Current events links
Postings are in chronological order, with the most recent entry at the top.
From the Consumer Reports site:
It's phenomenally important (and easy - two minutes!) to at least try to effect the vote on this issue: click here
A conspiracy theory of my very own! Click here
to scroll right on down to that first. I'm so proud! I just knew if I tried hard enough, I could come up with one.
This is a particularly rambly posting as I've sat sipping my liquids and surfing in a daze of late, having been brought low (about toilet level...) by a stomach bug.
The terror alert is orange flavored again... sigh. And they say Boston ranks high on their list of targets...
And so it goes...
They also say they need to test small scale nuclear weapons, because they missed Saddam Hussein in that underground bunker on the first night of the war. They say (or to be more specific, D. Rumsfeld says...) that nowadays, with our deplorably limited military capabilities, all the evil people have to do to defy the US is hide under a sufficient amount of steel and concrete (yep, it's that easy...). This being the case, we have to lift the ban on developing small nuclear weapons so that we can develop a "deep earth penetrator" (just bet they love saying that, but they're not quite certain why it's so gratifying...) to git at the bad guys. Sure, that logic holds up... except for a few minor problems, like, um... it's insane! (click here for an article)
But hey, we've got clever scientists, they'll figure it out for sure. Not to worry. Nuclear bunker buster coming right up! Or down... whichever. Of course, everybody's going to want to have their own bunker buster... not to mention their own nifty nuclear missile set and golly, wouldn't it be nice to have one of those bitchin' nuclear submarines too? Oh yeah, they really want to stop the proliferation of wmd - you bet'cha.
Speaking of deep earth penetration, I was reading Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburnt Country". An account of the author's travels in Australia. Seems they've got big worms down there in Australia - up to twelve feet long, some of 'em. Seems they've got a lot of stuff down there, desert especially, but poisonous things in particular.
This book was a total hoot. This guy, Bryson, has a whopping anxiety condition and he finds himself on a continent inhabited by an amazing array of deadly beasties. From box jellyfish to salt water crocodiles, you can die in the most horrid and unexpected ways in Australia. No wonder Australians are said to be happy-go-lucky, they're thrilled to have made it through the day without something jumping up and snapping their heads off or making them drop to their knees in extreme pain.
And... it's mentioned in the book that Aum Shinrikyo (the Japanese cult that perpetrated the sarin gas attack in the Japanese subway system) was suspected of having exploded a nuclear device in the Australian desert (scientists recorded something that indicated the possibility). The reason no one knows for sure what happened is that the place is so vast - miles and miles of nothing but desert. The Japanese folks on bicycles out in middle of all of that open expanse raised suspicions that the cult might be involved... The world man, it's a freaky place. The US government is leaning toward another (far less intriguing) interpretation of events: click here
I found the stuff about Megascolides australis, the giant earthworms, curiously fascinating. Hey! Maybe D. Rumsfeld should give up the nuclear bunker buster idea and start training some of these puppies instead. I can hear it now (with a B-movie soundtrack running behind the dialogue), "They're defying us! I think it's time... Send in the Earthworms!" It could happen... but then PITA would protest the exploitation of the worms... so my movie would get snagged in lawsuits and red tape. Moving right along (back to the issue at hand - how long was I gone?), these worms are, like, underground celebrities. There's even a nifty museum (worm shaped!), where the worms are exalted and raised to their deserved status (click here to see the nifty museum's structure). It's said that you can hear them moving through the dirt. Hear them. I don't know about you, but I'm quite happy with the illusion of a solid mass beneath my feet - the thought of some oversized crawler burrowing beneath me is manageable in the abstract, but the reality - enhanced by sound effects - is a bit much.
If your heart desires it, you can read more about the fascinating exploits of the giant Gippsland earthworm (a.k.a. "the vulnerable worm" - it's a threatened species) by clicking here or here (both sites are interesting and very well done, but the second one mentions their being recruiting hermaphrodites and so I was intrigued).
And now for something completely different...
I read an article on Buffy the Vampire Slayer's last episode and stated therein was this, "More than any previous TV cult, Buffy sparked a state of creative synergy with the internet generation." Research your assertions buddy. There's an army of Xenites who'd take exception to that remark. The author is British and is apparently unaware of our existence... perhaps we ought to enlighten him? Heh. (click here for the article)
While I'm on about things television - that was a good Benjamin Franklin program on PBS this week and the web site for it is nifty. click here
Franklin was a great thinker, such a multi-faceted intelligence the man had!
"Brulee," says she. "Take me away from all of this... urbanity."
"But of course, my love!" And off we go - to the Maine woods.
It's amazing what you'll see on the way to anywhere these days. Bridges, in particular, have become a fascinating gauge of the American psyche. "Support the Troops" says a cleverly devised sign on a bridge over the highway (95 north). The sign is made from plastic drinking cups pushed through the fencing that crosses the bridge - red cups used for the word "support", white for "the" and blue for "troops". One of the bridges in Maine proclaimed, "Enjoy your freedom? Thank a soldier." Then there were the countless bridges with flags waving from them. The American flag, which before 9/11 was a popular decorative symbol has become ubiquitous. A woman walked into the place where we were eating lunch wearing a nicely knit sweater - flag knit across her front. It was a cardigan that zipped down the front, so that when she unzips the sweater, she, in effect, tears the flag in half... and while I may be mistaken, I believe this was lost on the wearer of said sweater - if not also its designer.
As we were eating at noon (it was lunch, after all), we sat and listened to the national anthem playing on the country radio station that was on in the restaurant. "Your afternoon shot of patriotism!" I'd rather they read a bit of Ben Franklin or Mark Twain (maybe one of his essays on imperialism...) or some such, but I usually rather they did some other such than they're doing and so I may as well plod on...
Maine is not known for its Thai cuisine - its coast, its trees, its accent, its tall blonde women, its lobsters perhaps... but not its Thai cuisine. So how is it, you might ask, that we found ourselves in a Thai restaurant in Portland that night? It's a short and uninteresting story that goes something like this... there's a guide book called, "The Maine Bible". It listed a place in Portland off the beaten track (Portland is a city in southern Maine - an urbanesque oasis in a whole lot of wood). Ume was in the mood for Thai - the book said it was good (though it qualified this recommendation by noting "good for these type of places"). We know better. Well, I know better, but Ume was in a mood and I'd already said that she could have her heart's desire for dinner (an attempt to purchase myself some protection from said mood...).
We pulled into a parking lot that circled what must once have been a Wendy's, if not a Roy Rogers restaurant. I was already laughing. Ume allowed as how the signs were not fortuitous and we could go somewhere else if I wanted to. I said, "We're in it for the story now." Oh, and we'd had to drive so far off the beaten track that I thought I saw a couple of Canadian border guards leaving the restaurant with take-out bags as we drove up (who knew Portland was so damn big? their not quite urban oasis is sprawling and whatnot).
The evening never rose to the height of ludicrous that inspires a good telling. Oh there were a few hitches here and there; it was Mother's Day and everyone in Maine thinks taking Mom out for Thai is that kind of exotic experience that she's been missing on those days when she's not being celebrated; the waitress forgot to give us a menu (she was overcome by the mother's day thing... and crowd); the food was barely edible - but we'd already guessed that from the bland colors we'd glimpsed as dishes arrived at other tables; there were sappy posters everywhere advertising Thai products and vacations - an immaculately banal atmosphere... though somewhat nefarious in it's total indifference to flavor.
The waitress was cheerful, I'll give it that... and the tablecloth had a certain something going on...
The evening didn't get much better, I'm sorry to report - and it would have been an unmitigated disaster had it not been for the frogs. On our way to the hotel we found ourselves in another kind of too predictable American experience - we got lost in strip mall hell. It was a nice strip mall as strip malls go (designer stores along the highway instead of fast food restaurants...), but we got lost in it. And each time Ume called the hotel to explain that they'd directed us incorrectly, again, they'd send us back onto the highway to get off at another exit and we'd find ourselves in yet another strip mall hell that looked eerily like the one before, only this time it would be car dealerships instead of clothing stores (have I mentioned sprawl yet?). After the last call to the hotel, when they sent us back to the exit we'd taken the first time we'd turned off the highway (I swear I'll never leave the house without a map again), my mood was predictably agitated.
This was supposed to be a getaway? I could get this agitated about stupidity and ineptitude at home, I didn't have to drive two hours north to get pissed off - we do that kind of thing pretty well in Massachusetts, thank you very much. And as I was driving up the long on ramp to the highway, a long curving stretch of road that went around a small marshy bit of wetland, I heard it. "Open your window," I told Ume (who was muy displeased by then). She gave me a perplexed look, like maybe I'd finally had it and I wanted her to climb out. "We're in Maine, it's cold out there."
"Just open it," I insisted. She did and looked at me perplexed again as the car filled with a trilling sound.
"Frogs!" I said. "Those are frogs."
Recognition dawned and so did a sparkley smile. "Wow!" she said.
"Too cool," I said.
We passed a few spots where the frog songs were deafening. "Those frogs are doing it up right," I thought. "What's our problem?"
We got to the hotel and Ume alerted the kid on staff that their directions were less than stellar. He was aghast and apologized. "We at Stately Manners Inn strive for the best in service. If you'd like to flog me for the inconvenience, there is a post out back for that purpose."
Ume allowed as how he was sorry and we went off to our room - wondering exactly what kind of place we'd checked ourselves into...
What else did we see in Maine? You can peruse some photos from the foray by clicking here.
Normalcy anyone? A Diane Roberts blurp on NPR - great commentary on returning to "normal" in America. It's worth surfing to this page and scrolling down to "Back to Normal". Who needs to listen to me be baffled about the absurdities of this earth and US politics when there are folks out there who are baffled in a lovely southern Alabama type accent... click here
Tornadoes shredding the southwest, terroroist attacks in Saudi Arabia, another regime change in Iraq, women being traded on the stock market (click here or you can get frivilous conversation about it in audio here, though I don't know why you would)... I need a shot of media analysis to keep me going: click here for Danny Schechter's lefty media analysis blog
Gore Vidal's making a splash in various circles with his new book, Dreaming War: The Cheney-Bush Junta. You can listen to an interview with himself - I downloaded the second hour of this show and I recommend zipping ahead to the 40 min. mark of the audio file (.mp3) to his speech at the Society for Ethical Culture in New York - all of the pertinent remarks are there (good macro analysis of the powers that be) and you get to skip his obnoxious mimicry of a southern accent - he's a smart man, but a terrible mimic (.mp3 or Real Audio for dial-up connections, etc. 05.13.03): click here
Nothing like a good whine followed by beating a dead horse (American slang expression or possibly British... I'm not hauling my ass over to the dictionary to find out, in any case - it's, like, ten whole feet from the keyboard - you metric people do the conversions, I'm in a mood and whatnot). If you forgot to look at this link when I first posted it, now would be a good time: Selective Intelligence: Donald Rumsfeld Has His Own Special Sources. Are They Reliable? by Seymour M. Hersh published in The New Yorker: click here
Democrats gone missing: Here's a peep at politics in Texas, where there was a major dust up this week. Who says politicians aren't creative? No one who watched this. What's becoming of us do you think? "Progressive polarization and the disappearing middle," they say. I think they've got a good handle on it in this conversation. (The Connection, 05.16.03 RealOne player file): click here
Or you can read The Nation's angle on Homeland Security's questionable involvement in the hunt for the missing legislators: click here
I know that I'm whining in the digital wilderness here, but with the June decision to change FCC regulations on media ownership right around the corner, I've yet to see this issue make more than a blip on public radio and television (gee, non-corporate owned entities... hmmm). Does that not scare people even an itty-bitty bit? Good thing the Senate seems to be hearing something - they're trying (trying is something, no?) to pass a bill that will maintain a 35% ownership cap per television market (what about radio and newspapers? guess Clear Channel's got better friends in the White House, I mean, lobbyists... and organizing all of those pro-war rallies couldn't have damaged their standing much either): click here
Ah, there's nothing like good old fashioned tradition! Don't 'cha just love tradition? Don't 'cha just love the good old days? When men were men and women were possessions? Oh... that's right, that's not the good old days... that's now! click here
"But Brulee!" you exclaim. "The man suffers too in these arranged marriages!" You are truly compassionate - it's a trait I struggle with... Anyway, I'm sure he suffers - only, if, say, once he's married he decides that he's going to get a little something on the side to fulfill that longing for... whatever - he doesn't get stoned or shot for dishonoring his wife (like she would if she were caught for doing the same thing). I'm not qualified as any kind of cultural practices critic, so I'll lay off other people's bizarre traditions and stick to my own people's bizarre traditions about which I'm also unqualified to comment, but compelled to nonetheless.
Take tree-sitting, for example. Here's a tradition that begs comment. There's a place north and to the west of here where once a year people climb up into the trees and sit there for two days. Not for eco-activist type reasons, just as a matter of course... or because it's a contest. If you tell people they're in a contest, you can get 'em to do the damndest things: click here (a little info on the town that hosts this yearly event: click here)
People will do the damndest things even if they're not in a contest (as "reality tv" attests to over and over again). My recent favorite pursuit for the sake of pursuing is GeoCaching. It's kind of sweet in a bizarre, "We haven't got anything better to do with ourselves", kind of way. People hiding and finding bits and pieces of things all over the place. We human beings truly are perverse, but fascinating - in that poke the bruise kind of way, no?: click here for more info on GeoCaching
I've been way too newsy this week. I'm takin' a week off. No more news for me! You're devastated, I'm sure.
My spellchecker didn't recognize the word, "terrorist". "No known spelling for this word." For some reason, this happenstance was curiosly pleasant - hinting at possiblilities of alternate realities.
It's a good thing I took a poll of my readership and not your pulse, 'cuz if it were your pulse y'all would be flatlining (a.k.a. deceased). The results of said poll are: the story will be posted in it's entirety... in a few weeks from now.
One respondee suggested that I give away a coffee machine to get people to respond (indeed, she seemed to be under the impression that one would be arriving as an attachment in her e-mail for having participated - and as soon as I figure out how to do that, it'll be on it's way). This person is a marketing genius. The next time I have a poll, I'll have to devise a clever marketing strategy by which you all think you're getting fabulous sparkly items and such for giving up your opinions.
Ume pointed out that you do actually get fabulous sparkling prose - from yours truly - at no cost and that you ought to be so utterly grateful for said bounty and benificence that you can't click that e-mail link fast enough to respond to my poll (she's, like, solidly in my corner - it's a good feeling, you know?). Me, I said, "But my darling Gefiltefish, they're used to having it all for free. The entirety of the internet is out there, virtually tons of free content. They read that there's a poll, they consider the link, they say, 'Gosh she's clever, but I don't answer polls because they're just marketing gimmicks and besides, I don't care whether she posts in parts or of a piece.'" And well you shouldn't care, because this particular piece is way short. But that's besides the bloody point! And how could you?! I mean, after all we've been through together! How could you accuse me of perpetrating a cheap marketing gimmick upon you? After all of the pop up ads and imbedded ads you endure to get to my paltry content, you think I'd push another bit of sell on you? I'm deeply saddened that you think me so craven. Deeply... sniff.
But the show must go on... <forced, but brave smile - the kind those women who just found out they didn't win the academy award, but a billion people are watching them so they tough it out for a good three minutes until the camera turns away - or, similarly, and infinitely more painfully, the smiles on losing beauty contestant's faces ("I sang in a thong for this?!")> and so on we go! To poll respondees (and those who responded in spirit, but were not actually able to click the send button due to social anxiety issues) - this post and the following poem is dedicated to you:
Of questionable intelligence...
Ooh la, la - here's a terrific discussion to be having! Does it matter if there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? A nasty dictator's gone, so why should we care? When you justify preemtive action to your democratic populace using WMD as your primary concern... Wondering Where the Weapons Are on The Connection 05.09.03, RealOne player: click here
If you read two long articles this week - let these be they:
Selective Intelligence: Donald Rumsfeld Has His Own Special Sources. Are They Reliable?
by Seymour M. Hersh published in The New Yorker: click here
Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover Among America's Secret Theocrats by Jeffrey Sharlet published in Harper's - a veritable spine chiller this one is: click here
The Jesus Plus Nothing article reminds me of Voltaire...
"A fanaticism composed of superstition and ignorance has been the sickness of all the centuries." Amen brother!
Also of note from Voltaire (in 1767): "Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices." This has also been translated thusly: "As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities."
"The man who says to me, 'Believe as I do, or God will damn you,' will presently say, 'Believe as I do, or I shall assasinate you.'"
"Ecrasez L'Infame!" the translation for this is found on a nifty bio page on Voltaire (click here) "Whatever you do, crush the infamy." The phrase "ecrasez l'infame" recurs in Voltaire's letters. Voltaire said that the infamy he meant was superstition, but many have interpreted it as referring to clericalism or organized religion.
It's hardly relevant... but not really, I just can't resist linking to this too - it concerns atheists and Bush Sr. - ah, such enlightened times we live and breathe in...: click here
More on the recent truth in reporting problem... Missing in Action: Truth by Nicholas Kristof: click here
Some examples from the past of "intelligence" abuses, that are relevent to the search for WMD, Ex-CIA Professionals: Weapons of Mass Distraction: Where? Find? Plant? by David MacMichael and Ray McGovern: click here
Here's an interview that I enjoyed, I only wish this guy had a little more in the way of power... Former U.S. Diplomat John Brady Kiesling - talking with Teri Gross about his resignation before the war: click here (04.24.03: RealOne player)
Go get 'em Senator Byrd - another speech: click here
They're b-a-a-c-k! I told you they would be, they're, like, pestulance and whatnot. Those friendly folks who brought us the "Defence Of Marriage Act" (a.k.a. DOMA and superDOMA) legislation. They're trying to squeeze this law through the Massachusetts legislature before the witching hour of this summer. Why? Why so urgent? Why are Tom Finneran and his cohorts attempting to ram this nasty little missive through again? Why it's simple, there's a wee, outside chance that the Supreme Court of MA may legalize same sex marriage this summer. If this child of DOMA bill goes through, it would outlaw same sex marriage regarless of the Supreme Court descision. Clever, eh?
Y'all can read about the new nasty bill and what you can do about it, here: click here
Information on the Supreme court case can be read here: click here
And here's a curious bit of info on how the MA populous considers the issue: click here
Ume and I are not the marrying kind, but we certainly think anyone who wants to should be allowed. We pay taxes, no? Why shouldn't gays be granted all of the legal protections and priviledges that come with marriage? Or are those only the pervue of the goodly heterosexual class? Inheritance benefits, hospital visiting rights and the like. Heterosexuals being so much more virtuous, saintly and deserving - not to mention, natural - I guess they feel that those sorts of things should be theirs alone. Oh yes, those heterosexual couples are ever so much more natural, than we, the inverted sufferers of god's disfavor. Pfft! Oh please, I grew up in a heterosexual household (some of my best friends are heterosexual...), I know better. Besides, did you read those couple's profiles on the GLAD site? (click here) These people are so normal and clean-cut the page squeeked when I scrolled down to read it. Give 'em their damn marriage rights, already!
Disclaimer: the views expressed here are those of the author, they do not necessarily represent the views of the Celestial Buffet website, nor children taking modern dance lessons.
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