Thursday, January 29, 2009


And the weather reports for Austin this evening are calling for clouds, a thirty percent chance of rain mixed with sleet, and periods of heavy zombification.

Apparently hackers broke into a stand-alone street sign outside of Austin and changed the message.

Riiiight. Sure. They expect us to believe that? Stock up on shotgun shells, my friends, i think this could be it.

The story, adorably, told readers that changing the message on these kinds of signs is as easy as scrolling down through a list of options and typing it in. Then they went on to say that it is illegal to do so. Hee hee.


here's another pic from the austin 'incident' that i found on neatorama

facepalm beach

Ah, Florida. It's like Texas for the East Coast: a repository for all that is dumb, trashy, shameful and wrong with America.

But, like Texas, Florida is also a faithful font of stories about Teh Stupid, and How Not To Behave. Here (via fark) is a loverly tale of a bag of oregano, $450, a 911 call, and two young men desirous of the alleged intoxicating effects of marijuana.

After setting up a deal to buy weed, these two geniuses

what is it about the horrible ethan hawke moustache/chin fuzz combo that invariably points to Teh Stupid?

discovered that the fatty bag they had just purchased was not full of sweet sweet mary jane, but rather some household spices and perhaps yard clippings. So after failing to convince the cousin who had set up the deal to get them their money back, they called 911. To report that their drug deal had gone bad. Sweet.

Monday, January 26, 2009


So, i've been slacking here lately. I have been driving to Denver to rehearse 'And the Winner Is...' and working on learning lines, for one thing. But when it comes to the writing stuff, i have been delving pretty deeply into a sci-fi project i've been toying with for a long time.

The working title is 'Crescent City Blues,' and it's a story set in New Orleans in the near future. Katrina was just the tip of the iceberg; floods keep coming, rendering much of the ground level of the city nigh-uninhabitable. Once 75 percent of the population has fled, corporations seize on the bright idea of rebuilding the city, only doing it above the actual city. Upstairs. A new enclosed mall of a city, an Applebee's version of New Orleans, sterile and exclusive, looms above the streets.

Meanwhile, normal (read: poor) people eke out a living as best they can on the ground.

Here's a small taste:


In a mad swirl of club music, bodies cavorted in and around The Saloon. Dancers gyrated amid lunatic shafts of purple and green light, which spun like schizophrenic fingers poking through the open shutters into the night. The crowd overspilled the bar’s doorway and into the street, howling up into the night, daring ever more outrageous acts from the people on the balcony above. Screaming the universal language of the too-loud club, men and women yelled into one another’s ears, no doubt imparting tidbits of wisdom that would be remembered forever.

Some wore costumes -- superheroes, politicians and movie stars populated the street -- while others wore as little as possible, and continued the process of removing clothing in the oppressive heat. They clutched their drinks even as they casually parted ways with their shirts, and for some, their pants. Unconcerned, glistening with sweat, they bounced along with the thump of the music.

Just upriver, the towering concrete monolith of the Royal Sonesta Hotel and Casino loomed above the proceedings like a disapproving relative, or a shunned dance partner, its wall of desperate neon advertising winking down at the revelers. But no one noticed. Or cared.

That was Upstairs; this was Downstairs.

The Saloon was one of the last places on street level that still did any kind of steady business, although the place worked hard to maintain the feel of an underground club. Even so, such was the pull of the owners that you might occasionally even see a cop patrolling nearby, a rarity Downstairs these days; a near-impossibility after dark. The crowd was made up of the young and the hip, as well as those who wished they were, a free-for-all mélange of white, black, brown, straight, gay, trans and who-knows-what.

This was not where you would be likely to find middle-aged tourists from Indiana. They would be safely ensconced Upstairs, in places like the Royal Sonesta, behind layer upon layer of Plexiglas and locked doors. There, they could enjoy the air-conditioning and perhaps a late buffet at the casino, with a safe view of the city and the river -- and, oh, Harold, just look at the way the lights glimmer on the water! The bars, restaurants and theaters up there offered their own amusements -- albeit of a slightly more demure variety -- and you never had to leave the air-conditioned safety of your concrete cocoon.

Someone once described the so-called culture of Upstairs as being on board a miles-long cruise ship that never dropped anchor.

To Jess, a senior at Ohio State down for the week with her friends Sara and Taylor, Upstairs was about as much fun as going on spring break with your grandparents.

“Oh, yeah, great,” said Jess, earlier that evening when she was trying to talk the others into venturing Downstairs. “Sounds like a blast. We’ll just hang out in the casino and listen to the Frank Sinatra impersonator and hit the sack around, what, 9:30?”

“Jess, it’s not safe down there,” said Taylor. “You know that. You said so yourself.”

“I never said it wasn’t safe; I said you had to be smart if you went down,” Jess replied.

The three of them had come down from Columbus to volunteer for the convention, but Jess had arranged it so they would have a couple extra days to party before their work started in earnest.

“Look, some of the best music and culture in the country is coming out of Downstairs New Orleans right now,” she said. “Old New Orleans is where it’s at, and here we are, at the heart of it! But we’re not in the heart of it -- we’re sitting in a boring-ass hotel bar 300 feet above it!”

Other patrons at the aforementioned boring-ass bar looked up as Jess’ voice rose in volume as well as pitch. The bartender eyed the trio and thought about checking their IDs again.

“It’s like Austin was twenty years ago,” Jess continued, oblivious to the sudden iciness in the room. “And Seattle before that, and Athens before that. I’m telling you, if we spend our entire time here hiding Upstairs, we are going to regret it. What if you had the chance to see the next Sensus, or Flaggship or Stone Impeachment in some little club, before they got huge? What would you give to be able to tell a story like that?”

Jess was very persuasive. Before long the girls were exiting the last doorway onto the street.

It was only Wednesday night, but with the convention coming up, people were ready for a party, the oppressive August heat be damned. There was a strange alchemy that occurred in New Orleans in the summertime. You could spend the entire day doing your best to avoid the heat, flitting from home to store to movie theatre to restaurant, spending as little time as possible outside, all the while seeking the air-conditioning with the desperation of a fish flopping around on the bank of a stream. When the heat was unavoidable, you would feel dragged down, slowed to a crawl, almost ill with the oppressive weight of it, as if it were a slimy, sweaty, living thing that had attached itself to you.

It was The Beast. It felt as if a stealthy water buffalo had taken up residence on your back when you weren’t paying attention.

But when the liquor started flowing and the music started playing, there was a switch that got thrown, a changeover from oppressiveness to release. The Beast, this creature you lugged around with you all day suddenly turned all helpful and friendly-like. He guided you into the funniest, most interesting conversations, he rendered your lame words fascinating and hilarious, and he made you irresistible to the opposite sex. When the booze was flowing there was suddenly something slippery and wonderful and free about the heat. The Beast dug its claws into your ribs and spurred you on, and you happily complied. The heat and the booze combined into permission, translating sweat into drunkenness into freedom into lust.

Suddenly, it was safe to let the animal out.

In order to describe this story, we need a new type of irony, irony doubled or trebled, a grande venti triple-lutz mochaccino of irony.

Ah hahahahahaha!

Fucking Texas. I love these people. They go to such amazing lengths to confirm all the stereotypes we have about them.

Here’s a story about a south Texas town called Conroe where a student stopped reading Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ after a few pages because she found it objectionable. After showing her father the pages where characters curse and burn the bible, said daddy of precious snowflake (who, judging by the mallet-between-the-eyes interview clip, has inherited every last bit of her father’s intelligence) is seeking to have the book banned from the school, going so far as to use the words ‘It shouldn’t be read.’

As a sci-fi fan, a reader of many books, and an alleged writer, this book is one of my all-time favorites; I’ve read it many times. And as a smart-ass, know-it-all punk kid, I used to revel in the anti-authoritarianism of it when I read it as a student. Along with authors like Vonnegut and Hunter Thompson, this book in particular helped formulate my notions of freedom of thought/speech/action and ideas of liberalism in general.

Now. For those of you who don’t know, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ is a story set in a dystopian future in which books are not only banned, but are actually burned by ‘firemen,’ whose job is to go around and seek out books that have been stashed and burn them.

Oh, and the whipped cream atop our grande mochaccino of irony? This entire controversy happened during National Banned Books week, a week wherein we celebrate all the wonderful books that tiny-minded people have made efforts to ban over the years.

So to sum up: dipshit bible-thumpers want to ban a book that warned of the dangers of banning books, with no sense of the grand majesty of the irony involved.

Thank God for Texas. They make the rest of us look so fucking smart in comparison.

Friday, January 16, 2009

colorado drivers: a study

Recently I started rehearsing a new play in Denver, called ‘And the Winner Is...’ by Mitch Albom, the guy who wrote ‘Tuesdays With Morrie.’ It’s down at Vintage Theatre, the place where I did Streetcar last summer, and so I’ve started doing the drive back and forth to Denver again.

I love the people I’m working with, and I’m having a lot of fun, so that makes it less heinous to drive down. However the driving has afforded me the opportunity to notice and categorize the various types of drivers we have here in loverly Colorado. Since I find myself yelling at the same people over and over again, I thought I would share with you who they are. If you can think of any types I have overlooked, or if you ARE one of these types, or one I’ve overlooked, please to share. :)

1. Mr.Speedy -- I generally only see or notice this guy late at night on the way back from Denver, but he is the young fellow who thinks ‘The Fast and the Furious’ is a how-to manual for living. He sees Vin Diesel as a sort of Mr. Miyagi, full of clever life lessons, like ‘If you’re not out of control, you’re not in control.’ Erm, okay...

yes, that's cardboard. exactly as useful as the same fiberglass mods on a car that can't go over 95 mph.

Mr. Speedy drives a tricked-out piss-yellow Civic, with endless mods that he pays for by working at Domino’s and living with his parents, thus saving on rent. He is so desperate for attention and validation that he will attempt to bait anyone into racing by cruising alongside them and preventing them from passing, even if the only competition is a rusted-out Chevy Impala.

Sample insult: ‘Come on, Mr. Speedy, make up your mind! How fast do you wanna go? Your dick ain’t getting any bigger!’

2. Trucknutz -- This name has nothing to do with whether or not the said driver actually has Trucknutz, the delightful and oh-so-subtle masculinity substitution you can attach to the rear bumper of your vehicle (now in chrome!!!) in order to remind the world your vehicle is male? Or that you are male? That you have a tiny, flaccid, wrinkled penis that no actual female is interested in?

redneck in training. i believe that children are the future.

I’m not real sure what they’re for. At any rate, there is a certain type of Colorado driver who drives a pick-up with a toolbox in back, with or without Trucknutz, and is very determined to prove he is a bigger man than everyone else. If he is in the left lane going 74 mph, then by God that’s fast enough for you too. If you go to pass him, he will speed up until you are blocked in, then he will slow down again. Oh, and the left lane is His Territory. God forbid you should pass him on the right. If you do catch him unawares and get by him on the right, he will ride your Trucknutless tail for miles, no doubt suffering a apoplectic fit of insecurity and emasculation, his withered genitals shrinking ever upward and finally crawling up into his abdomen where they will atrophy and die, thus making him even angrier.

Sample insult: Let’s go, Trucknutz! Get the fuck over! We’re all very impressed.’

3. Ms. Minivan Lady -- These creatures are most often seen in minivans, but can be spotted sometimes in SUVs and other vehicles. They generally have six to eight precious little snowflakes in the back, and as their erratic driving style makes plain, they spend most of the journey facing the backseat, yelling at someone rather than focused on the road. They are unpredictable animals; they speed up and slow down randomly, weaving back and forth from lane to lane with no discernable plan or intention behind the moves.

It might be imagined that they are generally not as aggressive as other drivers, but this would be a mistake. The wild, random fits of aggression they display are even more pronounced, as they have no clear rationale behind them and are in fact merely random signals sent from the brain to the feet and hands between arguments with aforementioned snot-nosed snowflakes in the back. The brain thinks: ‘Hmm. It seems like I’m supposed to be focusing on piloting this 2000-pound guided missile...I forget. Oh well! Say, the left lane seems like it might be fun! Zoom!’

She may wait until fifty yards before her exit to suddenly weave across four lanes of traffic, completely oblivious to the major pile-up she has just caused, as she’s more worried about little Tyler, who just spilled his grape juice on Morgan’s new white jacket.

Sample insult: ‘You can’t be serious, Minivan Lady! 54 miles an hour? Pull your head outta yer ass!’

4. Wyoming -- Now, I’m positive that Wyoming is home to a diverse and interesting populace. But there is a certain driving style that those Wyoming residents who come south have consistently displayed. It is mainly characterized by stubbornly, constantly, permanently and forever sitting in the left lane. No matter what. Always. If they aren’t in the left lane, they freak out like a meth addict in the cold and flu aisle at the pharmacy. (‘So...much...Sudafed!!’)

I'm pretty sure that's a Wyoming plate.

Even if they have no discernable plans for passing the car in front of them, or even going faster than the person they were just behind, these creatures will dart out from the right lane at the first opportunity, even if that means cutting you off when you’re going 85. There are certain similarities between the behaviors of the Trucknutz species and that of Wyomings -- i.e. the insecurity, the need for sitting in the left lane. But while Trucknutz only come in youngish male, Wyomings can be male or female, young or old. They, too, feel that it is a sign of inadequacy if they let someone pass. It pisses them off if you do manage it somehow. In fact they drive as if they are pretty much always pissed off. But then, they live in Wyoming. Wouldn’t you be angry too?

Sample insult: ‘Jesus Christ, Wyoming! Do another bump and then see if you can find the gas pedal! I’m dying back here!’

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

make mine a venti

Oh, that explains it! This must be why I’ve been hearing those damn voices so much lately. It’s all to do with caffeine intake, apparently. From an (all-too-brief) article in the Sun, researchers have found a correlation between caffeine intake and auditory and visual hallucinations, including hearing voices and seeing ghosts.

Now, I also heard a much more in depth version of this story on NPR last night, (which i can't find on their website) and I seem to recall a couple of details that are very interesting and disturbing.

One is that the researchers took pains to point out that, while their study showed that more people who drank seven cups of coffee a day heard voices, the truth is that the baseline is around 3 percent. Meaning that around 3 percent of people in the GENERAL PUBLIC report hearing voices.


Maybe that also explains all the shitty drivers on I-25...they’re too busy getting driving instructions from hallucinations to pay attention to the reality on the road right in front of them.

The other interesting point was that one of the researchers said they haven’t actually come up with proof of causation. Meaning, the coffee may not be the cause of the hallucinations. The way he put it in the interview, and I am paraphrasing, was that perhaps people who were already more susceptible to hallucinatory experiences drank more coffee because they were more high-strung and nervous.

Yeah, if I was seeing ghosts and hearing voices all the time, I’d be reaching for the Wild Turkey or the Robitussin, not the Maxwell House.

Friday, January 9, 2009

all work

well, lloyd, i'll tell you what.

here's a really cool book i came across via metafilter.
it's by an up-and-coming young author named jack torrance.
click here to preview it. :)

welcome to alabama, son

You ain't from around here, are ya, boy?

That seems to be the message a northern Alabama sheriff was sending when it came to light that not only was he skimping on the $1.75 per day allowance he was allotted to feed his prisoners, he was allowed under Alabama law to keep whatever was left over.

According to the NY Times story, Sheriff Greg Bartlett made somewhere around $212,000 over the past three years by cutting back on how much he spent on feeding his prisoners -- and he legally got to keep the money.

However, as a judge learned about the situation, including information that some inmates had dropped as much as thirty pounds while staying in Sheriff Bartlett's Decatur, Alabama jail, he was so appalled he ordered the sheriff himself confined in his own jail until he could come up with a plan to better feed his inmates.

“There was undisputed evidence that most of the inmates had lost significant weight,” the judge, U. W. Clemon of Federal District Court in Birmingham, said Thursday in an interview. “I could not ignore them.”

So this week, Judge Clemon ordered Sheriff Bartlett himself jailed until he came up with a plan to adequately feed prisoners more, anyway, than a few spoonfuls of grits, part of an egg and a piece of toast at breakfast, and bits of undercooked, bloody chicken at supper.

Delightful. Thank you, Sheriff Bartlett, for propogating the stereotype of southern sheriffs as ignorant, selfish, inhuman monsters. Southern justice at its best.

mr. shabby, ken shabby

I had a dream last night, a traveling dream in which I am rushing through a station of some sort, one of those huge, old-fashioned train stations, all marble, towering vaulted ceilings and dark wood paneling. Like a prestigious, ancient bank, almost.

Compare that image to that of your bank: if it’s like mine, it’s got cheap, worn carpet, a couple of beat-up looking windows where tellers perch from time to time, acoustic ceiling tile, and a crappy little kiosk where they keep cheap, crappy pens chained up (for their own good, no doubt) and deposit slips and so forth.

With that in mind, I remembered a subject that has been clawing at the back of my brain for a while now, the idea that when America finally crumbles, I think it’s not going to be through some major cataclysm. Rather, I predict we will go slowly, that we will almost imperceptibly decline into simple shabbiness. Things will fall apart that will go longer and longer before they get repaired, things will be made of cheaper and cheaper materials, and so will appear shabbier even from the get-go -- we will descend into a cheap, threadbare, Styrofoam/plastic existence that is strictly utilitarian before we disappear completely.

I think as a people, we Americans have a predilection for the dramatic. A country founded in blood, sundered by civil war, carved out of a huge and dramatic landscape -- one that was formerly occupied by numerous nations of people -- no wonder we’re drama queens. We tend not to notice events that don’t make a splash.

And let’s face it: as a people, we are at our best during crisis situations. Look at the secret delight, the coming-together we so enjoy when we help out at the scene of an accident, or hunker down to ride out a tornado, or pitch in after a flood. We are made for disaster -- it’s the rest of the time when we don’t really know what to do with ourselves.

And so I think that there is something built into the American psyche, some underlying, secretive spot that tells us that, when this grand experiment finally ends, when this strange empire that cannot ever call itself that finally goes down, it will be Big, and Loud, and Flashy.

Look at our films, our modern legends of ourselves and who we are as a people: disaster awaits us at every turn. Future scholars will be amused and probably not a little puzzled at how deeply paranoid we were at what might be coming to get us next: meteors, dinosaurs, birds, robots, invasion from space/sea/foreigners/the past/the future, invasion OF the sea -- it’s like we know on some level, deep inside that we’re going down, it’s just a question of how.

But it’s always, always got to be something Big.

I would suggest that when empires end, when the great gears of a sprawling, widespread and diverse empire begin to slow and grind down, it is almost imperceptible to the people living there at the time. I would argue that it’s much easier for future scholars looking back to stick a pin in the spot where empire ended, but not so much for the extant people of said empire.

We are given to understand that the Roman Empire ended in 476 AD, exactly, but that is long after Goths and other tribes had sacked the city of Rome several times, long after the Empire had been split in two, long after the prestige and power of the true empire had waned. But to our minds, that was the date the empire fell -- boom, crash, flames, over.

Even our language suggests hyperbolic drama in a moment of here/not here: the empire ‘fell,’ as in it toppled over. I would suggest it didn’t ‘fall’ so much as it ‘slid.’ And I bet they never knew it was happening, or at least never had a clear sense of ‘the end.’

I don’t think we’ll have a clear sense either. I think we will slide further and further into shabbiness, into a cheapened and degraded existence, an entropic descent as things incrementally grow more and more shabby. We won’t die with a bang -- it’ll be a whimper.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

art? or pre-school?

i can has millions of dollars nao?

So, here’s a funny story (via fark) about an Aussie art gallery that got tricked into showing the ‘art’ of a two year old. The paintings are priced from $350-$2000, and the gallery owners decided to allow the child’s paintings to remain on display even after they found out about the deception. Quoth the parents:

"Of course, every mother is proud of their child. I didn't tell him (Jamieson) because I had all these feelings going through my head — fear, embarrassment."

Er, yeah. That and visions of what you could do with the potential scratch you could make off of your kid squirming around in some paint.

So to find out if the kid’s pictures had any merit, the reporter presented them to the paper’s art critic without telling him anything about the artist:

That's a view shared by The Age's art critic, Robert Nelson. When shown the works without any information on the artist, Nelson said his first impression was of "credible abstractions, maybe playing on Asian screens with their reds. They're heavily reliant on figure/ground relations."

Riiiight. Whatever you say, buddy. At any rate, here’s my problem, o artsy-fartsy friends o’ mine: what’s the difference between this kid’s ‘art’ and that of other modern artists? Why should any adult’s abstract art be more highly valued than this kid’s, if experts can’t see a difference? For that matter, why isn’t the so-called ‘Butt Bandit’ deemed an artist for the fine (and chilly) work he did in Nebraska last fall?

I mean, I understand beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that. And believe me, I am not one to negatively judge another’s artistic endeavors without reason. It’s hard enough to create something without others trying to tear it down with only the intent to destroy for destruction’s sake.

But with a film or a play or a novel or an album, at least there is a common language by which we can all judge something. We can make arguments for or against the merits of said piece and perhaps come to some common conclusion about it. Not so with visual art, especially abstract art.

Again, artsy-fartsy peeps: is it just the language to describe and understand said art that is less commonly spoken, or is it that there is no language that can be understood outside one’s own head and heart to describe how art makes us feel, what we see in it?

And if that’s the case, why are there ‘art experts’ at all? What purpose do they serve if all art is purely subjective?

Beyond that, how can it be said that there are even 'great artists'? If each person's view of art is unique, then all art is of equal merit, depending on who is doing the viewing, right?


and in case we needed reminding...

...The Daily Beast has a handy-dandy list of 20 forgotten Bush scandals here. Examples:

4) The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service would not seem to be the sexiest government agency. But a departmental investigation last year found that officials had “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”

Don't forget, fellow Coloradoans, that was happening at the Lakewood office. (Dammit! See, that's a government job I am uniquely qualified for...) On the other hand, if this is the guy you gotta bang and do blow with, then maybe not so much...

Here's another:

11) Part of the self-created mythology of White House speechwriter Michael Gerson was that he composed his speeches in longhand. But as fellow scribe Matthew Scully later noted: “At the precise moment when the State of the Union address was being drafted at the White House by John [McConnell] and me, Mike was off pretending to craft the State of the Union in longhand for the benefit of a reporter.”

This one is definitely lesser-known, but keep in mind that Gerson is now a Terribly Smart Person writing op-eds for the Washington Post, with titles like today's: 'The Risks in Obama's Ambitions,' containing Terribly Smart criticisms of an administration that has been in power for exactly zero days:

Barack Obama was elected, in part, as the antidote to ambition. Unlike John F. Kennedy, who campaigned against the golf-playing complacency of the Eisenhower era, Obama appealed to a nation weary of large national exertions -- a nation longing for a normality beyond the wars, hurricanes, floods and assorted plagues of the Bush years.

Yet headed toward the inauguration, the scale of Obama's ambition is becoming evident.

Thanks, Mike. Notice how he, too, manages to treat the Bush years as something foreign and alien from himself, despite the fact that he was on their payroll and put many of those odious words in the preznitt's mouth over the years. And not incidentally, he is currently cashing on that former position.

Now, have you got a pen I could borrow, Mike? I need to write something longhand. About your mother.

depression and politics

I never wanted to be one of those cry-baby bloggers who bitch about every little detail of their lives, but I feel some explanation is necessary for why I haven’t been a) posting as much lately, and b) haven’t been posting as much political crap.

Part of it is because I went through a bit of a nasty depression just before leaving for the holidays, which is something that is difficult for me to admit for a couple of reasons.

One, I am a Tough Guy. I don’t typically have a whole lot of sympathy for whiners, and tend not to be one myself. At least I like to think so. :) While a major goal of my psychic life in recent years has been to consciously break away from my ancestors in the middle west, those stoic folk who refuse to admit to ANY feelings whatsoever, and instead find myself a way to feel, I have nonetheless inherited some of that stoicism. I was joking with my friend J about this some time ago, about our parents being the type who, even if they were on fire, would say something like, ‘Oh, no, no, everything’s fine! You go ahead! I’ll just sit here and be engulfed by flames! The heat is actually kind of nice!!’

Point being, I do have a streak of that ‘Everything’s fine’ mentality, especially when it comes to, well, mentality. :)

Another reason it’s hard to admit I was feeling depressed is that I simply have no good reason to feel that way. I don’t have a job I hate, I don’t have a spouse I hate, I’m personable, I go out with friends and have fun, I’m fairly productive when it comes to writing -- there’s really nothing wrong with my life. Nothing wrong, that is, that doesn’t sound like whining.

But I haven’t felt much like writing here. I’ve been working on other things, but as far as the political writing I had been doing prior to November 5, I just felt kind of listless -- still do. So WTF? We won, didn’t we? Shouldn’t I be crowing, enjoying the squirming and mental gymnastics that the right(wrong)-wing pundits are putting themselves through?

Alas, the news to me is pretty fucking grim. As I talked about in the ‘salting the earth’ piece a while back, these douchebags aren’t going to be satisfied until they use every means at their disposal to ensure that the Obama Administration’s options for dealing with the messes left behind by their predecessors are as limited as possible. From the economy to the environment to foreign affairs -- you name it, the Bushies are stealing the proverbial W from the keyboards of state, only in a much more malicious, petty way.

And as far as looking for bi-partisanship in terms of getting bills passed in the future, don’t hold your breath. These guys are clinging to their old models and they can’t see that the world truly has changed. To wit: deregulation doesn’t work. Foreign adventurism doesn’t work. Cutting taxes for the rich doesn’t work.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Bush Administration has done yeoman duty in proving that not a single tenet of post-Reagan Republican thought has any real-world value whatsoever.

Not that they’ll learn anything from this preponderance of evidence. They will fight tooth and nail against any and all efforts the Obama administration makes to improve the lives of people in this country, because if they succeed at doing so, it will only point out in even starker terms just how bereft of ideas and even simple human decency the Republican party has become.

The Republicans WANT things to get shittier. That’s the only shot they have at reclaiming power in four years. And that’s also how shallow and pathetically addicted to power they are: they do not give a shit about your mortgage, your granny losing her house, your unemployment benefits running out, or your kid’s school falling apart. All they care about is power.

Voters: please take a mental snapshot of where we are today. Perhaps clip a few headlines and op-ed pieces from various online newspapers and blogs. And please pull out this little scrapbook in three and half years, and remember: this is the type of country you get when government is run by people who don’t believe that government should exist, or who at least don’t believe government exists to help ALL the people, not just those with lobbyists and cronies and connections.

So, depression. Getting out of town for a few days helped a lot. I’m still having trouble getting back into being fully engaged with the political world right now. Hey, at least we can assure ourselves that there is at least a chance things will improve under Obama. If McCain had won...

Shudder. I think I just pooped myself a little bit. :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

duck and cover, kids!

much like our modern government prefers to keep the populace in a constant state of low-level fear (terror alert level orange, anyone?) so too did the post-war, atomic age government.
but along with the fear, they had to temper it with reassurance. you don't want the populace holing up in their houses or running screaming through the streets firing weapons.
so they made films like this famous 'duck and cover' educational film made to be shown to schoolchildren in 1951.

remember kids: a nuclear explosion could burn your skin, much like a very bad sunburn -- unless you're under your desk!!!

UPDATE: sorry if this clip is fucking autoplay for you too. if you use firefox (and you should) get the Noscript add-on. once it's installed, right-click this page and disallow blogspot. then you can just click on the individual clips you want to view.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

um, i don't know what this is...

...but it's some stuff i was thinking about the other day.

a universe in a box

you are here.

We are given but one choice.

We are given data, information that tells us certain things about the world around us. And based upon that information, we make choices. We decide how to react to the input we are given, we live our lives based upon the things we see. For instance: if the world tells me A, I will react with a set of actions called B, because that has worked in the past. We have the ways in which we react to the data pre-configured.

The one choice we really have is whether to believe the data.

And here’s the idea that just occurred to me this evening: what do you do if you realize, or decide, or figure or somehow stumble onto the realization that your input system is faulty? In other words, what do you do if you were to discover that you cannot correctly process the information that is given to you, that you can no longer trust your input stream? If you come to believe that the images your brain thinks it sees and the sounds it thinks it hears have nothing to do with reality?

What, in other words, if everything you have ever been told is wrong? How do you move on from there, from a place of tossing aside every bit of data you have ever processed, from letting go of everything you ever thought you knew? What then?
Part of this comes from thinking about friends and relatives who were raised in strongly religious homes, and how difficult it must be to wrap your head around the notion that perhaps not all of the things you were taught as a kid are true.

But another part of this comes from simply seeing how casually deluded we all are on so many levels. We walk around with our heads so far up our own asses, with unshakeable beliefs in who we are both physically and morally, how people see us, in what we say we believe. Example: ‘Oh, I’m not a Republican. I’m a Libertarian’ -guy. Yet when you question what he means by that, he confesses to watching O’Reilly religiously, voting for R’s up and down the ticket in the last several elections, etc. ‘Libertarian’ is just a label he must give himself in order to feel as if he is independent and not a mindless follower. (That example is just off the top of my head -- I will think of other examples and add them. If you have any, please send them in comments.)
But what I’m trying to get at here is what would happen if you not only had all your sensory apparatus taken away, as in ‘Tommy’ or some such thing, but slowly came to the realization that everything you ever thought you saw and understood was the result of faulty data? What if you came to find you could no longer trust your lying eyes?

So. The one choice we are given, or which we must take, whether or not it is given -- because it won’t be given, it can’t possibly be given by anyone else -- is to choose not to believe the input sensory data. We must choose to throw out all the data -- which, let’s face it, is faulty at best, due to all of our filtration systems, and our past ‘knowledge’ poisoning the well of our new input streams -- and start over with fresh eyes.

The idea is getting rid of pretty much every single assumption we have ever made about anything or anyone. I can’t possibly know or understand the world or anyone else, I don’t know what they are, or what they want or how they feel; I don’t even know what I am or what I want. I have been playing along with a game, the rules of which I only pretend to understand. I, and the vast majority of my fellow humans have been faking it, in other words. We all run around, smug looks on our faces (because that’s what seems to be expected) pretending we understand what is going on in this universe and with our fellow humans. We do so because we fear that someone else surely knows more about what’s going on than we do, and we don’t wish to appear ignorant. But we are; we are all ignorant, foolish children, blind as bats, playing at a game we can’t even begin to understand. We are cockroaches trapped in a jar of honey that go on believing they are roaming free through a wide field.

We need to invent a new game for ourselves. We need to re-examine the short-sighted, the cynical and unthoughtful ways we have approached our lives and each other. The shortcuts we have taken to understanding not only stand us in ill stead, providing only a fractured and therefore false sense of what we are seeing around us; they are actually a hindrance, simply because we assume that what we are seeing is the truth, and it is not.

We are given one choice: to stop believing that what we are seeing is Truth, or live and die in ignorance.
Jesus, dude. Where’d that come from? :)

Thoughts, anyone? Can anyone make any sense out of all that?


cosmic jewish zombie

pretty much says it all, no?

Friday, January 2, 2009

more holiday thoughts

More holiday travel thoughts.

There is something that happens in my brain this time of year, when i am getting ready to leave town, wherein I feel a sense of foreboding, as if I won’t be surviving the trip -- or at least not coming back somehow.

Beyond the obvious fears about modern travel in general -- four or five days before I left for Pennsylvania a plane skidded off the runway at DIA, thank you very much -- there is something dark and ... closing-off about this time of year. The fact that the shortest day of the year is very close to the day that we celebrate the birth of Mithras -- I mean Jesus -- might have something to do with it. There is an amazingly descriptive passage in a Neil Gaiman book, ‘American Gods’ in which he describes a Celtic rite of sacrifice at the time of the winter solstice in order to bring the sun back out. A child is kept in a cage and eventually killed in order to appease the sun god who is forsaking the tribe in winter.

Now, I don’t profess to know the historical accuracy of such a story, but suffice it to say that we can be pretty certain that human sacrifice to various gods has occurred throughout history. I think we Anglo-Saxon types would prefer to believe that such practices were limited to dusky, brown people on exotic non-European continents, and that’s what makes the idea that our Celtic ancestors might have done these things especially shocking.

However, I think it is interesting that I get a feeling in my bones that death or the end of this phase of life lies right around the corner, as I get ready to leave for Xmas vacation. (I’m back now, and no harm done, but it is still curious to me that I feel this way every year.)

Maybe I was a human sacrifice in a past life. Or maybe it’s just a damn bleak and unforgiving time of year, lol. I feel better now, though, and the days are already getting longer, thank Jupiter --I mean jesus.