Saturday, April 30, 2005

Go see this movie: Kung Fu Hustle.

Don't say "But I don't like k-"



Go see the movie,


Friday, April 29, 2005

You guessed it. Its time, once again, for NINJABLOGGING.

Yes, folks. Its 8:36 and the boss has ducked upstairs for a quick morning meeting.

This means that, for a few minutes at least, I am undeniably, unfetteredly devoted to you and you alone. And a few thousand other people who faithfully read this blog (don't let the number counter fool you -- it is being artificially supressed by a Vast Nefarious Conspiracy too dense and inscrutable for even me to identify).

Just finished reading William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition". Reviewers compared it to "Gravity's Rainbow" and "House of Leaves" -- two of the most well-crafted, intelligent, [post]modern pieces of writing of the 20th Century. (If you haven't read "House of Leaves" it is absolutely terrifying and brilliant, although the format is a bit gimicky.)

I have two observations about Gibson:

1. He has renewed my faith in science fiction as a genre that can actually be relevent and well-written.

2. He has unfortunately fallen into the trap that so many good sci-fi writers do (read my earlier rants about Neal Gaiman's "American Gods"). Gibson had a strong idea, strong characters, and built the drama of the book *beautifully*, but then...somehow...just didn't deliver the knockout punch at the end. The "wrap up" was flat and undramatic. My dissappointment was minimal, however, due to the fact that he is such an amazingly visual and creative stylist: his sentences are a pleasure to read and his ideas remain on the cutting edge.

I have decided to give him another chance by finally reading "Neuromancer, his Cyberpunk classic (and by now I do believe it has reached "classic" status).

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hi, Bloggees.

Much to report. Many posts conceived & forgotten with equal rapidity. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I direct you to a MSN-linked study that lists the 20 happiest and 20 most depressed places to live in America.

Somehow Fresno, Bakersfield, and Stockton (all San Joaquin Valley shitbaskets) are in the top 20, and L.A. and several other urbane non-cowtowns are in the bottom 20. Wierd. Maybe there is something to that whole "ignorance is bliss" thing. Or maybe, just maybe, folks in the heartland really do have some stuff figured out that us city-slickers can't accept. Maybe the cumulative effects of cow manure, pesticides and moonpie somehow create a sense of euphoria. Fuck it. Who cares. I can tell you that my 90 minute commute and constant struggle with gridlock isn't doing me much good in the mental health department.

Its good to know that no matter how bad it gets around here, there will always be Modesto to fall back upon.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I just stumbled onto Not Proud -- a site I've heard about but never visited (thanks for the link, Wiley).

Its an awesome site: people just saying whatever it is their guilty about. Here's a real gem:

One day I got up about 4 am and I was thirsty. All I had was leftover beer from the night before. I drank 8 of them and then went to the store and bought a 30 pack. I drank them all that day and blew my next door neighbor while his wife was at work. She came home and joined us. My boyfriend came home and was pissed. I was pissed because he drank my beer as he watched. I made him get more.

And another:

adore my new husband. i also adore the little luxuries i'm afforded by being his wife. while he suffers through sandwiches every day for lunch, i like to go to the drug store and buy hair color, perfume, cigarettes, candy, magazines and speed. he's a good provider. i hope he's happy, that sweet fella.

The funniest part is: I'm reading this shit at work, where some geek gets paid thousands of dollars to watch my online doings from a remote site in the basement of the Pentagon.

Here's what his post would look like on Not Proud:

"Snooped on some dumbshit researcher looking at Non-Approved Content (NAC) online. Got the fool fired. He never knew what hit him. The black helecopters just descended and whisked him away. He cried for his mama the whole time but we got her, too. Feels kinda good..."

Blech. I'm drinking tea. Its part of another great new plan of mine to quit subsidizing Starbucks. I was inspired by a radio show the other day where an author about a book of tea extolled the virtue of this ancient and venerated beverage.

In theory I'm really really down with tea. When we brew it up loose-leaf style after dinner, chatting about our day, snacking on cookies or biscuits or whatever: that's nice. When my attorney serves me up a class of tea so heavy with Bergemot that it makes your hair stand on end: that's good. Tea at Indian restaurants: good.

At work, in place of Starbucks: bad.

Very very bad.

Here's a typical scenario:

I carefully unwrap my tea bag, placing it just so in the cup, then pour boiling water over it from a beautiful rubberized-plastic water-heater jug-thingy engineered in Germany (TM). There is NO WAY a device that sleek could ever let me down. The Europeans know how to build shit.

I wait the obligatory 5 minutes for my tea to brew. Well, ok. I wait a minute and a half until I can't see the bottom of the mug. (Who's counting?)

I savor the delicious tea-like scent, and prepare to indulge in a nice, sumptuous beverage like billions of my Chinese and Indian (not to mention English) foremothers. I place the mug to my lips, and guzzle down a huge, scalding swallow. And then I wait. And wait.


I take another, slighly less enthusiastic sip.

Still nothing.

Eventually, my liver sends a telegram to my brain:

Liver: Is that *all*?

Me: Yes, I'm afraid so. See, I'm really trying to cut back on the money I spend at Starbucks. Besides the 512 milligrams of caffeine per cup is close to three times what one would find in three (3) extra strength-Vivarins.

Liver: So? You callin' me a pansy?

Me: No, its not that. Its just that I-

Liver: You don't think I can HANDLE it? What is this geeky tea shit? You getting New Age on me?

Me: Well, it *does* have a high degree of antioxidants...

Liver: Anti-WHATs?

Me: You know, things that purge toxins from the blood. Free radicals and such.

Liver: Motherfucker I'M the ORIGINAL anti-oxidant. I CLEAN YOUR BLOOD OF THE BAD SHIT. You leave the blood cleansing shit to me. You just make sure you keep me busy doing my job or I must might take a vacation one of these days. You spend too much time trying to figure out what the latest longevity-producing extract is, and you're going to die of STRESS. Not to mention wasting VALUABLE TIME you could have spent living the GOOD LIFE. I suppose next you're going to tell me that whiskey is bad and you're switching to COD LIVER OIL.

Me: ...well, it does have essential Omega-3 fatty acids..

Liver: Motherfucker, the only thing ESSENTIAL is that you hit me with some good ol' fashioned DRIP STARBUCKS, you know: the kind Mom used to make.

Me: No can do. I'm way past my budget for the week already. My wife has restricted my spending...

Liver: Say WHAT? I can't believe what I'm hearing.

Me: I do have some No-Doz sitting out on my shelf as a joke. So when the Big Boss Man comes down here he can see that we think the work he makes us do is a big fat snooze.

Liver: That's better. Pop a couple of those.

Me: You sure?

Liver: Sure I'm sure, motherfucker. Hit me.

Me: Okay...

Liver: man.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

In today's headlines:

"Prisoners aware in executions." [BBC]
Apparently researchers have discovered that prisoners might actually know that they are being executed when they die. Regardless of how you feel about capital punishment, how does this 'discovery' change anything? Being vaguely aware of your death is utterly irrelevant to either argument. Putting people to death is supposed to be *punishment* (don't kid yourself that it is somehow "rehabilitation"). People used to execute people by chucking stones at them, suffocating them, burning them alive, chopping them apart with swords, shooting them. In comparison, todays executees are lucky. It seems to me that arguing that knowing you are about to die is some sort of cruel punishment is rediculous. Seeing your own death on the way is just part of the bargain for having had the gift of life -- for all of us. If prison officials could promise me that they could make me unaware that last moment, maybe I'd go out and premeditate some heinous crime. Like wearing white socks and black shoes. Or teaching class with ketchup on my face. Oh shit: I'm already doomed.

I was reading today in the Washington Post Express that 13 truckloads of low-carb diet bars have been shipped off to Kentucky to help feed the homeless. It seems that the popularity of the Atkins diet peaked in early 2004. Now any of you regulars out there who have stuck with me over the years know my opnion of fads in general, and especially fad diets: they are expressions of mass irrationality, carried by hearsay, word of mouth testimonials, junk science, and anecdotes. People yelled at me every time I snickered at the Atkins craze. They failed to pay attention to history: to the Graham Cracker diet, electroshock fat treatments, the butter diet, the Watermelon diet, the no-sugar diet, etc. Now it seems that beloved, infallable Atkins is falling off in popularity for the following reason:


Oh yeah. There *IS* no good reason why Atkins is dropping in popularity. Nobody has disproven it. It isn't suddenly responsible for heart attacks or gastritis. The same "evidence" that people used to adopt it in the first place is just as unrpovable/inconclusive.

I try. I really do. I *try* to have sympathy for America's swollen, ignorant masses. I *try* to sympathize with mass hysteria, mass stupidity, NASCAR, grunge rock, yellow ribbons, and SUVs.

I just can't.

Call me "elitist" (the latest Harvard-generated ironic Corporate/Populist Right Wing attack-phrase), but:

Sheeple just aren't worthy of respect.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I just went to Fleecy's new blog ("Lounge Act") and damn if it ain't purdy. It makes me want to quit slacking and sex-up this nasty, plain template with some fancy pictures.

Problem is I'm goddamn lazy.

And I'm even more goddamn busy.

And my know-how regarding slick templateering is the technical equivalent of a nose-cheese pyramid snorted through a baseball diamond-sized wormhole. (If you catch my drift.) (If you don't just nod and back away slowly -- its ok I won't hurt you I'm just bored.)

So fuck it. For now anyway. Once I'm in a place where I can treat my rickety little corner of cyberspace with more respect, I'll get this site looking good. I promise.

Wait, no I don't.

My promises don't mean shit.

Not anymore.

I've got too many grand plans in the works.

Too many half-completed plans.

Too many fun-but-foolish fancies to concoct and forget about.

I don't mind saying so, either.

On other fronts: I've steadily come to realize that one of my favorite songs EVER in the history of all songdom from Beethoven to Elvis to U2 is... (prepare to wince) (prepare to cringe):


By Toto.


No lie.

Are you laughing at me? (WhyIougtta...)

No, seriously: that song is really good. It has everything I like in a great song -- poignant lyrics, melodic presence, beautiful harmony, rain, somebody fearing what they might become, volcanos above vast open landscapes, women arriving on airplanes. I can ignore the ancient synth line and 1980s production values.

I have no idea who "Toto" is. I suspect they are a 1-hit wonder. Still, whenever "Africa" comes on in the shuffle, I find my mood instantly elevated.

Next time I talk about a musician I'm going to rave about how much I dig the sound of Rufus Wainright, Jr. My friend Jenny swears that only gay guys like the R.W.J., but I am living proof that this is a lie. Then again, when I hear that man's sugary voice, I can't help but regret (just a little) that I will be unable to bear his offspring.
Today is one of those wierd days where light takes on a diffuse, unreal quality, flattening space, causing people to glow. I walk through the tunnels of Crystal City, a warren of low-quality luncherias and underwhelming military souveneer stores selling wooden Apache helecopters, commemorative brass anchors, "FBI/CIA/DIA" hats). I smell the stink of undercooked pepperoni pizza, hear the buzz of busted neon advertising cheap beer. I dodge in and out of foot-traffic, narrowly avoid a young japanese girl snapping a photo of an underground mural. I crank up the iPod and make myself the main character in a Bobby Womack video (I'm the pimp, all these suckers in their military uniforms and beltway subcontractor lanyards are my ho's).

The video ends at my cube. My ho's vanish and turn back into my co-workers.

I am reminded every time I take a breath that my nose hangs over my mouth. See, I have just returned from a delicious but potentially deadly Punjabi gut-bomb: kabob, rice, lamb, lentils, nan, salad, lemon, yogurt & raw onions.

Anybody out there want a kiss?

The only solution to severe pie-hole funk appears to be a quick Starbucks run, a dip into some Bar B Que sunflower seeds, and a few Mike & Ikes mixed in with multicolored tacks at the bottom of my desk drawer (I avoid eating the tacks.)

Once the emergency breath-repair has occurred, I'm back to work.

Back to work, where I am assembling a flow chart to beat all flow charts. I have stiff competition because one of my co-workers has unveiled a flow-chart that grows exponentially with each new panel, spreading like a virus of sub-routines, ciruclar arguments, and self-referential loop points. Fortunately, his paltry 2D chart will soon be hopelessly outclassed. You see, I have a secret flow-chart weapon brought-to-you-by none other than William H. Gates III: the hyper link (or, as they might say in Jugoslavia, "jyper links"). Soon my co-worker's crappy, flat paper chart will be eating 21st Century dust. And if he tries to copy my hyperlinking capability I will smoke him again by adding multimedia.

Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- can top a flow chart that plays polka.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I know that today is supposed to be a day of mourning for the Pope and so those of you inclined to accept that may wish to find another, more reverent blog to read. But since this is my soap-box, and I don't always aim to please, here are my thoughts on this so-called 'historic' morning:

All week -- and especially this morning with the televized coverage of the funeral -- I find mys
elf fighting back nausea and irritation over the whole bullshit spectacle. I mean, really. I know Catholicism is a big religion. I also know that it is only one religion of many in a whole world full of religions. Anybody care that the vast, vast majority of the world *isn't* Catholic, and maybe don't care much about what this guy represented?

Obviously not the media. They sensed a big spectacle, and pre-empted every other piece of news this morning to show us gregorian chanting, crowds crying, and old robed guys performing mideavil rituals. They took every sacred, symbolic act at face value, they described the Pope as a 'servant of god' without any apology for blatantly endorsing theism. As an unabashed disbeliever in the tenets any sort of god mythology, ritualism, or religion, I am perhaps more sensitive to things like this than others might be, but whatever happened to a healthy skepticism? Whatever happened to the Enlightenment, and the 1960s, and all those periods of time where thinkers actually took a step back from religion, recognized the inherent, and often flawed assumptions that humans have always placed their faith in: all the wierd cave dwellers who made up rumors about guys they never knew, the believers in invisible beings, nebulous "energies" which (conveniently) no scientific instrument can measure, all the broken cosmological schemes invented to prove obscure religious doctrine, all the former "miracles" flayed by reason and historical knowledge. All the laughably human agendas furthered by ominpotent, all powerful beings. (These angels can dance on the rings of Saturn and craft whole multiverses with the flick of a finger, instead they choose to make appearances on a tortilla in Juarez just to give faith to a race of self-important monkeys who have outgrown the savannah...). All the cobbled-together texts of yore fashioned by corrupt institutions in a manner wholly forgotten by students who (conveniently) wish to focus only on the words therein. Words translated and mistranslated so many times by degenerates, illiterates, and people so downright ancient that we don't have a clue as to original intent or meaning. The cannibals who symbolically scarf down dead flesh soaked in wine and call it "sacred". The heaps of corpses generated in the name of love.

Ah. I love ranting.

Are we to let the media just parade around cloaked in phony reverence for a man whose views were controversial? I heard someone say that in a world where the religious faithful are often considered close minded, the Pope was a man who "opened dialog" with dispirate peoples of the world.

Pardon me while I puke.

Wasn't this the same guy who only accepted bishops who were: anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-sex, anti-condom, anti-masterbation, anti-fun, etc. etc. etc? I'll answer my own question: it was. The Pope was a conservative who happened to have an understanding of mass media. He was a dogmatist. He was inflexible. He wielded his muscle and spoke up where he saw injustice.

First of all, whenever the media calls something 'historic' I have to laugh. Being a historian, or at least playing one in real life, I can cover ever square inch of wall space in the Vatican with shit people thought would be a defining "historic" moment, something that would be forever associated with the generation.

A lot of things have happened during the past several decades of John Paul II's tenure, and nothing he did had much to do with any of it. Sure, he made a few public pronouncements, sure he became the most media-savy pope ever. Whatever.

The death of a man who was eighty something years old and had been dying of a terminal illness for years is hardly a "historic" event. Historic events are things that are unexpected and life-changing. More importantly, in order to be historic, they must be *remembered* and all anybody is going to remember about this morning's service is that it was a pretty nice send-off for a guy who did his job well.

But my ire does not end with a bunch of phoney reverence for a man who is really (or ought to be) a polarizing figure:

This morning I learned that Pope John Paul II has requested that his private papers be burned.

Let me repeat that:

This man, this paragon of virtue, of perfection, Christ's Representative, Mr. Perfect, wants his immortal words torched.


The newspeople very sympathetically agreed that this decision was to avoid "harming" anyone whom he has written about and "distracting" the world from the deeds he did in life.

Pardon me if that is a huge, stinking haywagon of [*cough*] bullshit.

There are ways around harming people who are still alive: just seal the records for 50 years. That's what the U.S. Government (in theory) does to sensitive records. After 50 years, people won't care who John Paul II offended.

The lessons to be learned from his papers could be priceless for all of the millions of fish-eyed fools out there who think that great leaders make their decisions in a vacuum, devoid of political or practical currents. He was a shrewd man, and a smart Pope, and yet he undoubtedly also screwed up. He probably ranted like I'm doing right now. He probably said peevish, selfish, stupid things. He probably even doubted his course from time to time.

In other words: he was probably human.

Thats what I think he's afraid of. He assumed that he was better than the rest of us through his piety and his 'humility' and the great, collective pretense that he somehow embodies something grander than the rest of us gibbering monkeys on the planet. His great living deeds should speak for themselves. For a man who prided himself on presenting a humble image, denying us access to the very things that made him human (i.e. his papers), rather than just a PR-sculpted image of Piety, is hypocritical. Not to mention arrogant. Besides the fact that burning one's papers is just plain beneath the dignity of the office he was entrusted with.

This is not to detract from his undeniable importance to many, many people. Its merely to suggest that the Pope is a construct. A symbol. Nothing more. That symbol cannot be divorced from the flesh that it occupies, and neither can it (or him, or the church) be given a free pass from scrutiny even on a sad day like today. Unless...of course...he/they/it are willing to grant the rest of us a free pass from our nonbelief, our 'sin', our desire to live and feel joy in ways entirely unrelated to how he/they/it think things should be.

So how's about it, Pope. I give you a break for being an arrogant, self-important hypocrite representing an ancient if fundamentally flawed human experiment in mass hysteria, and you show me some EARTHLY respect. You actually keep an open mind. No pretending that God's grace is my shield when I have no shelter from your scathing ojos.

I doubt that will happen any time soon. And for the record, I'll be saving my tears for when the Dalai Lama dies. There is a man for whom I reserve a great deal of respect, despite our differences, because he is truly an open man, and actually lives a life of humilty: not some parody of humility papered over autocratic inflexibility.

Still, John Paul II, I wish you well in Valhalla.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Happy birthday to Gmail. Happy birthday to Gmail. Happy BIRTHDAY to Gmail. Happy birthday to...(er)

There you have it folks, Gmail is exactly one year old today. And going strong.

Shit, I just spilled coffee down my shirt.


Some people just weren't meant to be exemplars of neatness.

Neat is over-rated.

Neat is fascist.

Neat is boring.

F neat.

So there.

On other fronts: its been a week of semi-momentus demises: Johnny Cochran, Terry Schaivo, the Pope (well, he's *almost* dead).

Cochran is the surprising one to me. I didn't know he was even sick. And Schaivo... I'm glad all that is over. It was distressing to see a family tragedy turn into a litigation bloodbath, then a political football. I'm pissed that the parents got so many special appeals, and became poster-children for right wingers who normally claim they're in favor of tort reform which limits appeals. This should *not* have entered politics. But politics aside, I think both sides in that family had reasonable arguments, and even though I think the husband should have been able to make the decision he did without interference, I sympathize with the parents who want to continue to care for their daughter. Its hard letting people go. It was a lose-lose-lose scenario.

As for the Pope: croak already, will ya? You lived a good life worthy of the position you held. No need to hang on as a grand demonstration in the holiness of suffering. Just sit back in the settee, aim that magical ring heavenward and let Scotty take over.


[And, yes, I'm going to hell. Maybe I'll see you there...]