Collapsing World

Friday, October 22, 2004

VROOOM

This is where I put away the fedora and temporarily go a little gearhead. Back on Sept 27th, Ford launched production of the 2005 Mustang. I got a big grin today when I discovered that the first vehicle off the line was yellow. I really like this car. Ford's trend of going back to its classic vehicle designs for its new models is truly working. The '05 Mustang combines the best visual features of the '69 Boss with modern lines and an insanely powerful 300hp engine.

Now if only I can convince the other person in the household that she needs her own pony in the stable...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Recycled radio

I would like to shamelessly plug the Mystery Play Internet Radio blog entry I made over at String-Can Phone. That, and I'm too lazy to reproduce it here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

War of words

--On Sunday, the New York Times endosed John Kerry for President. Although not exactly a shocking endorsement coming from the largest newspaper in arguably the world's largest democratic stronghold, the endorsement is unusually strongly worded, indicating the extent of the bad blood that exists between the Times and the White House:
Mr. Bush and his attorney general put in place a strategy for a domestic antiterror war that had all the hallmarks of the administration's normal method of doing business: a Nixonian obsession with secrecy, disrespect for civil liberties and inept management.

Eric Boehlert of The Guardian explains some of the administration's other behavior that may have contributed to the Times's decision not to endorse Mr Bush.

--On a slightly related note, I don't like the endless barrage of opinion polls and the sway they are likely to have on voters. Every poll seems to report the opposite result, and virtually every one falls well within the margins of error. They are barometers which measure nothing, yet many people are being left with the opinion that one candidate is a sure-win over the other, on both a national and state level. My fear is that many undecided voters and potential voters who already feel that their vote doesn't count (thanks a shitload, Florida) will interpret these polls as just another reason why their voting is pointless. Now, having said that, I saw an amusing statistic on one of the morning news programs: the total circulation of newspapers endorsing Kerry: 8.5 million; total circulation of those endorsing Bush: 3.7 million. Jus' something to think about.

--I wanted to point y'all to the transcript of last night's Meet the Press. However, MSNBC's links are all mucked up and everything comes up 404. So you'll just have to follow the above link to the generic Meet the Press page and hope that they've fixed the problem if you want to see Tim Russert utterly destroy SC rep Jim DeMint with sweet, sweet verbal cannonballs.

Nuage:
--Betty Hill, 85. If Kenneth Arnold lauched the modern UFO era with his "flying saucer" sighting in 1947, then Betty and Barney Hill launched the era of alien abductions. On Sept 19, 1961, Mrs Hill and her husband experienced a two-hour loss of time while driving in their car. Later, it would be revealed through hypnosis that the two had been abducted by a UFO. While hypnosis is hardly a reliable source of buried memories, the Hill case stands out because both stories were identical and consistent. The case, and Grant Fuller's book about it, The Interrupted Journey, spawned a flurry of spurious abduction claims that continued well into the 1990s.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Other Christians Sometimes Make Me Angry

I was reading an article in the 10/18/04 issue of Newsweek. The article title is At Home In Two Worlds. It is about kids of gay parents. In the article, one girl
"...organized a day of silence at her school to mark the deaths of people to homophobic violence. A dozen or so kids from a church group surrounded her and her friends, chanting 'It's not OK! It's not OK!'."


The other day, one of my coworkers, who makes it known she is a Christian, states she thinks all people who practice gay behaviors are disgusting and are going to hell.

My problem with both of these statements/actions is according to the Bible I read, you are not to judge because only God has that right. A Christian is to be loving and respectful of others. I doubt any of the Christians, in the above examples, prayed for forgiveness. I'm not perfect. I would hope my fellow Christians would be respectful, forgiving and supportive. I would hope my fellow Christians would offer love rather than hate, inappropriate anger and ridicule. However, these examples are just a few of the disrespectful, hateful, ridiculing and intolerant Christian voices I've heard recently.

I'm almost embarrassed to say I am a Christian lately for fear someone will think I'm intolerant, full of inappropriate anger, hateful or so perfect I am above judgement or change. I'm angry someone taught their kids to think it's ok to make others feel bad about themselves. I'm angry my gay friends have to put up with people's inappropriate behavior. It makes me want to cry and hug them until all the horrible things done to them, in the supposed name of Christianity, fade from memory.

Peace--Arial



Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The remains of celebrity

After '40s silver-screen siren Veronica Lake died, a shadow of her former self, in 1973, her ashes were spread across the water near Miami--or so it was thought. It turns out that at least some of her ashes may have survived and are now on display in a junk store in Phoenica, NY. Although the ashes' provenance are in doubt, the store owner believes that they are the real thing, and is staging publicity stunts featuring Veronica Lake look-a-like contests and "peek-a-boo" cookies. After he has exhausted the profits brought to him by Ms Lake's corporeal presence in his shop, the store owner is considering selling the remains.

Selling Veronica Lake.

There are not proper words to describe how mind-bogglingly disrespectful these people are. Veronica Lake was not merely a screen legend and an American icon; she was a human being. But her humanity seems to have been absorbed and destroyed by her own celebrity. At some point, she ceased to be a person and became a concept, an image, as thin as the celluloid icons of herself that flickered before her worshipping followers in the dim light. Like Marilyn Monroe, she sought to flee the abrupt erosion of her personality. Unlike Marilyn, she survived the hard, painful escape and ended her days as a New York waitress. The journey took an awful mental and physical toll, however, that resulted in her premature death at the age of 53.

Unfortunately, even in death she cannot escape being used as a pawn for publicity.

If Ms Lake's remains go on sale--and if I can afford them--I will buy them. I will take them to her hometown of Brooklyn and I will lay them to rest alongside the rest of her family. She deserves that at least.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Unplugged

When I first heard the maelstrom of rumors speculating that Mr. Bush may have been wired for audio during the first debate, I was sceptical. The images I saw on TV of the unusally square and stiff area on Mr. Bush's back appeared to me to most likely be a panel of Kevlar sewn into his suit jacket. However, having read this article at Cryptome, I'm less sure of myself. The object is clearly more than a panel of fabric, and the series of stills shows that the object doesn't move--it doesn't move--no matter how Mr. Bush shifts. That is more than mere bunching of the suit, as his tailor claims.

Cryptome also provides evidence that the Secret Service has multiple frequencies for wireless, under-clothing transmitters/receivers.

Then there is this telling paragraph in the included Salon.com article:
Suggestions that Bush may have using this technique stem from a D-day event in France, when a CNN broadcast appeared to pick up -- and broadcast to surprised viewers -- the sound of another voice seemingly reading Bush his lines, after which Bush repeated them. Danny Schechter, who operates the news site MediaChannel.org, and who has been doing some investigating into the wired-Bush rumors himself, said the Bush campaign has been worried of late about others picking up their radio frequencies -- notably during the Republican Convention on the day of Bush's appearance. "They had a frequency specialist stop me and ask about the frequency of my camera," Schechter said. "The Democrats weren't doing that at their convention."

Then again, maybe this is what it was.

--Unrelated commentary on Bush's recent personality shift, from The Guardian: The Madness of George, by Markos Moulitsas

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Typewriter

Fellow typewriter collector Jay Williams recently performed Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter" with the Port Angeles, WA, symphony. Click the post title to get an MP3 of the performance. For the curious, the two typewriters used in the clip are a 1945 Remington 17 and a 1947 Underwood 11.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The war president

I'm disturbed by the rhetorical turn the campaign has taken. It seems to have become about which candidate will kill the most people.

Edwards:
We will find terrorists where they are and kill them before they ever do harm to the American people, first.

Cheney:
We've captured or killed thousands of al Qaeda in various places around the world and especially in Afghanistan.

Kerry:
I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are.

But we didn't use American forces, the best trained in the world, to go kill [Osama bin Laden]. The president relied on Afghan warlords and he outsourced that job too. That's wrong.

I will never let those troops down, and will hunt and kill the terrorists wherever they are.

Interestingly, Bush never once during the debate used the word "kill" in the context of Americans doing the killing. The word "kill" is always applied to others ("This is a group of killers who will not only kill here, but kill children in Russia..."); America is always "defeating the enemy", "defeating their idiology", "defeating hatred". This is a man who ran for governor of Texas with a campaign that repeatedly critized his opponent for not sending enough people to Death Row. Once he became governor, he executed more prisoners than any governor before him. He, Rove, and Cheney have succeeded in also making this presidential campaign about who will kill the most people, and I'm disappointed in Kerry and Edwards in allowing themselves to be sucked into that.

Interesting reads and listens.
--Aaron Brown: Giving the People What They Want
Aaron Brown, host of the CNN program "NewsNight with Aaron Brown," says that if T.V. viewers think news these days is too slanted, too opinion-laden, too fluffy or too sensational they only have one person to blame: themselves. Brown says that, sadly, T.V. audiences have a bigger appetite for partisan red meat and celebrity scandals than they do for foreign affairs. He laments that while programs like his can try to serve up "Brussels sprouts," he can't make the audience eat them.



--related note: Warren St John on the blurring between news and satire.

--It's official: there were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

--Study Links Suburban Sprawl to Ailments

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Fluffy, like a bunny

That's what this post is: fluffy like a bunny. No substance at all. Just sweeping the dust bunnies out of the mental closet.

--A few things I watched over the weekend:
Coffee and Cigarettes is an interesting low-budget "art" film with the simple premise of people talking across diner tables while drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Each vignette consists of a different pair of people in a different locale, and everyone plays themselves. So we get the enjoyable awkwardness of Iggy Pop meeting Tom Waite ("So if you come here all the time, how come none of your stuff is on the jukebox?"), and the dumb-blondeness of Bill Murray (swilling coffee directly from the pot) trying to go undercover as a waiter and serving the Wu Tang Clan ("But you're Bill Murray, man!" "I know. Don't tell anyone.") Jack White shows ex-wife Meg his Tesla coil, which he has brought to the diner in a little red wagon. There are a few segments that screech to a halt (most notably Alfred Molina's way too long meeting with Steve Coogan), but overall this is a film worth renting at least once.

Shaolin Soccer is a fun piece of fluff from China about a former football (soccer) star named Fung who is desperate to reclaim his name by coaching a new team to victory. He meets up with street person Sing who is looking for a way to popularize shaolin kung-fu with the masses, and the two decide to form a team consisting of shaolin masters.

You don't have to be a soccer fan (I'm not) to enjoy this film. Very little of it actually takes place on the soccer field, the majority of the film consisting of their quest, Blues Brothers style, to track down and recruit the six shaolin brothers, and their subsequent training. Sing's girlfriend Mui has a disappointingly small part, and doesn't join the team until the very end, although you know she's going to from the moment you see her. Soccer purists may be disappointed, because this film does not take itself at all seriously. (The team they have to defeat at the end is actually called Team Evil.)

Shaolin Soccer is nicely filmed. Combining the best CG and wire elements of recent films such as The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and over-the-top kung-fu abilities from classic martial arts films, players fly through the air, soccer balls knock down walls and burst into fireballs as they fly through the air. In a beautiful, captivating scene, Mui uses shaolin to prepare steamed buns, commanding the very air itself into a vortex which spins and shapes the dough.

Dead Like Me is a series on Showtime. Since I don't have any premium cable channels, I've begun renting the first-season DVDs. The basic premise is that George, an 18-year-old slacker girl who looks a lot like my niece, is killed by a meteoric toilet seat from the de-orbiting space station Mir. Due to her just happening to have been the final soul of the previous grim reaper's quota, she takes his place as a collector of souls. The script nicely dodges any viewer-alienating issues about god and the afterlife and focuses on George's difficult adjustment to her new afterlife. Her mentor in reaping is played by Mandy Patankin, just one of many reasons to want to watch this show. Patankin's character gives new meaning to his famous phrase, "Prepare to die." We can only hope that he gets to sing in a later episode. Another enjoyable facet of this show is getting to hear former sitcom star Cynthia Stephenson say "fuck".

Desperate Housewives on ABC may very well become my next guilty pleasure. Watching it back-to-back with Dead Like Me was just the dose of dark humor I needed to prepare me for the work week.

--Here are some of the fine shows you can see if you come to Minnesota:
Bat Boy: the musical
Don't Hug Me: A Minnesota Love Story With Singin' and Stuff
Electile Dysfunction: or, Two Johns, a Dick, and a Bush
How to Talk Minnesotan: the musical
Minnesota! It's Not Just for Lutherans Anymore!

--For dinner last night, I opened a box of chili. That's right: a box. Chili comes in little waxed cardboard boxes now. I suppose it's good from an ecological perspective--they're recyclable or can be burned to produce energy--but there's something about chili in a box that's just...wrong. (And as Arial pointed out to me, the chill of October is now in the air, signaling that it's about time for me to begin churning out giant batches of my own homemade chili.)

--Current least favorite commercial: the one where the art teacher is telling her students to "paint their soul", "what's within them". This yuppie chick paints a portrait of her Jeep. The instructor, instead of ripping the canvas from its easel and flinging it to the street below, says, "Now that's what I'm talking about!" The yuppie chick is then shown driving away from the school in her shiny Jeep, hunched over the steering wheel with a maniacal, teeth-baring smile that says she's about to run down some puppies, just because she can.

--Current least favorite bumper sticker: "Save a horse, ride a cowboy." That stopped being funny about five minutes after the first time the song aired. All of you wanna-be cowboys in your S10s and F150s need to peel those decals and bumper stickers from the vehicle and toss them in the garbage next to your wife's "Hell Yeah" t-shirt. (You coastal people who don't know what I'm talking about, be thankful.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Bush, lies & WMDs

Yesterday, the NY Times posted a lengthy expose on the truth about Iraq's weapon stockpiles (or lack thereof), and how the administration conveniently ignored facts in order to bolster support for their jihad against Iraq.

Nuages (those who pass like clouds)

--Janet Leigh died today. She was 77. Perhaps best known as the doomed, philandering Marian Crane in Psycho, Leigh was an accomplished actress who appeared in over 60 other films, including the Orson Welles classic Touch of Evil and John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate. However, it was Psycho that cemented her reputation as a scream queen, and by the 1970s she was relegated to small films such as Night of the Lepus. One of her last film appearances was with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween: H2O.



--Richard Avedon, 81. Reknowned as a fashion photographer, Avedon had been documenting all of society for half a century. Although diametric opposites, his celebrity portraits and his political images both capture the fleeting moods of the instant, whether it was a pensive Marilyn Monroe or the quietly defiant Chicago Seven. An artist equally comfortable in the realms of moody black-and-white or of vibrant color, in 1992, Avedon became The New Yorker's first staff photographer. By the time of his death, he had been honored with two exhibits at the Smithsonian, and his work appears in numerous museums around the world.



--Yang Huanyi, about 95, the world's last speaker of Nushu, the only known female-specific language. The language, incomprehensible to men, was developed 400 years ago as a way for women to communicate their thoughts and feelings to one another. (There are some who would argue that such a language has always been around and is alive and well.) Add Nushu to the rolls of extinct languages, along with countless American Indian dialects and those of remote tribes and villages. As communities spread and merge, and inter-regional communication becomes cheaper and easier to achieve, these minority langauges are going to begin disappearing at an exponentially faster rate. It's not difficult to imagine a world which one day contains at most five languages, with one global, consolidated language prevelant over all. Already, we can see the merge beginning. As just one example among thousands, for some time now English has crept steadily into Japanese, and Japanese words and phrases have crept into English as our television programs become more prevelant each other's countries.

The melding of langauges is nothing new; it's been happening since the first two hominids created different grunts for "stick"*. A couple of excellent, brief introductions to the evolution of langage are Our Marvelous Native Tongue by Robert Claiborne, and The American Language by H.L. Mencken. (After that, you can hunt down some Noam Chomsky and really develop some opinions!)

While the evolution of language is natural and inevitable, it's always sad when knowledge dies, even when it's something as simple as a method for a handful of Chinese women to laugh about what an idiot their master is.

*This is providing that one hominid did not beat the other to death with a rock during the ensuing argument.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Blowing off steam

Mt St Helens released a plume of steam at approximately noon local time. Within an hour, the "eruption" was over and only wisps could be seen emerging from the crater.

I remember my mom calling me downstairs early in the morning of May 18, 1980, when St Helens first erupted, flattening over 200 sq miles around it. I sat on the sofa and ate breakfast in my PJs while watching the first natural disaster of my young memory. Days later, an extremely thin layer of dust-like ash settled upon my hometown in South Dakota. Not enough to collect, but enough to wipe off with your finger and go, "Wow". I still have a baby food jar of MSH ash that I bought for $1 at the Hot Springs, SD, mammoth site later that year.

I kind of like volcanos, hurricanes, tidal waves, and tornados. I don't like the deaths and ruined lives that inevitably come in their wake, but I enjoy seeing the earth scour and transform itself. Kind of reminds you that you aren't where you are because of your job, or your health plan, or homeland security, but because the planet is allowing you to be there. And whenever she wants, she'll take you out.

(Mucho gracias to Hekate for grabbing the screenshot from her computer when my browser was unable to connect to the US Forest Service's webcam.)

--On the lighter side, Tomato shares with us this column that asks the question: does god hate Florida?

He said, he said

I didn't watch most of the debate last night. We were both tired and fighting off some bug that's trying to set up base camp in our immune systems. Besides, the aquarium needed to be cleaned, and the well-being of my sharks is much more important than the canned rhetoric that was sure to be slung by the candidates (though most assuredly not directly at one other, thanks to their "Memorandum of Understanding"). (There is also a .pdf version of the full memo, if you have the bandwidth and the patience to wade through it.)

I half-listened to the debate during the moments when Arial flipped over during commercial breaks in the other shows she was watching. I didn't hear enough to draw a well-informed conclusion (that's what transcripts and archived audio streams are for). However, the parts that I did hear left me with the feeling that Kerry came across and clear and concise, with Bush pausing and fumbling at many points. I would like to have heard more specifics about the plans Kerry repeatedly said he had, and further explanation of his policy shift regarding that $87 billion Iraq spending bill. (I have a pretty good idea why, but I want to hear it directly from him.) As for Mr Bush, I wish he would have justified his own policies a little more and not engaged in so much "How can you listen to this guy? He changed his mind!"

Having seen Kerry's oratorical abilities shine in previous debates over the course of his career, and seeing how well he appears to have done in this one, I'm looking forward to how he performs during the next two.

Here is a good analysis not of the debate itself, but of the veracity of what the two men said. You'll probably need one of these Bugmenot registration codes to view it.