Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Speaking Of Donavan

He and David (Blue Velvet) Lynch are talking about opening a "Meditation University" in Scotland - click on the title for details.

"For a country the size of Scotland it would take only 250 students meditating to protect Scotland from its enemies and to bring peace, to stop violence and drug abuse," Lynch said. "That is just a byproduct of the students meditating together."
Scotland has enemies? Who knew?

Come for the Food, Stay for the Pied Piper

Interesting facts about the Pied Piper of Hamelin:

  1. "Pied" means "clothed in many colors". Therefore, the piper in the stories is a loud dresser.

  2. According to Wikipedia (where I'm getting all of this stuff) the story has been made into a movie 12 times. One version starred Donavan Leitch as the Piper.

  3. Robert Browning wrote a poem about the Pied Piper which is frequently alluded to as the source of piper metaphors. For example, Atom Egoyan's THE SWEET HEREAFTER throws it all over the place.

  4. IT'S THE PIED PIPER, CHARLIE BROWN retold the story in 2000, using Snoopy as the piper and substituting mice for rats, because Charlie Brown's sister Sally is scared of rats.

  5. Jonathan "Dr. Smith" Harris played a sinister inter-galactic Pied Piper in an episode of LAND OF THE GIANTS.

  6. Though the tale is said to be based on an actual event, nobody seems to be able to pin down what the event was. All agree that the children of Hamelin disappeared all at once. The plague has been suggested as a cause, or Chorea. On the other hand, some have suggested that the kids were led off to fight in a children's crusade, and the Piper was a recruiter. There are some villages in Europe which were founded by children, perhaps the Hamelin youth did that. Or, of course, it could just be a massive paedophilia/murder case.

  7. Given his legal troubles, R Kelly's self-proclaimed title as "the Pied Piper of R&B" has taken on unfortunate overtones.

  8. DC's THE FLASH comic series has a supervillain called The Pied Piper, though his real name is Hartley Rathaway, and he retired from crime after the death of Flash alter-ego Barry Allen.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Blood Boils With Consumer Lust

Here is a list of things I feel like buying.

1. iPhone. Yes I have two years on my contract with Sprint, but an iPhone would not only replace my phone, but my aging iPod nano (it would cost about $100 just to get a decent battery, more to replace the whole thing) and my aging laptop (800mhz!) as well. Hell, if I buy an iPhone I'll be turning a PROFIT.

2. Bigger screen for video. I watch TV on my 17" iMac. It was a good idea because it saves space but there are disadvantages. For one thing, once in a while my TV freezes or crashes. for another, a 17" TV is just crazy. I might as well watch on an iPhone. So I have a couple of options. I can buy a TV (I think 26" would do the trick, as long as it's at least 720p) or I can buy a second, larger computer monitor.

3. Vacation. Maybe a cruise, maybe just a drive up the coast, but I gotta get outta this town.

4. New socks.

5. Head shots. I am toying with the idea of trying to make a living acting, which means $200 bucks to a photographer so I can have pictures of myself in which I appear alive.

Can I afford any of this stuff? No, I cannot. But I feel better writing about it. I think I'll be able to go another 6 months without wanting an iPhone now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Harry Reid, Inkblot

Much has been said about Harry Reid, current speaker of the house. Up until recently the rap on the right has been that Reid is colorless, AND he's an Al-Quaeda member who hates the troops and wants to harm them by taking them out of the war zone and putting them in, you know, America. He's ruining this country with his librul schemes AND in charge of the most moribund, do-nothing congress ever.

You notice anything contradictory in that last paragraph?

This column is occasioned by a discussion I'm having at WAMK concerning the whole Harry Reid/Rush Limbaugh dustup. Watch this and tell me - is Reid trying to take credit for the idea of auctioning the letter, or acknowleging that Rush did some good with it himself?

As I said, you can see him taking credit for the idea if you really really want to, the same way that you can see Christ's face in tortilla if you really really want to. The weird thing is, the discussion over this tiny sideshow in the politcal theatre has been going on for DAYS.

How can a guy with so little personality inspire this kind of anger?

I'll tell you how. Harry Reid isn't a man, he's a strategy. The Democrat Party, long underground, had time to observe their enemy and plan how they would trip them up when they regained power. Knowing that whomever was in charge would be lightning rods, they chose a frail granny (Nancy Pelosi) and a colorless beaurocrat (Reid), because attacking these two creates a great picture. By vilifying them, the right looks like the kid at school who used to beat you up for your lunch money.

For that matter, it was brilliant to get the right on the side of the debate AGAINST providing medical care for poor children. Masterstroke.

Harry is so much a tabula rasa, so faceless, that the right is punching itself in its own face whenever they take a swing at him. And because they are slow to learn, the right continutes to attack the Majority Leader like a gale force wind attacks a mighty oak. What they don't recognize is that he is, in fact, a Reid.

(Full disclosure: strategy HAH! I wish the Democrats could be that Machiavellian! Truth is, Reid is probably up there through sheer dumb luck. I'll put it this way - if there is another Democratic sweep in 2008, I don't think it will be because people love Democrats.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fire! Fire! Fire!

For the concerned readers - yes, I'm surrounded by fires on all sides, but my IMMEDIATE surroundings are concrete and asphalt for miles. Furthermore, my commute is from such a point to another point 3 miles south, in the same zip code. I'm more likely to catch fire from spontaneous human combustion.

But the traffic is so erratic! And you can't enjoy the local news! So yes, I'm suffering.

On the plus side, my new contact lenses caused an eye infection which makes me look a little like Christopher Lee in DRACULA. It had nothing to do with the fires but the smoke and debris make a damn good excuse, and take the pressure off me. I no longer have to protest that I have never been a fan of The Herb.

A Bigger Issue Than Tinky-Winky

I was hoping to see this get a little more traction among the right-wing blogosphere: J.K. Rowling, enemy of social conservatives and the demon authoress behind the Harry Potter books, revealed that revered wizard and headmaster Dumbledore was gay. She also said her favorite animal is an otter, because "I'm a bit anti-cat."

Where is the outrage? Not over the cat thing; I think we can all get behind that. But when Jerry Falwell suggested that one of the Teletubbies might be gay; the blogosphere was alight in a rainbow-hued controversy. I'm casting about on Google's blogsearch right now and 6 pages deep there is still no "won't somebody please think of the children?" commentary. It's all "I should have known" and "how cuckoo is that" and one "no he's not," but concern over a beloved teacher figure actually having a thing for the beefcake isn't an issue, it seems.

What's up? Are social conservatives simply worn out from attacking the pagan aspects of Harry Potter and too tired to attack it on sexual morality grounds? Do they realize, for a change, what a non-issue this is? After all the guy is not only fictional, but he's at least 600 years old and therefore sexuality is for him little more than a pleasant memory. Or did they perhaps learn something from the Tinky-Winky backlash?

I can't help but think that Falwell, the heterosexual American Dumbledore, would have taken a crack at this one. God help me, I miss him.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Love Affair With Press Releases - I'll Take The One In The Turban

Juicy selections from SALDEF, "the nation's oldest and largest Sikh American civil rights organization."

TSA Changes Head Covering Screening Procedure in Response to Concerns of Religious Profiling

Washington, DC - Oct 16, 2007 -- This afternoon the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a new security screening policy that will go into effect at U.S. airports on October 27 and apply to all religious head coverings. The change is a direct result of collaboration between TSA, Department of Homeland security (DHS) officials, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and other Sikh organizations in response to the concerns of the Sikh American community over a procedure implemented on August 4, 2007.

The August 2007 procedure disproportionately targeted Sikhs for secondary screening due to their turban, an article of faith, like the Jewish kippah (yarmulke) and Muslim hijab. The turban is an integral part of the Sikh faith and identity, and removal of the turban in public is akin to a strip search. The procedure resulted in Sikh travelers being forced to undergo an invasive pat-down or removal of the turban. The turban was the only religious article listed as potentially requiring additional screening. Furthermore, the procedure may have resulted in a misallocation of national security resources due to the heightened focus on Sikh passengers solely because of their religious practice of wearing a turban.

And here's the fun part:

Under the new procedure, a Sikh traveler's turban will be accommodated during the screening process by providing additional options to satisfy the security requirements. According to TSA, the revised procedure states: "TSA will now include the screening procedures for headwear within the overall category of bulky clothing and will not call it out as a separate category. Removal of all headwear is recommended but the rules accommodate those with religious, medical, or other reasons for whom removing items is not comfortable. Transportation security officers have several options for screening passengers who choose not to remove bulky clothing, including headwear."

The gains for Sikhs, to summaraize - you will still be profiled and unfairly singled out, but your turban will be called "bulky clothing" instead of "turban." Oh, and instead of making you remove it, they will x-ray your head. Progress!

Additionally, all 43,000 TSA screeners will undergo Sikh cultural awareness training before the Thanksgiving holiday travel season. The trainings will include two tools developed by SALDEF in collaboration with the US Department of Justice: 1. A training video: On Common Ground: Sikh American Cultural Awareness Training for Law Enforcement [watch video]; and 2. A poster called, Common Sikh American Head Coverings [view poster], that TSA is distributing to all 450 airports across the country.

These kinds of cultural awareness programs have done wonders with local law enforcement. Why the LAPD underwent such training after the Rodney King incident and there has been nary a problem since then.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

No Sex Please, We're Republicans

I have been wondering today... What is the Republican position on who gets to have sex? It's a legitimate question, given how much of the party platform is devoted to sexual issues. Perhaps the best way to reach a conclusion is through deduction -- eliminate all those who should NOT be allowed to have sex and work out from there. We'll know who is allowed by the climax of this post.

TEENAGERS. There is no clearer stop sign than the one this administration puts between a guy and his prom date. Record amounts of government money are being spent to discourage teens from having sex. Not to discourage teen pregnancy - if that were the goal they'd take the easy route and promote birth control. And given the clear opposition to abortions, the position taken to avoid kids having kids is to insist on no kids having sex. And maybe this isn't so bad - sex has consequences and young people don't have the wisdom to handle them.

While I'm at it, I want to point out that since the battle to confirm Jocelyn Elders as Surgeon General, it's pretty obvious that masturbation is out of the question as well. When I'm saying no sex, I'm saying no orgasms.

HOMOSEXUALS. Laws making hate crimes more severe than regular crimes, because it unfairly singles out a group for extra protection, are bad. On the other hand, a constitutional amendment forbidding members of the same sex to marry are good, because while it singles out a group, it preserves marriage. Since you have to assume that Republicans won't suddenly endorse out-of-wedlock sex to make things easier for TEH GAY, we'll have to cross Adam and Steve off the list. Remember, no orgasms either. Ever.

POOR FOLK. The SCHIP debate has been quite an eye-opener. A couple of days ago, Mark Hemingway in the National Review suggested that it was irresponsible for the parents of Bethany Wilkerson to even have a child because they couldn't afford the insurance. Does that mean the Wilkersons shouldn't have had sex? After all they were married heterosexuals. But they shouldn't use birth control, and the only sure way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence.

Since the debate last week about Graeme Frost centered around a family who makes $70k a year, let's put that as the dividing line. If your household makes more than that, and you meet the other requirements, go at it like rabbits.

NICK NOLTE. I'm out on a limb with this one, I know. But the other day popular conservative blogger Madeline's Dad suggested it was irresponsible of a man of 65 to sire a child. Do all Republicans think this? Well, it's a pretty common sense argument; and it has the virtue of preventing further progeny from both Hugh Heffner AND Rupert Murdoch. I'll give the right benefit of the doubt and assume they're with me on this one. So instead let's make it:


At this point you can imagine a hilarious pie chart in which a little over half the population of the US is not supposed to ever have... connubial release. But I can't make that chart because I have no idea how much overlap there is between groups. How many seniors are Homosexuals? How many teens are low-income? It's a great idea for a visual gag but I can't back it up. Fortunately for comedy, there is this graph from Wikipedia:
It breaks down the population by income level. Let's say the cutoff point is $75k which should take care of the overlap. According to Republicans, only 21.6% of Americans should be allowed to have orgasms.

Sounds a little harsh? They're doing you a favor pal. What better motivation could there be to climb income brackets? See? The Republicans are all about giving a hand to the underprivileged, helping people help themselves. Though as with the Jocelyn Elders situation, they really would rather you didn't help yourself in that way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Are Conservatives Meaner?

I'm ruminating on this recently, because of some high-profile carping about a few SCHIP spokeschildren (is it my imagination, or is this guy in the National Review implying that poor people just shouldn't have children?) and Ann Coulter's expressed desire that all people should be Christian, whether they like the idea or not. And anything Michelle Malkin says about anything.

Malkin also comes up here, because her item about Randi Rhodes caught my eye. The Air America host had a jogging accident which caused the loss of a couple of teeth and considerable bruising. There was speculation that perhaps she had been mugged; and that since she wasn't carrying any money in her sweats that perhaps she was beat up by Rethuglicans. It now emerges that she tripped. Malkin noted the earlier speculation and made fun of it. That's fair, though her attempt to imply that it's what all liberals do all the time is ham-fisted and ridiculous.

But WAMK (see the links to the right) and I have had this discussion before about famous politicos in the news and their personal sufferings, in which he insists that people who comment in left-wing blogs are vicious and mean and right-wing commenters are gracious. From Malkin's comment section - you be the judge!

Sounds like Randi should be joining a different “AA”.

I’ve never heard of her until today. I’ve seen a picture of her and I realized that she looks like a mudkip. I was thinking that she was either attacked by her own dog or some Pokemon creature. That or she was riding in a car with Ted Kennedy, sobered up a little and she knew what was next so she jumped out the car while it was still moving.

I find it particularly gratifying that she lost some teeth…that’ll teach her not to down 14 bloody marys at a sitting

I'm not saying this is worse than what you'll see in Daily Kos (hell, even I don't read Daily Kos) but it's far from gracious. Randi has said some pretty incendiary things so perhaps she getting as good as she gives. This all goes to support my thesis that being an a-hole doesn't know party affiliation.

Feel free to make fun of doughy physique in the comment section!

Glengarry Glen Lexmark

The printer supply concern where I work is having a sales drive today. They tell me that in a few months we are going to expand into the building next door; at that point the sales people will be moved into their own little area and administrative people like myself will be able to match invoices in peace.

But that's not today.

Today I'm surrounded on all sides by ebullient, high-powered toner salesmen. "We don't just supply toner - can I send you a catalog?" The chatter level is about 5 times higher than usual. Plus I'm putting up with the following gimmicks - there is a sales bell. Any time someone ropes in a new cold-call, they ring a bell. BING! Also there are dozens of helium balloons, each with a one, five, ten or twenty dollar bill rolled up inside. POP! Getting from one end of the office to the other is like hacking through a festive Amazon rain forest, because of the ribbons hanging down from the ceiling to waist-level.

There is a new girl at the desk behind me. She just started today and as far as I can discern, she's mopping the floor with the rest of 'em. The guy to my right, older and wilier, may be doing pretty well too, but he refuses to ring the bell or collect his balloon money. I think he's trying to psych out the competition. At the end of the day, I bet he's ahead. The guy has a great phone voice too. It's like buying ink jet cartridges from Barry White, dealing with him. "I'm so in to selling you OEM, baby."

I don't have the temperament for sales. I never have. I can't deal with dry spells. Then again, the last two jobs I've had led to layoffs due to dry spells, so maybe I have to deal with them anyway. Still, constantly having to charm money out of people, it's hard work. That's why I am not pursuing a career in showbiz, which is really the ultimate sales job.

Sales, in fact, is one of those metaphorically rich professions like gambling and prostitution. Once you boil them down, you realize that in any life situation you use those skills, like it or not. Acting, for example, pretty heavily analogizes to all three.

One more behind-the-scenes peek - I've heard the sales people argue the merits of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS versus BOILER ROOM at least half a dozen times. There is no clear consensus. I've yet to hear anyone bring up DEATH OF A SALESMAN. I guess by the time your a fan of that, you are already out of business.

Friday, October 12, 2007

In Which I Try To Get Bill Maher His Old Job Back

WAMK, bless his conversative heart, challenged me yesterday. I alluded to Ann Coulter's remark about wanting to convert all the Jews to Christianity, and he offered this:

I don't buy EVERYTHING she says (including this appearance on CNBC), just like you don't buy everything Bill Maher says. I do agree with some things Ms. Coulter has said/written, but I view her thru a filter. Do you buy everything Maher says? Did/do you agree with his comments that the 9/11 hijackers were "brave" for flying into those buildings?
That's in interesting question. Because the answer is no, I don't agree with everything Bill Mahar says but that famous remark, the one that got him kicked off ABC in the early weeks after 9/11, I do agree with.

See, the hijackers gave up their lives for something they believed in. While their actions were despicable, and while they themselves were evil for killing civilians, it takes courage to sacrifice yourself for a cause. Just because I don't admire them, it doesn't mean they weren't brave. Unfortunately they were also wrong as hell.

Maher was riffing off the remark that the hijackers were cowards, and that simply doesn't make any sense. The hijackers were all brave, evil men. I certainly wish they had died alone!

Where Maher and I part company in on the Iraq war. He was one of the biggest supporters of it when we went in. Either he really believed we need to take out Saddam or he was trying to repair his public image, but either way he thought it was a good idea and I never did. I also think he should lay off the ganja, but that's for his own good.

Interestingly, both Maher and supposedly make their living saying "what we're all really thinking." That's what scares me so much about Ann Coulter, because she thinks we secretly want to annihilate the Arab world and force everybody to become Christians. Also, apparently I am an enemy of the state for being a liberal. Bill Maher thinks we all secretly smoke weed, are annoyed by celebrities, and find the phrase "crack whore" hilarious. Okay, and that we all think George Bush is an incompetent idiot. I guess you laugh at whatever seems truest to you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Attention Conservative Readers

Just offering you an opportunity, here, to state that Ann Coulter isn't the spokesmodel for the right. You can sample her latest quip here, and then just let me know that you don't buy EVERYTHING that she says.

Hint: Ann isn't down with the Jews.


So I'm leaving work yesterday and one of my colleagues says, "Don't take any wooden nickels!" This bothered me all the way home. Because you know what? Wooden nickles are pretty rare. If you ever see one, it is surely the work of a craftsman or artisan. Collectors love stuff like that. If you sell a wooden nickel on eBay, you're going to clear $19.00 at least. My advice to you is take ALL the wooden nickels you can get your hands on.

Unless he meant it differently. Maybe it was "don't take any wooden nickels" in the same sense as "don't break into an office in Las Vegas and take sports memorabilia." Don't take someone else's wooden nickels. Even if you think they belong to you.

It reminds me of another old saw, "don't look a gift horse in the mouth." Hey, it's great that someone is willing to give you a horse. You shouldn't be ungrateful. But at the same time, what's the harm of looking it in the mouth? Maybe the horse has a costly dental problem. Maybe it has unpleasant horse breath indicating a deeper malaise. You take that horse, you're obligated to pay upkeep and maintenance. That can run into serious money. It could eat into your wooden nickel sales profits in no time.

Besides, you want to consider why a guy is giving away horses. He probably got suckered into taking them without looking into their mouths first. Vigilance, people! That's all I'm saying.

Thanks, you've been beautiful! Try the horsemeat. Good night everybody!

(BTW - if someone does offer you a gift horse, have the decency to act surprised. Would that kill you?)

Monday, October 01, 2007

It's A Little Bit Like Finding Change In The Couch

So this guy finds a human leg in a used meat smoker. Hey, it happens.

Oh, you're going to ask for more details, aren't you. Shannon Whisnant of North Carolina (is it my imagination or does this state churn out these kinds of stories?) bought the smoker from a storage facility, which was liquidating items left behind when people defaulted on their payments and abandoned their rental lockers. The leg was wrapped in paper and essentially mummified. Whisnant contacted the authorities to make sure there wasn't some SAW-related angle to the whole affair.

Having determined there was no crime involved, Whisnant made the local news rounds, and started charging admission to the smoker.

And now, the weird part.

The leg's previous owner, John Wood, wants it back. He was in a bad plane crash in 2004 and while doctors tried for 8 months to save the leg, ultimately it had to be amputated. Wood determined that he wanted to be buried with it when the time came, so he arranged to have the limb preserved and stored. But he came on hard times, and was unable to afford the $42 dollars a month.

Whisnant doesn't want to give the leg up. The final paragraphs from the Seattle Times article (hat tip to Boing Boing) sum it all up nicely, tieing a beautiful tourniquet around the story.

"He's making a freak show out of it," Wood said. "He wants to go on 'The Tonight Show' and he wants to sell it to the National Enquirer and call Ripley's Believe It Or Not. He wants to put money in his pocket with this thing."

After meeting with a lawyer this weekend, Whisnant decided his best move was to convince Wood to share custody.

"It's a strange incident and Halloween's just around the corner," he said. "The price will be going up if I get the leg."