Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dickie's Quickies

The Taliban in Afghanistan are attacking children and schools. Residents are frustrated that their government, the U.S., and the British are not doing enough to protect them. Keep this in my when Mr. Bush or his wife try to remind you of how much improved the lives are of women and children in Afghanistan. Surely, some things have improved, but it isn't black and white and some things have gotten worse. What to do? I don't know at this point, but we might look into putting more troops there, along with our partners. We should never have gone into Iraq without dealing with finishing the job in Afghanistan, that is for certain.

Libya locks up rape victims for their own protection and out of respect for their Muslim traditions. Disgusting.

Something a little on the cheerier side: S/M themed handbags. Hat tip to the lovely Violet Blue.

Finally, Boing Boing is infuriated with a company that now filters their site because they have posted nudity. The editors there note, as I have done here, the obvious point that nudity is not pornography. SmartFilter, which is an oxymoron, doesn't get it. To protest these actions, Boing Boing suggests posting a picture of David which you see at the top of the screen. Nudity is not pornography. Of course, this site has often posted nude photography that some would argue is pornography, though I would greatly disagree. That sounds an awful lot like a point I made about a protest on Flickr that I proposed a couple of weeks ago. Still, late to the game Boing Boing and only aiming your protest because it affects your interests and the party involved is not your friend, better late than never. I post 2 pictures in solidarity with you along with your banner.


I woke early this morning with a disturbing dream. I dreamt that Shawn and I had just come home from a funeral. Exhausted and sad, I lied down to take a nap. During the nap, I dreamed that I was having a conversation with the deceased. Only, it wasn't really a dream. I was actually having a conversation with the deceased who turned out to be my friend, Phil. Phil was telling me that I should honor him by going out and eating a particular flavor of ice cream. I don't recall the flavor, but the brand looked like a former Soviet Union type brand with the lettering in bright gold and the letters were "CCEE", with the "CC" in backwards script. The ice cream was basically a chocolate nougat with almonds in vanilla. Phil said, "If you get one of the knock offs, then be sure to get one with whole almonds. It's got to be whole almonds. That's what makes it. Don't get it with other nuts or chopped nuts or almond slivers. That shit ain't right." In my dream's dream I woke up and started to tell Shawn about it. Then I really did wake up, but Shawn was fast asleep.

I got out of bed and went to get a glass of water. I returned to bed, hoping to sleep some more. I dozed off for a bit, but I found the dream quite unsettling. I finally just got up. The whole dream was obviously silly. It originated from a combination of things. First, reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods has me thinking about dreams and dream interpretation. Secondly, Phil hasn't been signed on to any messaging software lately, but his wife is overseas and I figured he was taking some time for himself and the boys. Third, I'm pretty sure that my neighbors had a death in the family and the funeral was yesterday.

To bring some resolution to my concerns, I sent Phil an email this morning. I told him of this dream and remarked how silly I felt about being unsettled about it. The email was just a quick note to ask if he was OK. It ended with: "Of course, if you're not, then I won't demand a reply."

Phil wrote back. He was at Disney with the boys. All is well except for his workload today.

A side note: I was telling Shawn about the whole episode this morning. She reminded me that we have some experience with writing dead people in our past. Shawn wrote an email to our friend Margie some years ago. It was an hour or two later when we learned of Margie's death at the hands of a gunman, who was on a rampage because Margie's daughter broke up with him, earlier that morning. I had written Shawn an Instant Message and she told me the news that she had just found out. We were both in shock. Shawn found out by reading about it on the web. The family still has scars from losing their matriarch and a daughter as well as having a brother shot in the rampage. Even now, my fingers grow weak thinking of it.

Monday, February 27, 2006

DHS Harassment

The Department of Fatherland Security was caught on tape harassing a federal employee because he had bumper stickers on his car that run contrary of the Administration. The whole thing in the Boise Weekly, but a tidbit below:
However, after his experience with the "Bushit" sticker last year, he was also quick to reference the Hatch Act, the rules that lay out exactly what political activities federal employees are allowed to participate in. According to the Hatch Act, political bumper stickers are allowed on cars parked on federal property, with no stated limitation on either size or number of stickers. So by the current rules, Scarbrough's car would seem to be legit--unless the "elsewhere" of the pamphlet rule is meant to extend to personal property as well as government property.

Dickie's quickies

Last week I made a simple pasta dish for dinner. To the pasta, I added some collard greens cooked in garlic and oil, a can of white beans, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, a little paprika, some grated Parmesan cheese and some bleu cheese that I threw in at the last minute because it was lying around. The impetus for this recipe was the fact that I had collard greens lying around and needed to use them. I was also looking for something simple.

We really enjoyed the dish. One thing though: I got a particularly strong head of garlic. I mean, mind blowingly strong. Though I only used 2 cloves, minced, we could taste it on our breath for the entire next day. I swear I can still smell garlic in the house. Don't get me wrong: we love garlic, but whew! Last time I had this problem was several year's ago when my friend Ellen and I made a garlic bread for dinner. We just put some butter and some chopped garlic on a rustic loaf split in half. I remember waking up the next morning on Ellen's couch tasting the garlic. When she came out of her bedroom and went to the bathroom, I swore I could smell garlic as she walked. My brother and sister told me later that they could smell the garlic sweating from my pores. I wasn't very popular that day. :-)

Hey, Google video says, why let the Chinese have all of the fun? Let's censor content going to the U.S. audiences, too. (according to the Register).

Riverbend, she of the Iraq based blog, Baghdad Burning, has this to say about the recent civil strife:

Yesterday they were showing Sunni and Shia clerics praying together in a mosque and while it looked encouraging, I couldn’t help but feel angry. Why don’t they simply tell their militias to step down- to stop attacking mosques and husseiniyas- to stop terrorizing people? It’s so deceptive and empty on television- like a peaceful vision from another land. The Iraqi government is pretending dismay, but it's doing nothing to curb the violence and the bloodshed beyond a curfew. And where are the Americans in all of this? They are sitting back and letting things happen- sometimes flying a helicopter here or there- but generally not getting involved.

I’m reading, and hearing, about the possibility of civil war. The possibility. Yet I’m sitting here wondering if this is actually what civil war is like. Has it become a reality? Will we look back at this in one year, two years… ten… and say, “It began in February 2006…”? It is like a nightmare in that you don’t realise it’s a nightmare while having it- only later, after waking up with your heart throbbing, and your eyes searching the dark for a pinpoint of light, do you realise it was a nightmare…

Sunday, February 26, 2006

RIP - Octavia Butler

Boing Boing is reporting that Octavia Butler died yesterday as a result of injuries from a fall at her home. She was 58. If true, then the writing world has lost a true gem. Butler's parables about race and gender politics, written in the Sci Fi genre, are magnificent works of art.

Update: Obits in the Seattle PI and the Seattle Times. Truly, a sad occassion for the literary world.

Sunday morning reading

Independent Online reports that Iraqi death squads within the Interior Ministry are adding fuel to the civil strife.

This was the sort of killing that touched off Lebanon's civil war in 1975. Already an exchange of populations is taking place in Baghdad as members of each community move to districts in which they are in the majority.

The ability of the US occupiers to influence the situation is not only limited, but some of their actions are seen as making things worse. The Americans have been trying to dislodge Mr Jabr as Interior Minister, accusing him of turning his ministry into a Shia bastion. But the Shia believe that the US and its allies, the Kurds, simply want to prevent the majority community from gaining full power over security despite winning two parliamentary elections in 2005.

Also in the Independent, a report of the deployment of British troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. is pushing the government there to eradicate the heroin crop. There are no plans to compensate the farmers who grew those crops. The Americans will not be sending troops in to quell the understandable animosity created. That will be done by the British and the Afghan troops. Rock. Hard place.

Afghan forces themselves are concerned, however. "It will be a big mistake to cut the crop this year," said Abdul Shakur, police commandant in Helmand's provincial capital, Lashkar Gar. "The people have nothing else and they will get angry."

Lt Shabaz Ali, of the 3rd Battalion of the Afghan army, said: "If I am ordered to destroy the crop, then I shall have to do so, [but] we should leave them alone this year and then give them compensation next year before cutting the crop.

"The farmers will turn against us and the British. They have guns and they can fight."

Rox Populi is urging readers to take a look back in history to the cult of personality surrounding Stalin. She's asking you to read Krushchev's words on the subject.
Stalin originated the concept "enemy of the people." This term automatically made it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man or men engaged in a controversy be proven. It made possible the use of the cruelest repression, violating all norms of revolutionary legality, against anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin, against those who were only suspected of hostile intent, against those who had bad reputations. The concept "enemy of the people" actually eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight or the making of one's views known on this or that issue, even [issues] of a practical nature.

Don Knotts: RIP

Washington Post report on Don Knotts, dead at age 81

Friday, February 24, 2006

Buckley concedes

Even William F. Buckley has come to the conclusion that the war in Iraq has failed to bring about the results he had hoped for.
Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

Friday Art Blogging

Bill Steber is documenting the blues culture in Mississippi. Both of these photos were taken in the late 1990s. Check out his site and hear him discuss the work.

Brandon Scott has a way with conveying light and shadows in his illustrations.

Chloe Poizat has a very nice collage feel to her illustrations.

Claudio Edinger, photographer whose work is just wonderful. He captures moments in people and places in a rather beautiful way.

Eldon Denini was a cartoonist for Playboy in the 60s.

Eleanor Davis, illustrator who's doing fine. I really like her black and white "personal works" better than much of the color, commercial work.

Fred Kyrel is a fetish photographer whose work is clearly influenced by fashion photographers.

Jose Martins, illustrator with a good eye. Some of his works are like miniature paintings.

Kirinawa, fetish photography that rises above many in the genre. There are some fantastic artistic elements in his work.

Lisa Krivacka's work focuses on travel pictures on an imaginary American landscape.

Maryn Roos, illustrator who focuses on works for children.

Oscar Grillo, illustrator who also has a professional blog to go with his personal one (first link).

Penelope Dullghan, illustrator, from her series, "The Best Advice I Ever Got"

Peter Lenzo, sculptures worth losing your head over.

Robert Valley, illustrator, comic artist, and short film maker.

Tony Fitzpatrick, amazing collage art.

Friday Random Ten

Reduced this week to ten songs (though I've probably listened to twenty by now). Here ya go:

01) Quantic Soul Orchestra - End of the Road
02) Lou Rawls - Love Is A Hurtin' Thing
03) The Kinks - Celluloid Heroes
04) Quinn - Rising Star
05) Ultra 396 - Woo Makes Idiot Americans Fuck War
06) Malcolm Lockyer - Uncle Fred
07) Vladislav Delay - The Third Quater
08) Heather Nova - Blue Black
09) Afro-Mystik - Follow Me
10) Marty Wilson - Harlem Nocturne

Good mix this week!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Morrissey, terrorist?

Morrissey was visited by both the FBI and British Intelligence (an oxymoron, given the topic) for speaking out against both governments and labeling George W. Bush a "terrorist".
"They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, and similarly in England. But it didn't take them very long to realise that I'm not

Um, I sure hope that it didn't take them too long. For godsakes, it's friggin' Morrissey! A rock star!! Watch out, Jagger. "Sweet Neocon" is bound to get you a talkin' to. Hat tip to Wonkette.

You think life is bad?

Your mind might feel crappy after that last meeting, but a couple of scotch and sodas and you'll be clean. The people in this village are going to be cleaning up for a much longer time.

Or...your next meal could be coming from this place.

Iraq questions

As Iraq slips further towards civil war, will our politicians use this as an excuse to pull the troops out even earlier than their original time line (just before the elections)? If we do, will the effort be seen as a failure if Iraq slips into civil war? What will neighboring countries think of us if Iraq splits into 3 factions or if one faction takes control in a dictatorship? If we don't pull out, will we be asked to assist in enforcing some sort of martial law? If any of these conditions prevail, how is it to the benefit of the U.S. and/or the Iraqi people? Thoughts?

Dickie's Quickies

Kircher's Cat Piano.
In order to raise the spirits of an Italian prince burdened by the cares of his position, a musician created for him a cat piano. The musician selected cats whose natural voices were at different pitches and arranged them in cages side by side, so that when a key on the piano was depressed, a mechanism drove a sharp spike into the appropriate cat’s tail. The result was a melody of meows that became more vigorous as the cats became more desperate. Who could not help but laugh at such music? Thus was the prince raised from his melancholy.
Johnny Weir, American figure skater who placed 5th in the Olympics, is definitely not going to be appearing on a cereal box anytime soon. The man's a loon:
He says he's been obsessed with the Holocaust since he was little and considers himself "a little bit" Jewish, although he isn't, not technically. He says he's had his past lives read and found out that most recently he was a Jewish girl from Poland during World War II.

"I mean, it makes sense if you think about it," he says. "Like, what 4-year-old gets into learning about how 6 million people were exterminated?"

Around his neck, Johnny wears three chains with a knotted mess of pendants, including two Stars of David, an Israeli army dog tag, an Italian horn to protect him from the mal occhio , or evil eye, a miraculous medal of Mary, and the letter D, which stands for the Christina Aguilera song "Dirrty," because Christina Aguilera is his role model.

"I don't take them off ever and I don't untangle them because, like, their powers are all hidden in this knot," he says.

One site/publication is claiming that Dick Cheney had definitely had more than "one beer" while hunting. Cautionary note: this is a web report - no hard cider evidence yet found.

We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.

"This was a South Texas hunt," says one White House aide. "Of course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."

One agent at the scene has been placed on administrative leave and another requested reassignment this week. A memo reportedly written by one agent has been destroyed, sources said Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Drink recipe for the day

Trader Vic's Scorpion:

Serves 1:

- 2 ounces silver rum

- 1 ounce brandy

- 2 ounces orange juice

- 1 ½ ounces lemon juice

- ½ ounce orgeat syrup

- 1 cup crushed ice, plus additional ice cubes

- 1 gardenia, for garnish

Combine rum, brandy, orange juice, lemon juice, orgeat syrup and crushed ice in an electric blender and pulse for a few seconds, just until uniformly combined. Pour into a double old-fashioned glass and add ice cubes to fill. Garnish with the gardenia.

A rare moment

Honestly, I do not understand the response of members of the Democratic party to a UAE company running operations at some ports in the U.S. Yes, I understand that they are trying to score points, but they are doing it by running quickly to the right. They are expressing xenophobic attitudes of the sort that are normally reserved for those conservatives who carry on about immigration concerns. Seriously, these people need to get back in touch with the term "liberalism" and the meaning behind it's philosophy. I suppose the fallacy in this approach is that Democrats are liberal which is often not the case despite Republican propaganda to the contrary.

Don't get me wrong. If you want to go after the incompetence in the way this was handled (either the disclosure or the process, which I'm not at all certain was incompetent) I'm all for it. If you want to go after possible corrupt practices involving John Snow's connections, then I'm all for it. If you want to go after the David Sanborn angle on corruption, then I'm all for that, too. Heck, if you want to do some in depth research into administration statements that might have contributed to this level of xenophobia, then I'd support that.

But I agree with Bush that xenophobia has no place in this discussion. It's a red herring by Bush, of course. Let the Republicans eat their own on that portion of the topic and let cooler heads prevail. And while you make your arguments based on reason, remind the xenophobes that Chinese companies have similar contracts in the U.S. and that country has been known to spy, steal secrets, and abuse human rights (as Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Cisco were reminded of last week).

Savage apathy

I love The Stranger. The paper is everything an alternative paper should be. They have a blog, called The Slog, which I also find amusing. Like any blog it is filled with the thoughts of the staff on a variety of subjects. Some of the subjects are similar to what you can read here. There are thoughts on art, politics, oddities of the world, social commentary, etc. Dan Savage, editor of The Stranger, book author, and syndicated columnist contributes to The Slog.

Savage recently got himself involved in the Muslim cartoon idiocy. He contributed several postings to The Slog which raised a great deal of conversation about free speech and sensitivity to religion and the appropriate response. Dan came down on the free speech side of things - a point of view I share. Dan's responses were sometimes well-reasoned; sometimes snarky. Ultimately, The Stranger commissioned an article on the topic and re-printed many of the offending cartoons. The debate on The Slog was entertaining and occasionally thoughtful. Savage was forceful in defending the right to offend and I can appreciate that.

However, Dan Savage was also prone to ridiculous symbolism. My favorite was when he went out to buy Danish beer, cookies, and cheese for his Super Bowl party. Typical of American capitalist response, he would run out and buy products associated with the aggrieved party as if that was a show of solidarity for political beliefs with any meaning. It's as vacuous a response as Republicans banning French fries (but since they couldn't let go of that deep fried goodness, they renamed them instead in order to make themselves feel better about their lack of any convictions...oh, and ditto the Iranians when it comes to danishes). In fairness, this all happened before The Stranger printed a more thoughtful piece along with the cartoons. Other contributors to The Slog also had more thoughtful input.

This morning I logged in to read this post by Dan Savage in The Slog. The idea of going to the Danish consulate and having a vigil of some sorts in order to voice thanks and solidarity is a great idea (Christopher Hitchens deserves some - rare as of late - praise for coming up with this one). Savage thinks so to, that is, until he realizes that the Danish consulate in the Seattle area is, horror of horrors, 10 miles or less away on Mercer Island:
It would be nice to demonstrate but, Christ, how would we get there? Couldn’t the Danes put their consulate in a more convenient location?

OK, I appreciate the snarky, if provincialist comment there at the end. Seattlites are nothing if not provincialists despite their WTO props. They do tend to whine about why anyone would ever want to live outside of cities, especially their fair city. Hey, I lived there for a number of years and loved it, but it ultimately wasn't for me and I was never so stuck on myself, the righteousness of my opinion, or my city to claim superiority over those who make different choices, as Savage often does.

However, the more important part of the quote is that first statement. How apathetic does one really have to be to not find a way to get to Mercer frickin Island 10 miles or less away?!!? Bus? Bike? Walk? Car pool? How vacuous are your political "convictions" that you can't find a way to make it?!!? For godsakes, people go to Washington, D.C. to march in support of their convictions for feminism, gay rights, equal rights, abortion, etc and you guys cannot make the 10 mile trip to Mercer Island?!!? Give me a fucking break and boo fucking hoo to you. Cry me a goddamn river and let it run dry so that underneath it I can see how shallow your "convictions" really are, despite your almighty talk of free speech. Geez...asshats.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Renewable Energy

President Bush is traveling around the U.S. touting his energy program. On the one hand, Bush is telling folks that we have to decrease our reliance on foreign oil supplies. No argument there. Former president Carter made the same argument nearly 30 years ago. On the other hand, however, when the Bush proposed budget came out, it contained cuts to the alternative energy programs. That's right - cuts. These programs have not been making headway using the monies they've been given, how were they expected to make more headway through cuts in their budgets? I mean, if Bush has better programs and organizations, then lets see them. Thus far, the President has not offered any such programs. Astute observers of politicians will note: it doesn't matter what the politician says as much as it matters on how the politician votes to spend your money. Follow the money and you can get a very clear idea of the values and positions the politician takes. Listen to the politician and you'll probably just want to bang you head against the wall, take massive amounts of drugs, or hang yourself from the shower rod.

From the Washington Post:
The Energy Department said it has come up with $5 million to immediately restore jobs cut at a renewable energy laboratory President George W. Bush will visit on Tuesday, avoiding a potentially embarrassing moment as the president promotes his energy plan.

...Bush proposed spending millions more dollars in renewable energy research. However, Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists questioned the administration's commitment when jobs were being eliminated at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.


The ensure the Colorado laboratory will have the people to carry out that research, the Energy Department transferred $5 million over the weekend to the Midwest Research Institute, the contractor that operates the renewable energy lab, to restore all the jobs cut earlier this month due to budget shortfalls.

"The action we are taking today will allow the dedicated employees at NREL to continue their work that will bring us great innovation in renewable energy technologies," Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said in a statement on Monday.

"The programs at NREL are critically important to realizing the President's vision to diversify and strengthen our nation's energy mix," Bodman said.

The Energy Department took the money from other accounts. The DOE said it will try to restore those funds by using money from several projects mandated by Congress in 2001 and 2002 "that have failed to make progress."

Got that? If not, then let's try to break it down: The President was about to go to this lab and use it as a backdrop for his energy policy. One problem: The President and Congress cut the funding for this lab. A potential embarrassment was avoided when money was transferred for a one year extension to workers at this lab who were about to be laid off due to funding cuts. The money came from other programs that were to receive funding in 2002 and 2003, but the administration never spent the money so they "failed to make progress". Imagine that?

If I recall my Constitution correctly, Congress writes laws and appropriates spending. The Executive Branch suggests spending and can either veto it or sign it into law at which point it either goes back to Congress for mark-up (or over-riding a veto) or it becomes law and the money is mandated to be spent. If the Executive branch does not spend the money, is it then breaking the law? Not that this troubles the Bush administration or it's congressional minions, but I don't believe that the Executive branch can just choose not to spend the funds. If they don't like the bill, then they should send it back to Congress to re-work it or work with their minions to re-write a portion of the bill. I'd be interested in knowing which programs "failed to make progress" and whether or not it indeed breaks the law to not spend the money.

Another point: now, I don't know about you, but I've worked in places where budgets and job security were a problem. In such situations the tendency of employees is to generally jump ship. Sure, many stay in hopes that their funding or jobs may continue to get extended, but some just decide that they cannot take that risk. The result? A serious drain on the company's resources ensues as they lose quality, trained employees forcing them to seek out and train replacements. Not exactly the wisest use of funds or internal resources. When livelihoods are threatened, even dedicated employees make reasonable decisions to find employment elsewhere. Stupid and incompetent management on the administration's part, though I'm happy that said employees are getting a year's notice so they can look for work. Smart employers in the field will begin headhunting immediately.

Santorum's funding

The American Prospect looks into Rick Santorum's finances and comes up with some pretty shady deals that have favored the person in charge of re-writing Senate ethics rules.
What we found is that Santorum’s exurban lifestyle is financed in ways that aren’t available to the average voter back home in Pennsylvania -- namely a political action committee that lists payments for such unorthodox items as dozens of trips to the Starbucks in Leesburg, a number of stops at fast-food joints, and purchases at Target, Wal-Mart, and a Giant supermarket in northern Virginia. Although a Santorum aide defends those charges as legitimate political costs, good-government experts say the expenditures are at best unconventional, and at worst a possible violation of Senate rules, and the purchases appear to be unorthodox when compared with other senators’ filings.
He also, apparently, got favorable treatment for a mortgage refinance from an institution that Santorum wouldn't normally qualify for a loan from. That institution is a contributor to his campaign, his PAC, and one of it's members sits on a charity board with Santorum.

Rick and Karen Santorum do not appear to fit the profile of customers to whom the financial institution would normally issue a loan of any kind. According to information currently posted on Philadelphia Trust’s Web site, banking services “are offered at no additional charge to our clients” and “are available only to investment advisory clients whose portfolios we manage, oversee or administer. Interest rates on loans and deposits are competitive. Loan payments will be customized to match each client’s specific needs. Approved loans will be collateralized by your investment portfolio.”

Santorum’s financial disclosure forms filed with the clerk of the Senate show that he has never maintained an investment portfolio with Philadelphia Trust. For that matter, the senator would hardly fit the profile of the “affluent investor” that the Philadelphia bank seeks -- namely, people with investment assets of at least $250,000. On his 2002 disclosure form, Santorum listed liquid assets, primarily retirement accounts and life insurance, in a range no greater than $140,000.

Been quiet

Sorry, I've been quiet lately. I've been engrossed in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. While Gaiman's prose is not as lyrical as my favorite writers, he's spinning a good yard. I'm a little over halfway through it and I'm anxious to see if he can tie this up, make the connections, and take the novel to a deeper level. That's a good thing as I'm still intrigued and he's not showing all of his cards yet. There are some terrific moments describing fictionalized, but based on some fact events in American history in the book as well as a great depiction of life in Wisconsin (Lakeside). I loved it when a character in the book hears a waitress refer to the "yoopie" only to later come to understand that she meant "U.P." as in Upper Penninsula of Michigan.

So, um, news as of lately. I suppose I've been following what I refer to as the misery index. As I read of Mexican miners trapped, the terrible mudslide in the Philippines, drought in East Africa, the killings, torture, and rape of people in Darfur, and the on-going problems in New Orleans. These links come from a variety of sources: NY Times, BBC, The Independent, AllAfrica.com, and The New Standard (whose continued reporting on New Orleans has been incredible and puts to shame the rest of the nation's major newspapers which reflect the amnesia of a population reminiscent of a Charlie Kaufman film).

Gaiman references the misery index in his book. He discusses how humans tend to, not so much bury our heads in order to avoid the misery of the human condition, but rather tend to relegate the misery to shadows. Such miseries become a natural part of the landscape. They apply to both the beggar on the street as well as to larger tragedies such as those listed above. It's a survival technique. We are comforted that our "government", "NGOs", "religious organizations" and the like - something as nameless and faceless - without story - is seeing to these issues. Really, notes a Gaiman character, does knowing the story behind one starving child and feeling empathy for that child also reflect upon all of the other children in a similar plight? Does it reflect upon the child's brother who lies just feet away, also starving and helpless? He's got a point. We're overwhelmed in such circumstances.

And yet, we spend a great deal of time focusing on the stories of sports figures. Sure, there are fewer stories to tell, but one of the ways the entertainment world hooks people into their sales trough is by telling the stories behind the athletes. It is not good enough that we can marvel at the athlete's accomplishments in the arena. No, we must be told about the obstacles that athlete had to overcome to get to this point in her life. The more obstacles the better. It only engages us more and if the athlete doesn't meet the medal platform, then we can forgive her and console her with the fact that she overcame so much and she made it this far.

I'm not disparaging the athletes. They are caught up in the media world that they depend upon in order to pursue their career. I suppose I am disparaging the media. If only we spent a little more time focusing on the stories of people whose obstacles, at least at this point, are much greater than most in the west could possible imagine. Even so, the media cannot be solely to blame as Gaiman noted, it's a survival mechanism for us to eventually tune it out or to get caught up in one story to the detriment of the greater plight.

So, we carry on as best we can. My choice is to read these stories and follow up on them as best as I can. I prefer to look the human condition in the eye. That includes celebrating the triumphs and worrying about the tragedy. It doesn't make me any different than millions of other people. I feel helpless when it comes to the tragedies. I give when I can and I write my representatives and urge them to give more. That's really the point of this post. That, and to say, "Hello" to the readers.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dickie's Quickies

Scott has a good post this morning on the Dick Cheney fiasco. I'd like to point out that this is another example of the utter incompetence of this administration. Where or not you believe Cheney might have been drunk, he still could have had his spokespeople handle the situation. He chose not to do that and it's raised a lot of suspicions. Cheney should be held accountable for his arrogance. And someone should shut Scott McClellan the fuck up. If I hear that prick say one more time, "The American people..." Fuck you, Scott...you don't speak for me any more than O'Reilly or Franken do.

Time on line has a good article on how people move in and out of government to work for lobbyists. The whole scheme is so slimy that you'll want to take a shower after reading it.
The $160,000 committee post meant an almost 90% pay cut, but Shockey's lobbying firm helped cushion the blow. Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez—where Lewis’s close friend Bill Lowery, a former California congressman, is a partner—gave Shockey a $600,000 going-away buyout, according to Shockey’s financial disclosure form. He was to receive his buyout in three $200,000 payments scheduled for February, May and August 2005—even as he was in his committee post. The firm would also keep Shockey in the family by hiring his wife, Alexandra—another former Lewis aide—as a consulting lobbyist.
Apple lovers finally get the attention they've been whining about - a worm of their own.

Friday Random Ten plus ten

Roxanne started this meme and I wanted to give her credit. Here's my list of twenty random songs. Now, Rox, if you're reading this the reason I do 20 is because I so often miss a week. It's my penance. It's not a bigger is better issue. I've been very good at keeping this up in recent weeks so I'll probably ratchet down to 10 again, soon.

01) Darrell Banks - Beautiful Feeling
02) Simian Mobile Disco - Pulse
03) Ozomatli - Saturday Night
04) Curtis Mayfield - The Underground
05) Milton Delugg - The Outer Limits
06) Klaus Schulze - A Classical Move
07) Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - Work Song
08) J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding - The Major
09) The James Taylor Quartet - Return of the Hipster
10) Mavi Çocuklar - Tamzara
11) Saskia Laroo - It's Like Jazz
12) Tom Waits - Baby Gonna Leave Me
13) Little Axe - Take Me Back to the Country
14) Les Baxter - Amazon Falls
15) DJ BC - Glass Prison
16) The Herbaliser - How To Keep A Girlfriend
17) Chenard Walcker - Vodun
18) Gert Wilden & Orchestra - Blues Party
19) Marty Wilson - Taboo
20) Isreal Vibration - Tippy Tippy Toes

Friday Art blogging

Starting off this week's selection with 3 from Ceiling of Glass. I'll let the artist's statement explain it for you:

i seek to capture the haunted side of life
the unnerving juxtapositions when a beautiful
moment is infiltrated by disturbing energy

Dennis Jones has a pretty amazing site displaying his illustrations. Not only are the illustrations very well done and with plenty of humor, but the site design is top notch.

Derek Yu is a talented illustrator and painter. I'd like to see more of his painting on his site.

El Senor Juanito presents some interesting and sometimes disturbing images in his illustrations. I love the way he creates motion and insight by using 2 different styles, layered to illustrate what is happening.

Geoff Cordner captures the punk aesthetic in his photography. The grainy black and white photos of various models add to the tough world that he portrays. Terrific work

John Kricfalusi's work might be familiar to many of you as the mind behind Ren and Stimpy. Check out his blog for more of his work.

Jurg is a painter whose work combines beauty, caricature, and the grotesque.

Justin and Josh Parpin are brothers, in college, each with blogs and both illustrators. Talent runs in that family. The bottom illustration is by Justin for a class assignment of a Robinson Cruiso type character.

Kelly Alder's illustrations are very well done.

Mark Daughn's site a pretty typical nude photography site. I did find his esoteric section amusing.

Men of my Dreams is a gay porn site. However, skip the erotic section (which is pay for view) and go to the models and art sections for some interesting and enticing works.

Ron English's paintings are amazing. It was hard for me to narrow down to 3 to post here. He's got a show coming up with Mark Mothersbaugh and I think these show why.