Collapsing World

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Guess what?

Pot leads to sarcastic comments!

A research experiment 30 years ago tried to prove the conventional wisdom that cannabis smokers are more mellow. Half of the study group smoked real pot; the other half smoked placebos.* The study showed what everyone who's hung around a college dorm knows--pot smokers are generally less hostile and aggressive. ("Dude, don't bogart that" vs "I'm gonna kill someone if I don't have a fucking cigarette RIGHT NOW!")

However, the study revealed one unexpected result:

"Marijuana produced a small but statistically significant increase in sarcastic communications."

No! Pot smokers are sarcastic? Really?

*which begs the question: how do you make placebo pot? wouldn't the subject notice that they weren't getting buzzed and the jig would be, as they say, up?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Book him, Danno."

I think I finally found the cremation urn I want. Too bad it's so expensive. But it would go really well with a casket fitted with bookshelves, especially if you got your whole family to go in on the deal.

Quote of the day

"We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."
--Pastor Ray Mummert, complaining about the teaching of evolution (and science in general) in Dover, PA, schools. Because we certainly don't want our children being taught by the intelligent and educated. Best to keep 'em ignerant and obedient.

(Via Wonkette via Independent Report. Jeez, people, talk about commenting on commentary.)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Excavating the stairs

Excavating the stairs

For contrast, this is what it looked like digging out our front steps last week.

Magnolia buds

Magnolia buds

It's 62 degrees and the magnolia tree is budding. To think, a week ago we had 20" of snow on the ground! Welcome to march!

I tell ya, I'm about ready to set up the hammock in the back yard and work off the wireless!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Help these kids

While Shrub was partying the night away at his inauguration, nine children were orphaned when their parents were mistakenly shot by US military personnel at a checkpoint. Now a fund has been set up to help this family. Although I'd adopt these kids myself if I could, it's tempting to think that they may have become the recipients of more than their fair share of attention. After all, there are thousands of Iraqi families who have had loved ones killed and maimed, or who have lost their homes. However, this fund helps more than just this one family. An e-mail from the photojournalist who covered the story was reprinted on bOINGbOING:
Money donated to the cause will first go to arranging medical care for Racan, a boy in the car who's spinal column was damaged by one of the bullets and will never walk again unless treatment outside of Iraq is arranged for him. (Humanitarian workers and others in Iraq are working toward this now.) Excess funds will go to the extended family (the Hassan's had nine children) and to civil projects in Tal Afar itself, most likely a school built to commemorate the deaths.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Life, and death.

This week, we are confronted, at opposite poles of the country, with two very different tragedies. In Florida, we have the drawn-out legal battles of a life sustained beyond its wishes, and in Minnesota, we have the horror of--as the principal of Red Lake High School put it--"death out of season".

First, will it do to say anything more about the Terri Schiavo case? Can I possibly highlight an aspect of this political farce, this media circus, this personal, private tragedy that has not already been discussed beyond all reasonable bounds? We've all been made quite aware of the constitutional trampling that occured at the disgrace of our Senate and Congress. Countless talking heads, bloggers, and columnists have drawn our attention to the fact that "Terri's Law" contradicts 200 years of jurisprudence and states' rights. Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of Shrub's rushing to insert himself in this stranger's cause despite having signed legislation while Texas governor that forcibly removes patients from life support who share Ms Schiavo's condition. And I don't think it's necessary to highlight for anyone the fact that conservatives who oppose "special rights" for homosexuals themselves gave special rights to an individual citizen.

I'm also sure that by now we've all read about the memo that emerged from Senator Santorum's office that called the Schiavo case "a great political issue" that would appeal to the Christian right, and about Senator DeLay's comments that "God brought to us" Terri Schiavo to help the conservatives alter the morals of America.

I guess all that can be said at this point is to be sure to put your wishes in writing, because our goverment has demonstrated contempt for the rights of Power of Attorney, for the autonomy of state courts, and for the Constitution itself. They respect the laws of the land only when doing so achieves the result they want and will not hesitate for a moment to turn your personal, private tragedies into political manure.

Closer to home, a disturbed 17-year-old student went on a killing spree the other day, killing his grandparents, a school security guard, and several fellow students before turning the gun on himself. The facts are just beginning to emerge, one of the most incomprehensible being that an American Indian youth apparently embraced a white supremecist group.

Unfortunately, the comparisons with Columbine have already begun to emerge. It does appear that in at least one way, Weise consciously emulated the Columbine killers by asking at least one victim if they believed in God. (There's just one catch: that never happened at Columbine.) He also liked to go around in a black trenchcoat--something many goths do--and wrote zombie stories.

My concern is that once again we're going to see school systems attempt to deal with the problem by banning black clothing and punishing students for their creative writing. The true roots of teenage murder rampages are far more complicated and difficult than we as a society want to deal with. So we attack the symptoms rather than the cause. Wearing black does not cause a kid to pick up a gun. Violent fiction is not necessarily a blueprint.

A lot of teenagers write fiction about zombies. Anyone who has endured the public school system knows that it's the perfect metaphore for how most kids feel. There's a reason that the Pink Floyd movie, The Wall shows faceless, identically-dressed students riding a conveyor belt into a giant meat grinder. Our school system is about stipping identity and programming kids' brains with identical sets of facts that can be easily regurgitated during the No Child Left Behind-required standards tests.

At both Columbine and Red Lake, students were reading Shakespeare at the time of the attacks. By measures used in the past, Shakespeare ought to be banned because it causes kids to get shot.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Flock me

Flock me

This snowstorm would be almost inconvenient if it weren't so danged pretty.

So far, the 6-10" of snow they forecast is up to 14".

Quote of the day

"...our courts should have a presumption in favor of life."
--George Bush, the man who signed more execution warrants than any previous US governor, on the court ruling allowing Terri Schiavo's husband to have the vegetative woman's feeding tube removed.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


My friend A. recently posted his iTunes top 20, which inspired me to copycat also examine what I play most frequently. The results surprised me a little, because they don't conform at all to my Audioscrobbler stats. And yes, I probably have something more important to worry about.

01. Bang On! - The Propellerheads
02. Velvet Pants - The Propellerheads
03. Come Run Chant - African Head Charge
04. Slave to Love - Lords of Acid
05. Born too Slow - The Crystal Method
06. Shin Jingi-Naki Tatakai - Hotei Tomoyasu
07. Alive Alone - The Chemical Brothers
08. A Day at the Races - The Art of Noise
09. Teardrop - Massive Attack
10. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
11. American Way - The Crystal Method
12. Bawitdaba - Kid Rock
13. I Love You - Yello
14. Drumbone - Blue Man Group
15. Blue Monday - Orgy
16. Downtown - The JAMs
17. More Human than Human - White Zombie
18. Sombre Reptiles - Brian Eno
19. Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack
20. Date With the Night - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Quote of the day

"Gays can't have kids — other than going to the abandoned kids store and getting one or two, or borrowing sperm from someone with more sperm than brains — so by definition they're out of the marriage game." --John Gibson, Fox News (via Wonkette)

Ah, yes, the old argument that the purpose of marriage is to have kids, therefore gays shouldn't be allowed to marry. Which begs the question of whether heterosexual marriage without children should be outlawed also. (Hey, John, you wouldn't happen to be Catholic, would you? I assume no condoms or birth control in your house, eh?) Perhaps the marriage license should stipulate that the document becomes null and void if the couple does not bear children within the first five years of marriage. Of course, if a couple is physically incapable of bearing children, they can always head down to the "abandoned kids store". Soon, the Abandoned Kids Store will be overflowing with stock--there'll probably be a 2-fer-1 sale! Because once abortion is outlawed again, that's where they'll ship all those kids whose moms couldn't afford to take care of them, or who got raped, or who were smart enough to recognize that they weren't parent material. The Abandoned Kids Store: because life is precious.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Why I'm Going to Hell: reason # 4,297*

Once again, I found myself spending the weekend in the company of a particularly nasty viral strain. My head and chest are filled with an eldritch effluent typically depicted in horror films as either extraterrestrial or supernatural in origin. Tiny miners chisel away at my joints with pickaxes. My lymph nodes have capitulated and begun hatching an escape plan. My eyeballs hurt.

Nevertheless, it was from either a madness of being confined to the house or a biblically-forbidden love of my vehicle that I decided that I must wash my car. The recent week has been typical of March in Minnesota: 40 one day, below freezing and snowing the next, 50 the day after that. People think that I have been out off-roading, judging by the massive splotches of mud strewn up the sides and over the roof of my car. And it got that way while parked.

Normally, I would have taken my car to the place where it's dragged down a conveyor belt through a series of big, sudsy, revolving brushes, then hand-wiped dry by a pair of Mexicans until the vehicle glows from an inner light.

But that place is across town, and I didn't want to drive that far. Instead, I went to the nearby stop-&-rob, where they have an automated contraption that, for the same price as the other, basically gives your car a swirly. It does an ok job, but not so good that I will wail and gnash my teeth and rent my clothing as soon as some soccer mom's minifan throws a spray of dirty water upon my fender.

So anyway, I pull up to the automated box thing outside the car wash door and I try to feed it a fiver. It doesn't take it. I smooth out the bill, try it again. Nada. For a moment, I think about going somewhere else, but by now I'm realizing that I really never should have left the house at all, and I just want to get this done and go home.

I drive around to the stop-&-rob entrance, &, coughing, snuffling, unshaven, garbed in sweats, shuffle inside. I ask for a car wash, and--what the hell--upgrade to a premium for a buck more. As I'm paying the kid behind the counter, I mention that the dollar-feeder thing on the box outside isn't working. He mutters something about it being disconnected because they have to charge tax on the wash or something.

I don't know what made me say what I said next. Perhaps it was general crankyness from being sick; perhaps it was rebellion against the socio-economic system that dictated that they couldn't just round down the price of the car wash a stinkin' 42 cents so patrons could use the dollar bill feeder.

I said, "I was just hoping not to have to come in, 'cause the doctors say I'm still contagious." [koff, koff, into the back of my hand]

The kid pauses from filing the money away in the till. "With what?" he asks warily.

"They're not sure. They've pretty much ruled out yersinia pestis, because the growths in my arpits are a different color, and it's been a week and I'm still alive. [koff, koff] But they think it might be a related strain."

The cash machine chitters as it prints out the car wash ticket.

"You're kidding, right?"

I peer at the kid over my glasses so he gets the full effect of my red-rimmed eyes and give him my best "I've been working on the railroad all the live-long day" look. "I feel to crappy to be funny." [koff, koff]

The kid doesn't hand me the ticket, he pushes it across the counter at me.

"Have a nice day," he says, a bit meekly.

"I'll try," I say, as I take the ticket and turn to go. "But I'm really not looking forward to the kidney transplants."

*which, coincidentally, is equal in rank to "Clean that up!" on the list of useless things to say to a cat.

Friday, March 11, 2005


Just a note to say that I added a vintage typewriter ephemera section to Machines of Loving Grace. Lots of old typewriter-related postcards and print ads.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ahoy, dude!

I saw some information this morning which made me want to claw my eyes out:
After traveling to Hell and back in "Constantine," Keanu Reeves is ready for his next journey.

The 40-year-old actor is in negotiations to star in the long-gestating adventure film "The 8th Voyage of Sinbad," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The project centers on the notorious rogue and thief Sinbad, who, with his loyal crew, are marooned off the coast of China in the 8th Century. The comrades begin a perilous quest for the Lamp of Aladdin and get mixed up with an empress, fight fantastical monsters and take on a Chinese general.

"Fast and the Furious" director Rob Cohen is in talks to helm the Columbia Pictures project.

Cohen's other directing credits include "XXX," "The Skulls," and the upcoming "XXX" sequel and "Stealth." He will be honored on Friday, March 17 as the ShoWest 2005 Director of the Year.

There are so many things wrong about this story, not the least of which is Rob Cohen being Best Director of Anything. Keanu as Sinbad? They're kidding, right? By coincidence, I've been watching the DVD re-releases of Ray Harryhousen's films, including Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Keanu is no Sinbad. Sinbad is someone who should strike fear into the hearts of pirates, who should make ladies swoon and mythical beasts cower in his presence. Most of the time, Keanu just looks confused about his next line.

You know--you just know--that the producers of this film had a meeting, and in this meeting they said, "We must have Keanu Reeves for this role! No one else will do! Only Keanu can bring to the screen the rugged sophistication and rogue panache that is Sinbad!" And you know that at least half of the people in the room had to have agreed.

Granted, Sinbad movies have always been high on the camp factor, driven more by special effects than acting prowess. But casting Keanu as Sinbad is an insult to camp. If I were casting a modern Sinbad film, I'd choose The Rock, or Colin Farrell, or even Johnny Depp (he do look good in the sea cap'n garb, don't he?). The key thing is that each of those actors would bring a sense of fun to the role. Keanu is going to try way too hard and it's going to be an embarrassment to watch.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Nuage: Teresa Wright, 1918-2005

Teresa Wright died on Sunday. She was 86. Despite never becoming the household name that other actresses such as Veronica Lake, Katherine Hepburn, Lillian Gish or Claudette Colbert became, Ms Wright was a Hollywood legend. She remains the only actor to be nominated for Best Actor Oscars for her first three films: The Little Foxes, The Pride of the Yankees and Mrs Miniver (for which she won). She is perhaps best known for her roles as a hometown girl who reluctantly falls in love with a married WWII veteran in best-picture-winner The Best Years of Our Lives, and as the psychologically-ensnared niece of serial killer Joseph Cotten in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Shunning the growing commercialism of Hollywood, she turned town the role of Joan of Arc (it went to Ingrid Bergman) and disappeared into a quiet retirement. Her last role was as Matt Damon's landlady Miss Birdie in 1997's The Rainmaker.

Ms Wright to me captured an innocence and strength that made her stand out beyond even Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Her best roles were when she was playing The Girl Next Door, because she was the girl next door. However, she was never played as dippy, or flighty, or dependent, as most Girl Next Door roles dictate. She was the girl you wished really did live next door. Whenever I watch The Best Years of Our Lives I find myself shouting at Dana Andrew's hesitant, henpecked character, "KISS HER, YOU FOOL!" Ms Wright brought humanity to the screen, a quality that remained just a fingerbrush away from her soft-lensed glamour counterparts.

A treasured possession of mine is the signed photo of her that sits on my shelf of Special Things. It's probably just an autopen signature, not the real thing. But there are some illusions you just don't shatter.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Not much to say

--After a way-too-expensive weekend in the Cities* I sat down and did some much-needed updates to Machines of Loving Grace. Most of the changes are subtle design improvements. I added a few typewriters I've recently aquired, redid the thumbnails, made the font size consistent throughout, re-ordered the machines into chronological order, and placed each page's entries in a table to make the spacing more consistent. At some point I'd like to replace the old scanned photographs with digital camera pictures. The digicam pics seem much sharper and brighter. But that's for another weekend.

--McDonald's has shamrock shakes! I shouldn't. They're so unhealthy. I really shouldn't. I'm trying to lose weight as it is. But...but...but...

--Found a great book called Shadows Over Baker Street. It's an anthology of stories about Sherlock Holmes confronting Lovecraftian horrors. Neil Gaiman & Barbara Hambly are among the contributors. I can't wait to read it.

--I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that I hatehatehate driving in Minneapolis.

*I really must have the folks at Uncle Hugo's/Uncle Edgar's cut me off after a certain point. Like maybe when the first basket gets full.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Booked Up is closing

The best bookstore in the world is closing its doors--in all five buildings--at the end of the year. Mr. McMurtry says that the number of customers is dwindling, and he's getting too old to keep up the business. It may open again...someday. If I had the millions that it would probably require, I'd buy the place from him and run it myself. I've always wanted to own a bookstore, and Booked Up is exactly the type of store I'd have, with a few modifications. Its five buildings each house their own genres, but beyond that the books aren't in any particular order. It's the perfect environment for browsing. The heady scent of aged paper fills the air. Rare and obscure literary gems await discovery somewhere upon the towering shelves. If you're lucky, you might spot Mr McMurtry himself shelving or pricing books.

Booked up has two disadvantages: it's not very easy to get to, unless you live in nearby Wichita Falls. Otherwise, the nearest large town is Dallas, 100 miles away. You have to be a pretty dedicated bibliophile to make a special trip there. The second disadvantage is that you can't buy their books directly online. There is a request form that you can fill out if you're looking for a specific item, but that doesn't quite cut it. There is a large market among serious collectors if Booked Up's rare volumes were more easily accessible. Mr McMurtry has some seriously rare books among his collection, many beyond the reach of my pocketbook, that true bibliophiles would love to know are there. The real money in the used book gig is to be had in collectible volumes: rare, antiquarian, first-edition, signed, and limited-edition. If you don't push that part of the business, you aren't going to do much better than break even.

But I digress. Booked Up will be greatly missed. It's the flagship in the dwindling fleet of quality independant book stores. I already had a trip to there planned for May. I'd better make the best of it.