Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Here's some more flix I watched lately and forgot to mention:

At last the arthouse crowd has their Showgirls--scratch that; compared to The Dreamers, Showgirls is La Dolce Vita. What a turd! I hated The Last Tango in Paris, but this might be worse. At least in Tango we had the pleasure of witnessing a beached sea lion named Marlon Brando sodomize a teenager using a stick of butter for lube. Talk about a silly, narcissistic, masturbatory fantasy! Bertolucci should give up and just make an elegantly filmed porno--dispense with "plot," dispense with "character," dispense with the desire to be an auteur. The only thing this flick's got going for it--well, the only things--are Michael Pitt's cock (he was Tommy Gnosis in the Hedwig movie), and the most amazing cinematic boobage since Uma burst onto the scene in Dangerous Liaisons. Ms. Green--those are spectacular. There's lots of surprisingly intimate behavior between these actors, but big fucking deal. I can download MPEGs of hot people actually fucking if I so desire; why should I sit through a pointless 2-hour-plus riff to see hot people fake it? I must admit though that the scene where Green peels a Polaroid photo off Pitt's semi-erect unit is pretty damn erotic. His character had tried to hide the photo in his undies to use later, with unintended sexy results.

I think Ben Kingsley is a fine actor. I find his ability to mimic accents truly astonishing. But when his accent is the only interesting thing about a flick? Fuck it. I don't care if he can scream "No!" one billion times in a harsh Cockney. I don't care if he looks tough while doing so. I'm sick to death of the new breed of slick caper flix; they're just as bland and predictable as the old slick caper flix. Fuck this movie.

...a Boticelli angel!

Marvelous! David Lynch meets Merchant Ivory. I highly recommend it, but have read that this 'cut' by Weir removes 7 minutes from the original theatrical release. I'd like to see Weir's previous edit and compare the two, but I had no problem with the pacing or the ambiguity here. An enchanting film.

More subtly perverse than

which also deserves a Criterion Collection release.

Student emails

One thing I'll miss about teaching? Student e-mail.

Here's one I received this morning. Students were to select a controversial issue from a list and write a 5-page paper.

Sent: Monday, November 29, 2004 9:09 AM
Subject: Correction-topic

I just sent you an email requesting 'gay abortion' as my topic. This was
definately not what i meant. I meant to ask you if I could do Megans Law.
I was looking at the Essay #4 assignment sheet and wrote the wrong topic.


It simply doesn't get more controversial than 'gay abortion.' I was tempted to respond that she should stick with that topic, which "definately" isn't on the sheet--though gay adoption is.

Monday, November 29, 2004

When Bored

When bored at work--typically when I've gotten my stuff done for the day and I have no grading to do--I like to randomly go through 'blogs and check out the types of photos people post.

Weird high school talent shows are big.

This guy makes me wish I'd gone to Oxford. Holy Shit!

Drunk Hotties are always popular.

Why not X-ray yourself during a blow job?

Not-so-Funny glasses pix are always in vogue.

As are tongue pix.

I hate Renee Zellwiger

Cha's been pestering me to get Cold Mountain for a year now, and I finally broke down and moved it from position #247 on the Netflix queue. I was gearing up to loathe this, but was instead surprised to find it reasonably good. Definitely not a new story, nor a particularly inventive one, but well-acted and nicely shot. Kidman and Jude Law drop trou and display two of Hollywood's hottest derrieres. There's lots of pathos and thanatos and eros and all that other bullshit you forget from Intro to Lit.

My hatred for Renee Zellwiger (as an actress--I can't condemn her as a human being) continues. I swear to God her "research" for this role consisted entirely of mimicking characters from

Sunday, November 28, 2004

In our 'fridge

We have 10 pounds of mashed potatoes.
We have a bag of turkey.
We have a large chunk of a traditional style Filipino roast pig (lichon).
We have a large platter of ginger chicken and cucumbers.
We have a large platter of pansit noodles.
We have kraut.
We have ham.
We have a quart of yams.
We have a pumpkin pie.
We have store-bought canolis.
We have corn cake.
We have babinka.
We have anti-oxident rich berry salad.
We have a half gallon of beef blood pudding.
We have a more than a case of beer.

I haven't eaten all day because my student assistant wasn't here--Kuni just arrived at 5pm, so I'm free to go have dinner, but the idea of dinner nauseates me. I've done nothing except eat for three days.

Actually our inventory isn't so bad this year, because as people were leaving last night we pulled out the giant Ziplocs and begin loading them up and forcing people to take food home with them. Someone had brought a box of cream-filled chocolate-covered pastries containing two dozen confections. Nobody ate them by the end of the evening, and I was handing them out to departing family members. Thankfully people took most of the canolis as well--I don't eat that stuff, and Cha certainly can't eat 12 before they get stale.

Ah, gluttony. I've packed on the typical Halloween-Thanksgiving 10 pounds, and will hope to have it eradicated by Xmas.

All the nude that's fit to print

Apparently our values-obsessed citizenry also likes boobies. Sure, a few thousand people complained about Nicholette Sheridon's racy romp with an NFL star, but millions recorded it and played it again and again; the same was true of Janet Jackson's boob "malfunction." Sharon Reed's participation in one of Spencer Tunick's nude-ins is a case in point. There's some bemoaning of a decline in ethical standards, but the story--run during sweeps week--was a huge success for Ohio's WOIO-TV.

Give Thanks--it's over

As I type this there's a former employee/co-worker of mine working at a PC out in the lobby. She came in and saw me and I saw her and both of us are pretending we didn't recognize the other because neither of us wants to say hi or how are ya or any of that bullshit. I see her boyfriend occasionally on campus and we're civil but we have no real reason to talk to each other except for some vague rules of etiquette.

I'm astonished at how gray she is. I saw her about 1.5 years ago and she was only starting to get some gray, with a few strands here and there. Now she's got a few strands of dark hair here and there! She's I believe a couple years younger than I.

So for the first time in 17 years I was off four days at Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, work is less exhausting. Christ! Three days of non-stop cooking/cleaning/socializing--that shit's for the birds. I'd rather sit here in the library or work the Borders info counter. We had more than 20 family members over yesterday, the first arriving around noon, the last leaving around midnight, and it was exhausting. All the stupid petty games families play--for instance, Cha's mom can't drive and lives way the fuck out in Parkton. She cooks for two days for our Saturday thing and then Cha's dad leaves her at the house without transportation and disappears. There's a last minute crisis because he does this at just the wrong time--our guests are arriving, we've got food cooking ourselves, and suddenly we have to find someone who has the time and inclination to run 30 minutes north and back. Ugh.

But mostly things went well. There's a new baby in the family--my niece had a girl last week, and my mom trash-talked her for days and kept saying she wasn't welcome to Thanksgiving etc, etc (you know, the typical "values" voter), but as soon as she saw the baby it was all "coo-coo, cootchy cootchy," and then I'm sure after my niece left the trashing recommenced. Now there ARE reasons to trash talk her--she had a baby with a moron who beats her, the baby died of SIDS, they broke up, and then she saw him again and got pregnant, and now they have restraining orders against each other and have another baby, etc--but my mom married a moron who beat her and stayed with him for 8 years, and went back once after getting away! What's that Bible verse about the mote in God's eye and the beam in thine own?

Cha's cousin Lenore is preggers after YEARS of procedures and fucking on a schedule, and she's got the unsurprising fertility treatment result: TWINS. 15 weeks along, and everything looks good. Of course this resulted in all the aged Philippinas pooh-pooing Cha in Tagalog for much of the day. What's the point of being married if you're not having kids? There's no other reason to get married!

Friday we went up to Buf and MA's for a game night--the Traveling Joneses and Sluggo and Spooge Whore were there, as well as others we hadn't seen in ages. The evening went by in a blur, much like the last 20 years.

More later--time to read the papers.

At last

The Halloween VIII pix are online.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ah, Travel

There's nothing like the prospect of travel to boost my spirits. We're going to Honduras for 5 days in January--I'm looking forward to hiking some mountains, and in particular to seeing my first Mayan ruins in Copan. This will be our 13th country and 4th continent!

This past weekend we traveled to Baltimore's Creative Alliance to see Woody Guthrie Dreams Before Dying; Cha'd seen it before, and had been pressing me to do so ever since. It was pretty good, but I mostly liked the songs. We got home after to find a message from Yahtzee alerting us to the fact that Move Like Seamus was playing. We hadn't the slightest idea, and went on Saturday night to see them at O'Shea's. The three of us shot the shit for a while and then The Bus showed up with some Hamdenite who spent much of the night with her fingers twirling Yahtzee's mullet. She was begging him to cut it and ended up getting him so rowdy he stayed past his bedtime. Then she told him she was engaged and he deflated with a loud SPPPLLLLBBBBBTTTT. There was a much smaller crowd than last month, but the two or three tables packed by newbies were very enthusiastic (they actually chanted for encores). Details are hazy. I remember "dancing" to a Cure song.

Off tomorrow (after teaching 263). I decided to ditch Cook Library Wednesday because I have to work Sunday--it's not fair to get short-shrifted on a four-day weekend because I work the weekend!

More Netflix

I'd heard terrible things about

when it came out, so I never saw it, despite the fact that Terrence Malick's

is a film I can watch again and again.

Forget all the bad reviews of The Thin Red Line. It's magnificent. I was distraught enough during the battle scenes to feel physically ill; they succeed in putting the viewer uncomfortably close to the action. I was powerfully moved by the odd metaphysical voice-overs lifted from the novel (at one point the camera pans across a section of sunlit Guadalcanal jungle as a soldier muses "Who are you to exist in such forms?"). Yes, many of the characters are "types" seen in other war movies, but these "types" exist; here, they're exceptionally well-played and unusually well-rounded. Nick Nolte's tormented officer, Woody Harrelson's hambone hero, Sean Penn's gritty sargeant--Elias Koteas, James Caviezel, George Clooney, Adrian Brody, etc. Casts don't get much better than this. Directors don't either. A shattering meditation on war and the human condition. Does our animal nature excuse the abominations we unleash on each other? Or are we failing to participate in the true beauty of the world while fighting? Is it long? Yes. Are there lulls featuring tropical vistas and National Geographic scenery with voiceovers by agonized souls? Yes. Does Malick cram in a lot of the ponderous philosophizing of Jones' book (without the obsession with soldierly buttfucking)? Yes. And I love it.

Strange Stirrings

Bleary-eyed, I watched MSNBC in between 102 essays early this morning (around 1am, 1:30?) and they were showing clips from a Kerry video emailed to contributors last Friday. He was firm, clear, and focused. His critique of Bush and the new Cabinet shifts was spot-on, and he even suggested that the election wasn't over yet. Where was this Kerry before Nov. 2nd? It's like the mysterious transformation of Al Gore after 2000 from barely tolerable policy wonk to firebreathing anti-war progressive. NOW Kerry can speak coherently without rambling along on a cascade of appositive and prepositional phrases? Ugh.

So the Dems are on board with the Greens and Libertarians in Ohio, and Ralph is personally ponying up the money to buy a NH recount. Makes things interesting a bit longer at least.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The End?

After this week, my teaching career may be at an end. I've signed up to teach a 102 section next semester, but have no real desire to do so; I think when it comes time to sign the contract that I'm going to ditch it completely. I'm six credits away from my BA in French Lit (yet another pointless humanities degree) and may simply concentrate on finishing that.

Tomorrow I'm teaching "The Mystery of Zen" by Gilbert Highet in 102. He discusses in detail Zen in the Art of Archery and tries to explain for the Western audience what Zen and Buddhism are all about. I always take in lots of religious images and statues and altar objects I've collected in my travels and do a sort of whirlwind tour of spirituality before the essay discussion. At the end of class I'll make them read and interpret some Zen koans for fun. After that, it's caput! My 263 class has student presentations scheduled until the end of the semester, and in 102 we're doing bullshit conferences and maybe one more lecture.

Of course, as the lecturing responsibilities lessen, the correcting/grading responsibilities get insane.

I'm pooped. This working until 10pm, teaching at 8am stuff is for the birds! WTF was I thinking? I'm not 25 anymore (wow, an acknowledgment that I'm getting old and perhaps can't do 15 hour days with impunity!). Taking a 400-level French class on top of it all has added to the burden. I'm wiped out, and can't wait for the break (and the huge shifting project I've been given at Cook to make up for a certain employee's inability to do her job--I even get to hire students to help).

Thursday I came back from break to find two written messages from M. and one voice mail. She was waiting to present my probationary release review (sounds dreadful), and had stayed an hour late to catch me after dinner (had I known this was about to happen, I would've taken my break earlier). It went very well, and was surprisingly flattering, given that I spend much of my time here doing what I'm doing right now--'blogging. But the last two weeks have been rather busy with lots of needy kids and lots of cataloging and lots of ordering and I actually today felt harried at the Library because of ILL and some other small crises erupting all at once with faculty whose orders have yet to arrive.

M. thanked me for the ability to get along with everyone after I acknowledged there was at times a troubling negativity downstairs. She really wanted to know if I was happy in the job, and I assured her in the vaguest terms possible that I was. I'm not, really, but I don't hate the job, I'm simply not challenged by it, and the schedule is shit but I hate it because I teach in the morning more than for the 10pm thing, which would be fine if I could sleep in, and next semester I'll be able to do so. I don't even mind working Sundays because I would just waste the day watching football and/or DVDs anyhow. At least here I work--ie read.

I applied for a Writer/Editor position here on campus. I saw it in the Sun Classifieds and thought "Why the fuck not?" The pay is 10k more, and it's more in line with my interests, and the hours are M-F with the same benefits.

Under Requirements, however, there's a need for "successful electronic publishing experience." Um, yeah, well, I uh get 30 hits a day on my 'blog, and my Google ads pay for my Earthlink service. Probably won't count. I have no chance of getting this job, because only a very loose interpretation of ENGL102 teaching would fit into their "3 years editing or equivalent experience." Still worth a shot.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Think on These Things

I must say I’m alarmed by the sudden Iran focus in the media. Iran aids Iraqi insurgents! Iran funds terror! Iran has nuclear ambitions! Last week a major newsweekly had the story on its cover, then the broadcast and cable shows started to focus on Iraq’s eastern neighbor—and immediately after the Europeans and Iranians have announced a breakthrough on the nuclear question this barrage of coverage intensifies, capped off by Colin Powell’s assertion yesterday that the Iranians were secretly and aggressively pursuing a secret nuke program.

The timing of this seems rather convenient. The hawks don’t want a diplomatic solution, and this media attention based on intelligence and administration leaks points to a controlled ramping up of a case for war. Doesn’t this all seem familiar? Is the US trying to undermine the European approach? Or is Bush calculating that the threat of force will aid the diplomacy (I don’t see how it could. The Iranians see quite clearly the mess we’re in right next door. Is our blustering about desperation? “Look, we know it looks like we’re bogged down, but we’ll still kick your ass if we have to.� The Iranians may be tempted to look at us as unable to extend militarily any further—maybe Bush wants to make it clear that this would be a mistake? I’m not sure I know what the goal is).

Do we really want to fight them now? Is Bush actually considering a pre-emptive option against Iran? Imagine the consequences of turning Iran into another Iraq. A much more disciplined, better-equipped military less likely to be quickly demolished, an even further mobilized international cadre of angry militants pouring in through a barely secure Afghanistan and via Pakistan; the consequences could be disastrous. Likely further weakening of already fragile pro-US governments in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—and if Pakistan falls “the enemy� has nuclear missiles, by the way—can they really be thinking about doing it? Oh, God. Where would it end? Ironically, it might have been true a couple years back that many Iranians would’ve liked America’s help in getting rid of their government. A huge reform movement and student protests and women’s rights movements were under way—there was even pro-US chanting at a football match post 9/11—but when Bush made the Axis of Evil speech the hardliners clamped down immediately, virtually purging their parliament of reformers by declaring their candidacies illegal. The Iraq war I’m sure didn’t bolster any pro-US sentiment in Iran either.

I have no doubt that Iran is secretly supporting the insurgency in Iraq. Why wouldn’t they try and stick their thumb in our eye? They saw how successful the US was with the CIA mujahadeen bleeding the mighty Soviet army. They saw how the Pakistani ISI was able to create the Taliban and change Afghanistan from a lawless frontier into an Islamic fundamentalist fascist state with deep ties to similar groups in Pakistan. So I don’t doubt the Iranians are doing provocative things with deadly consequences for US troops. That said, is a military response the best way to deal with them? Is it wise to undermine current diplomatic efforts that might very well bring Tehran into the WTO, giving them a place in the family of nations, which in turn could revitalize Iran’s own nascent reform movement? By attacking them, would we exacerbate the problems of terror and fundamentalism?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Nice not to teach today

I had the pleasure this morning of sitting in my own ENGL102 class while it was taught by a graduate assistant. Cook Library offers database/research/MLA style classes and I've never taken advantage of this service until today. What fun! I spent the hour researching Sartre, Beauvoir, Leiris, Sand, and Rousseau for the 15-page paper Francis dropped on my ass last week. In French. My speaking is passable, my reading is pretty good, my writing is fucking abysmal. I kept wincing at what my students were doing to the poor young lady who'd taken my workload upon herself, however.

The grad assitant was a treat. She was buffeted continuously by anxiety. "Can anyone come up with another search term for 'death penalty'?" she'd ask, drifting from behind her podium, then out to the aisle, then back to the screen, wringing her hands. In her left she held a laser pointer that she kept forgetting was there. She blinded half my students flashing that thing around spastically. They did what 8am 102 students often do--they refused to answer her questions without a fight. She didn't take their silence too well, either, because this was her first in front of the classroom experience and she was being graded by two faculty who sat with me in the back. "Ok, no, nobody can think of another search term? How about capital punishment? Is that ok?" Silence. She kept asking variations of the same question or moving to another question much too quickly. Were I to coach her I'd suggest picking one student at random and asking "What do you think?" Nothing like the threat of random selection to get volunteers going. Her shoulders sagged each time there was no response, then she actually stopped in the middle of the aisle after another hopeless void of interminable cynical blank stares, and--just as I was about to get up and say "Have mercy on this poor young woman, and answer her damn questions or you lose your class participation points for the whole semester!"--brandishing her laster pointer, she explained with a great deal of what in more animated people would be called passion that they "really should consider speaking up because it would make things more fun, well, probably not for you, but at least for me, ok, well no." Then they started to pity her, and hands went up.

I found her enormously attractive with her upside-down gourd-shaped vaguely Gallic face; she was thin but well-rounded in the hips with dark sunken eyes and tiny wire rim glasses. She wore a kind of late Victorian faux Asian pattern in crimson with little huts and trees and moons embroidered in silk thread: very sheer and clingy skirt and top, with black stockings and buckled shoes. And the hair--great billowing gouts of unstyled, uncombed, and still wet red hair all the way down to her ass. I imagine she'd had a bowl of ethereal for breakfast. She looked like she needed a hug, and also looked like a hug would completely shatter her. I remember my first teaching experience vividly. I was a long-haired freaky burnout in a homeless guy's clothing and I sat in the third row until all the students had arrived, talking about how much I hated English class with several of them, and I wondered what the teacher would be like, etc. I got to know a lot about my students in five minutes. Then I got up and went to the front and there was general hilarity; they'd fallen for it, and thought I was merely another student.

I'm too old to pull that one off anymore!

I've got 20 essays to grade and I refuse to look at them. I read one paragraph and was instantly depressed by its wretchedness. I'll do them over Thanksgiving break. Speaking of break, after Bobbie Ann Mason's "Shiloh" at 9am, I'll be on my weekend. Ah, gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Coover's "The Babysitter"

Robert Coover's "The Babysitter" should be a fun story for class discussion. Granted, the narrative is mangled, the POV is scattered amongst 6 or 7 characters, and each bit of the story is shrouded behind layers of sexual fantasy--all of this is frustrating and chaotic, for sure, but it's also titillating.

But, because this semester is starting to weary me, I can't "get it up" in front of the classroom anymore. I've lost my spark. I've been doing what I hate most--carefully spoonfeeding my interpretations to the class, then asking them shallow questions which elicit in the guise of innovative response the exact things I've already said. I'm tired of the same five or six interested students raising their hands while everyone else sits and stares--and I'm getting to the point where the five or six are starting to fade, because I'm fading.

That said, we did have some fireworks during our discussion this morning. One of my students is a tough-looking, saucy blond with a fantastic body and a brash manner. She has Tina Yothers hair and wears very 80s spandex pants that display her dancer ass. She's probably in her mid-to-late 20s and I love her for the outrageous things she says. There's a scene in "The Babysitter" where our heroine is fascinated by the penis of her young charge, and thinks to herself how ridiculous it is, and how small. "Is this what all the songs are about?" she wonders, imagining what it would be like to have one. My blond student went nuts on this. "If she's imagining that this child's penis is small and rubbery, then that means she's seen one before. I'VE seen one before. It wasn't small, and it wasn't soft! Plus, I don't think it's at all appropriate for children to appear in a story of such a frank sexual nature."

Immediately another student jumped in, and defended the story and the babysitter: "She's not having sexual thoughts, she's merely observing this boy while he pees and noting his genitals. She's curious." I agreed: "I think she's right. The babysitter has likely never seen one, and here she's got an opportunity, and it's not sexual in any way, though later her thoughts turn to sexual fantasies, as do most of the characters'." I didn't say that I thought the blond's imaginings were completely unrelated to the text, and were in fact significant in themselves...Woof!

One of Coover's great tricks in this story is to free us from chronological/linear narrative. We get a more realistic portrait of the way people experience the world when seen through their saucy imaginings; straight narratives with tidy ends and meaning are bullshit because they don't actually mirror the world at all--how many events in our lives are tied up neatly? How many short stories actually reflect the manic and senseless droning of much of our thinking? Coover lets his characters be human, and humans imagine things all the time, and often they imagine fucking and getting fucked by a variety of people. I recall vividly having erotic thoughts about my babysitters (tho at the time of course I had no idea what those thoughts were), who would often tickle me, tease me, tell me things my parents never would. When I was six or seven my little sister and I had a babysitter who was 13 or 14--she used to show me her boobs. Those were the days! I was a nanny for two boys (7 and 9) and their 14-year-old sister when I was 18, and the boys were always trying to fool me into walking in on their sister in the bathroom--or, they'd try to get her to walk in on me as I changed to go to the pool. Then there was the lady of the house (never mind).

The two times I've taught "The Babysitter" students have objected to the fact that the little boy peeps at the babysitter while she's in the bath. I can understand not wanting to think about children as sexual beings, but let's be honest--children are extremely curious about sex and sexuality. I was from a very young age, as were all of the children I grew up with, male and female (mostly female). Coover honestly presents his characters--he doesn't condone children being used sexually by the babysitter, nor does he condone the babysitter being used sexually by the boyfriend and his buddy, nor by the father; he simply presents us the fantasies ALL of these characters are having about each other in a crazy mish-mash of randy imaginings. It's a hoot. And everyone ends up dying in all the fantasies by the end, so you get a Puritanical guilt revenge fantasy from each to boot. If you carefully strip away the fantasies in the story, there's actually a rather innocuous evening; despite all the filthy perverse imaginings of the father, the babysitter, the teen boys, the children, the mother, they do what most of us do--repress their thoughts and go about the normal routines.

I think the fractured narrative Coover uses also teaches us something about sex and desire. I asked the class what they thought, and one timid young lady said "all of the characters, when they fantasize about sex, are doing it like they do it on the Discovery Channel. It's raw, it's about dominance or submission, and there's absolutely no romance." Indeed. The way most literature forces the world into false, convenient, linear narratives is perhaps similar to what civilization has done to sex and desire--we try to force them into the convention of marriage, two kids, house, car. Simple boxes, simple labels--is that where fucking belongs? Is it where love belongs?

After class the blond asked me if I had chosen the stories for the course, or if the Department gave me a list. "I chose them," I told her.

"Why did you pick this one?" she demanded. There were maybe six other students waiting to talk to me.

"Because we had to discuss a post-modern story, and this is the only one in the reader. Plus, I like it a lot, despite how frustrating it is."

"Well, I almost didn't like you anymore for this one. I really couldn't get through it. I don't have time for this sort of bullshit! See you later."

All I could do was laugh.

Most Excellent

I've got a bit of time before our shift project meeting at 2pm--can't really get any real work done now, so I'll take a moment to recommend fiercely Coppola's The Conversation. I watched it between teaching and library this morning, and was completely blown away. What marvelous and delicious paranoia. What beautiful craftsmanship--the filming, the blocking, the sets, the acting. What precise writing. Even the soundtrack is perfect. This is one of the most aesthetically pleasing films I've ever seen. I loved every second--the ending, which could perhaps have been done a bit differently, is still fantastic. Hackman plays a socially awkward, introspective sort--and nails it. Duvall's brief appearance is perfect, Harrison Ford is exquisitely menacing. Coppola's work in the '70s may indeed rank as the most astonishing burst of cinematic creativity ever. Too bad he blew his wad completely.

Someone needs to update this concept for our post-Ashcroft age--the technological advances in surveillance since The Conversation make what Coppola saw coming down the pike even more alarming.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I just read that Doug Feith might replace Tom Ridge. Good idea! Let's canonize all the ideological nut-job fuck-ups with Cabinet positions. Isn't that guy under investigation for spying for Israel? Isn't he the dishonest motherfucker who made up intelligence for Cheney when Cheney thought the CIA wasn't correct for believing Saddam was NOT an imminent threat?

In Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack (which I'm actually reading right now--well, actually I'm consuming it rapidly), General Tommy Franks says of Feith: "I have to deal with the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth almost every day." [Page 281 of the paperback edition]

A Freudian Slip? Or more significant?

Political Conversation: Condi’s Slip

A pressing issue of dinner-party etiquette is vexing Washington, according to a story now making the D.C. rounds: How should you react when your guest, in this case national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, makes a poignant faux pas? At a recent dinner party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman and his wife, Times reporter Felicity Barringer, and attended by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Maureen Dowd, Steven Weisman, and Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice was reportedly overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb—� and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.� Jaws dropped, but a guest says the slip by the unmarried politician, who spends weekends with the president and his wife, seemed more psychologically telling than incriminating. Nobody thinks Bush and Rice are actually an item. A National Security Council spokesman laughed and said, “No comment.�

From New York Metro

More Moral Activism

At least some of the Culture Wars stuff will be so insipid as to amuse.

The Right Stuff

Reading Emily's post today got me thinking about the activism we're likely to face the next four years. "Offensive" is a good word, because that's what's brewing--an all-out offensive designed to destroy the final underpinnings of progressive liberalism in the US. Pat Buchanan's once-ridiculed Culture Warriors are now emboldened and at a feverish pitch to accomplish their wildest dreams. They are mobilized and un-PC and we'll be hearing from them a lot. I say we need to adopt their tactics! They will use any and all means to win legislation in line with their moral beliefs--be prepared to do so to defend yours (of course acknowledging all along the inherent right for reasonable folks to disagree--we want debate, not stereotyping).

By the way, why does a centrist like Kerry (or conservative, Blue Dog Dems like Clinton or Gore for that matter) get labelled a way-out liberal, but rarely do I hear about the actual extremists in the Bush Administration?

I can't comprehend how far to the right this nation has shifted. The discourse is completely out of whack. Post-9/11 John Kerry politically is situated about where Nixon was on the left/right spectrum. Bush is beyond where Goldwater (who in the '60s and '70s was considered beyond the pale of lunacy) was--and his cabinet is getting worse by the minute. Watch for Wolfowitz or Poindexter or Otto Reich (god) to end up at Homeland Security. Last night Conniption and I were chatting about the fact I'd abandoned my electoral high horse and pulled the lever for a schmuck I didn't want in office because the other guy was much worse--and I still feel like shit about it. I couldn't support Ralph again (not after he shamelessly took money and aid from really disgusting rightwing groups while still claiming to eschew corporate contributions for ethical reasons) but I could've gone Libertarian or Green in MD without concern. Eh, what the fuck difference does it make? What's done is done.

But, I feel for some reason optimistic. The pendulum has swung to extremes before, and managed to swing back. One reason I feel optimistic? This project--begun by Em and Co. Support them now, dammit!

Monday, November 15, 2004

My first Jerk Patron

I've dealt with some difficult patrons since coming to Cook Library, but they were either lazy, incompetent, or a bit dim--until tonight I'd not encountered a jerk (well, scratch that--last Monday I had some noisy patrons who tried to fight a guy who asked them to "shut the fuck up." But I wasn't helping them when they got rowdy).

She was pale, blond, and thin-lipped, a scrawl of metallic red lipstick accenting how pursed her bitter mouth was. She approached Candi, my student assistant, and brusquely demanded to know where the Journal of Criminology was located.

Candi: I only see the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

She: No, I know you have it.

Candi: Geoff, do you know what's wrong? [I asked for the title again, watched as Candi typed it in, and verified she'd done everything correctly]

Me: Nope, not listed!

She: [cheeks now flushed--we're talking Martha Stewart bitter] I know you have it because I checked the Catalog from home and emailed and its presence was verified by K via email!

Me: [Surprised at getting yelled at; and surprised to find that I'd kind of missed that in a perverse, ex-retail way] Well, ok, perhaps you'd like to come over to my computer and we'll look.

She: Um, you're supposed to be the expert here! I don't see how me watching you screw up will help!

Me: Well, yes, but maybe if you come over here and show me what you did to find it originally, then I can figure out what the two of us here at the desk are doing wrong.

[I brought up the Catalog, then went to Journals, then verified the title again, and typed in Journal of Criminology, again getting the same result Candi had gotten twice.]

She: [VERY loud] Obviously you're doing something wrong, because I know you have it!

[I went back to the Catalog/Journals search screen, and asked again]

Me: What did you type in here?

She: Criminology.

Me: Ok, you asked us for the Journal of Criminology, that's our problem [I used my most innocuous, non-accusatory, forgiving tone--very hard for jerks to handle].

She: I asked for Criminology, and said it was a journal, but...oh [at first in a sort of screeching, and then in a sort of whisper as she realized she had indeed asked thrice for the wrong title, and watched us type in three times what she'd asked for].

[I sent her out to Bound volumes, and she sputtered a rude and unapologetic "thanks" at us. Candi leaned in and]

Candi: Oh my God, you are so much calmer than I would be!

Me: Um, bitch! She asked for the wrong title three times, then denied doing so!

Candi: And no apology!

Even the most annoying patrons I've had here have been extremely thankful for any help--I hadn't encountered anything like this young lady since those halcyon days at Borders 043. I hope the article she needed was torn out!

William Golding

I have dealt at length with my teachers because this was my introduction to the nature of what is commonly called thought. Through them I discovered that thought is often full of unconscious prejudice, ignorance and hypocrisy. It will lecture on disinterested purity while its neck is being remorselessly twisted toward a skirt. Tehcnically, it is about as proficient as most businessmen's golf, as honest as most politicians' intentions, or--to come near my own preoccupation--as coherent as most books that get written. It is what I came to call grade-three thinking, though more properly, it is feeling, rather than thought.

True, often there is a kind of innocence in prejudices, but in those days I viewed grade-three thinking with an intolerant contempt and an incautious mockery. I delighted to confront a pious lady who hated the Germans with the proposition that we should love our enemies. She taught me a great truth in dealing with grade-three thinkers; because of her, I no longer dismiss lightly a mental process which for nine-tenths of the population is the nearest they will ever get to thought. They have immense solidarity. We had better respect them, for we are outnumbered and surrounded. A crowd of grade-three thinkers, all shouting the same thing, all warming their hands at the fire of their own prejudices, will not thank you for pointing out the contradictions in their beliefs. Man is a gregarious animal, and enjoys agreement as cows will graze all the same way on the side of a hill.

From "Thinking as a Hobby"

I've taught this essay a dozen times by now, but for some reason it's taken on new meaning lately. I'm tempted to explore these new meanings in class tomorrow...

Another derelict dong

It's been a while since I posted a link to Rasputin's schlong.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

More from Zizek

The Dutch Rightist populist politician Pim Fortuyn, killed in early May 2002, two weeks before elections in which he was expected to win a fifth of the votes, was a paradoxical symptomal figure: a Rightist populist whose personal features, and even (most of his) opinions, were almost perfectly politically correct: he was gay, had good personal relations with many immigrants, with an innate sense of irony, and so on--in short, he was a good tolerant liberal with regard to everything except his basic political stance. What he embodied was thus the intersection between Rightist populism and liberal political correctness--perhaps he had to die because he was living proof that the opposition between Rightist populism and liberal tolerance is a false one, that we are dealing with two sides of the same coin. Should we not, therefore, be striving for the exact opposite of the unfortunate Fortuyn: not the Fascist with a human face, but the freedom fighter with an inhuman face?

From Welcome to the Desert of the Real

I wonder what Zizek makes of the strange social engineering going on in Holland now, as the Dutch try desperately to maintain their traditional tolerance after Islamicist fundamentalists butchered a filmmaker for daring to criticize the treatment of women under Islam? I'm sure he's at work on an obtuse, cryptic, and damn interesting essay explaining what he thinks.

Turmoil at the Agency


No wonder he likes to be called Dick

I've been hearing (and reading) about this candid Cheney photo for weeks. Sullivan found it.

Gives new credence to the claims of this whack, who says Cheney was one of a bunch of top gov insiders who kept a ring of human hunt prey available to pursue, capture, and bugger at will in the bowels of Langley. She claimed Cheney was unusually well-endowed.

More Netflix

Well-acted, funny, and poignant. It's Mike Judge material (Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill), and there are some recognizable Judge flourishes in the dialogue, and a Boomhauer character in the office. This is the first film featuring Jennifer Aniston that I've ever sat through! She's actually good in her fake restaurant waitress portrayal. Judge does a great job lampooning the painful and pithy vacuity of late-phase exhorbitant capitalism, but this is not all nihilism--like King of the Hill often does, the movie gives us hope for redemption. Plus, the soundtrack fucking rocks. You get Biz Markie, Ice Cube, and, best of all a raw fat track from

which ranks as one of my top-ten favorite promo scores at Borders.

It would be easy to say of

that it's been done before--many of its stylistic flourishes are borrowed--but I still found it harrowing and beautiful. What a world! Gangs of street kids killing each other in drug wars, hoping to emulate successful hoods who are doomed to die in Rio's slums. Hell in Paradise, indeed. Makes me ashamed to have thought I had a tough childhood. Based on a true story.


The Battle for Fallujah, by all TV accounts, appears to be going really well. Civilians? Well, they don't exist in Fallujah. Not one of the embedded reporters or military commanders has SEEN a civilian there. Everything is ahead of schedule, and the losses are "light," at least for the Marines. Occasionally the word "tough" is heard to describe the fighting.

The newspaper accounts are less sunny. The Times this morning had civilians getting shot at by Marines as they tried to crawl out of the city. "The Muhajadeen won't let us leave," one cried, waving his shirt at the Marines in hopes of not getting blown away. Baghdad hospitals are treating wounded civilians. The death toll of American forces (31 as of today) and Iraqi forces (6) indeed seem remarkably low for this sort of urban assault--but then I read that nearly 500 US troops have been evacuated to Germany since the assault began. Only seriously wounded troops get evacuated to Germany, folks. Meanwhile, Mosul and other Iraqi cities are blowing up with inurgent strikes--apparently most of our fiendish foe left Fallujah before the attack, to set up shop elsewhere.

And yet, I can't disagree with the strategy. I may think the war is being fought for bullshit reasons, but questions of jus in bello are perhaps pointless by this time. Roosevelt and Truman knew that to defeat fascism they'd have to rubble-ize Germany and Japan; so long as the people had any will for fighting, the troops could carry on. This brought us Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc. If the Bushies are at all serious about democratizing Iraq, they'll have to do the same thing. Newt Gingrich, in his jovial, twinkly-eyed style, put it thusly this morning on This Week: (paraphrase) "The people of Iraq will have to decide whether or not they want their cities destroyed. They can continue to resist or they can play along." Now that's a true example of the democratic spirit, no? Gingrich continued by saying that sometimes governments have to force their will upon the citizens--I'm not sure what point he was making, but it sounded a lot like something Saddam Hussein could have said. Exactly what authority does the US have to enforce its will upon the Iraqi people, whether through bombs or through our surrogate Allawi? Are the Iraqi people the ones blowing up carbombs? Do we know WHO the insurgents are? Today Fareed Zacharia admitted the Pentagon made up the whole "foreign fighters" story because they wanted Americans to think the Iraqis were happy we were there.

The US has sufficient fire-power to rubble-ize Iraq if necessary, but it doesn't have the money, the resources, or the requisite number of troops to secure the country and help foster democratic institutions and rebuild it after doing so; further, it lacks the stomach to demand these things, because the Administration can't admit there's even a problem. "Oh, it may be a little tricky, but elections are coming." Sure they are. The Administration can't succeed without a general call to sacrifice; I include in this general call a draft, and rationing of resources at home, and an increased tax burden particularly on businesses (under FDR the war effort was financed through aggressive marketing of US bonds and a 90% top tax bracket).

If Bush and Co. are unwilling to do what it takes to "transform the region," then they should get the fuck out of Iraq now. THAT is the lesson of Vietnam; you fight an unjust war based on lies and distortions, then retro-actively try to justify it by humanitarian reasons, you better commit the full resources at your disposal and do the job. If you're not going to do so, we'll be stuck there suffering 500-1000 losses a year for ten years before going home empty-handed anyway.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Moderate my ass

I don't understand why everyone's calling Gonzales a moderate. Ok, scratch that--I DO know why they're calling him a moderate. Because one time as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court he voted to allow a teenager to get an abortion without notifying her parents. In other words, he voted to allow this young lady to do what Texas law says she's allowed to do. This doesn't mean he's a moderate; hell, even if he's ultra-pro-choice he's no moderate when stacked against the other stuff he's for.

I'm sorry, but this kind of one-issue focus is ridiculous. The guy is way right, regardless of abortion, or the fact he's not agitating to abolish affirmative action. He's helping the President break 80 years of established international and US law, for Christ's sake!

He's also going to be confirmed, and probably easily, because conservatives will be glad he's not in line for Rehnquist's slot, and liberals will love the abortion vote. Watch for McCain and Warner and Graham and other Republicans aghast at Abu Ghraib to question him at least if not more forcefully than many liberal Senators will.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Toby Olson

I think I first encountered Toby Olson at a party in Rachel Blau Duplessis' penthouse (edit: correction from The Poet--it was actually Joan Mellen's joint). Some sort of gathering for the new MA English/Writing students at Temple U. This would be September '92, I believe. The Poet and I were enthusiastically drinking our way to drunkeness; we sort of found each other around the liquor dispensing area regularly and began chatting. No one else seemed to be drinking, and this we found outrageous. At some point, The Poet let fall an exquisite and shapely hors d'oeuvre of some sort--perhaps a stuffed mushroom? Perhaps a bit of meat inside a crusted confection? I can't recall, for obvious reasons. I was rapidly unfurling a fourth sheet, for one. What I do recall is his dismay as he picked up the dropped food like a helpless and fallen baby bird; I thought for sure he was going to eat it, he seemed so distraught. But he was disturbed not at the potential waste of this object, but because we were in rather swank digs and he didn't know what to DO with it. The Poet flirted briefly with positioning the saucy tidbit amongst the liquor bottles, then he considered hiding it in the beer cooler. There was no trash receptical in evidence, and he was not about to leave the bar area. He put it, with a brash smile, in the outside pocket of his tweed blazer, and I thought "This guy and I--we'll get along." Toby Olson approached us, towering over us with his great bearded broad-shouldered form, and said "at last, I find some drinkers at this soiree." The Poet and I had been eyeing Rachel's fine collection of red wines, but were reluctant to touch anything. Toby had no such qualms when we mentioned our considerations--he quickly uncorked one and shortly we were uncorking others, and I recall that evening returning to my dorm completely uncorked myself.

Toby was my favorite teacher at Temple, because he genuinely was interested in the strange stuff I was doing at the time (though my final semester he rightly trashed some garbage I started churning out; this trashing led me to hang up my attempts at fiction for many a year). I recall him smoking Camels in his No Smoking office with the windows open. We shot a lot of shit together there.

I mention him because I'm really enjoying

When Toby's on top of his game, his novels unravel much the way his poetry does, in a series of small revelations in which images and events resonate with other previous images and events, but little if anything is ever resolved satisfactorily. In Blond Box we find a series of awful events detailed from one character's point of view, and gradually these same events are recalled, investigated, studied, and recreated by people who were there or who are trying to write about the events later. There's a trope of live sex shows (which also featured prominently in Olson's fantastic The Woman Who Escaped from Shame); a recurring theme of impotence (lots of hernias and prostate cancers amongst the former male-stars of said live sex shows); the occasional intrusion of a seedy science-fiction novel written by someone whose graduate assistant is studying the events in question, the events of which actually begin somehow to bleed into the current timeframe of the novel itself; and throughout the work are numerous allusions to works and writings of Marcel Duchamp, most notably those in the Philadelphia Museum collection (which includes the startling and wonderful Etant Donnes and The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors--both of these works mysteriously drift in and out of Olson's narrative); a strange box and/or treasure map may have led to the murders of two people, but perhaps not. Duchamp preempts Olson's novel in the way he preempts urination in public restrooms. I can't use a urinal without Duchamp anymore, nor can I look upon a shaved mons pubis without Marcel hovering above me. Now I can't think of Duchamp without Olson. In this way we absorb and are absorbed by what has gone before and what will follow. Narrative is a faulty (landscape) approximation of life and time and memory, and yet allowing allusions to other forms of narrative, including Duchamp's strange word-collections associated with his fixed installations, enriches Olson's studious attempt to create a wholly realized aesthetic sphere for us to experience. I also recommend Dorit in Lesbos and Seaview, which do much the same in rather different ways. I'm recommending this book before I've quite finished it, but Blond Box needed me to stop for a while and absorb.

This Guy Rules

From Welcome to the Desert of the Real by Slavoj Zizek

The ultimate horizon of Apocalypse Now is this insight into how Power generates its own excess, which it has to annihilate in an operation that has to imitate what it fights (Willard's mission to kill Kurtz does not exist in the official record--'it never happened', as the general who briefs Willard points out). We thereby enter the domain of secret operations, of what the Power does without ever admitting it. And does not the same go for today's figures presented by the official media as the embodiments of radical Evil? Is this not the truth behind the fact that Bin Laden and the Taliban emerged as part of the CIA-supported anti-Soviet guerrilla movement in Afghanistan, and behind the fact that Noriega in Panama was an ex-CIA agent? Is not the USA fighting its own excess in all these cases? And was the same not true already of Fascism? The liberal West had to join forces with Communism to destroy its own excessive outgrowth.

Why continue doing this?

Is 'blogging the [ok, we need to decide what to call this current decade. we had the sixties/seventies/eighties etc. what the fuck is now? the o's? the zeroes? the nuls? at any rate, put your title for this decade HERE] equivalent of the seventies' passion for CB's? Will 'blogging go the way of ham radio and Mr. Microphone?

I think about this whenever I get too excited by traffic numbers, or when I'm pleased to get almost 1/5 th of the number of comments midwinter gets on a daily basis. Is this merely a fad?

I don't think so. I think people are hooked into this trend for news/gossip/fun now. Perhaps it'll peak and diminish a bit, but not so much as CB radios did.

I'm also concerned about electronic archiving--where does all this shit go if we ever have a cataclysmic event? Cook Library is in the process right now of planning to throw away more than 200 journals in print because we're replacing them with electronic databases. This freaks me out. What if next year there IS no internet? Or ten years from now? What if all those goodies are fried by a lack of fossil fuels to keep the juice running, or by the electro-magnetic pulse of a nuclear attack? How will I be able to look up something in Guitar Player or Rolling Stone from 20 years ago?

Crap on a Cracker!

Well, the joy of Ashcroft's departure was short-lived indeed, because Bush is dipping down into a lower circle of hell to present Alberto Gonzales as his new Attorney General. The Times this morning was reporting that nice, centrist Larry Thompson would be Bush's pick, because W. wants to play nice.

I knew this was coming; we're moving from Really Awful to Spectacularly Wicked.

Gonzalez is the evil genius who crafted Bush's "exemptions" from the Geneva Conventions, and whose tortured legalese brought us distinctions like "enemy combatant" (a means to round up US citizens and detain them without trial or legal representation or outside contact at the will of the White House), and opinions setting the framework for the shame of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. His Bill o' Rights-detestin' fingerprints are all over Patriot Act II.

Now he'll be protecting us and our liberty?

The Dems are saying they have to pick their battles cautiously--I wonder if they'll have the cojones to cry foul over this catastrophe in the making.

Also bad news: Corzine (D-NJ), Schumer (D-NY), and Dodd (D-Conn) are sick of being minority party players, and are likely to leave the Senate in '06 to become governors of their respective states. Can anyone say 57-42-1 Senate?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Be Careful What You Wish For

Ah, yes. Today a full cart of cataloging and a huge project from the Big Cheeses--I got a chunk of this project done tonight, and found that what I'd expected was the case. There's plenty of room for shelving in the Bound Journals. This doesn't need to be a big deal "stop everything" project, but I fear that's where we're heading anyway. They wanna shift it, we'll shift it. I like shifting books.

I've decided to cut back to teaching only one class next semester; I may even drop that one (I still have a couple weeks before I have to sign a contract). I'm losing my patience for laziness and stupidity, and standing in front of a room full of TU students is not a good place to be under those circumstances.

Busy in here tonight!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Sure, it's ridiculous. But...

This site had me choked up and laughing by turns. The Gallery section has some touching images.

Yes, it was stolen. So what?

I'm posting these links--I read them and sort of tuned them out with the typical Gen X response to such news: whatever!--because it's better to know things than to merely suspect them. Since The Earl of Pembroke took the trouble to send these to me today I figure I may as well put them up. Strange to find myself--the King of Bush Conspiracy Theories (a title I assumed in the late '80s, BTW)--unable to generate enthusiasm for such information, but I'm overloaded, overjaded, and pooped. I haven't read the newspapers or The Nation in weeks. Today's Nation had a great black cover and I put it in the recycling pile without even opening it, on top of the previous eight issues.

Truthout article.

Another Truthout article, but read the Morris one as well lest you misinterpret their selective quoting (as I initially did).

Finally, the Earl also sent this link, which I had not seen (thanks! very interesting), and which breaks down a lot of extremely fishy information in an enlightening manner.

I'm not surprised at all by any of this; indeed, I expected it. But without a paper trail, what can be done? Even more important--what are YOU going to do about it? (I switch to 2nd person here to generalize--I include ME in this YOU, and YOU is not aimed at any specific person, but includes the couple dozen goodhearted folks I know who note all these irregularities and pass them on). Are you prepared to do what it would actually take to overturn this? My professeur de francais had a suggestion for what needs to be done: REVOLUTION. That would seriously eat into our preferred time-passing activities: web surfing, video game playing, DVD reviewing, book reading, fucking, porn downloading, beer swilling. I haven't been tear-gassed, nor filmed at a protest by the National Guard, nor menaced by a cop in full body armour, since the anti-war rally in DC a couple years ago, and before that it was Bush's inauguration--am I willing to do so without results again? It's going to take a lot of us hitting the streets and facing arrest (and getting arrested) to get the complacent media to even acknowledge any questions about the result (note that after 2000 the BBC and London newspapers like the Observer found substantial evidence of appalling election fraud during that election in Fla--NONE of our media picked it up), and I guarantee that if they do acknowledge anything they'll couch it as the maudlin plaints of "kookoo" conspiracy nuts or poor losers who can't accept defeat.

So don't agonize--organize. DO something. Chain yourself to the front door of WBAL. Go pour your own blood on the White House lawn a la Father Berrigan. Start a movement, organize a protest, start a petition, lead a march on DC demanding an investigation. Move to Canada, or New Zealand, or Australia, or France.

The result will remain the same, but at least you'll have tried.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Arjuna, the realm of sacred lore
is nature--beyond its triad of qualities,
dualities, and mundane rewards,
be forever lucid, alive to your self.

For the discerning priest,
all of sacred lore
has no more value than a well
when water flows everywhere.

The Second Teaching, stanzas 45-46


Howard Dean in 2003:

"White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us, and not [Republicans], because their kids don't have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools too."


"I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," the former Vermont governor said in an interview published Saturday in the Des Moines Register. "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats."

All the lefty elites in the DNC and in the media TRASHED Howie for that. They should've listened. Instead, they labelled him: He's un-PC, he's divisive, he's using stereotypes. Like the French about Iraq, Dean was right, and no one wants to admit it.

What the Bleep do we Know?

Cha and I saw this yesterday. It was fun, but I don't know what all the fuss is about. It certainly wasn't as detailed as

which was on PBS last summer, though it was definitely slanted toward the new "mystical" quantum physics. They mentioned the work of Masaro Emoto, which is very interesting, and they have Marlee Matlin (I have a crush on her) in a series of vignettes ranging from interesting to rather cheesy, but other than that I wouldn't recommend seeing it in the theater. If it's ever on cable check it out.

We also watched

which lived up to its billing; I'd always heard about the beautiful ending to this film, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a simple story, a retelling of the dying/resurrecting God-man myth, focusing on Orpheus instead of Tammuz, Mithras, Christ, Osiris, etc. If you like Jobim and seeing Carnivale footage, this is for you.

And, I received an unexpected box from Amazon yesterday--I forgot I'd pre-ordered

and I'm not disappointed. There's a nice sampling of weird cartoons that are personal faves (I won't use the titles because who the fuck remembers the titles?): the one where Daffy and Porky take over a baby factory for the overworked stork and end up crammed into a diaper together by some bizarre baby processing conveyor belt; there's two Claude Cat cartoons where some mice drive him insane, there's two of Junyor Bear and his folks--very violent. You get the (overrated) What's Opera Doc? and the singing frog. Many of the Bugs cartoons are great--particularly the pro-wrestling short. Do I have complaints? Yes. Too much Tweety and Road Runner (these cartoons don't hold up particularly well), not enough Daffy and Porky--but that just means future volumes will load up on those. This is a good selection, at least as good as the first.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Game, set, and match.

Hello luv.

Wild and wacky

From the Earl of Pembroke: a well-hung statue gets humped in France.

I bet Rove and Bush are sorry they supported him now! Go Arlen!

Overzealous personal hygiene.


This demographic assuredly needs more analysis--no pun intended. Perhaps it's a means of prying the fundamentalists out of Rove's grasp?


Dodd is out, Durbin is out, Dorgan is out. Reid is almost certainly a shoe-in for Minority Leader. Today in the Times he said he was ready and eager to work closely with George Bush. There's some talk that HRC might challenge for the job, but even progressives with fire in the belly will probably support Reid because HRC is too polarizing. The Dems seem scared now to take any kind of stand.

In other words? We're fucked. At least until '06. I can't imagine we'll see Snowe, Collins, Chafee and other northeast liberal senators changing parties like Jeffords did before (what a principled attempt to stop Bush, by the way--but the Wellstone catastrophe erased the gesture).

Tom Friedman added to the list of pundits discussing "two Americas" in his editorial today. Two years ago Tom was rimming Bush's asshole over the Iraq war and how noble it was, and now he starts to fear the intolerance we've unleashed? Fuck you, Tom Friedman. If you'd done some journalism instead of propagandizing before Iraq, things might have gone differently.

Everybody's a Sociologist

Suddenly everyone is a sociologist. There's lots of desperate hand-wringing going on, a lot of doubt and fear. What I find most interesting about many liberals I know is that they don't know anybody who supports Bush, and therefore the idea that perhaps most Americans do is simply alarming. I also know many conservatives who support Bush; they only encounter people who don't when I'm around. Many of my long-time friends, and many in my family, are ardent, passionate Bushies.

Each side mischaracterizes the other: my liberal friends (and, to be fair, I shouldn't over-generalize--not ALL of my liberal friends--and I can't exempt myself from some convenient mischaracterizations) create in their compassionate imaginations drooling ignorant banjo-thumpers who go to the tractor pull once a week and read nothing more than TV Guide. Then they go handle snakes for three hours on Sunday before beating their children and polishing off a half-case of Shlitz and obsessing about gay people, abortionists, and witches. They never leave the county where they grew up, and are hostile to change and science and they can't tolerate diversity. The Cracker Barrel is fine dining for these people, and they think those "starving artist" sofa-sized paintings of mountains and streams are purty.

Do such voters exist? Certainly. I've got some cousins...well, that's another post. But let's just take some of the passionate Bush supporters I know and compare them to the above not-uncommon mischaracterization. T. has a degree in engineering from Penn State with a double minor in Russian and Japanese history. Buf has been an executive at a bank, a stay-at-home dad, and now works in the social services administration department for the state of MD. Sluggo is an accountant at Catholic Charities. He used to work for a large firm but had a sort of existential crisis and thought he should work for someone who did good works. These are honest, hardworking guys who love their families. They don't hate gay people. They are Catholic, Protestant, and Skeptic. They watch sports and fuck their wives (who are universally more liberal than their hubbies) and get their news from Rupert Murdoch. Not one owns a banjo, not one goes to a tractor pull, and they have all their teeth (tho Sluggo once broke his front tooth playing a drinking game).

Then we've got the common conservative mischaracterization of non-Bush supporters: my conservative friends summon up from the depths of their dread a horde of lazy, welfare-check-cashing city dwellers who don't want to work and who leach off honest hard-working people. This group is aligned with lazy, no-account union members who threaten to strike for more money if they don't get lavish compensation for jobs that can be shipped offshore for a tenth the cost. Worst of all are the "innalectuals" who read books and drink wine and tolerate everyone and everything and can't call bad behavior evil because everything is relative. They eat bizarre exotic foods, they travel, they visit museums and they cringe when Brooks 'n Dunn are on the stereo. They use American flag toilet paper and masturbate nightly over Mao's Little Red Book and portraits of Jacques Chirac. They have different sexual partners every week, and visit the abortionist twice a month. Whilst shooting heroin and discussing Boudrillard and Schopenhauer, they stir pitchers of martinis and send money to Al Qaeda. They are either athiests or Satanists. They want to tell you how to discipline your kids, how to dispose of your garbage, and what values are important. They don't want ANY religion in America, and will stomp all over your freedoms to accomplish their agenda.

I won't bother debunking the conservative mischaracterization of liberals; I know who reads this--debunk it yourselves. My point I guess is that the blue-red thing is an awful oversimplification, but there's a lot of truth to it. Is Chris Matthews right when he says at 3am the morning after the election: "East coasters look down on red-staters. In fact, they not only look down on them figuratively, but literally, as they fly across the country from LA to NY"? I'm not sure any of us can easily answer this question.

One note about National Security. Several of my Bushie buds point to this as the number one reason they like Bush (even topping the tax cuts). They all have kids, and prefer a yahoo with a trigger finger to an introspective, more nuanced president. To them I offer a prediction: 20 years from now a united Europe will be the new economic powerhouse, and we will have drained our treasury dry, indebting ourselves to them by borrowing money for years. All of our top scientists will flock there to work in a bioscience boom: cloning, genetics, microengineering. The Chinese and Indians will far oustrip us in metalurgy and engineering and computer science. The standard of living in Europe will be higher than anywhere in the world, and they will mirror the economic security of the US in the '50s and '60s without the intolerance. The Chinese will have advanced to where the US was in the early 40s, and will be on the rise, as will the Indians. The US, on the other hand, will be unable to compete economically or scientifically because schools from Virginia to Nevada will be teaching Genesis instead of science. Stripped of any social safety net, large sections of the US will become third world-style shanty towns where the poor simply squat in cement shacks as jobs disappear to Asia and Africa and Central America--why should we think this ridiculous given the percentage of wealth transferred up the food chain the last 20 years? The percentage is increasing in velocity, and it will certainly increase further now. Pollution and sickness will run rampant. As the noble tradition of liberalism vanishes from the US, intolerance and fear will rule and there will be no security for anyone except those wealthy enough to retreat to armed compounds. As our schools cease teaching and start indoctrinating, the quality of our leaders will continue to be debased by a hostility toward intellectualism and free speech and critical thought. Our biggest source of income will be renting our substantial armed forces to other countries, or conquest of our neighbors for resources.

Is what we've voted in today good, long-term, for our National Security?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Aftermath

Such a beautiful day out. A glorious Indian-summer afternoon bathed in golden sunshine filtered through gold and red leaves. And I'm in the Library.

I've seen on several websites and I've heard from many politicians and pundits that Bush must "reach across the aisle" to Democrats because the election was so close. Why? When he had no mandate he didn't bother, so why should he do so now? People like his jerk-ass smirking arrogant behavior. They crave it. It's like in WWE when The Rock comes out with loud music blaring and raises his eyebrow and the crowd goes ga-ga. W. is a great pro wrestling character. Kerry is more like the host of a PBS gardening show, or one of those guys in suits on "Antiques Roadshow" who talk about spoons with great authority. I'll tell you what Bush and Co are going to do with a 4,000,000 vote popular vote margin, a 55-44-1 Senate, and a 31 (perhaps 33) seat advantage in the House: Whatever The Fuck They Want. Daschle was a warning, as was McClellan last time--you fuck with Rove and you're meat. All they have to do is hiss "obstructionist" and put your picture on TV with Osama and some menacing music, and your ass is out on the street. Plus, the Republicans don't have to reach out to the Democrats, because the Dems are continually shifting right, trying to reach out themselves.

Who will be the soon-beleaguered Minority Leader? Right-of-center Harry Reid from Nevada? He's getting the early CW nod. Probably a good bet to mollify Rove, but terrible for the Democrats because he's the worst kind of meat: red-state dead meat. He does anything to piss off W. and he's gone. I'm hoping they give it to Chris Dodd because his seat is safe in Conn and he'll at least say "fuck you" to those guys. The Dems need to give themselves some loud, brash attitude, to get their best screamers and insulters face time on TV. Bill Bennett is calling for no-holds-barred Culture War; this is Falwell's eschatological wet dream time. It's unlikely W. and Co. could ram big changes through, but if they pick up Senate seats again next time, they'll be ever closer to the magic 60-seat majority, and all bets are off, baby. We'll all be praying in school.

I won't, however, be surprised if there IS some gesture made by Bush--not out of a genuine desire to "unite" anything, but based in a cynical politically motivated need to ensure Jeb an easy victory in '08. What could it be? Biden to replace Powell? A moderate Supreme Court nominee? O'Connor to replace the soon-deceased Chief Justice instead of Thomas or Scalia? McCain to replace Rummy? There are lots of rumors abounding that Bush will shake up his scandal-ridden Cabinet--why should he? We won't hear a thing about those scandals in the new House and Senate. CIA report that names names and lays blame for 9/11? We don't need that anymore. Valerie Plame investigation? Fuck it. Let it die.


Rather synchronistic to have to teach Malamud's "Angel Levine" this morning. No better day to talk about suffering, and faith, and God's Plan. No better day to discuss free will and the soul. Malamud's story is basically a rehash of Job and "It's a Wonderful Life." After reading it I come back to something I thought of at the Halloween party. T's wife, after he and I had our fight about Bush, asked me "why did I marry him? Why did I marry such a knucklehead conservative?" My answer: because he's a good father, a good provider, and completely trustworthy. Next to that stuff what does politics matter?

Of course, this humble attitude--enflamed by literature and a discussion of Pascal's Wager and the way God treats Job--will fade again as I decide what I'm going to do politically the next four years. Throw the game and simply accept that outside a few small blue oases in a desert of red I have nothing in common with most citizens of my own country? Try and agitate for change? Give up on politics altogether? The message of Job and "Angel Levine" is not dissimilar to Buddha's assertion that we are the cause of much of our own suffering. Politics complicates our lives instead of simplifying it these days. I know it complicates mine. Should I say "fuck it"?

I'm suspicious of "conventional wisdom," but I completely agree with many of the blowhards on cable this morning that Democrats have absolutely no understanding of Nascar/country music/Evangelical social conservatives. These are the folks who Rove mobilized to not only defeat Kerry, but to spank his ass badly--all this with an incumbent with shocking negatives.

Goodbye Daschle, you simpering asswipe. Ditching guys like Kerry and Dashcle might be exactly what they need to reinvent themselves--if the party is worth saving. James Carville was frank early on CNN last night. "We got beat. Ain't no sense in spinnin' nobody now. We've got some introspectin' to do."

All day yesterday Cha and her Green chums worked their assess off to build an alternative to the wishy-washy Democrats--they got some significant votes in many races, but no where near enought to challenge at least locally here. Still, they're happy to have had an impact and to have gotten their message out. I think back to when the religious right was a fringe group, and how quickly they developed into the major political movement in the country. Is it possible for the Left to do the same? How? Social issues seem to be backfiring--regardless of economic interests or the war people will vote for a "conservative" simply because of abortion or gay marriage. How can the Democrats chisel away at the red states without alienating people?

When will we get the official concession from Kerry? Will he drag this out? Should he? Job asked God why he had to suffer and got a bullshit arrogant answer, but one with a sick logic. There's no logic out there. No meaning. I DARE the Dems to nominate HRC next time. She'll go down to ignominous defeat as well. Who can they run?

Cool Posted by Hello
Fossil Posted by Hello
I like this fossil Posted by Hello
This duck is using the WW2 Monument on the Mall as a bidet Posted by Hello
Abe clenches his fist Posted by Hello
I forgot to post this picture after Em's wedding-- Posted by Hello

Not a wise move

You know, fuck this bullshit. Kerry is making a HUGE mistake by pushing this, especially the way he's doing it. Sending his lapdog Edwards out to pump his fist in the air in lawyerly defiance? They're fucking the Democratic party for decades. Don't they realize that Americans have overwhelmingly chosen Bush, his agenda, his foreign policy, despite all his negatives and all the scandals and their serious doubts about his skills and adaptability because they simply don't like Kerry or trust he'll do better. Challenging this election, where the popular vote is almost 4,000,000 apart, during which the Republicans added to their dominance in both House and Senate, excerbates the annoyance middle and southern America has with East Coast elites.

Of course, until the margin is a bit bigger, he's obligated to ensure these votes are counted, particularly given the fact Bush can't get 270 otherwise. So why couldn't Kerry himself come out and say "I don't want to delay this any longer than I have to. I'd like to congratulate my opponents for their great success this evening, but I must follow the words of the Secretary of State of the great state of Ohio, and suggest we wait until all provisional votes have been counted. We think the margin is too close to concede at this time. I pledge to abide by the decision of the election boards in Ohio, and will not litigate further if Ohio goes to President Bush and through a combination with another state or states he wins 270 electoral votes." Why does Edwards come out barking and brusque instead?

At any rate, Bush has won as of right now, even though CNN never called it, and all the networks (as of 2:57am) are now featuring talking heads are arguing over how John Kerry probably should be allowed to count. Even Fox is saying so, or at least saying they understand his reasons. Initially, when word first came that Kerry wasn't conceding after ABC/NBC called Ohio for Bush, Chris Matthews suggested that Kerry was not a "gentleman." Pat Buchanan challenged him--"Why should Kerry concede? Bush doesn't have 270 yet, and can't get there without Ohio."

How can this happen twice? I'm going to be up all night and still won't know the answer. I just want to see Nevada and NM and Iowa.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I'm sick

I'm watching it happen. Four more years. Oh, God. At least Kerry may pull out Pa. Fla and OH are NOT looking good. Looking at the map as it stands right now, Kerry needs OH/PA/FLA/MINN/WI/MICH. I don't think he'll win three of those, let alone all five. Start running the hot baths and sharpening the straight razors.

Of course, the night is very young.

I can't not watch

I wish I could stop checking, but I can't. Florida looks BAD now, with 25% of precincts in, Bush is ahead by 200k. Guess it depends on what counties have been counted as to whether or not K can come back down there. Fla/Pa/Oh are fucking with me bad right now.

Bunning going down? Cool. Tannenbaum hanging in. Keyes done. But Senate picture making me nervous.


Early numbers in Senate races look pretty awful, with Daschle losing (I can't really route for his wet noodle ass anyhow), Bunning winning, and a Rep pickup in NC. Could be 53 (R) 46 (D) 1 (I) when all said in done. That SUCKS, even if Kerry wins. Of course, this is way too early to call.

We'll have to wait until '06...

Sick. Actually SICK of this.

It'll be over soon--please, God. It may be over by 8pm this evening, if Fla and Pa go Bush I think it's done (unless WVA and VA go Kerry). I can't stand it. I don't want to hear any numbers or know anything, and yet I surf all the 'blogs and flip the cable channels for any indication of how things are going.

I'm hyper-agitated by this; I saw someone from Westminster MD had emailed CNN this morning saying it didn't matter who won, because we could put a potato(e) in the White House and we'd be OK. Wish I could be so cavalier, and say "fuck it all." Instead I feel like punching things and rolling around on the floor.

Voted at 9:40am at Towson High (home of Michael Phelps, the Golden General). For the first time since I've been voting there (1994, I believe) I was in a line. I waited about 40 minutes to get up to the Diebold machine, and I didn't trust it at all. I saw a former co-worker/employee from Borders standing in line with her daughter. I got an email that another former borders employee had a baby--with photos of said baby in an anti-W. shirt. Go Minnessota!

It's going to be a long night. I think I'm cancelling my class tomorrow and drinking lots of wine after work.

I actually have stuff to do today, but screw it. I've got a meeting in 20 minutes and that eats a big chunk out of the productive part of my day--my student tonight is incapable of running the desk alone, so I'll be anchored there anyhow.

Anchored there, surfing the exit polls and blogs and media sites. Ugh.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Mais, non!

I certainly wouldn't put much past the Bush Administration, but this stretches credulity. If the French special forces really had OBL in sight, why would they ask the US for permission to capture him? Why wouldn't NATO have used this as leverage earlier against the Iraq campaign? Sounds bogus to me. Of course, I wasn't there.

Les Français auraient pû arrêter Ben Laden

Les français auraient pu capturer Oussama Ben Laden en Afghanistan, mais les Américains préfèrent qu'il reste en liberté : c'est en tout cas ce que croit savoir les spécialistes du renseignement. A l'instar d'Eric Denécé. Le directeur du Centre français de recherches sur le renseignement était l'invité de Jean-Michel Aphatie, lundi matin sur RTL. Selon lui, les forces spéciales françaises ont approché le leader d'Al-Qaïda suffisamment près pour l'observer à la jumelle, autrement dit, à 1.000 ou 1.500 mètres avec un matériel très perfectionné. Mais ils n'ont rien fait sur ordre des Américains.

Ce sont des informations tout à fait fiables. Au printemps dernier, les forces spéciales françaises ont en effet approché Ben Laden. A deux reprises, à deux endroits différents dans un périmètre de 50 kilomètres carrés, dans la région de Kandahar. Les Français l'ont suivi à la trace, alors qu'il faisait des haltes dans certains villages de cette zone désertique, manifestement pour se reposer ou se ravitailler. On a encore pu établir à cette occasion, et c'est assez précis, que le chef d'Al-Qaïda dispose d'une garde rapprochée assez légère et très mobile, toujours les mêmes hommes, des talibans. Ou encore que l'Egyptien Ayman al-Zawihiri, qui est son adjoint, le théoricien d'Al-Qaïda, ne se déplace jamais à ses côtés. Tout ces renseignements avaient bien sûr été transmis au commandement américain qui, il ne faut pas l'oublier, supervise l'action des militaires français.

Alors, pourquoi les Américains ne capturent-ils pas ou n'éliminent-ils pas Oussama Ben Laden ? Eux-mêmes ne répondent pas à cette question... Et quand on leur dit : "Mais vous l'aviez, vous pouviez le capturer !", c'est toujours le silence qui l'emporte. Au printemps dernier, si les Américains n'ont pas bougé, c'est très probablement parce qu'ils ne souhaitaient pas que les Français tirent le bénéfice d'une telle opération. Ils ont donc gelé toute action. Mais il y a d'autres hypothèses : celle que Ben Laden localisé, suivi, est devenu une précieuse source d'informations, plus utile vivant que mort. Un "objectif sous contrôle", comme disent les militaires. On sent bien toutefois que tout cela ne peut pas s'éterniser, et que cette traque va sans doute connaître un nouveau tournant, une fois passées les élections américaines.

Emphases mine.

Herr Roverrer gets desperate

Absolutely despicable, and wholly unsurprising.


Kerry in an electoral vote landslide--and we'll know by 11pm tomorrow night. The Senate will be tied 50-50 after Barney Frank wins Kerry's vacated MASS Senate seat in a special election this winter, making VP Edwards the deciding vote, but his vote will rarely be necessary because McCain/Snowe/Collins/Chafee will caucus with the Democrats, and Hagel will occasionally jump in as well. The House will stay Red but the Blues will pick up 7 or 8 seats. I'm basing this on nothing other than hope, and my own biased reading of certain indicators, and readings of others' spinning of said indicators.

I gleefully look forward to having a new President. I'll start trashing his ass as soon as he takes office.

If I'm wrong, and W. is again The Guy, I'll buy a shack in Alaska and get a gig on a fishing boat for 5k a month--they're about to legalize weed up there and I'm ready to drop the fuck out for the next four years. I can read Gibbon and Plutarch and think about how little things have changed. When they start digging in ANWAR I'll go detonate myself in protest, or at least I'll quote de Beauvoir at the fuckers:

Il y avait un mot qui revenait souvent dans la bouche des adultes: c’est inconvenant. Le contenu en était quelque peu incertain. Je lui avais d’abord attribué un sens plus ou moins scatalogique.

Bobby "Boris" Pickett

He updated his one smash hit.

In Case You're Curious...

The complete English transcript of Bin Laden's pre-election address.