Entries in the Category "culture"


This week I introduced my wife to the concept of freeganism. She went online, found a New York Times article, and was suitably appalled (especially about housing squatters). But we decided that we, and most of the neighborhood, are freegans ourselves, without the self-righteousness, and without giving up six-figure jobs (because nobody in the sticks ever had a six-figure job). Everybody scrounges free stuff, including food, fixes stuff, and generally minimizes involvement in the corporate economy...because they're poor. They aren't anti-capitalist, though. No, the highest use for free stuff is to sell it for cash. That's why you have junk stores, used lawnmower salesmen, and Amish salvage groceries. Too bad my commute to work negates all my good works.

Marcel Marceau falls silent

I wonder what his last words were?

Farewell, Geauga Lake

Yeah, I should really feel bad about this. And I do, sorta.

The only time I went there as a patron was when I took my stepson, about 15 years ago, and the tickets were a severe stretch then. And I played at some lame excuse for an Oktoberfest they had once, trying to stretch the season. It's just that with ticket prices and the economy being what they are, you need a real commitment to screwing with your body's balance systems until you hurl, if you're going to make the ticket worthwhile.

The Endarkenment and the intelligensia

"Sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."-- Lewis Carroll

It takes at least a masters degree to maintain an obviously contradictory position with a straight face.Folks like my wife, whose highest education was a stint in Uncle Sam's School for Killers, can't do it.Thought doesn't come easily for them, so they value it highly and do it with due deliberation. Academics can make ideas dance on the head of a pin, and in so doing often forget that ideas are masters, not servants.

There's a notion out there in Objectivist circles that, if only people bothered to think, they would never believe some of the crap that they do, and that, given enough self-examination, we can be totally rational beings. The problem is, they've never come up with an example. Rand was a fruitcake. Her disciples unto the furthest generation, myself included, have been fruitcakes. Scientologist Clears and militant atheists are fruitcakes. Inevitably, we all blank out over something. The attempt to think is absolutely worthwhile; don't get me wrong. It's just that at some point, with almost everyone, it's bound to fail. And why is that? It's because nobody can resist the lure of an unearned value, but nobody rational would attempt such a thing. This lack of resistance, in a move which will surely infuriate all the abovementioned groups, I will call Original Sin. It's an interesting way to read the Genesis story. The fruit was not theirs to take. But the snake said, "Good things will happen to you if you take the fruit that is not yours." And we've heard that argument ever since.

Today's example comes from a list dedicated to the composition of traditional classical music, but which often goes a bit off-topic. Which list and which participants aren't important here, but it's a classic blankout.

God(dess) forbid our clothing or houses or computers or musical instruments should belong to any State, even one that claims to act for the common good of "the people"! ;-) A reasonable degree of private ownership is essential.
And who decides what "a reasonable degree" is?

It goes without saying that personal freedoms are of paramount importance, especially to artists and other creative people.

However, I will support universal healthcare because of the following:

1) any "nation" that fails to be responsible for the physical health and security of its own citizens,

At which point does that responsibility end, if it exists? Since most diseases are at the very least abetted by poor diet, wouldn't the State's "responsibility for physical health" mandate government-provided perfectly-balanced meals, cooked in licensed government kitchens (to prevent food poisoning)? Why don't we have "universal food care?" "Well, because everybody wants to eat something different" Well, everybody wants different health care too. Most people want to see a MD, but some want homeopathy, or chiropractic, or naturopathy, or to be prayed over by a Christian Science practitioner, or have rattles shaken over them. Will the government provide all that, or will it "be responsible" and force those other foolish people into the standard "scientific" healthcare system? Will it arrest people for not getting their annual checkup? Aren't those "personal freedoms" which should be of "paramount importance"? What about hearing protection? there's music out there that's too loud to listen to. And it's not just rock; think of those poor orchestral musicians playing Wagner and Stravinsky. A government big enough to tell you what to eat and how to treat your ills is big enough to tell you what kind of music you must write if you want it to be performed.

There are two places where all physical needs are taken care of: farms and prisons. I'm not livestock or a jailbird. Or the property of the State.

and elevates profits above people,

I have never understood that mindless slogan. People invest; people make profits. If you decide that "profits are bad", and forbid people from making them (or control or tax what they make, which is a milder version of the same thing), haven't YOU actually put profits above people, given that those people wanted to make a profit? I think it was J. Paul Getty, who when asked "How much money is enough?" said "One more dollar than I have now." Now, that's not me...I'm not that strongly motivated by money. But that's how many performances "enough performances" would be for me, so I can understand the motivation. And as long as it doesn't involve force or fraud, I'm all for it, because anyone making those kinds of profits is providing what other
people want.

amounts, in my view, to nothing more than a tenuous coalition unworthy of the name

2) as a result of very negative personal experiences with the insurance industry and healthcare system and the fact that so many of my artist friends are now uninsured through no fault of their own, I see that such a reform is necessary. In fact, I would go much further, and make provisions to ensure that no personal or natural disaster leaves anyone homeless and destitute. (Before Katrina, there was Andrew, and I was there! It was very, very bad, even with insurance.)

well, you aren't God (to control disasters), so I guess what you want to insure is that people be helped ASAP. I'm all for that. That's what charities are for, and I assume you give liberally. I also assume that you support price-rationing of things like hotel rooms and generators near hurricane areas, so that those who need them the most can get them, instead of people buying separate rooms for Grandma and the kids. And that you're looking to move out of hurricane or earthquake territory (we don't have either, and not many tornadoes, in Ohio). The point is that government is not necessary to insure these things, and that (as in Katrina) they can actively make things worse.

That much said, I tend to agree that the government is best that governs least (cf. Thoreau),

You can't be a thinking man and sit with that contradiction. If you want a government powerful enough to provide universal healthcare, you want a damn big government. Even the power to shake that much money out of its citizens' pockets is too much, let alone what happens when it gets the money. And even if you find a staff of saints and philosopher-kings to run it (which you admit is impossible), they are still going to run roughshod over your rights and personal freedoms, as do-gooders have always done (that's an -"ism" too). There is no difference between "personal liberties" and "economic liberties" -- they are one seamless whole.

but with the provisio that such a government is impossible without ethical politicians of the kind that today seem to be in deplorably short supply.
You should have ended that phrase after the tenth word.

So who's poor?

Almost nobody, it turns out:

46 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

They're better off than I am. I live in exactly such a home, and the bank owns it. And should I pay off the bank's share, I'll still have to rent it from the government. (Rent? Well, if I don't pay my taxes, I can't live there anymore; what else do you call it?) Yeah, yeah, I know, they meant "home ownership" as "your name is on the deed." But anymore, it's almost as easy as renting...which is why we have a foreclosure crisis.

I'm not into this punitive thing of "count the toys." I want to find out why these people think that 16 hrs a week of work is going to make it. I want to stop the government from enabling that, and I want to encourage the American consumer (not the companies...they're just giving people what they want) to quit exporting jobs to Asia.

Hook Lord Baden-Powell to a generator

...he's spinning in his grave fast enough to power all of Kenya:

Some 300 modern-day Scouts (the word Boy was dropped in the 1960s) settled down to a meal prepared in a 'kitchen marquee' and consisting entirely of vegetarian food - so as not to offend any religious faiths.


Hundreds of solar powered lights line the walk ways across the island to avoid anyone tripping over tent pegs, and each cluster of tents is illuminated by strings of electric lights powered by generators.

David Massen, a Scout leader from Bradford, said last night: "A lot has changed with the way Scouting works since 1907.

"The principles are still the same but society has changed.

"For example, Baden-Powell could just take his Scouts out on a boat for a fishing trip, whereas if I want to do the same I have to take a two-hour training session and write a four-page risk assessment statement."

The principles are not the same:

Baden-Powell wrote his original military training book, Aids To Scouting, because he saw the need for the improved training of British military-enlisted scouts, particularly in initiative, self-reliance, and observational skills. The book's popularity with young boys surprised him.

Mama: the other retirement plan

And while we're discussing Italian men, who are generally considered by Americans to be paragons of masculinity, how you like this guy? At 61, his mama should be living with him, not vice-versa.

Sullivan on Hummer vandalism

while I completely abhor the violence, I don't abhor the sentiment. Parking a 7-foot high Hummer in your neighborhood is about as irritating as watching one careen down the small streets of Provincetown. We have to create a social stigma toward people totally contemptuous of the environment....These owners of massive, gas-guzzling behemoth cars deserve social opprobrium. They also deserve to have their property respected.

I dunno, Andrew; there are a lot of people who think that gays deserve social opprobrium. Does this mean it's OK for me to call you "faggot" to your face, as long as I don't hit you? Seriously, calling for "social stigma" is a double-edged sword you shouldn't be swinging. Whatever happened to the great American virtue of minding your own business?

Thanks to Beck, who is several orders of magnitude more direct than I am.

Rah, rah, RAH

Robert Heinlein would be 100 today, if he were still alive.
There are some good links on Clairefiles about this. The Wikipedia article makes much of Heinlein's youthful flirtation with the Left, though he was apparently not an out-and-out Commie like so many intellectuals in the 30s. But he more than redeemed himself. The Christers are right about literature in school libraries influencing impressionable young minds; I owe more of who I am to Heinlein than any other writer, Rand included.

Ted Nugent goes full-auto on hippies

The Nuge is about as subtle as a brick:

Forty years ago hordes of stoned, dirty, stinky hippies converged on San Francisco to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," which was the calling card of LSD proponent Timothy Leary. Turned off by the work ethic and productive American Dream values of their parents, hippies instead opted for a cowardly, irresponsible lifestyle of random sex, life-destroying drugs and mostly soulless rock music that flourished in San Francisco.

He's not wrong. But, even though I feel his pain at the loss of his colleagues, this isn't productive to his cause. Here's the problem: it takes a generation to see and evaluate cultural change. Children are raised by 20s and 30s who largely hold their youthful values. The children know no other, and pass those on to their children. The original parents become grandparents, and observe how the world they see is inferior to that of their youth. But they no longer have the energy to change it, and after 2 generations, the young, who do have the energy, can't understand or reconstruct the world of their grandparents. When I was young, the Victorian Age was depicted as some monstrous neurotic mess. Now we can see certain moral choices as a society's collective striving for prosperity, at a time when that had finally become possible for the masses, by avoiding personal behaviors that would make that impossible. (Hint: the same behavior choices have the same outcomes today.). Likewise, what I remember of the early 60s was its absolute normality. 1967 was the end of that, not so much for the Summer of Love, but for the riots in Detroit and elsewhere.

I don't know how we can get back there, or to a "there" like but different. Some think that the Roe Effect will bring us back. But I have 4 step-grandchildren, and none of them are legitimate. It's unlikely that anything will change as long as we pay the poor to make babies. If it does, it will be because of those who make their own decisions and are willing to examine basic values, for whom neither tradition nor change are a given. And there are never enough of those.

Crow and Zappa

Ivan Osorio compares the Sheryl Crow TP campaign (Halloween in my youth would have been grounds for the death penalty) to Zappa's Joe's Garage.

This is absurd, of course, just like Sheryl Crow’s suggestions for rationing toilet paper or showering only once a week, but with two major differences: Frank Zappa wasn’t pushing a trendy agenda, and he was genuinely funny.

Make that 3: Zappa was obviously doing satire.
No, make that 4: Zappa had talent.

Rosie O'Donnell of all people nailed Crow with five words, "Have you seen my a**?"

Thanks to Beck.

Hart Crane and Garrettsville

Hiram College is having a big symposium on Hart Crane, March 21 and 22, and I learned that Crane was born in Garrettsville, the town next to my township (in fact, we have a G-ville phone number). I'm not a big fan of Crane's work, but if Cleveland wants to steal his glory, well, G-ville has a much better case.

Hiram also has a minor Mormon shrine, the John Johnson farm, where Joseph Smith had 16 revelations, and was taken from his bed for a tar-and-feathering in 1832.

See, we gots culture here.

"Atlas Shrugged" turns 50

Karen DeCoster notes that Ayn Rand's magnum opus was finished 50 years ago this month, and links to a piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Mark Skousen, to whom she is much too kind. Skousen's problem with Rand boils down to the fact that she wasn't a Christian. Well, duh! The anti-Marx had to be an atheist, because there is no room in reason for religion, and because Marxism is, at heart, a Christian heresy in which the State "helps" in the administration of charity so as to bring about Heaven on earth. There is no difference, on a theoretical level between Christian and Marxist economic ethics, though certainly their ethics of means are radically different. Skousen argues that a world filled with Rand's heroes would be an awful place. Given what the world of Cuffy Meigs, Wesley Mouch et al is, I'd like to give the Gulchers the opportunity; we can always have an altruist revolution later if one is really needed. Certainly Rand's personal life was not a particularly good advertisement for her philosophy, but then Karl Marx had a personal servant (paid for by Engels) until he died.

One particularly telling point that Skousen makes is that there are no children in Atlas Shrugged. That's not quite true; there's the child whose mother's face gets slapped after Galt's radio speech. But there are no children who are characters, and no characters who have children. Like Rand, her heroes have no time for that. But you have to wonder why, in a book which is pro-life in the largest sense, there is nobody who is fond enough of humanity to create another human being...not even Cheryl Taggart.

As literature, much has been made of Atlas' warts, and yes, they are there. But part of that is a matter of expectations. Atlas is not an English novel; it's a Russian novel written in English. There's panorama, sweep, ideas, and plot. It is not "a steamy soap opera", as Skousen would have it. If it were a romance novel there's be a lot more romance, more soft-porn, Vasaline-lens lovemaking. To complain that the sex is "mechanical" is to misunderstand its function. One might say that of Hank and Dagny's first encounter, which had been achingly led up to for pages by a direct comparison to the John Galt Line: you know the train will pull into the station, you just don't know when or how. It's a force of nature that brings them together; one might as well admonish opposite poles of a magnet for coming together too quickly. Rand's time dilation and handling of suspense here is masterful.

Love it or hate it, it was probably the single most influential piece of literature of the 20th century. If you haven't read it, you really need to, even (or especially) if you're absolutely sure you'll hate it.

UPDATE: The High Priestess of Objectivist bloggers, Diana Hsieh, hasn't the time to comment...but her readers certainly have.

Nutjobs for purity

Tom Hayes has some trenchant comments on the people who have their panties in a bunch over the word "scrotum" in a children's book. But Janet La Rue of the Concerned Women for America Rape has done them one better. She wants to protect our troops from the evils of pornography.

Soldiers have always had their pinups. Maybe they weren't explicit. But the Greatest Generation didn't look at their Bette Davis pictures as if they were icons of the Blessed Virgin. 'Scuse me, but these are young men with needs. Would La Rue prefer that they patronize Certain Professionals off-base? Or do to the civilian population what soldiers have historically done? That's the way to win hearts and minds, for sure. These guys are dying for freedom (at least that's what Bush says), and we won't let them do WHAT?!

Any issue that can get rightwingprof and Amanda Marcotte to hold hands and sing kum-bye-ya is clearly "out of the mainstream."

Men, your mother's in the urinal

The last place a man can go to escape from nagging women has been invaded by the Wizmark Interactive Urinal Communicator. Use the urinal, and a female voice will urge you not to drink and drive...even if your urine was generated by too much coffee.

I don't know what's in it for the restaurants and bars voluntarily using these devices. But I know they aren't covering the bathroom floor with them...

A kid, a slingshot, and RIAA Goliath

"violating antitrust laws, conspiring to defraud the courts and making extortionate threats." Sound like RIAA to you? Robert Santangelo and his lawyer think so. He wants the jury trial he has a right to. And if he gets it, I think he'll win. His mom did.

Jo Frost in the 'hood

Last night, as is her wont, Darling Wife was watching SuperNanny. And the chosen household had a cop husband and a stay-at-home mom, in a beautiful house. Or so she tells me; I wasn't watching at all until the end, where I was in the same room. Wife was dubious about whether a policeman could afford such a beautiful house. "Overtime," I said. "No, he's dealing drugs on the side," she said. And then we thought: we've never seen SuperNanny visit anything but the most solidly middle-class homes. Why is this? Do the poor have parenting skills so superior to their other life skills that they don't need her? Observation suggests otherwise. Is it part of the conceit of "having a nanny", which is an upper-class thing? Surely the selected families don't pay for the privilege of having their private lives exposed.

We decided that we really want to see Jo visit a trailer park. "This is such a (sniff sniff), uh, beautiful home you have here (as she steps over the puddle of cat pee in the kitchen floor). And that macaroni and cheese is such a pretty bright orange color!" Actually, I'd like to see some fusion shows: "SuperNanny visits Jerry Springer" "SuperNanny on Wife Swap". And the big question: does Ty Pennington have any kids, and are they on Ritalin? That would be a SuperNanny episode to watch: "Here are the rules: no kickinn, no fightinn, no screaminn in the megaphone, no tearinn down the house and rebuildinn it in a week."

Beer for dogs?

An Amsterdam pet shop owner has created a nonalcohlic beer for dogs.

What's the fun in that? My parents once had a dog who would drink Busch Natural Light from the can, standing on his hind legs. Several times he became so intoxicated that he could barely stand or bark.

Was it animal abuse? Oh, probably. But he had a happy life.

Artist gives new meaning to "eat me!"

Y'all remember when I worried that liposuctioned biodiesel might find its way into the food supply? Well, an ahtiste has fried meatballs in his own liposuctioned fat and fed them to friends (or maybe former friends). And he's sold a couple cans to collectors for $23K each.

Every time I think I know where weird will end up, it leapfrogs over that.

RIP Robert Anton Wllson

Bob disincarnated at about 4:50 Pacific time yesterday morning.

My keenest memory of him was from a Thursday night jam at the Starwood festival, back in the old Whispering Winds/Devil's Den days. Pasha and Prudence had just sung "Kathusalem",

"Oh, Kathusalem,
whore of old Jerusalem,
prostitute of ill-repute,
the daughter of the Baba."

and RAW was misty-eyed. "I haven't heard that since my college days."

He seemed perfectly lucid, but I was told later what all he had consumed, and his adventures getting back to his campsite (a cabin or trailer or something, in deference to his age.)

For me, he was to personal psychology what Ayn Rand was to philosophy, Hazlitt to economics, Partch to the pitch spectrum...the guy who blew it all open and showed us the possibilities. He remained sanguine while the Endarkenment grew around him. I'm going to miss having that mind in this world.

Thanks to Beck. More memorials here and here.

Don't open the virtual trenchcoat!

The wife and I were watching 20-20 the other night, the show about privacy, which was half a shill for surveillance cameras and half a warning about exposing yourself in public. Now CASEite James Chang carries on the theme some more.

It took me a long time in this life to learn the value of circumspection. Some people would claim that I still haven't learned it. But, having been there (pre-Net), I think I understand what's going on with people who put their entire private lives on the Net. We're all looking for unconditional love. But that doesn't exist outside the realm of the Gods...if there. Not even your mother constantly loves you unconditionally; if you have a wonderful mother, maybe she does, but she sure as hell doesn't LIKE you sometimes. We can't find that unconditional love or know that it's unconditional unless we show the things that might drive somebody away. So people who wouldn't think of leaving the house without makeup on will sit in their nightwear and discuss their boink-buddy-du-jour or post pictures of themselves acting like absolute jerks, in hopes that somebody will love them anyway.

This isn't about hypocrisy; I'm not suggesting that you represent yourself as something you aren't. And it's certainly not about "freedom of speech", which is a matter of government and not society. We are free to say anything we can pay for. It's about omitting information which is nobody's business.

It's something that concerns me. There's not a lot of "private me" here. But I have strong opinions, which I express strongly, in a not-particularly-welcoming campus society, and I worry about blowback. When I'm dealing with musical or academic colleagues, "fair-n-balanced" is the word. When dealing with politicians and the special interests who hire them (including YOU), I'm only fair enough to not sound like a total raving loon. I have no more obligation to praise usurpers of liberty than the Maltz Museum has to do an exhibition about Hitler's autobahns and support for organic farming. In any case, the important thing here is that we are all by right self-governing, self-owning individutals, and that the abandonment of that principle is destroying Western civilization. If that's an uncomfortable truth, read Mano or somebody; I don't care.

Ownership and custodianship

Mano is doing his level best to negate the concept of ownership.

Continue reading "Ownership and custodianship"

"My grandparents went to Auschwitz and all I got was this lousy t-shirt"

There's only one thing to say to anyone tacky enough to wear such a t-shirt:

"Unfortunately, your parents escaped."

That being said, I support the right of whoever was vending at cafepress (NOT cafepress themselves, as suggested in the article) to be as tacky as they want to be, and wish them a speedy and spectacular business failure.

Santa an easy job? Think again

One-third of all Santas reported having been wet on by a child, the survey said.

Nearly 90 percent of Santas said children pull their beard every day to see if it's real, and nearly half said children try to pull their glasses off every day as well, it said.

More than 60 percent of Santas said they were sneezed or coughed upon up to 10 times each day, and three-quarters said they have up to 10 children cry while sitting on their laps every day, it said.

I think I'll stick to library work. Though at this time of the semester, I could use a little ho-ho-ho.

Glod's Gypsies out-gyped

Another bunch of folks out to shake the American money tree:

Nicolae Staicu, leader of the 1,670 Gypsies, or Roma, who eke out a living in one of the most impoverished corners of Romania, said he and other officials would meet with a public ombudsman on Wednesday to map out a legal strategy against Cohen and "Borat" distributor 20th Century Fox.

Staicu accused the producers of paying locals just $3.30-$5.50, misleading the village into thinking the movie would be a documentary, refusing to sign proper filming contracts and enticing easily exploited peasants into performing crass acts.

"These people are poor and they were tricked by people more intelligent than us," he said. "They took one of our 75-year-old ladies, put huge silicone breasts on her and said she was 47. Another man they filmed to look like the poorest person in the world, and one of our men who is missing an arm had a plastic sex toy taped to his stump."

"They made us put a cow in our living room, and they made it defecate and urinate in the house. Everyone's angry because they didn't pay them the way they should have," she said.

"They're making a lot of money — but they've made us a laughing stock."

"They made us...they made us..." This is not a matter of intelligence, folks; it's a matter of pride. These folks did stupid and disgusting things for $5. Whose fault is that? They have $5 they didn't have before. It's not like the Roma never cheated, stole, or tricked. And now they're looking for a lawyer so they can join the big time con.

Somebody gets it, though:

Sorina Luca, 25, excitedly described how she was given $3.30 to bring a pig into her home and let the producers put a toy rifle into the hands of her 5-year-old daughter for one scene.

"I really liked it," she said. "We are poor and miserable. Nothing ever happens here."

Don't show your paintings in Russia

In Russia, art is being destroyed by gangs of thugs because they don't like the ethnicity of the artist. I wonder what color shirt they were wearing. Apparently it's not far to go from international socialism to National Socialism.

It's Jeanne Storm's fault!

Pravda Newyorkskaya, at the bottom of a whole raft of anti-gun letters (all of which conveniently ignore the fact that Nickel Mines school was chosen because they were Amish and wouldn't resist), prints this charmer of penetrating moral thought:

Somehow I feel responsible, as a member of the larger American society, for these deaths. It was my America that somehow contributed to the creation of this killer.

Why so many school killings? Has the general climate of approval of sexual stimulation, torture, dishonesty in government and business, the atmosphere of “anything goes” resulted in this horror?

There is not much I can do, but I have written the commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police expressing my sympathy with all who have suffered in Nickel Mines and sent a small check for him to distribute in any way he sees fit to alleviate the pain in his community.

Jeanne M. Storm
Chester, Vt., Oct. 3, 2006

I'm glad she took responsibility. It's certainly not MY America which is responsible for either the Amish or their slayer. MY America isn't responsible for "approval of sexual stimulation, torture, dishonesty in government and business, the atmosphere of “anything goes""; I've been fighting those things (well, maybe not sexual stimulation, though I prefer that to be private). Society has been so bizarre of late that it's hard to believe it's a natural devolutionary process, and conspiracy theories abound. But now we know the truth: it's all Jeanne Storm's fault!

It is the blessed St. Ayn (pbuh) who has shown us the way of spreading the news. In the tradition of "Who is John Galt?", whenever America's depravity overtakes her, we shall cry, "Who is Jeanne Storm anyway?" Many folk legends will grow around her; she'll be seen by some as more devious and powerful than Hillary Clinton. Only a few will guess that she is the woman who stopped the engine of the world.

Thanks to Taranto, who didn't take it nearly far enough.

The Colonel is dead

...and the shooting world will never be the same. Rest in peace, Jeff.

thanks (?) to Beck, who linked somebody who doesn't deserve the link.

Steyn on tasteful mourning

This is simply too good not to link:

Every morning I wake up to a gazillion e-mails from fellows wishing me ill,...usually ending with pledges to come round and shove various items in a particular part of my anatomy. There's so much shipping scheduled to go up there I ought to get Dubai Ports World in to run it.

James Lileks wrote the following:

"If 9/11 had really changed us, there'd be a 150-story building on the site of the World Trade Center today. It would have a classical memorial in the plaza with allegorical figures representing Sorrow and Resolve, and a fountain watched over by stern stone eagles. Instead there's a pit, and arguments over the usual muted dolorous abstraction approved by the National Association of Grief Counselors. The Empire State Building took 18 months to build. During the Depression. We could do that again, but we don't. And we don't seem interested in asking why."

We fight tastefully, too. Last week one of America's unmanned drones could have killed 200 Taliban big shots but they were attending a funeral and we apparently have a policy of not killing anybody near cemeteries out of sensitivity.

With all the Brittanys around

...why aren't there more Lorraines? I can see why parents might not call their girls Alsace: too much like Alice. But why not Limousin? It's sort of like Tiffany, redolent of lost elegance. But let's face it, nobody is going to name their child Languedoc.

Germaine Greer should stick to feminism

Evidently she's tired of Steve Irwin's "massive insensitivity" to animals, and while not cheering his death like some rude people,she opined that “It’s no surprise that he came to grief.”

Of course, this is the woman who condemned Lord of the Rings for attracting “spaced-out hippies, environmentalists, free-market libertarians, social conservatives, pacifists, new-age theosophists, sexists and racists the world over.” Gee, doesn't that add up to most of humanity?

“I am sick and tired of programs that tell me that the world is full of wicked, nasty, powerful, deadly creatures," she says. You mean, like the evening news?

Random thought about people who work with dangerous animals.

I wonder what Roy Horn thinks about Steve Irwin.

"Paris Hilton's" new topless album

The business side of me of course deplores the fraud involved in this, and the trouble that HMV was put through. But as cultural and musical commentary, and a fine prank, Banksy's latest is a home run.

As for "intellectual property" considerations: can one use "Paris Hilton" and "intellectual" in the same sentence without laughing?

A serious lack of people skills at Radio Shack

The company announced Aug. 10 that it would cut 400 to 450 jobs, mostly at headquarters, to cut expenses and "improve its long-term competitive position in the marketplace." RadioShack has closed nearly 500 stores, consolidated distribution centers and liquidated slow- moving merchandise in an effort to shake out of a sales slump.
Anyone so obtuse as to fire 400 employees via email would of course miss the most probable cause of their financial woes: people are not anxious to shop at a place where you have to endure interrogation to make a simple cash purchase.

Van Gogh to go

There's a village in China where everyone's an artist art copier. They produce 60% of the world's fake paintings.

And I used to joke about the village in the Black Forest that produces Telemann....

Oh jeez, just when the tabloids finally forgot JonBenet...

...now we'll have three more years of her.

Look, murdering a child is horrible. But it happens every day, in every state in the Union. It just doesn't happen so often to cute white girls. What's the obsession anyway? And it's another bleeding schoolteacher...

And what's a guy from the Heimatsicherheitsdienst doing commenting on a domestic murder case?

Michael Flatley wins his case

Evidently Michael Flatley (of Riverdance fame) misplaced his shillelagh within a lady noted for affairs with the rich and famous, followed by litigation. 25 days after the adventure, she decided it was rape. The Las Vegas police being unimpressed, she sued for $33 million. Her lawyer was a tad aggressive (nay, extortionate) in seeking a settlement, so Flatley countersued for three times as much, against both the lady and the lawyer. The California Supreme Court has just decided that the case can proceed.

Good on 'im, I say. Teach these shakedown artists some manners.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy.

Willie Nelson gets it

"I think the fact that [the Dixie Chicks] were overseas and onstage had a little bit to do with it because you're speaking to other people about our business," the 73-year-old country crooner said in an interview in this week's Time magazine.

And Nelson's own comment was fact, not opinion: Bush is neither a Texan nor a cowboy, and there's no shame in that.

Spite fences in the blogosphere

Here's Billy Beck exposing Kim du Toit and Stephen den Beste as absolute babies who have blocked links from Beck's site.

But the rot is closer to home. A friend, devout Jew and "recovering Democrat" attempted to post a comment on this post, and got a message:

"Content Submission Error":
"Your comment was denied for questionable content".

There really was nothing questionable about it, except that it dealt, respectfully, with the "R issue" in politics, which we're not supposed to talk about. Now, I can see how it might be useful to have a filter which would catch KKK rantings, but it seems that if I have the power to approve or disapprove SPAM (which I do), I should have equal power to approve substantive posts. And if I were in the business of spewing racial hatred here (which I'm not), I can see how my employer might have some legitimate say about it. But this kind of penny-ante censorship does not befit an institution of higher learning.

UPDATE: read the first comment below. Evidently this is not content-based (unless you consider CiAli$ spam to be "content") but the result of somebody playing recklessly with the spam blacklist. My apologies to all whom I cast aspersions on (especially since I'll need their help in unbloacking this. )

Nudity with your car chases now mandatory

It's copyright infringement to sell a cleaned-up copy of a Hollywood movie, even if you include the original piece of filth masterwork with every sale. So says U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch.

I'm of multiple minds on this. Work identity is important. But I'm a great believer in subsidiary works, which is really what we have here. I might have demanded a trailer on the bottom of the screen reading "This work has been altered" or some such, to make it clear that what is being shown is not totally the director's work. The target audience knows that. But just in case some innocent saw an unidentified cleaned-up copy and thought the director was a wuss, screen ID would be an acceptable compromise.

But Hollywood should be careful of what they ask for. As it is, these people are so anxious to be a market for them that they are willing to pay more than the usual price for bowdlerized versions. If they can't get them, they will probably cease buying mainstream videos altogether. That may be a small market, but it's growing, if for no other reason than that they make more babies than average. And it may be bigger than people think; look at the success of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. Movies are a business, and at some point the studios will have business reasons to sit on the directors...and then they'll really have something to cry about.

What I'd like to see is a sanitized version of a Ron Jeremy film. That would be funny.

Hypocrite on wheels

Last night, on the way home, going through Cleveland Heights, I was behind a spanking-new big black pickup with a matching cap and a bunch of lefty/greenie bumper stickers. OK, he's got his, I've got mine; it's all good. But two of them were anti-SUV stickers.

Hold on a minute.

An SUV is basically a car-ish/van-ish thing on a truck chassis. They get about the same milage as a pickup. They're styled like a pickup. So if he has a hardon about SUVs, why is he driving this?

Some people have working trucks. This was not a working truck. If you're loading things into a pickup, dings and scratches are inevitable. Maybe he felt he needed it to take his St. Bernard to the vet. I dunno. But I know working trucks. I have one: a '91 Ford F150 with advanced cancer and about 200K miles on it. I use it for hauling, and as a backup vehicle. While it doesn't get horrible milage, I don't drive it unless I have a reason to drive a truck. And getting to work is not a reason to drive a truck unless the Aspire (39 mpg highway) is down. I believe that because I respect the Earth. What the anti-SUV guy believes....I have no idea.

Barbara Millicent Roberts is dying

She's almost 50. She's losing money. Will Mattel kill her off?

I vote for breast cancer, myself. Issue a "Mastectomy Barbie" with detachable prostheses, with 5% of the sales price going to breast cancer research. If collectors snap it up, she beats the cancer and stays in business. If it's a bust, so to speak, then they close up shop.

She's not a toy; she's an American icon. People complained about her unnatural breast and hip measurements; now she's being beat by dolls with unnatural head measurements. What does that say about us as a culture?

About 20 years ago, I wrote a long poem in blank verse called "Barbie's Baby", about the perils of throwing her and Ken into a shoebox under the bed, and the marketing problems that ensued. (No abortion; it would kill sales in the Christian market. And she couldn't DIY because those plastic coathangers don't bend. And her clothes wouldn't fit.) With her career in shambles, she contemplated suicide.

Only in the Berkeley of Michigan.

The woman wasn't sure she was ready for marriage. Life, said the man, is all about taking risks. So he jumped out of the window and ran naked across the street...which turned out to be riskier than he'd anticipated.

"They aren't getting married," my wife said, definitively.

Ted Nugent and the Limey

Oh my...
The Nuge is in fine form as always. But what's really hilarious about this is the editorializing of the Brit twit, who Just. Doesn't. Get. It.

The climax is this:

What do these deer think when they see you coming?" I ask him. "Here comes the nice guy who puts out our dinner? Or, there's the man that shot my brother?"

"I don't think they're capable of either of those thoughts, you Limey asshole. They're only interested in three things: the best place to eat, having sex and how quickly they can run away. Much like the French."

If Nugent runs for governor of Michigan (replacing the Canuck girl), I may have to move home just to vote.

Thanks to Beck.

Fighting a ghost

I've been in a discussion on Individual-Sovereignty@yahoogroups.com about Islam. This used to be quite a sophisticated discussion group, but of late it's turned into an anti-jihadist echo chamber. No problem with that as such; being anti-jihadist is like being pro-motherhood and apple pie. The problem is linguistic: most of the people there have been anthropomorphizing Islam, attributing volition and moral agency to a set of ideas. Here are some examples of such anthropomorphizing and collectivist-think:

I would like to develop a list of major excesses by islam in the last 50 years.
How do you seperate the deeds from the religion that spawned them.
Yeah Bob, our religion. 90 percent of Americans call themselves Christian.

I see several problems with this:

1. It lets I-slammers (jihadists) off the hook for their actions, demeaning them in the process by implying they are robots controlled by a religion. An example of this would be the stoning of adulteresses. We disapprove of this in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, but the Jews have the same law, and where and when have you heard of a Jewish adulteress being stoned? I haven't, ever. It denies the possibility of reform in the Islamic world. If "Islam" is pulling the strings, how can the acted-upon influence the actor?

2. If "Islam" is out to get us, we must punish it, maybe kill it if there is no other way to make it stop what it is doing. Instead of fighting a group of people, we would be fighting a holy war against an idea. This is a bad idea for two reasons. First, because such a war is unwinnable, because the Islamic world is breeding faster than the West. Even with favorable kill ratios (abetted by wasteful techniques such as suicide bombing), that's a powerful element. Second, if we accept the notion that we can make physical war against an idea, then we can make war against ANY idea, and freedom is dead. The eventual result of such thinking is that the US will become a Christian Nation (in the sense that Saudi Arabia is a Muslim Nation).

From such seemingly minor errors in language use comes the death of Western civilization, and thus of Islamic civilization. Like two non-swimmers trying to save each other, we will pull each other down.

Party in Hell on Tuesday

I helped deliver beer to Hell once. Glad to see they are taking advantage of the day.

That said, the 6-6-06 thing is pretty silly, as are most manifestations of the number. In my youth, it was pointed out that if you count the number of letters in the name of Ronald Wilson Reagan, you get 6-6-6, and not even the MoveOn-ites of the 80's really thought Ronnie Rayguns was the Antichrist. The fundamentalist anti-New Age author Constance Cumbey pointed out that liberal theologian Matthew Fox's surname was 666 in the most common numerological system (and since when do fundies do numerology anyway?). You can go anywhere with this...hell, the number 6 looks like a fetus, doesn't it? What's that mean?

Covering the tats

No duh! Visible tattoos can make it hard to find a job.

You'd think people would realize this. But then, I don't have a clue about what motivates the body art thing. It seems sacriligious somehow, like the Gods didn't make you perfectly. And I have seen few tattoos that were an improvement on the beauty of the original skin.

Yep, we are in Redneckia

Darling Spouse is convinced that I have better uses for my time than redoing the barn roof, and is willing to pay for the labor to do it. She may be right. She is certainly undissuadable. Anyway, she was getting a quote yesterday and the fellow asked us if we had any problem with a black man working on my barn.
[jaw drops]
I should, I suppose, be offended that he assumed I might be a racist. But it's just too amazing to be enraging. I mean, what would he have done if I had said "yes"? The irony is that, between the sun and the asphalt, all roofers are black at the end of the day.

"We'll all talk like ----"

Daniel Henninger on blogs and disinhibition.

I think that Henninger exaggerates the effect of blogs in disinhibition. It's a cultural movement that's been goin on since the 60s. As a high schooler in the early 70s (among the vanguard in a rural school), I engaged in a level of psychological exhibitionism that led most people to conclude that I was freakin' weird, and none of my teachers were effective in helping me deal with it (those who helped; some just thought I was freakin' weird along with everyone else). Nobody said, "Here's what you are doing. What are you trying to do with it? Is it effective in that? What else could you do?" It took quite a bit of life experience to teach this Gemini that knowledge is power, and that giving away all knowledge of yourself is disempowering. And those of us of that generation who didn't learn that lesson completely passed the "soul streaker" meme on to our children.

As for the Net, this has been in play for longer than the blogosphere. We learned early on that we could say things online that would get our noses busted if uttered f2f. I've been pretty circumspect here, because I blog where I eat, and because f-bombs are not a form of intellectual argument. But when you've done your homework, and somebody deliberately blanks out on your arguments, there is a place for the f-bomb.

Then, we have reality TV. How could somebody open their personal life to an entire nation? And the gay movement -- and before somebody accuses me of telling people to go back into the closet, let me say that one of the most useful concepts I ever learned from a gay person was that of the flaming straight: that if it's offensive for gay people to wear their sexuality on their sleeves, it must be equally offensive for straight people to do so. And a lot of cultural gayness is soul streaking; yeah, it makes it easier to find a date if your signals are clear, but really, what business of ours is your love life? And finally, there's the surveillance society. Given the amount of information already available on each of us, it's not strange that some conclude that there's nothing left to hide.

Here's what this is all about: people who accomplish don't have to expose themselves. They keep on accomplishing, and people notice. People who don't/can't/won't accomplish find themselves in the position of a grade schooler saying, "Look at me, Mommy!" They so want Mommy to love them, but Mommy is gone, and there's a lot to look at, and why should we look at somebody being pathetic? Have some dignity, willya?

Race to the bottom

...between the Cleveland Journal of Bourgeois Marxist Culture (aka Cleveland ObScene) and the Cleveland Journal of Bourgeois Marxist Studies (aka Slave Times).

The CJBMC has a full-page cartoon (4/19/06, p/ 6; sorry, I can't find it here) accusing all of the Religious Right of being racists whose brains would melt if they voted for Ken Blackwell for governor of OH. Presumably, the RR doesn't read the ObScene, so they don't have to worry about offending many readers...except for the few who remember that the abolitionists were the Religious Right of their time. It's particularly ironic since the ObScene has been referring to "Uncle Tom Blackwell", so I suppose he isn't too black to be governor.

The CJBMS followed with an lead article about men who castrate themselves (Warning! Not lunch-friendly!), with a big Burdizzo® on the cover (Note the "u", the capital "B" and the trademark, FT, ...these were invented by Napoleone Burdizzo who founded a firm in Turin.) The whole lot described therein should be eligible for Darwin Awards, but what would be the point, really?

Soooo...both rags enjoy being gratuitously offensive, both editorially espouse policies that would remove surplus wealth from people, and both are financed by the entertainment, hospitality, and sex industries, who are all dependent on surplus wealth. I've got to wonder why the restaurants keep writing the checks for such unappetising fare.

Lost by "Lost"

If the Rev. Wildmon has time for NASCAR drivers saying "shit", does he have time for Lost?

Really, I don't get that show, at all. Or maybe I get it too well. I don't do Tube generally, but my wife is a big fan, so I've seen a few episodes, and had more described to me.

Here's the premise, as I've seen it: these people are in a place where absolutly nothing is predictable. They appear to attempt to deal with this world as rational humans, which is impossible because it's an arbitrary and capricious universe. So generally, they operate on emotion, and pretend it's thought.

Maybe I'm missing something, and I'm sure some fan will attempt to tell me what (with Lost-like hysteria, no doubt). But as far as I can see, Lost is to The Endarkenment as Commander in Chief is to President Hillary Rodham Clinton. And I've got to wonder: to whose advantage is it that the message is sent out that life makes no sense at all?