Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Redux: Reagan's early-stage Alzheimer's incident

A few days ago I remarked that "Reagan had Alzheimer's since at least 1984." Someone asked me where I got that idea.

Does anybody remember the closing statements in the October 8, 1984 presidential debate with Democratic condidate Walter Mondale? Reagan started talking about driving down Highway 1 in California and how it made him think about how great this country was, and then he completely forgot what he was talking about and where he was, lost his place, started repeating himself, and ran out of time. The moderator gently interrupted him, and Reagan got this "What the-- what the hell's going on??" look on his face and shut up. Thus ended the debate.

At the time, I was convinced that this incident had demonstrated in front of the whole nation that Reagan was utterly out of it and couldn't be trusted with a can opener, much less the hydrogen bomb. But as it turned out, the incident was completely ignored and Reagan went on to win in a landslide.

Here's Chief of Staff James Baker commenting on the incident:

It's really important in a presidential debate that you open strong and close strong and generally speaking, the candidates are encouraged to memorize their closing statements. And President Reagan didn't do that and the Louisville debate and consequently he had trouble with it. If you go back and view the tape of that debate and he lost his track. But, that's the only time I remember an incident really where he didn't "do his homework."

Oh really? Let's see. It was 1994 when Reagan announced he had Alzheimer's, undoubtedly because family members and aides could no longer hide it. That was only six years after he left office. Believe me, it takes longer than six years between the onset of Alzheimer's and the day others can no longer deny you have it.

What I'm doing here

This quotation from Nina Simone, who died in 2003, was included today in the obituary summary on "All Things Considered." It says as much as anyone ever has about the purpose of the artist in society:

There's no other purpose, so far as I'm concerned, for us [artists] except to reflect the times, the situations around us and the things we're able to say through our art. The things that millions of people can't say. I think that's the function of an artist and, of course, those of us who are lucky, leave a legacy so that when we're dead, we also live on.

In memoriam: Brandon Teena

Transexual Brandon Teena was murdered ten years ago today. (Link courtesy metafilter)

Meat we eat

In new rules promulgated by the FDA, meat processors will no longer be allowed to slaughter 'downer cows' into hamburger. Said cows are those which are unable to walk on their own. "You know what this whole mad cow scare will do?" Cris said.

"Keep American beef from being exported to other countries, thus lowering the price here," I answered. We were reading at the breakfast table. We both have the day off.

"Besides that," she said. "You know where all these 'downer cows' come from? They're injured in the course of transporting them. That's where most of them come from, broken legs, not illness."

"I didn't know that," I said. "You know, if you had your own blog, you could post such pithy observations."

"You post it," she said. "But you know what it will do? It will make ranchers and meat processors improve the whole process of transporting and slaughtering cows, because if they can't market the ones with broken legs, they'll want to improve the process to minimize loss."

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Law 'n order

Here's a mind-blowing case. A federal appeals court upheld a man's "three strikes" conviction of 26 years to life for the crime of... taking a driver's license exam for his cousin.

This chump had a juvenile burglary and an adult robbery conviction. So he gets caught taking a test for his cousin -- that's perjury. So long, sucker.

And that's from the famously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I wonder if the right wing critics who are trying to make an "out of control judiciary" an issue in the presidential race will cite this case.

Up and away

Though I have little faith in the ability of my fellow Americans to drive so much as a Toyota Corolla, this LA Times article says there are still people working toward a future when we will buzz around in Jetsons-like air cars:

"One day, 'The Jetsons' could be the answer" to our traffic woes, said aircraft design engineer Sid Siddiqi, referring to the 1960s cartoon series featuring a suburban future full of flying cars. Siddiqi works for the National Consortium for Aviation Mobility, a Virginia-based nonprofit that is working with NASA to develop its Small Aircraft Transportation System — technology that could serve as a precursor to the long-envisioned "highway in the sky."

Another pursuer of the dream is Paul Moller of Davis, who has spent 40 years — and millions of dollars — trying to leave his own mark on aviation history. Moller, 67, has devoted his life to the Skycar, a personal aircraft that he believes could replace the automobile. "People say I'm nuts, and maybe I am. But I'm looking for something that will change mass transportation as we know it."

Leaving aside any misgivings, that's about the most fun thing I've heard in a while. Certainly a lot more fun than the Segway.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Oh stop it

The lead says it all: "The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs." Yes, those phone-directory-like accumulations of weather and crop lore.

The FBI said information typically found in almanacs that could be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks. It said this information is often accompanied by photographs and maps.

Oh for godsakes, no it isn't. I've never seen maps and photographs in an almanac, except for a center section of about 12 pages showing maps of the continents. Most of an almanac is just gray page after page of tables and lists. What the fuck is wrong with these geeks at the FBI anyway?

The best is the final sentence of the story, coming immediately after he paragraph quoted above. "The FBI urged police to report such discoveries to the local U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force." What... what discoveries?

"Hello, FBI? I want to report a discovery!"
"Yes sir! What is it?"
"I've discovered that page 569 of the World Almanac I just bought on checkstand 4 of the supermarket has a list of bridges!"
"Stay right there, sir. We'll be down to confiscate the book immediately. And where is this so-called 'super market'?"

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Who cares when sex workers die?

Tracy Quan, a writer and former sex worker, writes in a feature article on SF Gate about how negative preconceptions about sex workers allowed the Green River Killer to carry on his murders of prostitutes for years with impunity.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Another pianist, more Nazis

I went this afternoon -- tonight I'm back at the l.n.c.b. -- to see the German film Gloomy Sunday, a tale of romantic obsession set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Badapest. With its heartbreakingly beautiful star, Erika Marozsán, and a plot that focuses partly on a title song with the supposed power to drive its listeners to suicide and partly on a sensual menage a trois, the film has a touch of magic realism. Recalling both the wartime milieu and moral ambiguity of The Pianist -- if it weren't for the fact that the film was released in 1999, you might think that it was a blatant imitation -- and the setting and sexuality of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the film is an effective romantic thriller. By the end, though, I'd had quite enough repetitions of that title song.

Unfamiliar with the stunning actress, I searched for her on the internet, and didn't come up with much. But this interview (translated) raises the interesting point that her character didn't even appear in the novel on which the film was based.

Yes Mr. President, No Mr. President

This bit in the NY Daily News is supposed to be sentimental:

Deaver says she recently shared the story of one of the ex-President's last walks, with a Secret Service agent in 1999. "He stopped in front of a house," Deaver writes. "Reagan reached over the gate. The agent [said], 'We can't go in there, Mr. President; it isn't our house.'"

What I get from that is the idea that, when I get Alzheimer's, I want everyone who goes for a walk with me to call me "Mr. President." Because Reagan can't remember if he was President or not, and neither will I.

Have you noticed that the flow of sentimental Reagan crap is reaching a crescendo? Several books were released in time for the holiday season -- and I love that Reagan Louie's book on Asian sex workers (there is a current exhibit at the SFMOMA) comes up on the search -- and there was that recent effort to get Reagan's head on the 10-cent coin. You know what it all spells? Death watch. Reagan is going to buy it any time now. He's had Alzheimer's since at least 1984, and nobody lasts 20 years.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Xmas dinner, under construction

Being Salvadorean, Cris follows family tradition and always does the whole Christmas thing on the evening of Dec. 24. We gather with her sisters at one sister's house, to which assorted friends are also invited.

This year we had / are having both Txg and Xmas at our house. So far we've had three of ten guests cancel, added another, put the frozen-hard goose in the shower for four hours, had six conversations about dying relatives, busted one lightbulb, and unpacked three dozen tamales.

Now Cris is filling stockings (it's a good thing we didn't put everyone's names on them the other night, since the final roster around the table looks like it's going to be at least 50% different than expected) with little presents. She spent four hours making the stockings by hand a week ago. This makes her sound like some kind of Martha Stewart freak, but actually it's very unusual. She's just having some kind of Christmas crafts spasm, with the creche and all. Maybe it's all those dying relatives.

Can you possibly bear this AP story about the "first faith-based prison" in the U.S., just being opened in Florida?

Gov. Jeb Bush dedicated what is being called the nation's first faith-based prison Wednesday, telling its nearly 800 inmates that religion can help keep them from landing in jail again.

In addition to regular prayer sessions, the Lawtey Correctional Institution will offer religious studies, choir practice, religious counseling and other spiritual activities seven days a week. Participation is voluntary and inmates are free to transfer out.

Bush lauded the inmates from 26 faiths for committing themselves "to a higher authority."

"This is not just fluffy policy, this is serious policy," he told the crowd. "For the people who are skeptical about this initiative, I am proud that Florida is the home to the first faith-based prison in the United States... I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our lord Jesus than to be here at Lawtey Correctional."

Me either. I hope some day he had a nice long opportunity to do so.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Arnold surveys the wreckage

After yesterday's earthquake in central California, new governor A. Schwartzenegger visited the hardest-hit town of Paso Robles, where the main square now resembles one of his movie sets in the aftermath of him blowing some heavy shit up. After touring the mess, he proclaimed:

Today this is a site of devastation. But we will come together once again as Californians and as neighbors. We will rebuild this town square.

Oh come on, Arnold. You know you love it.

Xmas tableau

Cris has a sort of instinctive spirituality that is part animist, part Buddhist, part PETA. A lot of it boils down to the notion that animals are as worthy of respect and care as humans.

A couple of days ago, she had a sort of religious vision. And last night, she made it real.

No animals were harmed in the making of this devotional tableau.

Satire is dead

Sometimes I get in a mood when everything I read in the news sounds like it was lifted from The Onion.

Associated Press, 23 Dec 03: Wife Doesn't Think Much of Toilet Seat as Gift
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 22 Dec 03: Outpouring Saves Family's Tree
Miami Herald, 23 Dec 03: Ben Affleck Tries to Put the Focus Back on His Work
Fox News, 7 Dec 03: Farm Boy Carries Torch for Parish Hilton
WIlkes-Barre Times Leader, 16 Dec. 03: Man is tired of neighbor sneaking into his yard to care for his dog
Baptist Standard, 19 Dec 03: Abstinence Pledge-Breakers Likely Not to Use Condoms

Then again, you can't make up something like this online forum discussion on the topic "Where's Mark Pritchard?" Apparently an Australian who shares my name has founded some kind of esoteric sect which teaches "astral travel" and "tantrism" among other things. Furthermore he now calls himself Beelzebub or Belzebuub, which should allay any confusion between him and me. I'll have to add this character to the list of "The Mark Pritchards I'm not" on my bio page.

Old comics celebrated

The Republican governor of New York gave a posthumous pardon to Lenny Bruce today for his 1964 obscenity conviction. Meanwhile, Mort Sahl appeared on Fresh Air and said AL Franken and Bill Maher -- two men known for their political humor -- are both unfunny and untalented.

Who does he think is funny? Al Haig. You could almost hear Terry Gross's jaw drop. She asked for an example of Haig humor. Sahl recounted this conversation:

Sahl: Al, I see you smoke Cuban cigars. A good Republican like you, supporting Castro?

Haig: I like to think of it as burning his crops to the ground.

And further-meanwhile, another comic, Jon Stewart, is on the cover of Newsweek.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Shaken, not stirred

A 6.5 earthquake hit the central California coast today, with first reports saying there was little damage significant damage in the town of Paso Robles, according to KCBS radio. Here's the seismograph.

Up-to-date news on SF Gate, the Chronicle's website.

Now feeding squirrels

Berhard Goetz, the creepy loser who became famous as the "subway vigilante" for shooting several youths who were mugging him on a subway train 19 years ago today, is still living in NYC. This article (link courtesy is worth looking at just for the picture showing him surrounded by hungry squirrels.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

More Xmas cheer

I put in an extra shift at the l.n.c.b. yesterday afternoon, working from 1:00 to 7:00. On the last Saturday before Christmas, it was understandably busy, yet the customers were pretty mellow. I was in high spirits myself, flying back and forth behind the counter at the register even though I had worked til 12:30 the night before. "You seem to be having about as much fun as you can back there," one matron-patron observed. "Yes," I said, adding, "and no more." She laughed, but in a kind of patronizing way. Other than that, no particular incident jumps out. Perhaps the constant rain throughout the day dampened people's anxiety.

When I got home, though, I was bushed. I had worked 6 hours, preceded by 6.5 hours the night before, and I wound up going to bed at 9 pm and sleeping til 8:30. Even today I'm tired.

We got an Xmas tree this afternoon -- the rain had finally stopped -- and have spent the evening putting up the lights and so forth. Very cheerful.

Gravy train

You've heard of the German cannibal who butchered and consumed most of a willing victim. Now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the anti-carnivore organization with the flair for attention-getting public demonstrations, has gotten in on the act. Weighing in on the anti-cannibalism side, they have sent the admitted man-eater a vegetarian cookbook.

"What this man did to a German computer expert is done to other creatures every day," a PETA spokesman explained. "The cruel scenario of slaughtering, cutting up, portioning, freezing and eating of body parts," the actions taken by Meiwes against his human victim, "is the grim reality for more than 450 million sentient individuals (animals) that are killed in (Germany) every year."

By the way, the guy wants a book deal.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Do you write like a girl?

This online text gender analysis tool says it can accurately predict 80 percent of the time, whether the gender of a writer is male or female.

I tried it, first with a passage from my recently-completed novel "Make Nice." Strangely, this passage rated a "Female Score" of 1378 and a "Male Score" of 1399. Pretty close, but it had correctly identified the author as male.

So what would it do with my faux-lesbian porn? I gave it a passage from my short story "How I Adore You," an all-lezzie erotic story. (That passage is X-rated.) Ha, that got a "Female Score" of 3775 and a "Male Score" of only 2497, which meant I had successfully fooled it into thinking I was a lesbian. Now I can rest.

Xmas chintziness

I've been putting in a few shifts at the l.n.c.b. where I was working earlier this year. Last night I crawled for an hour over the bridge to get there and then another hour, even though it was 1 a.m., to get home.

There's always a favorite customer. This one was on the phone:


"Excuse me?"


"Copies of what?"

"Just copies."

"What copies? What do you want?"

"I want copies, man. Do you make copies?"

"Oh. No, we don't make copies here. You want to go to Kinkos or something."

"Well, do you sell Christmas cards?"

"Yes, we do." (Make faces at fellow employees, begin rotating index finger in small circles around ear.)

"And how much are they?"

"Well, they come in packages of maybe twelve or fifteen. They're different prices. I guess five or six dollars would be about average."

"No, that's too much. Do you sell single cards?"

"Sure, we sell single Christmas cards too."

"So I just want to make a copies of it."

(Light finally dawning.) "You want to buy one Christmas card and make copies of it for people."


"Well, I guess you could do that. But we can't make the copies here."

"Okay, thanks, bye."

Friday, December 19, 2003

More work-avoidance behavior

Continuing my pattern of avoiding the project of sending my novel out to prospective agents, I have produced another issue of the church newsletter I edit. This one has another great piece by food writer Jessica Prentice, and a really good sermon on welcoming the stranger by a Unitarian Universalist minister from Winnipeg. I also wrote a short piece mostly bitching about internal church politics, in a nice way.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I'm there

A British power company called Power Gen has formed an Italian subsidiary. What URL did they pick? Why, of course. No lie.

Make my day

Looking for that perfect present for me, or someone else you're crazy about? (I had to find a Dremel power tool for a certain someone. What the hell do I know about power tools?) Fortunately, there's Froogle, a Google interface that allows you to search for products by brand name, type, etc.

But you better hope your package wasn't on this FedEx plane that crashed and burned today in Memphis, FedEx's hub.

Yes, I have a wish list at Amazon. But I strongly suggest buying books or CDs at your local independent book or music store.

In totally unrelated news, the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice -- now there's an Orwellian construction for you -- has removed from its web site the last-meal menus of death row inmates. Yes, that's right: a spokesperson said that some people had complained -- wait for it -- that posting them was -- can you stand it -- in bad taste.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Jenny swirls

Last weekend I went to the birthday party of my splendid, brilliant and gorgeous friend Jenny. She sent me this picture someone took. We aren't exactly dancing, only illustrating the swirly quality of Jenny's frock.

Owens Valley / LA MWD news

Posting this for a friend:

LA Times, 17 Dec 2003

DWP to OK Owens River Water Flow

By Louis Sahagun and Steve Hymon
Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced Tuesday that it had tentatively agreed to restore steady water flows to the long depleted Owens River within two years.

Formal approval of the agreement by the DWP's board of directors is expected today.

The announcement, with which the DWP hopes to resolve a lawsuit against it, will probably halt a series of delays in launching one of the most ambitious river restorations ever attempted in the arid West.

A 62-mile stretch of the Owens in rural Inyo County near Independence has been mostly dry since 1913, when the river's water was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which carries it south from the Owens Valley to the San Fernando Valley.

Spokesmen for the plaintiffs in the suit, including two environmental groups and two state agencies, were optimistic that the terms of the settlement would be accepted. If so, the Owens could have a small but steady year-round flow by the fall of 2005. Some of the water would pour into the delta of dry Owens Lake, where the river terminates, to replenish bird habitat.

"We're going to be there with champagne bottles when that water starts flowing again, because it's been so long in coming," said Mike Prather, an activist with the Owens Valley Committee, an environmental group that joined in the suit. "It will mean a renewed ecosystem for willows and cottonwoods, waterfowl and neotropical migrating songbirds, bobcats and butterflies."

The DWP's board will meet today in a closed session to formally vote on the settlement. Mayor James K. Hahn issued a news release Tuesday touting the deal.

"I think the merits of the case are pretty strong, and I will be recommending to the board that they approve it," said Jerry Gewe, the chief operating officer of water for the DWP.

Gewe said the restoration project would probably cost the DWP enough water to supply 40,000 families each year. He said the loss would be made up through conservation and additional purchases of water from elsewhere in the state.

One possibility, Gewe said, is for the DWP to begin buying water on the open market from farmers in the Central Valley.

Restoration of the Owens River was conceived in 1991, and the plan was amended in 1997, as a way to make up for increased pumping of groundwater by the DWP in the Owens Valley. The restoration was supposed to occur by mid-2003, but the deadline was pushed back several times because of disputes over environmental laws and over how much water Los Angeles would leave in the river.

The Sierra Club and Owens Valley Committee sued the DWP over the delays. They were joined by the California Department of Fish and Game and the State Lands Commission on Dec. 4. The same day, Inyo County Superior Court Judge Edward Denton threatened to impose his own deadline for completing the project.

Facing mounting pressure to act, the DWP, Inyo County, the Sierra Club and an Owens Valley conservation group hammered out a compromise — sanctioned by Denton — in a series of tense closed-door meetings in Los Angeles and Bishop over the last week.

"I think this is the best deal accomplished at this time," said Larry Silver, an attorney representing the Sierra Club.

Under another provision of the deal, he said, the DWP would provide up to $1.5 million in matching funds to begin eradicating salt cedar, a nonnative, water-hogging plant found along the river.

Pump harder, the graphics are slowing

According to this NYT article, "Magicbikes -- ordinary bicycles rigged with networking gear that transforms them into wireless Internet access points, using the wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, technology now built into many laptops -- can connect to and amplify the signals of Wi-Fi transmitters in the vicinity. Or they can tap into a cellular data network..."

I'll bet my friend Jym is all over this. A bike fanatic -- I mean that in a nice way -- and an MIT grad and inveterate internet user who has his fingerprints all over so much basic internet and database stuff that you can just name a random person who worked in high tech in the 90s, and if that person was doing anything interesting, Jym is bound to know him -- who know lives in New York, he has to be in on this.

Update: Jym writes:

=v= A minor correction to your blog entry: I'm not an MIT
grad. I never graduated. I was more like one of those bad
pennies who always turns up anyway, a non-student with a key
to the AI lab.

Undermine fundamentalist political ploy

It'll only take fifteen seconds of your time. Go to and register your opinion. Though meaningless, the fundies are no doubt prepared to present the results of such a "poll" as actual opinion. It would be funny if right-minded people managed to derail the effort.

Frankly, I voted for the last option: Civil union with full status except in name. Wouldn't that be a win-win for everybody? Non-heterosexuals and sexual revolutionaries could have all the benefits of marriage, and fundies could claim they had preserved the sanctity of "marriage" per se. Why not make everybody happy?

Monday, December 15, 2003

Does this set of wheels lay rubber?

For several years now, a mysterious cab driver has written a weekly column, first for the San Francisco Examiner and now for the Chronicle. It's usually of only minor interest, but today's installment featured a hilarious cabful of Japanese (tourists or students, it's not clear) who dub the driver "Smith" and ask him things like "Is this set of wheels a lemon? I mean do you get a lot of blown head gaskets?" It turns out they're just riffing off phrases in a guide called "Speak English Like an American."

This gives me another excuse to link to the mind-blowing site, where you can see, for example, innocent, grinning Japanese lasses wearing t-shirts with priceless slogans like I'm Cock or Miss Urine Tester USA.

One good hole deserves another

Asked "What is your greeting to Saddam Hussein?" George Bush responded gamely:

The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein. And I find it very interesting that when the heat got on you dug yourself a hole and you crawled in it.

Just one little thing. On Sept. 11 2001, when he got word the country was under attack, Bush didn't exactly charge into battle. He skedaddled off to a SAC base in Nebraska, where command centers are underground in hardened bunkers. A little more elaborate than Hussein's redoubt, but still a hole in the ground.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A good man

A good man died Monday -- Fr. Bill O'Donnell, friend of Cesar Chavez, Martin Sheen, and many other Catholic social activists, died at his desk in Berkeley.

A deal

One of the things I pay for on the web is Salon. I've gotten over resisting the subscription model -- for things I really consider important. Salon has proved its worth. They're having a 50% off sale on subscriptions through Dec. 15, if you're interested.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, post-columnist Tina Brown -- I'm tempted to ask, nonsensically, "What can Brown do for you?" -- calls this "the post-embarrassment age." (Some would say that phrase applies to Brown's own column.) About the Paris Hilton family, she wonderfully opines: "While they live in the Waldorf and work the New York social scene, they are more like a moneyed version of a trailer-dwelling circus family than drop-dead socialites."

That got me to search for an image that could possibly illustrate the concept of "a trailer-dewlling circus family." I came up with this page and also this page.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

More American id

Please take a gander at this jaw-droppingly weird site, Blessed Arrows -- a sterilization reversal ministry. It's hard to know where to start -- maybe with the cringe-evoking pink-and-yellow striped background. It's so horrible that I don't think anyone ever bothered to say, in those site-design tips you always see, "Don't use a striped background!" -- because you would have to be INSANE to try. Then there's the clever phrase TRANSFER INTERRUPTED! Are they kidding? Is that a real message, or actually the name of their newsletter? And you can click on testimonies from people who have been "blessed" with additional children now that they've had their sterilization procedures reversed. Plus there are Family Photos of people who have, presumably, benefitted from the "ministry." And much, much more. I dare you to look at the site and not slowly say: "Oh. My. God."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Subtle change in American mind

Some university art students did performance art at a local Wal-Mart. (link courtesy Romenesko.) The people who ran the store were not amused, contrary to expectations. Well, I would have expected the Wal-Mart people to be unamused, but college kids are forever optomistic. That's what makes them cute.

There's something seminal about that story. During the first Gulf War, in the early 90s, anti-war demonstrators tried to do street theater in shopping malls and were kicked out. Now the American id has moved to Wal-Mart; if you want to reach people, that's where you go. Shopping malls are clearly passé.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I feel your pain

BBC News, 4 Dec 03

Xmas cheer makes Austrians sour

The countdown to Christmas has only just begun, but thousands of Austrian shop assistants say they are already sick of the sound of it. They say the strains of piped Christmas carols cause them "psychological terror", and are demanding that their employers limit the hours they play carols.

"By the time Christmas comes around there are large scores of abused shop workers who hate the very idea of it," said Gottfried Rieser, spokesman for the Austrian Trade Union Federation.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Around the world

Germany is obsessed with a cannibal murder case. With the accused saying things like "With every bite, my memory of him grew stronger," you can see why. There's a video, too -- not online just yet.

Here's a fun trip to North Korea, where every glance and sigh of the Great Leader and his kin are commemorated: "A spot where Kim Il Sung is said to have especially appreciated the view is dutifully marked with a six-foot stone tablet." But the best part is where we learn what North Korean comedy is like. "In a comedy act, a strongman wearing communist red gets the better of a weakling decked out in blue." The strong making fun of the weak -- now there's a new theory of comedy.

This story about a flash flood in Melbourne has an amusing picture.

Israelis are afraid of black cats. Come to think of it, the picture is rather frightening. I don't know if it's a picture of the cat in question, though. And in Northern Ireland, there's more news of "big cats" terrorizing the countryside. I found this story a month or two ago when it was just one "big cat." Now there are two: "one believed to be a black panther and the other a sandy coloured North American puma."

Gee, that's what mothers are for

A hilarious, on-target piece in Salon discusses the phenomenon of sentimental "tribute to suffering mothers" email, referred to as "mommy mails":

Occasionally, though, mommy mails hint that these scarily stoic women are not always thrilled with their lives. In "Why Women Cry," which I received two or three times in the past year, a boy catches his mother weeping and asks why. "Because I'm a woman," she replies. The kid, understandably still baffled, asks God why is mother is weeping. The Almighty explains that every woman is granted the ability to "take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining," as well as the stamina to put up with the children "who hurt her very badly" and the husband who "tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly."

Usually, women deal. But for the really tough times, God adds, they receive "a tear ... to use whenever it is needed." He makes it sound a little like a cyanide pill.

It reminded me of a TV commerical from my own childhood years. As a doughty mother cooks, cleans and carries her sprouts to Little League, an announcer intoned something like, "You cook for them.. Clean for them... Drive them around. You hardly have time for yourself." Then the scene cut to an aggressive 8-year-old dunce, who looked into the camera and announced: "Gee... That's what mothers are for!"

Of course, I have no memory of what product was being advertised. Bubble bath, maybe. But anyway, this aren't-you-a-womderful-martyr message has been around at least 40 years.

Further links:
That's Why God Made Mothers apron
an example of the kind of crap the author is talking about
Marine mothers "know all about waiting", including the "That's what mothers are for" dictum
the Christian Homekeeper website, including articles on "modesty, biblical submission,
    the Christian Life, homeschooling, children, salvation, homekeeping, organization, cooking,
    recipes, cleaning and more."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Heroine of the day

Patti Smith is profiled in In These Times, a progressive-left magazine.


a 1996 profile
an interview from 2000
a 2000 Rolling Stone interview
a 1999 Q and A, reportedly from a Croatian newspaper
lots more links

Cheat sheet

Okay, Johnny, what is the significance of Sept. 11 in today's world?

Googlism for: sept. 11:

sept. 11 is fodder for con artists
sept. 11 is your birthday
sept. 11 is noted
sept. 11 is the happiest day of all
sept. 11 is double anniversary in hawaii
sept. 11 is worth remembering one year
sept. 11 is turning into a handy excuse
sept. 11 is serving as a social crutch
sept. 11 is provided by cnn
sept. 11 is difficult work
sept. 11 is indelibly etched on the tattooed arm of paul michael marinello
sept. 11 is no reason for shame
sept. 11 is a job for the intelligence committees review and outlook the wall street journal thursday
sept. 11 is as obvious as the need for an investigation of the enron debacle
sept. 11 is fined
sept. 11 is noted new york
sept. 11 is easy to see warning signs
sept. 11 is a factor that may push some companies out of the city
sept. 11 is almost overwhelming
sept. 11 is different for them
sept. 11 is her wedding anniversary
sept. 11 is more than a phrase or a date
sept. 11 is looking back on the past year
sept. 11 is america’s new date of infamy
sept. 11 is when victims were being evacuated to the courtyard
sept. 11 is now a part of the agenda for india and pakistan
sept. 11 is information on the events are not mentioned in any textbook
sept. 11 is part of our history
sept. 11 is a key fissure in american lives
sept. 11 is a special day jon rothstein and his grandmother will always share
sept. 11 is but another day that unfortunately will live in infamy
sept. 11 is on an airplane
sept. 11 is unnecessary because the remembrances are a very personal issue and not one to be mandated by the government
sept. 11 is shaping the international order for the 21st century by henry kissinger
sept. 11 is worth remembering one year later by paul berton
sept. 11 is a date that needs to be commemorated because it was an immensely tragic time for our country
sept. 11 is a tragedy that transcends words
sept. 11 is not responsible for their decreases in funds raised in october
sept. 11 is not at all responsible for their budget reductions
sept. 11 is shaping up to be another historic day of television
sept. 11 is real
sept. 11 is ok
sept. 11 is a birth date with special memories push
sept. 11 is what didn't happen
sept. 11 is masses of the work force going through a realignment of their priorities
sept. 11 is not the reason for the new legislation
sept. 11 is an occasion for me to realize it even more
sept. 11 is outright retaliation
sept. 11 is not comparable with the terrorist movements that struggle for a precise cause or for a territory
sept. 11 is not about what's behind us
sept. 11 is financial
sept. 11 is upon us
sept. 11 is on the next page of the calendar
sept. 11 is that it continues to impact us
sept. 11 is still having a psychological impact on kids nationwide
sept. 11 is worth remembering one year later
sept. 11 is changed forever for families
sept. 11 is here
sept. 11 is going to be a regular day at school
sept. 11 is the reason

Paying attention

The president has nominated as ambassador to Sweden a Texas state senator and "longtime Bush friend" named Teel Bivins. Bivins, described as a fourth generation "cattleman and rancher," is a champion Bush fundraiser and friend of the hog farm industry. Quote: "I see no reason why this area should not produce 75 percent of the world’s pork."

No surprise, any of that. Just the sort of person you'd expect Bush to reward with an ambassador's post. But Sweden?

Monday, December 01, 2003

Leak this

For fans of the brilliant Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, an update: Cleveland Scene, 26 Nov 2003. The writer of the article suggests that the ripped off image, appearing in countless rear windows of pickup trucks and Camaros, of Calvin taking a leak on (something), may soon be the main memory of Watterson's work.