavo had not called 911 immediately, as Bush and others allege, Terri Schiavo would have died that day.

"There is no hour gap or other gap to the point Michael heard Terri fall and called 911," Felos said. "We've seen the baseless allegations in this case fall by the wayside one by one ... That's what I would call it, a baseless claim to perpetuate a controversy that in fact doesn't exist."

Terri Schiavo died March 31 from dehydration after her feeding tube was disconnected at her husband's request, despite years of efforts by her parents, Bush and others to keep her alive.

The governor's request followed the release Wednesday of an autopsy supporting Michael Schiavo's contention that his wife had been in a persistent vegetative state. The autopsy revealed no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused before she collapsed.

It left unanswered the question of why Terri Schiavo's heart stopped, cutting oxygen off from her brain. The autopsy showed she suffered irreversible brain damage and her brain had shrunk to half the normal size for her age.

Bobby Schindler, Schiavo's brother, said Friday his family believes more questions were raised than answered by the autopsy report and that a new legal review is appropriate.

"Anything that can shed some light on the cause of Terri's collapse is going to be welcomed by our family," he said from Bloomington, Minn., where the family is speaking at an anti-abortion convention.

But the request was immediately criticized by some lawmakers.

"Enough is enough," said Democratic Sen. Ron Klein. "I don't want to see it on TV any more, I don't want to hear politicians talk about it. Let her be at peace."

Bush acknowledged in his letter that an investigation may be difficult.

"I understand that these events took place many years ago, and that you may not be able to collect all the relevant records and physical evidence. However, Mrs. Schiavo's family deserves to know anything that can be done to determine the cause and circumstances of her collapse 15 years ago," Bush wrote. "The unanswered questions may be unanswerable, but the attempt should be made."

My conclusion?
Jeb Bush apparently wants those of his supporters who are out of their minds to think that he thinks Michael Schiavo tried to murder his wife - just like a movie on LIFETIME, starring Melissa Gilbert, mainly in flashback. Does he really think that? Of course he doesn't. He's just a big asshole. Blunt language, I agree, but let's call a spade a spade for once.

There was an article by William McGowan, entitled “Dad Ran the Hippie Squad.” Apparently, his father was not a narc, as such, but oversaw a group of narcs. According to former Hippie Squad detective Greg O’Connell, “ours was more of a social mission than a law enforcement mission.” Still, he does admit, “it was easier to take a door off its hinges” than knock, back in the day.

In 1968, the writer noted with bemusement, the “no knock” raids inspired “angry hippies to lay siege to the East Village’s Ninth Precinct.” The Squad also gave VIP tours of the “hippie scene.” And, on one occasion, while tracking down the wayward daughter of a “former mob enforcer,” Squad members wound up taking the worried Dad to Miami, where the daughter was located. However, “they didn’t pick her up right away.” Maxie, the enforcer, it seems, “wanted to party, which they proceeded to do for three days, at one point drinking with Jackie Gleason.”

McGowan assured me, though, that “a few instances of rule-bending aside, the squad was on the straight and narrow.”

What an inspiring story! Predatory hippies! Scofflaw cops! Jackie Gleason! That’s the sixties I remember. And I do remember the sixties. I didn't take drugs until the seventies. Them I don't remember.

Vincent Carroll, editorial-page editor of the Rocky Mountain News, weighed in on the controversy at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which has supposedly been infested with over-zealous Christian evangelicals.

Now, I’ve been at the receiving end of the conversion efforts of creepy glassy-eyed zealots a few times over the years, so I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Mr. Carroll’s point of view, which was that critics “seem to possess a larger agenda that involves stifling innocuous confessions of faith…” Maybe. But I still think the zealots should shut up. Well, okay. They can talk quietly among themselves, should they wish. That's what we do, here in San Francisco. You never know who's listening, do you?

In other news:
Queen Elizabeth bought an iPod! It’s silver! It has six gigabytes! It can hold 10,000 songs!
And Tom Cruise isn't gay after all. How long do you think this marriage will last? And will Katie Holmes be as classy about the divorce as Nicole Kidman was? Oh, who cares. Queen Elizabeth has an iPod!

This one really made my jaw drop as I was reading it, and I was almost downtown. How could I face the pedestrian throngs with a dropped jaw?

Bret Stephens began his essay, “What Was Served With Brunch Was Bile,” with an account of his meeting a Lebanese man who had been tortured for 12 years in various Syrian prisons. One of the instruments of torture, he learned, was the “German chair,” which was something akin to the rack of old. Why was it called the German chair? “It’s a question I neglected to ask.”

So, all right.

Then he and his wife were invited to a brunch with a German diplomat and his wife. The wives went off together, and Mr. Stephens and the diplomat were left alone in the diplomat’s study. The diplomat then went off on an anti-American rant, saying of the US human rights record: “The gulag was better than Gitmo, since at least the Stalinist system offered its victims a trial of sorts.” He told Mr. Stephens that “the Wall Street Journal takes its orders from the government.” Sitting down at dinner, the diplomat gave “a lecture on the illegality of the Holocaust under Nazi law,” at which point Mr. Stephens’ wife claimed to feel unwell, and they took their leave.

So, bad brunch. All right.

But then Mr. Stephens compared the experience to being tortured! “Torturers… are those rare people who can inflict injury on the defenseless… Thus it was with the German diplomat…. I was, so to speak, in his German chair.”

No, you weren’t! (Well, the chair in fact may have been German-made.) You were listening to the boorish ravings of an insufferable dolt! Your wife feigned a headache, and you got out of there!

This may be a hard notion for conservatives to grasp, but if you are having brunch in Manhattan, and noting an “unobstructed…view of the Hudson River,” you may be being offended, and insulted, but you are definitely not being tortured. I hope I’ve cleared that up for you.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

gitmo blog

Crime news from Pittsburgh PA
From the Associated Press

Four men were ordered to stand trial in the theft and butchering of a pet pygmy goat, allegedly so its meat could be traded for crack cocaine or money.

James W. Albright, 37, Gilbert W. Fisch, 38, Charles W. Smith Sr., 48, and Charles W. Smith Jr., 20, all of Connellsville, were held on theft, cruelty to animals and related charges yesterday.

Albright allegedly dragged the goat from its pen and tied it to a shrub, where he and Smith Jr. beat it to death on Dec. 24 in Bullskin Township, about 35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, police said. They then took the goat to Smith's residence, where his father and Fisch skinned it and cut it up, police said.

Police said Albright told them he intended to get money or drugs for the goat, but got neither.

Get that formula!
Helen Pilcher, described on All Things Considered today as a neurobiologist/stand-up comic, fronted important scientific research in the UK, to come up with a formula to make a successful British situation comedy.

This is it:

[(R x D + V) x F) + S]/A.

Pilcher explained to ZAP2 IT, "Comedic value is determined by multiplying the recognizability of the main character (R) by their delusions of grandeur (D). This is added to the verbal wit of the script (V), and the total is multiplied by the amount someone falls over or suffers a physical injury (F). The difference in social status between the highest- and lowest-ranking characters (S) is added, and finally the total is divided by the success of any scheme or stratagem in the show (A). Each term in the formula is assigned a value up to a maximum of 10 to give an overall scientific score."

THE OFFICE scored 678.

World's first sex doll built by Nazis
From Popbitch, a Brit gossip newsletter:
“The Nazi's (sic) created the world's first sex doll: Borghild. The "field-hygienic project" was an initiative of Himmler, who was concerned about the "unnecessary losses" the German army suffered from in France from prostitutes (sic).

“Borhild was created in Dresden in 1941 using "skin-friendly polymers" and "a realistic organ". Borghild was meant to reflect the beauty ideal of the Nazis: white skin, fair hair and blue eyes. It's (sic) creator said it was based on "an artificial face of lust... exactly like the common wanton's face."

“Sadly, as the war progressed badly for Germany, the project was shelved.”

Where are the Satanic cults when we really need them?
Child sacrifices in London
By Richard Edwards Crime Reporter, Evening Standard
16 June 2005

Boys from Africa are being murdered as human sacrifices in London churches.

They are brought into the capital to be offered up in rituals by fundamentalist Christian sects, according to a shocking report by Scotland Yard.

Followers believe that powerful spells require the deaths of "unblemished" male children.

Police believe such boys are trafficked from cities such as Kinshasa where they can be bought for a little as £10.

The report, leaked ahead of its publication next month, also cites examples of

African children being tortured and killed after being identified as "witches" by church pastors.

The 10-month study was commissioned after the death of Victoria Climbié, who was starved and beaten to death after they said she was possessed by the devil.

The aim of the Met study was to create an "open dialogue" with the African and Asian community in Newham and Hackney. In discussions with African community leaders, officers were told of examples of children being murdered because their parents or carers believe them to be possessed by evil spirits. Earlier-this month Sita Kisanga, 35, was convicted at the Old Bailey of torturing an eight-year-old girl from Angola she accused of being a witch.

Kisanga was a member of the Combat Spirituel church in Dalston. Many such churches, supported mainly by people from West Africa, sanction aggressive forms of exorcism on those thought to be possessed.

There are believed to be 300 such churches in the UK, mostly in London.

The report was put together by an expert social worker and lawyer for the Met after talking to hundreds of people in African communities in a series of workshops. It uncovered allegations of witchcraft spells, child trafficking and HIV-positive people who believe that by having sex with a child they will be "cleansed".

An extract reads: "People who are desperate will seek out experts to cast spells for them.

"Members of the workshop stated that for a spell to be powerful it required a sacrifice involving a male child unblemished by circumcision. They allege that boy children are being trafficked into the UK for this purpose."

It adds: "A number of pastors maintain that God speaks through them and lets them know when someone is possessed.

"It is therefore their duty to deliver the child or adult from the evil spirit.

"After much debate they acknowledge that children labelled as possessed are in danger of being beaten by their families.

"However, they would not accept they played a role in inciting such violence."

Last month Scotland Yard revealed it had traced just two out of 300 black boys aged four to seven reported missing from London schools in a three-month period.

The true figure for missing boys and girls is feared to be several thousand a year.

From Copley's News Service:
"A day after Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., likened the U.S. military's conduct at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the brutal practices of the Nazi death camps and Joseph Stalin's Gulags, the Pentagon's spokesman Thursday said such comments 'reflect a real ignorance' of conditions at the terrorist detention facility."

And why are we ignorant, one wonders.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

the blog of blogs

Oh, Matt.
Drudge really outdid himself today, in his coverage of Michael Jackson and his people demanding the return of photographs of Michael Jackson, photographs in the possession of Santa Barbara County prosecutor Tom Sneddon.

These are photographs of what Drudge chose to call Jackson’s “penis area.”

Penis area? What the--?

From Reuters:
“Microsoft Corp.'s new MSN China Internet venture is censoring words such as ‘freedom,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘human rights’ on its free online journals, Microsoft said on Tuesday…..”

Simple coding could fix this problem. Since Marxism is on the wane, why not replace democratic jargon with commie? For “freedom” substitute “false consciousness.” For “democracy” substitute “people’s struggle.” For “human rights” substitute “revolution.”

Go to it, Chinese bloggers! Use your imagination!

From the once-admired Christopher Hitchens.
“I think it is fairly safe to say that not one detainee in Guantanamo is there because of an expression of opinion. (And those whose ‘opinion’ is that all infidels must die are not exactly prisoners of conscience.) Morally neutral on this point, apparently, Amnesty nonetheless finds its voice by describing the prison itself as ‘the gulag of our times.’ No need to waste words here: Not everyone in the gulag was a ‘prisoner of conscience,’ either. But if an organization that ostensibly protects the rights of prisoners is unaware of the nature of a colossal system of forced labor and arbitrary detention—replete with physical torture, starvation, and brutal execution—then the moral compass has become disordered beyond repair. This is not even neutrality between the fireman and the fire. It surely expresses a covert sympathy with the aims and objectives of jihad and an overt, if witless and sinister, hatred of the United States. If only this were the only symptom of that tendency.”

I read this several times, trying to find Hitchens’ logic. Didn’t he used to be sensible?

Amnesty International, I’ll concede, should have been more temperate in its depiction of Guantanamo-- for PR reasons, if nothing else. But still, to conclude from Amnesty’s depiction of Guantanomo Bay as a “gulag” that Amnesty is in collusion with terrorists (well okay, in “covert sympathy” with terrorists) is ridiculous.

The problem with Gitmo (to use the shorthand), as far as United States PR is concerned, is that there is a demand for transparency on the one hand, and the need for secrecy on the other. That is a paradox of a democratic society.

But we now know that disrespect for the Koran (or Q’uran, or whatever) has, in fact, occurred at Gitmo.

I don’t care, but then I’m not a Muslim, am I? But I do know something about marketing. If you are trying to curry favor with “moderate” elements of Islam, why go out of your way to antagonize them? The problem with the conflict between transparency and secrecy is that secrets tend to be eventually revealed. Radical Muslim extremists, in that sense, are so transparent that they have become invisible. We know EXACTLY what they want- our total desstruction. Every secret we conceal becomes a weapon in their arsenal. And we, the bulky, highly visible superpower are forced to go on the defensive.

My opinion is: I think torture is stupid and counter-productive. (And evil, if that matters to anybody.) But if we’re going to torture people, tell us about it. This is what we’re doing to make the world safe for democracy: deal with it. But to say we’re not torturing people is just mealy-mouthed crap, the pile of which has never been so enormous as from the Bush administration.

Back to Hitchens’ point: he seems to be accusing Amnesty International of colluding with terrorists. Why? Because Amnesty seems to hold the USA to a higher moral standard than terrorists. Apparently Hitchens doesn’t. Maybe he's right.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Monday Monday

MJ Acquitted!
Here’s the lyrics for a song I wrote ten or so years ago:

Deep in the night, no one’s ever flown higher.
The Lost Boys are singing me in.
To be where they are is my only desire.
I don’t know the meaning of sin.

Come Peter Pan, take my little brown hand.
Tinkerbell, sprinkle your dust.
Into the night, second star from the right!
I’ve got your happy thought. Give me your trust.

I’ve tasted glory. Glory be done.
I’m done with this planet, third world from the sun.
How can a child live a life as a man?
Release me from life in this tired Neverland.

Come Peter Pan, take my little brown hand.
Release me from life in this cold Neverland.

He doesn’t want to have sex with ten year olds. He wants to BE ten years old. In my opinion.

Another child star, revealed.
Danica McKellar, Winnie from the WONDER YEARS, is going to pose in a bikini for STUFF Magazine, to “prove she’s not a little girl anymore.”

In a hardhitting no-holds-barred interview for the magazine, Ms. McKeller reminisced:
“I was a total nerd. I was actually kind of uppity. And the boys [of Wonder Years] were pranksters. I never had little brothers, so I was totally not used to hearing a lot of cussing at a young age! I learned what ‘pull my finger’ meant the hard way.”

Poor kid. There are so many EASY ways to discover what “pull my finger” means. But those ways, apparently, were closed to her.

From Texas!
Houston, to be precise, courtesy of Yahoo: “Two daughters have sued a synagogue after they found a potato chip can in place of their mother's remains behind the locked, glass door of her niche in a mausoleum."

The potato chips, allegedly, were sour cream and onion.

What does THIS mean for the EU?
Headline found on AP: “Nearly 40% Of French Men Wish They Could Be Pregnant, Poll Says”

For horny gamers!
“Virtually Jenna," according to the game’s press release, features Jenna Jameson in a scenario that lets players "simulate control of her sexual activity and even decide when she reaches a state of bliss."

But you can do this with yourself, for free! If you don't mind the hair on your palms. And going blind.

State of bliss, old school.

Cheney offended!
In a touching display of concern for the opposition, Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox’s Hannity & Colmes that Howard Dean, the Democratic Party’s national chairman, is “not the kind of individual you want representing your political party.”

Maybe Tom DeLay could apply for the job.

Big Brother Lite.
This is from an article in USA Today, about employers monitoring employees’ off-duty behavior:

“At the Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, bartenders and waitresses can be fired if they gain more than 7% of their body weight. They are first given a 90-day unpaid suspension to lose the weight. Officials say it is a recent clarification to the company's appearance policy….

“Lynne Gobbell was fired from her job packing insulation by her Moulton, Ala.-based employer for displaying a John Kerry bumper sticker on her car…..”

On the left side of the coin, “…half the states have laws preventing employers from firing workers who smoke off duty…”

It’s the new, creepy America. Political correctness from the right and left! Plus! We seem to be owned by China!

Up and Down?
What is this new DC fetish with the “up and down vote?” What is this, high school? Yeah, I can see a straight up vote for class treasurer, but for lifetime positions for federal judges?

Another thing: this so-called moderate coalition that stalled the so-called "nuclear option," did it prevent the confirmation of Janice Rogers Brown? What was so damn moderate about it then?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

black and white blob

Went to a garden party….
The wife and I attended the biennial Black and White Ball, a treasured event here in San Francisco, one that raises funds for the San Francisco Symphony. She being an employee thereof, we received free tickets, though we had to provide our own finery.

For people-watching, the event was quite fun. If you want to, you know, listen to music, it was a little less rewarding.

The venue is broken down into five different areas, in which classical, jazz, country, r&b, and rock are performed by famous and semi-famous performers.

But one had to wade through mobs of drunken Paris Hiltons and their cigar-chomping Guidos, none of whom seem to have any interest in actually listening to music in any form. We did get to sit outside the tent where the Violent Femmes were playing, but the Chavs in stiletto heels kept lurching into us while shouting incoherently into their cell phones. This interfered with the audio portion of the program.

One of the venues, however, was the Asian Art Museum. The exhibits were open, but sparsely attended, so the wife and I got to stroll through the museum pretty much unsupervised and alone. It was a moment of stillness in an event that otherwise resembled the kind of corporate event that used to be staged to gun up the sales force. Only in this case, nothing was being sold.

James Dean
Upon awaking this morning, the wife took it into her head to see a James Dean double feature at the Balboa, a wonderful art/revival/see-it-now-before-it-goes-to-DVD house in the Richmond District.

Teen angst in Cinemascope! With real butter on the popcorn! REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and EAST OF EDEN! A great way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Hitler-du-jour blog

Beautiful Atrocities

Once, many many years ago, after one of my drunken rants about something or other (all of which I recant, dear readers!), a listener told me that I was "worse than Hitler." That sobered me up.

I had been talking about young adult novels, and how much I hated the concept, which (to my mind) isn't really equivalent to mass murder, and very nearly ending western civilization as we know it. I'm not that fond of western civilization myself, except for westerns, barbecues, yard sales, and used book stores, but mass murder is not even on my list of cultural solutions.

Well, sure, I did say that the writers of young adult novels should be shot, but I didn't actually MEAN it. Maybe I shouldn't have said it, you say? Ah, as John Collier put it, if youth knew, if age could. At least I don't have a cult following and a racist ideology. Small comforts mean so much.

The guy who runs the blog Beautiful Atrocities, who has more time on his hands than perhaps he should, compiled a handy list of various comparisons to Hitler that have occurred in the recent past. The list includes:

Rick Santorum compares Democrats to Hitler
Robert Byrd compares Republicans to Hitler
John Glenn compares Republicans to Hitler
Martha Stewart compared to Hitler
George Soros: Worse than Hitler
North Korea compares Rumsfeld to Hitler
Hugo Chavez compares Spanish PM Jose Aznar to Hitler
Global warming worse than Hitler
"Look, he's a Hitler lover." Donald Trump on Pat Buchanan
Madonna compares AIDS & Hitler
Ted Turner compares CNN rival Fox to Hitler
Ad Compares Taiwanese President to Hitler
"Those who support gay & lesbian families are no different from those who supported Adolph Hitler." Sheri Drew, who led opening invocation at 2004 Republican Convention
Sean Penn compares Bill O'Reilly to Hitler
Czech PM compares Yasser Arafat to Hitler
British Foreign Secretary compares Saddam to Hitler
Robert Mugabe compares himself to Hitler
Phil Spector: "The actions of the Hitler-like district attorney & his storm trooper henchmen are reprehensible."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu compares Israel to Hitler
Rumsfeld compares Zarqawi to Hitler
Cardinal Joachim Meisner: "First there was Herod, then there was Hitler & Stalin, & today unborn children are being killed in their millions."
Ralph Peters compares Howard Dean to Hitler
Ross Perot compares Clinton to Hitler
Hawaii ACLU compares Clarence Thomas to Hitler
Justice Scalia is worse than Hitler
Smokers compared to Hitler
“What is the difference between Lomborg's view of humanity & Hitler's?" UN official denounces The Skeptical Environmentalist
Truman compares Dewey to Hitler
Schwarzenegger: Hitler on Steroids
Michelle Malkin: the Filipina-American Hitler

Come on, New York!
From the NYT:
“The Tribeca Grand Hotel has just announced their new iStudio - a premium room outfitted with the digital pioneer Apple's latest multimedia technology…

“For aspiring auteurs and amateur film buffs, Tribeca Grand is also featuring a 3Director1s Cut2 package that includes accommodation in an iStudio room outfitted with a top-of-the line G5 computer, Camcorder iSight video conferencing camera, iPod and Bose Sound Dock. The package also includes a Sony HandyCam Digitial Video so guests can record their personal in-room experiences as well as those in the surrounding neighborhood and city.”

Does it have pay-per-view porn? Or do you have to make it yourself?

Oh Shut Up, Dept.
John Dean in Salon:
“I believe that Felt had to have one or more persons working with him. Thus, others in the FBI must have known Felt was feeding the Washington Post.”

Maybe we need to hear this, but we don’t need to hear it from you.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


You say Quran, and I say Koran- let’s call the whole thing off.
It looks like NEWSWEEK is off the hook, kind of, for the upheavals in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press last week informed us:
"The Pentagon on Friday released new details about mishandling of the Quran at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspectsm confirming that a soldier deliberately kicked the Muslim holy book and that an interrogator stepped on a Quran and was later fired for 'a pattern of unacceptable behavior.'

"In other confirmed incidents, water balloons thrown by prison guards caused an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet; a guard's urine came through an air vent and splashed on a detainee and his Quran; and in a confirmed but ambiguous case a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Quran."

No Quran was flushed down a toilet, though. We have that to cling to.

Philosophy Talk.
I do a piece every other week for a new public radio program called PHILOSOPHY TALK (details here: http://www.philosophytalk.org/whatsNew.htm). Hosted by two Stanford professors, the show takes a weekly look at the world from a philosophical point of view. It is an excellent program, and I am pleased to be a part of it.

(You can listen to past shows on-line; details here: http://www.philosophytalk.org/notesPastShows.htm; or you can catch the show LIVE, via the miracle of audio streaming, here: http://www.kalw.org/listen.html. The program airs Tuesday at noon PST, live. You will need RealAudio, available free, here: http://www.real.com/)

KALW, the station that first aired PHILOSOPHY TALK, gave away as a premium during its last pledge drive, a brunch with the Philosophy Talk Team – which includes me, even though I’m not much of a team player.

It was a very pleasant afternoon on a cool sunny day at Stanford, meeting with folks who thought enough of the show to give 250 bucks to the station. Though small-ish (15 to 20 people), they were quite enthusiastic, especially about the even-handed and civil approach John Perry and Ken Taylor bring to the proceedings. I wolfed down a ham and cheese omelet (lox and spuds on the side), with orange juice, coffee, and a cheese danish. I talked with some very nice people, and only embarrassed myself once!

Afterwards, John gave a tour of the campus (which is quite lovely; I hadn’t seen it since the late seventies, when Duck’s Breath performed there; I remember playing the very first iteration of Asteroids in the student union). He revealed an episode of Stanford history that I’d forgotten – the mysterious death of University founder Jane Lathrop Stanford (widow of Leland), in Hawaii, in 1905. Her body was brought back to California by David Starr Jordan, the president of Stanford University, who may, some theorize, have murdered her.

Coming Home
Ben Manilla, producer of PHILOSOPHY TALK, gave me a lift back to the Muni line in downtown San Francisco, where some kind of pro-Israel rally had just broken up. As I approached the stairs to go underground, I noticed that a bearded man roughly my age had his face pressed against the window of one of the numerous upscale coffee/pastry/sandwich joints that dot San Francisco. There was a miniature plastic flag of Israel flapping from his back pocket.

In the window was a blown-up photograph of a boy, blood on his face, throwing a rock. There was a middle-aged Arabic-looking woman behind it, holding the photograph up to the window with one hand, and giving the finger to the bearded man with the other. He was thrusting his middle finger back at here, saying in a low voice, “Fuck. You. Fuck. You. Fuck. You.” I couldn’t hear her through the glass, but her lips were moving, and I believe she was doing the same.

Earlier that same day…
Some drunk guy ahead of me in line at Walgreen’s (this was 10 in the morning, on a Sunday), was telling the assistant manager behind the register that he was going to report her and Walgreen’s to the Better Business Bureau. As near as I could tell, he was angry because he was trying to buy at a discount two 8 packs of peanut butter cups with a coupon that was only good for 8 packs of some other confection.

Later, earlier that same day…
Some soccer mom, with her adorable whelp, was angrily refusing to fold up her stroller on the crowded N Judah. Finally, when the patient driver told her he could not continue unless she complied with regulations, she grudgingly complied.

Ah, life in wartime....

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Deep Blog Revealed!

Deep Throat Revealed!
And wouldn’t you know it, all of these people are coming out of the woodwork to say that they knew it all the time. Nora Ephron, Carl Bernstein’s ex, revealed on her blog that “I knew Deep Throat was Mark Felt because I figured it out.” Robert Novak, in his column, wrote, “Everybody knew that Felt was leaking information to Woodward and Bernstein about the Watergate investigation.” (I’m surprised that Novak didn’t leak the information; after all, he’s done it before.)

So one of the great mysteries of the 20th Century was no secret at all. Everybody knew who Deep Throat was except you and me. At least I know who really killed President Kennedy. But you know that too, right? It was Judge Crater.

Nora Ephron
In addition to having sussed the identity of Deep Throat centuries before the rest of us, she directed and co-wrote BEWITCHED, in theaters June 24. I am certain that this movie will make me shudder, but our friend and partner in Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre, Jim Turner, has a major part in it – Larry, Darren’s boss. Therefore I urge everybody to go see it, so Jim can get his SAG bennies, and pay his mortgage in a timely fashion.

Creepy Drug.
A new study suggests that the neuropeptide oxytocin plays a major role in the formation of trust in human beings. It is hoped that this information could be useful in the treatment of autism. It could also lead to a resurgence of confidence games. Exposed to excessive amounts of oxytocin, we will read Nigerian e-mails with tears in our eyes, and send off checks until our accounts are depleted. Consider yourself warned. Even if you’re not on the oxytocin, believe me, I’m a guy you can trust.