Monday, May 29, 2006
America Salutes Her Fallen Heroes

All 2,464 of them.

(credit to the Freeway Blogger)
12:05 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Too Much Is Never Enough

I haven't been slacking nearly as much as it might look. And I plan to post again later today, but I hate letting two whole days slip by without slapping something onto the blog. The real problem with blogging is how it comes to own you over time -- now that I've invested more than two years of my life into this thing, what, am I supposed to just quit? As if.

Anyway, as if this one wasn't enough, I just put together another goddamn blog. A few months back I made an attempt at a proper website for all my non-Sister Novena activities, but the content management system I was using was just too complicated. The irony was that in trying to avoid the headache of creating a website from scratch, I entered into something that was a much bigger headache. But I've scrapped all that now and started again, using the mad blog skillz I already possess. I just spent the last eight hours beating the template into submission. Yes, it's an ass-backwards way to build a website, but it'll do for now. And it's going pretty well, except that I can't get any javascript stuff to work.

There's no fucking way I'm going to publish the URL here -- those who should know will know (and those who fear that I may inadvertantly skip you over, feel free to make your plea in the comments.) I just wanted to explain why you've been hearing so many crickets chirping over here.

PS: And never you fear, the bulk of my blogging will still take place here -- this one's comfy in all the right spots now. The other one is just, y'know, to produce an illusion of professionalism. But I still love this one best.

PPS: Everybody say howdy to my super-awesome Auny Vicky, who found this blog and through some rather impressive deductive reasoning figured out which relative wrote it without any other clues. Vicky is my favorite aunt, and I'm not just saying that because she's the only one who's found my blog. I'm saying it because she's a kindred spirit, and one of the few other liberals in the family. Which isn't to say that I don't love all my Republican relatives -- I do, or at least most of them -- but I feel a particular kind of connection with her. She's my vegetarian, yoga-teaching, reality-based aunt. Hi Aunt Vicky!
12:28 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 26, 2006
Friday Link Dumping

So, let's see what Grandma's got in her magic handbag today.

Oh, here's a good one: 35 cover versions of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart, one of my favorite songs ever. But who doesn't love this song? The author says that the two rules of indie rock music success are, "Rule #1: Put a hot girl on keyboard or bass; Rule #2: Cover Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart." Sounds good to me. (Doug, have you considered that this may be your missing ingredient?)

Bonus points to these guys for taking it in the most unexpected direction: throat singing! Yay!

That reminds me: have I ever mentioned to you how much I loathe the Wiggles? Truly, I despise them with every inch of my being. I can tolerate the Doodlebops, I have no quarrel with Barney, but the fucking Wiggles must die. I can't explain what it is about them that sets me off -- maybe it's the primary colors, or the songs that blithely dismiss how yucky vegetables can be, or maybe just the overwhelming soulless white-boy-ness of it all (and that goes double for Jeff.) But I hate hate hate the Wiggles and want them to just fuck off already. Which is why I thoroughly enjoyed this. If only it were true.

What? You want a toy, too? Greedy little bastards, aren't you? Okay, okay, Grandma's got a toy for you. Here, this should keep you busy for a while. While you're up, dear, would you mind bringing Grandma her flask of "medicine"? And if I'm asleep when you come back in, try not to wake me up. In fact, I might just go upstairs until your parents get home -- heh, me and Grandpa might go "take a nap!" Heh! Know what I mean? "Take a nap?" Damn kids.
11:49 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, May 25, 2006
Secular Savior

In memory of ol' DNA, it's Towel Day. I'm wearing mine on my head as I write this.

Is it silly? Oh yes. But it's no sillier than Easter.
10:49 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Boring Wednesday Afternoon

I think my eyesight is starting to decline. Not much, not yet -- but I've noticed that text is starting to go a bit blurry at a distance. The first time I noticed it was during hay fever season, and I thought maybe my eyes were just a little irritated and teary (though honestly, allergies are rarely a problem for me, so that was probably just grasping at any explanation apart from the obvious.) But then it kept happening, and then I noticed that if I squint, the text will usually resolve itself a little more cleanly. Which leads me to think it's not so much a question of irritation as of declining vision. And then, while shooting some video footage this last weekend, I noticed that using the eyepiece has become a little harder -- I was having to pull back to check my focus. Bother.

It's all a bit ironic, since as a kid I desperately wanted glasses -- how much nerdier can you get? And now that I'm looking at the possibility of actually needing them one day, I don't want 'em anymore. I'm not to the point of needing them yet -- I can still read small text at a distance of several feet with no real problem. It's just that I'm having to rely on the shapes of whole words rather than individual letters these days. My right eye is definitely having a harder time than my left one.

And there's absolutely no denying that I'm going grey now. I know you can't see it yet, but then that's what the box of hair color is for.


Yesterday I went to the library and checked myself out 1500 pages of light reading. (Seriously, I added it up and it came to exactly 1500 pages on the nose.) That means I have to read at least 100 pages per day to even entertain a hope of finishing them all. It's actually only three books: A Country of Strangers by David Shipler; Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby; and How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker. (See, Greensmile? I told you I'd get to it.) I'm also attemtping to request, via interlibrary loan (because there's no fucking way any of these are available in the north Mississippi library system) The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins; The Trials of Lenny Bruce by Ronald Collins; and Sure Seaters: The Emergence of Arthouse Cinema by Barbara Wilinsky. (That last one is the one I really needed six months ago, when I was finishing up my thesis. I lost half a grade because I didn't have enough on the history of arthouse cinemas, on which surprisingly little is written. I finally found this book exactly four days before my thesis was due, and I tried to frantically order it from Amazon, but they were slow on the uptake and I missed my opportunity. So it's all's fault that I only got a B+.)

So I guess we'll see how all that goes. I'm not exactly holding my breath.

Anyway, here's somthing amusing for a dull afternoon: backwards movies. For example:


An enormous iron ship surges up from the vast depths of the ocean in order to save a large number of people who are inexplicably, and somewhat foolishly, floundering in the water near an iceburg. It then kindly takes them back to Southampton.

The Matrix

After a long day of beating people up in videogames, neo gets a sleeping pill from a black guy in sunglasses so that he can wake up in time for his boring office job in the morning.

The Passion of the Christ

A man awakens to find himself nailed to a cross without knowing how he got there, possibly after heavy drinking. Of course he is let down shortly after and the Romans tend to his wounds with a whip of +5 healing after he helped them get the cross back to storage. They parade him in front of a crowd as thanks, before re-arresting a criminal who had been mistakenly released in the man's place, despite the consternation of the crowd. He walks away with some of his friends, one of them lies about having said he didn't know him.

He gets to the peaceful garden of Gethsemane guided by Jewish escort and one of the man's friends leaves with them after kissing him goodbye, as per the custom.

The man cries to the lord about how he doesn't want to face agony for his divine plan. The Lord say k, n prblm. The guys friends go to sleep because it's been a long fucking day

My modest contributions:

My Dinner With Andre: Wallace Shawn takes a taxi to a restaurant, arriving simultaneously with Andre Gregory. Andre talks about all the stuff he's never done and how monotonous his life is as they both repeatedly vomit into their plates. Wallace Shawn becomes increasingly relaxed and sure of his place in the world. Then Andre leaves, Wallace hangs around for a few minutes longer, and then he leaves too.

Amadeus: Antonio Salieri rescues the near-retarded Mozart from the brink of death by curing his tuberculosis and teaching him how to compose music. Amadeus hooks up with a random single mother, conquers his drinking and gambling habits, practices a lot, and composes a few pretty good operas. Salieri is really pleased for him.

Babe, Pig in the City: Babe ships a lot of helpless animals off to an animal testing facility. He then turns Mrs. Hogget in to the DEA and heads back to the farm where he pulls Farmer Hoggett out of a well, only to push him back down again.

C'mon, join in, it's fun!
11:26 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, May 22, 2006
But I Draw The Line At Battlefield Earth

The DaVinci Code is by all accounts a pretty bad movie. I'm sympathetic to the theological ideas behind the book, but I certainly don't assume that they're any more true than any other biblical concept. I think the plot execution is possibly entertaining but ultimately silly and fluffy, and not to be taken seriously on any level. I'm still pissed off at Ron Howard for The Grinch. And I don't know about you, but I'm kinda tired of seeing Tom Hanks' face on the screen.

But shit, I think I may have to go see it anyway, just to piss off the American Taliban.

Anyone else want to come?
1:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Reagan's Worst Nightmare

Commencement was soggy. I'd been looking forward to a lovely spring weekend in Vermont, taking my mother down the backroads and walking around town, but instead it rained and rained and rained and rained and rained without ceasing from the moment we broke through the clouds over Boston upon arriving until the moment we ascended above them again as we departed. Mom was too cold to stay outside much, and the backroads were undoubtedly too muddy to trust that our rental car would be able to slog through them, so instead we just kinda hung around, did the commencement ceremony, and sighed about the rain. Trust me to graduate in the year of the "'06 floods."

And the rain wasn't the only downer of the weekend -- only a couple of days before, some Freshman had managed to go and get himself killed in a one-car accident on the college road. Compounding the bleakness of his death was the fact that, even on a small, intimate campus, very few people seemed to know who he was. Finally someone came up with some pictures, and he looks like a typical student from my college -- very much a hippie, a flag of Che Guevara hanging over his bed, into Hunter S. Thompson. Some of the other students have leapt upon the opportunity to wax gothic on the subject of death and loss (mostly overplaying, I suspect, the impact of death upon them -- people who've suffered close losses rarely talk about it that way, I've found,) but probably I'd have done the same thing when I was 18 or 19 years old. I was as pretentious a college kid as any the first time around.

Our commencement speaker turned out to be better than I'd anticipated -- she referred to the members of my graduating class as "Reagan's Worst Nightmare." One can only hope. All I know is, it took the 70 of us more than half an hour to arrange ourselves alphabetically preceding the ceremony. We can mumble about Foucault and postmodernism until Michel himself just wants us to STFU, and we're more than happy, as a tribe, to take the stupidest things (the flavors available in the soda fountain, the cups in the dining hall and the lack thereof) and apply Marxist theory and existentialist thought in our arguments over Sunkist versus Gatorade, paper versus plastic. But asking us to put 70 people in alphabetical order is like asking a pig to play Parcheesi: if we succeed, it'll only be in spite of ourselves.

When I first left college and Vermont, I'd left with the strong sense that I'd left unfinished business, that I'd be called back to wrap things up sooner or later, that I still had some living to do in New England. This time, as in December when I actually finished, my feeling about the place is that I'm thoroughly done with it. As much as I love Vermont and the people who inhabit it, and as much as I'd like to feel at home there, I just don't. If there's any merit to the idea that places choose us more than we choose places, then Vermont has very clearly not chosen me; Memphis and Mississippi, I suppose, very clearly have. At least for now. (I still want to make an expatriat of myself one of these days.)

Almost immediately upon coming home, I was back out again, this time into the Mississippi delta near Greenville. I'll be writing more about the specifics of that elsewhere (an elsewhere that remains under contruction at the moment, which is why nobody has seen it, though it's the next thing on my list to work on today.) But the trip brought up one subject that fits better here, and I'm interested to hear what other people think, so it makes sense to discuss it on the blog that already gets the traffic. It's one of those subjects that we're already all familiar with (to the point that it's easy to get tired of having to think about it), but now and then you get a fresh insight (in this case one that was obvious in retrospect, even if it never managed to break the surface of my intellect) and you find yourself re-thinking the entire question from top-to-bottom.

In the United States (and in the southern states specifically, and in the world in general), where does race end and class begin?

I'm not going to delve too deeply into my thoughts on the subject just yet, because I'm still chewing the question over in my mind and I'm not ready to commit to any particular line of thinking. But in a society where being a member of a racial minority and being poor are so closely and inextricably connected, how do we go about determining which is which? It's largely a rhetorical question -- the first obvious point is that you can't separate the two that cleanly -- but I think it's still a valid one. How much of what we think of as racism is really classism? Is classism a product of racism or vice versa? How much of what we think of as black culture is actually poverty culture? Is it possible that all this time we've all (and I mean all: black, white, liberal, and conservative) been thinking we were talking about one phenomenon when really we were talking about something else entirely? We're still not really allowed to think about class in the United States -- in our alleged meritocracy, class isn't supposed to be a factor in life, and so we tend to go through life discounting its effects. But how can we even begin to deal with a problem if we can't recognize it for what it is and admit it exists? How can we think honestly and act effectively if we're only thinking about and acting on half the issue?

This changes everything. I've got some serious thinking to do.
12:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Christ, I feel like I've been gone for a month.

Commencement in Vermont was at least a few weeks ago, right? My calendar says it's only been six days, but I could swear I've been gone ten times that long. Maybe that's just the Delta time-warp talking.

Anyway, I'm home from my travels now, and re-asserting my dominion over this blog. I want to extend my gratitude to Smithers, Diana and Doug for feeding the blog and taking it for walkies while I was away. Coming home and reading what they wrote in my absence was like a tiny Christmas morning. So thanks again, kids.

This post obviously isn't an account of the past week -- you're going to have to wait for me to decompress a little before I can provide that. What I'm most concerned about right now is the fact that my RSS feed reader currently lists over a thousand unread posts, and my email inbox contains utterly nothing of any value. That's exactly the reverse of what I was hoping for.

But I can tell you this much: I still don't have my diploma.*

*Yes, Shaw, you were right.
6:18 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 19, 2006
The Ascension

by: doug

So I was lying in bed this morning really not wanting to get up. You know the feeling. My 4-year-old daughter had climbed into bed with us at some point in the night. Everything was just sort of calm and peaceful. My wife got up to take a shower, leaving my daughter and I snoozing as the sunlight filtered its way through the blinds.

Somewhere in the distance I could hear the rumbling of heavy equipment. This is a strangely calming noise to me. I don't know why. I suppose it reminds me of when I was a kid and we lived about two miles from some train tracks. On a still Winter night you could hear the trains, but not during the Summer. I suppose it has something to do with leaves and trees and stuff. Whatever. The point I'm making is that I was lying peacefully in bed ... content you might say.

My wife returned from her shower and, like every other morning, gently started waking our daughter up. I could feel the moist warmth as she leaned over me to kiss her sleeping forehead. Such a tender moment. I think I may have smiled in my half-sleep.

My daughter's beautiful blue eyes fluttered open, her cheeks flushed with sleep she parted her rosebud lips and said, "If you live with Jesus you don't have to be afraid."


* *

? ? ?

My initial reaction was to vomit.

My second reaction was to say, "I thought you were afraid of ghosts." But she probably wouldn't have understood that.

Really what I did was sort of look at my wife who was looking at me with a mild amusing incredulity. She, being the less sarcastic and more sensible of the two of us asked, "Where did you hear that?"

My daughter said that one of her friends told it to her. I already knew the answer to it, as did my wife. We'd heard stuff like this before:

"Jesus is the boss of the world."

"Jesus lives in heaven with the angels."

My reaction is always the same. A worrisome little bit of bile trying to work its way up from my gullet pulling along with it a snide and/or sarcastic comment ("If Jesus is the boss of the world why can't he get us longer coffee breaks?"). Fortunately I inherited--from my mother's side of the family--a cast iron-stomach and an awesome sense of timing.

The thing is, I have absolutely no problem with so-called Christians. In fact the underlying concept of Christianity is fairly palatable. It's when Man got his little hands on it that things started getting ugly.

But I don't want to talk about that ... it's all academic anyway.

What I can't stand, more than ANYTHING ELSE about modern Christianity, is the brain-washing aspect. The filling of 4-year-old minds with rhetoric like, "Jesus is your buddy." Young kids have a lot of stuff to learn, they don't need clutter like that elbowing out "how to tie your shoes" or "don't walk in front of a moving car."

I'm sure there are some middle-aged women somewhere dressed in whatever passes for haute couture among the religious-right, the "bad smell" expression permanently etched into their faces despite being drenched in the latest noxious fumes from a Calvin Klein knock-off think that when a kid says, "Baby Jesus cries every time you tell a lie," it's just the cutest thing in the world.

Well, it's not. I know cute. I'm surrounded by "cute" 24/7. Rhetoric is NEVER cute. Rhetoric gets people in trouble. It makes the smart people of the world not want to take you seriously. We just roll our eyes and walk away. Arguing with someone spouting rhetoric is like arguing with a 4-year-old.

Caveat: it's not just Christian rhetoric that makes me want to puke. A lot of things make me want to puke. Maybe I'll resurrect my own blog someday and foist my opinions on the world. But opinions make me want to puke too ... so, there you go.

PS: My wife just informed me that the actual quote was: "If you live with Jesus you don't have to take naps." This changes everything.
9:08 AM ::
sysop:vanblah :: permalink

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Al Gore Gives the State of the Nation

I wish I knew how to put Flash thingies into the blog. But I don't, so you will have to click here instead to see Al being funny. Really funny. He's good!
8:31 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Quite Possibly the Biggest Piece of Bullshit on the Internet Today

Sorry folks, I am incapable of expressing this thought any more elegantly. This link takes you to a piece of unadulterated, complete and utter BULLSHIT. (Except the ugly bit perhaps...)

[John] Howard's word [is] his bond, Bush says.
10:59 PM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Now I've Seen it All

Margaret Thatcher - Gay Icon
8:37 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Here's Another One For the Sister

I know she just loved "V For Vendetta". This guy also just loved it.

So, logic would suggest that Sister Novena, also, will just love this article, right? What do you think? Would she think it's a hit, or shit?
8:24 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Sunday, May 14, 2006
I Want To Have Stephen Colbert's Babies

OK, I admit it: I'm out of the loop. It's taken me TWO WEEKS to get wind of Stephen Colbert's GENIUS speech at the White House Correspondents dinner. That man has gigantic cojones! So, of course, now I'm OBSESSED with this speech. I was reading it to my 73-year-old mom today--btw today's MOTHER'S DAY, so call yer mom already--and she was loving it! Well, she didn't love it as much as she loves going on and on about things like how her friends Euveeta and Phyllis get jealous of each other if she calls one of them more often than the other one, or how her friend Betty will get her feelings hurt if Mom doesn't join the Lutheran church--but she appreciated the jokes the way a true Democrat does. The poor woman is a lone Democrat in a small, Tennessee town full of simple-minded Republicans (bless their hearts).

Well, I don't know about blogger etiquette, but I'm going to put a full transcript of his speech right here. I got it from the Daily Kos website at, so I hope a shout out to him is enough to compensate for using his transcript here. Also, you can see a great video of the entire speech here.

Sister Novena might decide to delete the entire thing when she gets back, which is fine by me. But when I started encountering lots of people who had only vaguely heard of the speech, or had only seen snippets, I thought it was my duty to put the full transcript SOMEWHERE else where it could be seen. We can't have too many of these floating around! My God, a house full of liberal hipsters in Bellingham, Washington, hadn't even heard the speech!

Here it is:

STEPHEN COLBERT: "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin, I've been asked to make an announcement. Whoever parked 14 black bulletproof SUVs out front, could you please move them? They are blocking in 14 other black bulletproof SUVs, and they need to get out.

"Wow! Wow, what an honor! The White House Correspondents' dinner. To actually -- to sit here at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what? I'm a pretty sound sleeper; that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face. Is he really not here tonight? Damn it! The one guy who could have helped.

"By the way, before I get started, if anybody needs anything else at their tables, just speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers. Someone from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail.

"Mark Smith, ladies and gentlemen of the press corps, Madame First Lady, Mr. President, my name is Stephen Colbert, and tonight it is my privilege to celebrate this president, 'cause we're not so different, he and I. We both get it. Guys like us, we're not some brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We're not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut. Right, sir?

"That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. Now, I know some of you are going to say, "I did look it up, and that's not true." That's 'cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that's how our nervous system works.

"Every night on my show, The Colbert Report, I speak straight from the gut, okay? I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the "No Fact Zone." FOX News, I hold a copyright on that term.

"I'm a simple man with a simple mind. I hold a simple set of beliefs that I live by. Number one, I believe in America. I believe it exists. My gut tells me I live there. I feel that it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and I strongly believe it has 50 states, and I cannot wait to see how the Washington Post spins that one tomorrow.

"I believe in democracy. I believe democracy is our greatest export. At least until China figures out a way to stamp it out of plastic for three cents a unit. As a matter of fact, Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, welcome. Your great country makes our Happy Meals possible. I said it's a celebration.

"I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.

"I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical!

"And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's yogurt. But I refuse to believe it's not butter.

"Most of all, I believe in this president. Now, I know there are some polls out there saying that this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias. So, Mr. President, please, please, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash. Okay.

"Look, folks, my point is that I don't believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull before a comeback. I mean, it's like the movie Rocky. Alright? The President, in this case, is Rocky Balboa, and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world. It's the tenth round. He's bloodied. His corner man, Mick, who in this case, I guess, would be the Vice President, he's yelling, "Cut me, Dick, cut me!" And every time he falls, everyone says, "Stay down, Rocky! Stay down!" But does he stay down? No. Like Rocky, he gets back up, and in the end he -- actually loses in the first movie. Okay, doesn't matter. Doesn't matter.

"The point is it is the heart-warming story of a man who was repeatedly punched in the face, so don't pay attention to the approval ratings that say that 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he's not doing? Think about it. I haven't.

"I stand by this man. I stand by this man, because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things, things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world.

"Now, there may be an energy crisis. Well, this president has a very forward-thinking energy policy. Why do you think he's down on the ranch cutting that brush all the time? He's trying to create an alternative energy source. By 2008, we will have a mesquite-powered car.

"And I just like the guy. He's a good Joe, obviously loves his wife, calls her his better half. And polls show America agrees. She's a true lady and a wonderful woman. But I just have one beef, ma'am. I'm sorry, but this reading initiative. I'm sorry, I've never been a fan of books. I don't trust them. They're all fact, no heart. I mean, they're elitist, telling us what is or isn't true or what did or didn't happen. Who's Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was built in 1914? If I want to say it was built in 1941, that's my right as an American! I'm with the President. Let history decide what did or did not happen.

"The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will.

"And as excited as I am to be here with the President, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of FOX News. FOX News gives you both sides of every story: the President's side, and the Vice President's side.

"But the rest of you, what are you thinking? Reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished.

"Over the last five years you people were so good, over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

"But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!

"Because, really, what incentive do these people have to answer your questions, after all? I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So, the White House has personnel changes. And then you write, "Oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring! If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!

"Now, it's not all bad guys out there. There are some of the heroes out there tonight: Christopher Buckley, Jeff Sacks, Ken Burns, Bob Schieffer. I've interviewed all of them. By the way, Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to be on my show. I appreciate it. I was just as shocked as everyone here is, I promise you. How's Tuesday for you? I've got Frank Rich, but we can just bump him. And I mean bump him. I know a guy. Say the word.

"See who we've got here tonight. We've got General Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff. We've got General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They still support Rumsfeld. Right, you guys aren't retired yet, right? Right, they still support Rumsfeld. Look, by the way, I've got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble: Don't let them retire! Come on, we've got a stop-loss program; let's use it on these guys. I've seen Zinni in that crowd on Wolf Blitzer. If you're strong enough to go on one of those pundit shows, you're strong enough to stand on a bank of computers and order men into battle. Come on!

"Jesse Jackson is here, the Reverend. Haven't heard from the Reverend in just a little while. I had him on the show. It was a very interesting interview, very challenging interview. You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants at the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.

"Justice Scalia is here. Justice Scalia, may I be the first to say, "Welcome, sir!"
[After each sentence, Colbert makes a hand gesture, an allusion to Scalia's recent use of an obscene Sicilian hand gesture in speaking to a reporter about Scalia's critics. Scalia is seen laughing hysterically.]
You look fantastic! How are you? Just talking some Sicilian with my paisan.

"John McCain is here. John McCain, what a maverick! Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you it wasn't a salad fork. This guy could have used a spoon! There's no predicting him. By the way, Senator McCain, it's so wonderful to see you coming back into the Republican fold. I've actually got a summer house in South Carolina. Look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University. So glad you've seen the light, sir.

"Mayor Nagin! Mayor Nagin is here from New Orleans, the chocolate city! Yeah, give it up. Mayor Nagin, I'd like to welcome you to Washington, D.C., the chocolate city with a marshmallow center and a graham cracker crust of corruption. It's a Mallomar, I guess, is what I'm describing, is a Mallomar. It's a seasonal cookie.

"Joe Wilson is here. Joe Wilson, right down here in front, the most famous husband since Desi Arnaz. And, of course, he brought along his lovely wife Valerie Plame. Oh, my god! Oh, what have I said? Ay, gee monetti! I am sorry, Mr. President, I meant to say he brought along his lovely wife "Joe Wilson's wife." Patrick Fitzgerald is not here tonight, right? Okay, dodged a bullet.

"And, of course, we can't forget the man of the hour, new press secretary, Tony Snow. Secret Service name: "Snow Job." Toughest job. What a hero! Took the second toughest job in government, next to, of course, the ambassador to Iraq. Got some big shoes to fill, Tony. Big shoes to fill. Scott McClellan could say nothing like nobody else. McClellan, of course, eager to retire, really felt like he needed to spend more time with Andrew Card's children.

"Now, Mr. President, I wish you hadn't made the decision so quickly, sir. I was vying for the job myself. I think I would have made a fabulous press secretary. I have nothing but contempt for these people. I know how to handle these clowns.

"In fact, sir, I brought along an audition tape and with your indulgence, I'd like to at least give it a shot. So, ladies and gentlemen, my press conference."

That's the end of the speech. Then he shows a hilarious "audition tape" that shows him being stalked by Helen Thomas.
1:27 PM ::
marnie starr :: permalink

Sister Novena Will Like This One

Why Republicans Are Bad For Free Enterprise
8:34 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Domestic Bush Supporters Now So Rare, US Dependent On Foreign Fans

If I wasn't just a guest on this blog, (and highly inexpert one at html and formatting and stuff) I would put a link right here to make it easy for you to jump to Sr Novena's post of 8 May ... you know, the one with the news story where "President Bush's approval rating [slumps] to 31%". But I have no idea how to do that: you will just have to scroll down for yourself.

Anyway, I'm guessing that people prepared to go on the record and say things like this:

"The relationship is very close and I do have a close relationship with President Bush.

"I like him and we think along similar lines on a lot of issues."


are getting a bit thin on the ground over there. So thin on the ground in fact, it would seem that they have to be imported.

So, who the hell would say that?

Sigh: My own arse-licking prime minister, that's who, who's just arrived in Washington DC for a few days of, well, arse-licking. And while there, he's slotted into his usual role of being a gold class member of Bush's fan club; albeit that there's hardly anyone left in that club now.

It's so unbelievably embarrasing, really it is. I mean, trust me, there would be no more than 31 per cent of Australians who approve of Bush either. In fact, I would be surprised if it's that many. I've had many conversations with people who, like me, just want to crawl behind the sofa whenever they see Howard bobbing up and down beside Bush, grinning obsequiously and agreeing with everything he says. Aaaargh.

In preparation for tomorrow night's news, I'll clear a space behind the couch now.
4:04 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Saturday, May 13, 2006
Out Of Town

I'm going to be out of town and out of reach of the blog for a week, through next Saturday -- I've got things to do, people to see, stupid hats to wear. But I've made arrangements so that you won't be left entirely alone while I'm away. I've got guest bloggers! (Now I know I've really made the big time.) The subs will, time permitting, be dropping in to write about... some stuff. To be honest, I didn't press for details, but I'm sure it'll be good. And don't blame them if they can't keep up with my arcane formatting methods.

If you bastards make any of them cry while I'm away, you'll have me to answer to after I get back.
12:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Dear Mom

Thank you for not eating your young.

Happy mother's day.

Sister Novena

(Got to do it early since I'll be gone on the day -- she won't even read it for a week anyway, I bet. But don't worry, I got her a card too.)
10:53 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 12, 2006
Friday Grøss-erie Blogging

I really don't get David Blaine. Or, I should say, I get the man's schtick just fine (there's really not much to it), but I don't get the motive behind it. He's a magician, sure, but he seems to have mostly ceased to do magic, which is good since we've all seen enough card tricks for one lifetime. But he doesn't seem to have found a real replacement for card tricks, because now he's just taking on increasingly absurd dares in the hopes of making a spectacle of himself.

No, for my spectacle-going dollar, I want something altogether more impressive than a wanker in a goldfish bowl. For example, I'd be quite happy to go see the biggest fuck-off puppet show in the history of the world; a 43-ton wooden elephant walking the streets is definitely my idea of a show.

Yeah, that's the stuff.

If that's not hands-on enough for a Friday afternoon, you could always try contributing a few lines to a massive collective sketch -- the current subject as I write this is "Knights Templar." The drawings, strangely, all kinda look the same, but in a good, modern-art kind of way.

Or we could always spend some time meditating on the art of the mundane. Shopping lists are a window to the soul.

I don't know who wrote that list, but I wish I was their friend. Such attention to detail!

And lastly, for the hypochondriacs, here's something new and disturbing to be afraid of, with no known cause and no known treatment:

Doctors are trying to find out what is causing a bizarre and mysterious infection that's surfaced in South Texas.

Morgellons disease is not yet known to kill, but if you were to get it, you might wish you were dead, as the symptoms are horrible.


Patients say that's the worst symptom -- strange fibers that pop out of your skin in different colors.

"He'd have attacks and fibers would come out of his hands and fingers, white, black and sometimes red. Very, very painful," said Lisa Wilson, whose son Travis had Morgellon's disease... Travis Wilson developed Morgellons just over a year ago. He called his mother in to see a fiber coming out of a lesion.

"It looked like a piece of spaghetti was sticking out about a quarter to an eighth of an inch long and it was sticking out of his chest," Lisa Wilson said. "I tried to pull it as hard as I could out and I could not pull it out."

Fibers? Ewwwww! I did the gross-out dance for a good thirty seconds after reading that.
11:48 AM ::
Amy :: permalink


So, this Sunday, at 10 AM Eastern Time, I'll be wearing my stupid robe and my ridiculous hat (and the tassel I don't get to keep), feeling slightly giddy but also like an idiot, walking across a stage in front of my mother and a lot of other people's parents, formally graduating from college.

Somebody said to me recently, "you don't seem like the type to walk at graduation." And that was very astute of him, because I'm not. I don't even care overly much about the piece of paper, or about the officiality of the degree it represents (except inasmuch as actually having it simplifies the resume-writing process.) I know what I know, and I know a great deal more than my degree suggests. But the formal recognition of that, while pleasant, isn't really worth the trip in and of itself. I never had any doubt that I was baccalaureate material; I think it's not too presumptuous to claim that doctoral work is easily within my reach, even if I can't be bothered to undertake it yet. (I think it would be an excellent thing to do in my 50s or 60s, though.) The reason I'm going back for the ceremony isn't about graduation or the degree, really. It's more about everything that happened between the time I left college and the time I went back.

I don't talk much about why I left college in the first place. I have my quick version -- got tired of academia, wanted to go study film instead -- and that version is absolutely true, if grossly incomplete. I don't talk about the real reason much because, like most people who've been through similar kinds of experiences, I tend to worry about what other people will think it says about me, that they'll judge me for something that is very much a part of me, something that I'm certainly not ashamed of having survived, but which was very difficult and humiliating at the time. But the most meaningful thing about my graduation, to me, is that I waded through a lot of shit to get to this point, and being at this point is testament to my being a stronger person than my diagnosis might suggest to a judgemental mind.

The real reason I left college at 22 is that around that time, and for a couple of years prior, I went mad. Not hearing-voices mad, more like intensely melancholy mad. To use the technical term, I was diagnosed at 22 with severe atypical Depressive disorder. And in retrospect, I think I only barely made it through that period of my life alive. Depression -- the capital-D variety -- is something that those who've never been through it really can't understand. I myself suffered through two years of it without realizing what was happening to me, which itself isn't an unusual phenomenon. It was a gradual descent into hell, slow enough that from day to day I wasn't able to discern much change, but by the time I reached my personal low I was almost helpless against it. I was unable to take much care of myself, unable to face the outside world, and filled with self-loathing and self-recrimination.

My grades had dropped off to the point that my academic standing was in question (that was an especially frustrating thing for a lifelong gradehound like me) because I could no longer hold my mind still enough to concentrate on anything. I'd try to study -- I'd sit for hours with a book, reading the same page or the same paragraph over and over and over again, taking none of it in; eventually the frustration would overwhelm my drive and I'd push the academic work away completely, since any attempt only brought failure and more self-loathing at my inability to work.

The thought of interacting with other people was unbearable; I avoided it as much as possible, abandoning my classes and only venturing out late at night when the town was mostly empty. I dropped out of contact with my mother most of the time, I turned away from most of my friends, and I just stayed alone in my room. It wasn't, ironically, all that painful -- the thing about depression that most people don't understand is that it isn't about sadness, it's about numbness and about the inescapability of the all-consuming deadness at your core. When I was depressed I rarely felt much of anything at all, and what little I did feel was directed entirely inward. The only thing that ever hurt was my own sense that I was failing profoundly at life, that I was hopelessly inadequate as a human being, and that I was personally and solely to blame for my state. My mental state left me unable to cope; my inability to cope was, to me, a sign of personal failure; my despair at my failure worsened my mental state.

By the time I reached a point of genuine crisis, it still hadn't occured to me, in spite of blatantly obvious evidence, that there might be something physically wrong with me, that I might be literally ill. I believed that if I were just stronger, if I were just more driven, none of it would be happening and that I'd have been able to overcome whatever loathsome personal flaw was manifesting itself in my life. The shame of not being able to handle it, the belief that I was to blame, was by far the worst part of depression, and the humiliation of my situation seemed like a fair punishment.

The only reason I ever went for help, in the end, was an alarming afternoon when I began to experience real thoughts of self-destruction. I want to be very careful about how I put this, because I was never "suicidal" in the usual sense -- I never planned or plotted or considered ways to hurt myself, I never seriously contemplated killing myself. It was never about self-harm or some melodramatic plea for help for me. Rather, I began to feel very strongly that the people I loved most in the world would be much better off if I was gone. It's completely sick, of course, to think that the people who really love you would be happier if you were dead, and (fortunately) some part of my intellect was still sober enough to recognize that and send up an alarm. Had I let myself slide much deeper into that kind thinking, though, I think it only would've been a matter of time.

Instead, I went to one of the college counselors, whom I'd seen a few times before for different reasons. The first thing she said to me was, "I bet you thought you had to deal with this all by yourself, didn't you?" She was the first person who offered me an explanation for what was happening to me, and simply having a name for my experience was an enormous relief. She called up the college nurse for a consultation (not only about the diagnosis but about my general state), and after much talk the two of them sent me away with some books to read, instructions to stop by every day to check in, and a prescription for antidepressants. I hung on for the rest of the term, waiting to see if the pills did anything to help, and tried to understand what it all meant.

In the end, it wasn't enough to get me through my last year of college. My mother dragged me home to Mississippi, I abandonded college, and spent the whole next year hiding out, thinking about nothing but pulling my psyche back together. I quit the pills after a couple of months -- I've always struggled against any feeling of being under the influence of a drug -- and turned to self-nurturance instead. After a year was up and the depression was in remission (which is to say, once I felt like myself again), I departed for London to do what I really wanted to do. My three years in film school were some of the happiest I've had.

I haven't had any big problems with depression since then, although it's always going to be a factor in my life. I've had a few minor-to-moderate episodes (I spent almost a year in a mildly-depressed state after coming back from LA, kind of apathetically slouching through life in Memphis), but nothing resembling the abyss in which I spent my early 20s. I've also come to the conclusion that mental illness (of a relatively benign sort) is rife on my mother's side, even though it generally went undiagnosed. There were a lot of eccentrics on that side of family: Great Aunt Jenna who was a Rosicrucian and heard voices (until they electro-shocked them out of her, to her despair); Cousin Clarence who spent the last ten years of his life in bed wearing silk pajamas; Aunt Mary Louisa who was kind and generous and possessed a rather brazen sense of aesthetics, but who was also patently batty; my great-grandmother, known in the family as Dollbabe, who apparently played a mean ragtime piano and who killed herself when my mother was a teenager. I never met any of them apart from Aunt Mary Louisa (who seemed like an odd-smelling but magical auntie when I was a little girl), but I've heard about them, and they're some of my favorite relatives. Once I'd gotten a grip on the idea of depression, I was almost grateful to them -- I felt like I'd been invited into the Cool Ancestors Club. (I have some amazingly cool ancestors -- I come from a long line of black sheep people. But that's another post.)

In any case, I've learned to recognize my personal early signs of depression, and by catching it early I can generally head off the worst of it. I still don't know exactly what triggered it that first time -- I think it was rooted in several years of constant chaos and trauma during my early teens, combined with one other big issue in my life (which is much too complicated to go into now). At the time, I had coped with it all by flatly denying that anything much was wrong, and continued to steadfastly shrug it all off afterwards. Unfinished business, of course, doesn't evaporate, it just waits until your guard is down and then explodes in your face. I guess I didn't lower my guard until my sophomore year of college.

But it's all okay, because I got through it, I've done some interesting things since then, and eventually I went back to finish the degree I'd abandoned in despair. Having fulfilled my degree requirements is great and all, but what I'm most proud of is everything that happened inbetween -- not that I finished, but that I'm still here to finish; that I'm not a hopeless failure after all, in spite of what I thought at the time; that having dealt with the madness, I can settle in to enjoy the eccentricity; that I have the opportunity, by virtue of having been born into better circumstances, to fulfill my highest black sheep potential.

Anyway, I'm fine now -- happy, even. And everyone knows that all the best, most interesting people are a bit mad.
2:06 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Hot Girl-On-Girl Action

Lesbian and heterosexual women respond differently to specific human odours, a brain-scanning study has found. The homosexual women showed similar brain activity to heterosexual men when they inhaled certain chemicals, which may be pheromones, the researchers say.


The researchers conclude that these "pheromone-like stimuli" produce different responses in the anterior hypothalamus of women of different sexual orientations, and that their research supports the idea that the anterior hypothalamus plays a role in sexual preference.

The pattern of activity in the brains of lesbians for both chemicals was similar - though not identical - to the pattern for heterosexual men. In May 2005, the same team showed that the brains of heterosexual women and homosexual men reacted in the same ways when they smelled either AND or EST.


We can stop right here... there's no need to continue this experiment. I mean, you can if you like, but it's not necessary -- I can already tell you beyond any doubt that this is entirely correct.

Back in London, one of the popular weekend passtimes among the film students was snog-parties. NOT orgies -- it was never that bestial -- just innocent, sweet little group snogs. I didn't participate much because I was in a relationship, and by the time I'd extracted myself from it we'd all become too disgusted with each other to snog innocently. But for a while it was the thing to do, and I was there, so... yeah.

The absolute most fun thing of all, of course, was to get straight boys to kiss each other. Strangely, all these American guys who'd never, ever in a million years kiss another guy back home were somehow, by virtue of being in Europe and surrounded by Europeans, suddenly mostly okay with the idea. Not enthusiastic, maybe, but tolerant and willing, especially if it meant they'd get to snog a girl afterwards. And the second most fun thing to do (for the long-suffering guys, at least) was to get girls to snog each other. In spite of how it sounds, it was never very heated (though the guys did tend to sit cross-legged a lot.) It wasn't a prelude to crazy sex, and I don't think it ever led there (at least, not between people who weren't looking for an excuse anyway.) It was just, y'know, for fun. For laughs. For the fuck-it-why-not of it all.

But the idea of kissing another woman was tricky. It wasn't that it was disgusting or anything -- it wasn't. But it was confusing. And not in a latently-homosexual way, more in the sense that, upon attempting it, your limbic brain would get befuddled and pipe up, "what this? what are you doing? this can't be right... "

Of course, apart from the absence of stubble, it doesn't feel any different. If your eyes are closed, you certainly can't see any difference. But just the same, you know that something isn't quite right. And a few years ago I finally figured out what that something is.

Girls don't smell right.

I can't explain exactly how they don't smell right -- it's not as if you can say, "girls smell like X, while guys smell like Y" (although in a genetic sense, I guess they do.) It's not as conscious as a specific smell that is or isn't attractive. Guys can smell "wrong," too (god almighty, can they), but it's a competely different kind of "wrong." Guys smell individually right or wrong, but women smell completely, inherently, categorically wrong. Even if you can't really smell them at all. Something in that subtle chemical signal makes all the difference in the world, and no amount of "being cool" can transcend it. The nose wants what it wants.
8:50 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, May 09, 2006
A Simple Plan

This is how we win, kids:

* Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration
* Repeal the estate tax repeal
* Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
* Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
* Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation
* Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.
* Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code
* Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
* Reduce corporate giveaways
* Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
* Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
* Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
* Paper ballots
* Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.
* Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
* Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.

...adding a few more things which would be obvious if we weren't living in the Grand and Glorious Age of Bush:

* Torture is bad
* Imprisoning citizens without charges is bad
* Playing Calvinball with the Geneva Conventions and treaties generally is bad
* Imprisoning anyone indefinitely without charges is bad
* Stating that the president can break any law he wants any time "just because" is bad.


It's good for families, good for economic stability, good for democracy, good for the poor and middle-class, good for small business, and good for our international relations. Maybe we should try it, eh? Now that we know that neo-conservatism is a gross and utter failure on every conceivable level.

Personally, my liberalism rests on five basic ideas: 1) everybody has an essential right to the best education available, through postgraduate levels; 2) everybody has an essential right to the best healthcare available, regardless of their economic or social status; 3) the Christian fundamentalists don't own this fucking country; 4) the United States doesn't own this fucking planet; and 5) we all have a responsibility to contribute as best we can to the common wellbeing of our population, financially and otherwise, and that in doing so we also support our own wellbeing. So, pretty simple, really.

PS: What the fuck is this?! Didn't they just increase the debt ceiling to $9 trillion a couple of months ago? Fuck, somebody take away their credit card! "Fiscal conservatives," my ass!

PPS: I'm trying out a new blog-funding system, IndieKarma. Observant readers will notice that now a blue bar appears briefly at the bottom of this page when it first loads. The idea here is that every time an IndieKarma user visits a participating blog (like this one, for example), the owner of the blog will get a penny. It's not a lot of cash, obviously, but that's the point -- it's a painless way to contribute to the cost of blogging. I've always rejected things like blogads, but I thought I'd give this a whirl and see if it's worth my time (and I've signed up as a contributor, too. I'll be happy enough if the pennies coming in equal the pennies going out.)

Anyway, if you're one of the first 5000 to sign up (and you've still got breathing room to make it), your first $1 is free. And if y'all hate me for doing it, let me know. But I thought it was a pretty good idea.
2:22 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, May 08, 2006
Mr. Popularity

Wow... that's low.

President Bush's approval rating has slumped to 31% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, the lowest of his presidency and a warning sign for Republicans in the November elections.

The survey of 1,013 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, shows Bush's standing down by 3 percentage points in a single week. His disapproval rating also reached a record: 65%. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Hey Mom, you still in that 31%?

Bush's fall is being fueled by erosion among support from conservatives and Republicans. In the poll, 52% of conservatives and 68% of Republicans approved of the job he is doing. Both are record lows among those groups.

Moderates gave him an approval rating of 28%, liberals of 7%.

"You hear people say he has a hard core that will never desert him, and that has been the case for most of the administration," says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin who studies presidential approval ratings. "But for the last few months, we started to see that hard core seriously erode in support."


"Historically it's been pretty devastating to presidents at this level," Franklin says. Even Republican members of Congress are "now so worried about their electoral fortunes in November that he has less leverage with them than he normally would with his own party controlling Congress."

You realize, of course, that this is 12 points lower than Clinton's lowest-ever approval rating, and 37 points lower than his post-impeachment approval rating.

Just sayin'.
3:21 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

King Fausto, We Hardly Knew Ye

I know, I know -- it's been quiet around here, and I'm sorry. I've only got a little more work to do, a few more bits of fiddly business to which I must attend, and then I promise I'll come back and slap my blog up.

In lieu of a proper post, please enjoy a brief meditation on the tragic life of Herve Jean-Pierre Villechaize: his fab maison, his body of work, his propensity for self-humiliation, the brutal suicide that narrowly prevented him from becoming Zoltar (or Brak, or maybe Moltar.)

Do not judge him by Tattoo alone ... once, he was considered the Toulouse Lautrec of his generation. Does that count for nothing?

2:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 05, 2006
Somos Hermanos, Es Nuestro Himno

This week's bullshit controversy (because obviously we can't talk about anything that's actually important):

There are several things that have to occur before we can become a one-world nation: first we have to be brought down to ground-level (make that ground-zero) submissiveness. We have to relinquish our guns; we have to get "in God we trust" off of our currency; we have to forget about equal rights unless we are in America waving flags from another country -- demanding amnesty for breaking laws, and waving signs for Americans to get off of their continent. And before too much longer, we should be getting Pesos and the Euro in place of American money. Next, they will be singing the new "Nuestro Himno" in place of our National Anthem at the opening session of congress. And I'll bet you donuts to a dollar -- children will be singing the Spanish version in public schools before long.

While Mexicans are on a roll -- somebody needs to implement a Spanish Pledge, and then the United States of America can be renamed Mexico. How's that for progress?

(ah, that welcoming smile)

My first thought upon reading this was, "exchange dollars for Euros? Where do I sign up?!" My second thought was, "how fucking scared are y'all of having to take foreign language classes, anyway?" And my third thought was, "why do you take the idea of a Spanish-language anthem as an insult, when it is so clearly intended as an overwhelming compliment?"

I marvel at the mindset that views the necessity of speaking a second language as a humiliation; it's the same mindset that views reading books as punishment. Foreign languages were one of my favorite subjects in school -- I studied Spanish, Russian and Latin, and I've done some French on my own as an adult. High up on my life's agenda is a desire to live in another language for some period of time -- which is exactly what millions of immigrants have found the courage to do, in the face of not only the inherent challenges of a world in which they can barely communicate, but also outright hostility from people who lack their own courage and resourcefulness. Anyone who doubts that it's one of the most difficult challenges an individual can undertake clearly hasn't bothered to try it for themselves -- and they should be able to muster up at least some grudging respect for those determined enough to carve out a life for themselves under such conditions.

As I have always said, one of the biggest social and cultural flaws our nation possesses is the absolute ignorance of our place in the larger world. We don't regard non-Americans as our equals because the vast majority of us have never bothered to get to know them on their own turf -- we don't travel, we don't speak their languages, we don't attempt to understand their cultures; we don't even attempt to understand that there are other, equally valid ways in which to live. Living abroad was one of the most humbling, transformative experiences of my life, one which I strongly recommend to everyone (especially other Americans), and which I'm eager to repeat. Through it, I learned about my relationship to my own culture, about the difference between life and habit, about the truth of essential human dignity; and I had all my assumptions, all the the little things I take for granted, pointed out and called into question. It's an experience that shakes you to your core, but leaves you stronger and wiser -- and it's an experience that every single immigrant to the Unites States shares. But for most Americans, the 95% of the world's people who live outside our country remain an abstract idea: they are people to look down upon to varying degrees, people who exist only in relation to our own needs and interests, as either people who supply our wants or obstruct our access to them. It's a supremely narcissistic, destructive way to regard our world, and the very definition of a global sociopath. It's not our freedom they hate, it's our arrogance and willful ignorance.

If and when I ever have kids, it won't even be under discussion -- fluency in a second and third language and a minimum one-year trip abroad (ideally to a non-English speaking country) will be obligatory for any sprog of mine. In this day and age, they should both be a necessary requirement for responsible citizenship; I wish I'd had the benefit of multilingualism growing up. Mandatory education in Spanish should be a given for every American schoolkid -- not to replace whatever culture they already possess, but to enrich it. And it would protect them from the pitfalls of this particularly all-American brand of ignorance. They might come to understand that the ability to communicate across cultural lines is not submission, but a valuable source of strength. Making sure a child enters adulthood with a few other ways to see and interact with the world is, I think, one of the most valuable and far-reaching legacies a parent can provide.

Regardless of the language, the meaning of the thing remains the same. And look at it this way: maybe our immigrant brothers and sisters will actually make an effort to learn all the words, or even a second verse... which, in my experience, is more than I can expect from the average American. Our immigrants are doing what they have always done: bringing us a gift of a stronger, more vibrant culture and society. And people who doubt their benevolence and good will might remind themselves of another foreign-lanugage phrase that has been enormously important in our history: e pluribus, unum.

PS: And we mustn't forget the often-noted tendency of people who bitch about people who wave Mexican flags to wave their own Confederate flags. It's irony on a base level, but I like it.
1:12 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, May 04, 2006
Funny / Not Funny

In light of the efforts of some to justify the near-total media blackout of Stephen Colbert's presidential bitch-slap on the basis that it was "not that funny," and because the subject is one that has been much on my mind of late, I think it's time for a quick review of what's funny and what's not.

Dave Chappelle - funny
Carlos Mencia - not funny

The Boondocks (comic strip) - funny
Curtis (comic strip) - not funny
The Boondocks (cartoon) - not especially funny, but well done

Wonder Showzen - very, very funny, but a bit nauseating
South Park - not funny very often anymore

Jon Stewart - funny
Dennis Miller - not funny

mocking the president to his face - funny
the president getting all pissy about it - funny
the media getting pissy about it - not funny


PS: How the word "funny" looks after you've written/read it a dozen or so times - funny

PPS: Stephen Colbert - funny
Richard Cohen - not funny.
1:17 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, May 03, 2006
For Local People

Forgive me, blog... I've been neglecting you. We seem to go through this once or twice a year, don't we? I'm so sorry, I apologize.

Alas, you're not going to be getting much additional attention tonight, as I've finally found a copy of The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse and intend to spend the rest of the evening watching it. I know that Little Britain is the show that gets all the attention these days, and it's pretty good, I guess. But it's strictly the light-beer version of The League of Gentlemen. LoG is blacker, harsher, sicker, and all-around more toothsome. I don't know whether the film adaptation will be any good, but I know I have to find out.

Three hours later: God damn it to hell, it won't play in this DVD player. Why? No fucking clue; it just won't. I'll have to dig out my magic DVD player tomorrow. I did manage to watch the third series of the show again, and if anything it's much better than I remembered it being the one time it aired on American television.

24 hours later: My magic DVD player, because it's magic, played the disc perfectly without so much as a pause to consider its options. Considering the thing cost me $30 brand new, I have to say I've been extraordinarily pleased with my purchase, as I have not yet found a disc it won't play. And the movie was pretty good. Not, y'know, as glorious as the show, but pretty damn good... very meta. And I like meta. But you'd really have to watch the show first -- which you should do anyway, in order, from beginning to end.
9:48 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, May 01, 2006

ass-raping America is hard work

In light of my last post, this is probably courting trouble. But I'd mentioned to someone else that I wanted to do it, and I still want to do it, so I'm going to try to do it.

I want to assemble an as-thorough-as-possible list of all of the Bush administration scandals. The problem is, there are so fucking many I can't even begin to remember them all. This isn't for any particular political point, just for the sake of long-term perspective.

Here are a few off the top of my head (in no particular order):

Illegal Wiretapping
The Valerie Plame affair
(corollary: The Niger forgeries)
The Abramoff Scandal
The Ney Scandal
Dick Cheney shoots an old dude in the face-gate
(corllary: Florida '00 and Ohio '04)
The Jeff Gannon incident
The WMD Deception
Everybody Hates Rumsfeld
(corollary: Unequipped and Unarmored Troops)
(corollary: Heckuva Job Brownie-gate)
Halliburton/KBR/War Profiteering
The Pentagon-Israel Spy Case
Medicare Plan D
Tom DeLay Is So Fucked-gate
The Armstrong Williams incident
Anton Scalia's Recusal Refusals
The Downing Street Memos
Eastern European Black Detention Centers
Guantanamo Bay
... and lest we forget, that whole Iraq War thing.

That feels like a good start, but I'm sure I'm missing a lot. If any of you know of something I've forgotten, post it comments and I'll add it to the list. I'll also be trying to go through and source everything I've listed so far.


My Pet Goat-gate
Fuck the Constitution, I'm a Wartime Preznit
Bigger Deficit than the Previous 42 Presidents Combined
Debate Backpack
3:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Full Up

This is it: I am officially maxed-out. My brain is now so completely occupied with its various intellectual chew toys that adding even one more would bring the risk of sending it into a perpetual feedback loop. Everything I have to do, I can do and want to do; but anything else that I find will, for the time being, have to wait. In truth, I've already cut a few lesser things out to make room for better opportunities. But this is it. I'm barricading the door.

I blame last year's academic sabbatical for all this. After a year of tying up all my theoretical and intellectual loose ends (and doing nothing else), when I then found myself free of all that I immediately started loading up my metaphorical plate with all the tasty stuff I hadn't ever had room for previously. And now, after a few months of hardcore buffet-mongering, I feel a bit sick.

How do I know that I have reached my limit? Because just now, while I was reading this piece on quantum mechanics and a sleeping puppy, I felt something in my brain pop out of existence. I don't know what it was: if I knew, I'd be able to remember, and thus it would still be there -- or else, something else would pop out of existence in its place and I'd be right back where I am now. All I know is, it was there, and now it's not, having been replaced by some babble about a puppy around which I can only barely wrap my head.

I was going over my situation yesterday and it occurred to me that organizing all of my assorted projects is at the point of becoming a project in itself. The good news is, as is often the case with an associative mind like mine, everything I'm doing seems to be at least slightly interconnected with everything else I'm doing. So in one sense, at least, all of these projects are just part of one much larger project -- and maybe if I can figure out how to organize that one, all the rest of it will fall neatly into place.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, here's the sort of thing I'm talking about. One of the activities I've dropped is a class I was going to take. In truth, I had a number of reasons for dropping the class -- a select few of which served as my rationale, even though they were really among the least important of the lot. The real reason I dropped the class was because taking it would have required that I spend too many hours of my life reading a book and watching a film that I have absolutely no interest in reading or watching. (I'm not going to mention them by name, but suffice to say that they both represent highly-concentrated and unnervingly popular forms of New-Age bullshit.)

I was really torn up about this prior to dropping the class, because one the one hand, I hate to be the person who walks in and harshes everyone's mellow by saying, "this is the stupidest crap I've ever heard in my life," but on the other hand, I also didn't feel comfortable playing along with it when I feel so strongly about the subject. So I was envisioning a situation in which I would have to play the "I-respect-your-emotional-response-to-this-bullshit-but-it's-still-bullshit" game. And I hate playing that game. Not that anything bad would've happened, and I could've managed it, I think. Maybe I could've even made a valuable point to the others: that creativity (the subject of the class) is not irrevokably tied to this irrational, airy-fairy bogus reality with which it is so/too often associated. That, if anything, the real world as it really exists is a far, far better source of artistic inspiration than the gross misunderstanding of quantum mechanics could ever be. But making that point wasn't worth the expense in time, energy, and money to me.

The curious thing is that I myself am a recent adherent to that idea (hence, no doubt, my strong reaction against the required reading, although I've been leaning that way for a long time.) I only first read Dawkins a few months ago, and since that time it seems as though the universe has gone out of its way to litter my path with deluded new-agers. I'm not sure what the point of this challenge is, except maybe to ensure that I don't start going around acting like I know everything (unlikely in any case), but it's been happening everywhere I turn. I have one acquaintance who has abruptly decided that he can astrally project and move objects with his mind -- and y'know, whatever, I don't care what crazy stuff he believes. If he really thinks it's helping him to relax and get his life together, then I'm cool with it. He can go have fun with his coven, it's no skin off my nose. (I only ask that he doesn't turn into a fundamentalist about it. The only person I could imagine being more annoying than a fundamentalist Christian is a fundamentalist Wiccan.)

To run through the rest of this train of thought quickly (because I've got work to do), finishing college begat my rediscovery of science, begat my reading of Dawkins, begat also re-rediscovering Douglas Adams (who, coincidentally, also first read Dawkins around age 30), begat part of another massive project I'm toiling at in secret, begat this new conviction that art and rationality can be buddies after all, begat dropping this class, begat the discovery that my mind's eye is bigger than my mind's stomach, begat reading just one last article about quantum puppies, begat my having lost... something. Something that I wouldn't be able to understand as well had I not just read about quantum puppies. (I think.)

I bet the Germans have a word for this.
2:05 PM ::
Amy :: permalink