January 2003

01.31.03 So there's a really good pizzeria/brew-pub/pasta-joint literally right across the street from my new home. Great food, really good beer on tap. Right next to it is a Pizza Hut. Bet you can't guess which one always has a fuller parking lot?
The newest thing at Pizza Hut is the Stuffed Crust Gold, which I was baffled by until I found the "Gold" part was a layer of cheddar cheese along the top of the crust - just in case having the crust stuffed with cheese wasn't enough cheese for you. I suspect the new newest thing will be stuffing a block of cheddar with mozzarella and baking it... and slathering it with beef grease.
Don't get me wrong - I love cheese. I'd say there are probably few people in the world who love cheese as much as I do, but Jesus Christ people - how much cheese do you need!!?

01.29.03 Yesterday's post reminded me of one of my favorite websites - what do you get when you take the Face of Mars, UFOs and Pyramids, then wrap them in the nuttier parts of the Bible? Give up? The Watcher Website Conspiracy & Prophecy Index of course. The funny thing is - if this guy was speaking from a strictly psychological point of view I'd say he was right. You know the theory - UFOs, angels, bigfoot, the Chupacabra and all that other good shit are all manifestations of some weird psychological impulse we talking monkeys have buried deep in our oversized brains. But since this website's author literally believes that UFOs are rebel angels I'll have to put him down as a nutjob - although a brilliant nutjob.

01.28.03 I'm a sucker for all them apocalypse/devil movies so it's a wonder I never saw The Prophecy until today. Even though it's not the greatest movie in the world I thought it had some awesome fucking lines and characters - Christopher Walken as the Archangel Gabriel, Viggo Mortenson as Lucifer, Eric Stoltz as an angel named Simon, and Adam Goldberg (the guy who got knifed to death by the nazi in "Saving Private Ryan") as Gabriel's zombie assistant, Jerry. The best line over all in the movie was Gabriel explaining to Jerry why he needs a zombie assistant - "It's a big universe Jerry, some things in it are talking monkey work".
Hey - speaking of talking monkeys, y'all be sure and watch the State of the Union tonight now y'hear. I'm sure GW will explain how to fix the economy or fling his crap at Tom Daschle or something.

01.27.03 Having lived in several different places in the U.S. I like to make observations about regional differences. In the south - where I was born and raised - we like to make a big deal about the Civil War. I grew up there so I can speak pretty authoritatively about it. There are Confederate Veteran's memorials everywhere, and contrary to popular belief all that shit was built before all the bozos in the '60s decided it would be a good idea to fly the Confedederate Battle Flag on the dome of their capitals to "let them Yankees know how we feel about mixing of the races." It's that whole romanticized "lost cause" thing. I have southern friends who are as left-leaning as you can get and can still tell you more about Nathan Bedford Forest than anyone would ever want to know. To me it's totally cool that my great-great grandfather fought for the Confederacy and did a couple of years in a POW camp in Illinois. This despite the fact that knowing other ancestors owned slaves disgusts and shames me. It's a complicated thing.
When I moved to the northeast I noticed that the Vietnam War was their Civil War. There are numerous Vietnam veteran memorials - sometimes painted on the side of people's houses - and every thirty miles there's a POW-MIA highway or parkway or something else. How you can compare getting your ass kicked by Victor Charlie to getting your ass kicked by the Army of the Potomac is beyond me*, but like I said - it's a complicated thing.
Now I live in western Washington and the prevailing wind seems to be quite different. Needless to say you don't see alot of Vietnam or Civil War memorials - although I did see what looked like a Civil War re enactor (Yankee, naturally) at Target the other day. In Jersey it seemed like all the bumper stickers said "Nuke Saddam" or some shit like that - here they all say "No War".
While "Nuke Saddam" may just be loud-mouthed jingoistic neanderthal bullshit, making "No War" a policy is like making "I ain't gonna brush my teeth no more" one. Neither idea is very well thought out and they will both eventually lead to more fucking trouble than you want to deal with. While I don't have alot of confidence in the current administration I can at least see a possible end result of regime change bringing a badly needed stable democracy to the Middle East. At worst a fairly secular friendly country that we can get our oil from instead of the fucking Saudis. Of course, as I've said before we could much more easily open up our relations with Iran - a country well on its way to being the only stable democracy in the region - all they need is a push to kick the mullahs out. Considering the current administrations inexplicable need to poke Iran in the eye with a stick, that's probably not going to happen though.
But let's get back to the "No War" people. They are the same people who want to drop the UN sanctions so we'll "stop starving babies", which means to me that "No War" equals "Do Nothing". Well what the hell kind of policy is that? Do they really think that if we just "do nothing" now that more people aren't going to die in ten years when Saddam has developed nuclear weapons? Or if his son or someone else from his village succeeds him and goes on killing his own people? Or if we just let it all fall apart, and the Kurds claim independence without any kind of support, and Turkey invades Kurdistan, and we end up with another Bosnia? Just what is the "No War" peoples' fucking brilliant plan - hunger strikes, sit-ins, harsh language? We don't operate in a vacuum - we never have. These people are smart enough to figure out that buying coffee beans from large plantations ruins the ecosystem and the lives of small farmers in Central America, why can't they figure out that doing nothing in Iraq is going to have consequences too?

01.24.03 Awww. It looks like convicted perjurer Rear Admiral *snicker* John Poindexter won't be given funding for his Total Information Awareness program until he can explain to Congress how building a database that gets up in the private business of U.S. citizens (who they call, what they buy with their credit card, where they travel, what they go to the doctor for) doesn't violate their right to privacy.

01.22.02 Since I moved out of New Jersey it's not often that my head almost explodes before 8 AM - so it was great to hear Andy Servwer of Fortune Magazine taking a break from sniffing the asses of his corporate masters to loudly praise yesterday's order by a federal judge to Verizon to turn over to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) the name of a customer accused of having downloaded more than 600 songs in one day. First off - how does the RIAA know that this guy downloaded 600 songs in a day? Did he brag about it in some chat-group? Yeah, well I have something to admit - I killed Nicolle Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The bloody glove? I planted it. So someone please send the FBI to pick my ass up. Secondly - I've had Verizon as my ISP and frankly I don't think it's possible to download 600 songs in a 24 hour period. Maybe if that's what you did all day.
Andy then went on to say that downloading music with P2P file-sharing systems is illegal. Really? Even all the free stuff you can download from MP3.com?
Then the dumb-ass admits to Paula Zahn that he used to record stuff on cassette, but that's different. HOW?!!!? Apparently it's a matter of volume.
Then he has to bitch and moan about how badly record sales are doing. That's the argument that won me over to the recording industry. My God! I am shocked and surprised that record sales have been declining in this booming economy! This music theft is corrupting our youth. It's a moral outrage and by God someone has to do something about it! I for one shall be posting a letter to the editor of The Times and writing a letter of concern to my Member of Parliament!!!
Ah! The sweet odure of sarcasm...
I'll be the first to admit that downloading copyrighted music is illegal, but so is jaywalking and alot of other bullshit that no one pays much attention to, but also doesn't require ISPs to violate a customer's right to privacy. You can argue all day as to whether or not downloading hurts or actually helps the music industry. It doesn't fucking matter. You know why? Because the genie is out of the bottle. If you're going to make file-sharing illegal you've got to make vcrs, Tivo, and basically anything else that can record any kind of media illegal. Who the hell has never taped a movie off television for the cost of a blank tape that they couldn't go to Target and plop down $13.99 for? We're all guilty. The RIAA and their little whores (I'm lookin' at you Andy Servwer... schmuck!) need to pull their heads out of their asses and figure out how to sell some fucking CDs instead of sitting around and whining like a bunch of little punk-ass bitches.

01.21.03 Bonnie Burton of Grrl.com's answer to those dumb-ass "When you buy drugs you support terrorism" ads.

01.20.03 The doorbell rings yesterday evening. I go and look through the peephole. It's a pimply teenage metal boy on the doorstep with his teeny-goth girlfriend. I open the door.

Me: Hey, how's it goin'. (When you answer the door and it's someone you don't know never give them the advantage of having the first word)

Metal Kid: Uh, okay man. Does Village still live here?

Me: Nope, sorry man.

Metal Kid: (Starting to look nervous) Well, uh, I met some black guy here once.

Me: Sorry man, we just moved in about a month ago.

Metal Kid: Oh... okay. Well thanks.

Thinking "black guy?" to myself I close the door.

Why do you never realize what the situation is until it's too late to fuck with someone's head? If those kids weren't looking to score then I'm the fucking Pope. Why oh why didn't I think to say "Didn't you read the latest reports that the number of meth labs in Thurston County are down 20%?" or "When you buy drugs you support terrorism."

01.19.03 Please excuse my tardiness - I was being pampered for my birthday. For a present I got two of the ugliest metal dog sculptures you will ever see - Spike and Schatzi. Not only are they beautiful in their ugliness, but they're functional too - just open up the door in their asses and you can put tea candles or glow sticks in 'em to light up your next outdoor party.

01.16.03 If you've been watching the news on tv then you sure as hell don't know that the Supreme Court, guided by the invisible hand of Disney just ruled that you can extend copyright indefinitely - or at least indefinitely in 20 year increments. Fuck the Constitution! Fuck The Framers! Fuck the Public Domain! Long live our Corporate Masters!
The really ironic thing - as pointed out in this column by Dann Gillmor - is that Disney (the evil corporation not the man) has made a killing off of characters that are in the public domain - Mulan, the Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, etc... but fights tooth and nail (and wins!) to hang on to its copyrighted characters that long ago should have entered into it.

01.15.03 Here's what's been troubling my mind lately - in the song "Mannish Boy" when Muddy Waters says I think I'll go down to old Kansas too. I'm gone bring back my second cousin - that little John the Conquer Root - does he mean that he's bringing his second cousin in Kansas some John the Conquer Root or that John the Conquer root is his second cousin and Muddy just happens to be going down to Kansas anyway?
I turned to the internet to help clear this up but about every page with the lyrics transcribes John the Conquer Root as Johnny Cocheroo, which leads me to believe those dumb crackers don't even know what the hell John the Conquer Root is. One of them even has Muddy saying he was going down "to Kansas Stew". Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?
I finally remembered an old bookmark for a page called Blues Lyrics and Hoodoo by the good folks at the Lucky Mojo Curio Co. It's a great page, but unfortunately doesn't have the answer to my question - so consider this the first semi-official Satan's Left Nut contest. Anybody who can clear this up for me will receive a genu-wine High John the Conquer Root from your's truly.

01.14.03 From The Poor Man blog - a score-card for the 2004 Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates and predictions/advice for who their running mates should be. This guy cracks me up in an "It's funny because it's true now please put me out of my misery" sort of way.

01.13.03 This the weirdest spam I've ever gotten. As I read it I kept expecting it to turn into some damn Chinese 419 Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Scam, but I'm fairly certain all the guy wants is recognition. Is this the cutting edge for scientists to get their new theoretical work out there - spam? And why spam me? Holy dog shit! What's next - fucking Raelian telemarketers interrupting me during dinner to tell me about their new limited time saucer-baby cloning offer?

01.12.03 According to the 17th century German novelist Grimmelshausen in "Der abenteurliche Simplicissimus", a semi-fictionalized account of his experiences during the Thirty Years War, some of the soldiers he fought alongside loved to torture peasants by forcing them to drink what was called a Swedish Cocktail. The cocktail consisted of "a milk bucket full of stinking manure drippings". As Grimmelshausen said "In short, every soldier has his favorite method of making life miserable for peasants, and every peasant had his own misery".
In the Democratic Republic of Congo at this very minute there are accusations of mass rapes, tortures, and executions against civilians as well as stories of prisoners being forced to roast then eat the flesh of humans.
While some of my fellow Americans might use this to point out that the level of social and moral development in much of West Africa is roughly equivalent to 17th century Germany I would remind them that as recently as the 1860's the residents of Kansas and Missouri regularly engaged in tactics similar to the ethnic cleansing recently practiced during the Balkan War(s) - minus the mass rapes of course. And while smug Northern Europeans (and a large number of Canadians I know of), safe in their fluffy nests of moral superiority, would not be surprised that we neanderthalic, gun-loving Americans are still capable of such things - I would remind them of one thing - The Holocaust - and tell them to shut the fuck up. We're all as capable of being devils as angels - it's what makes us human.

01.11.03 Nice article about how some kids returning from a revival were "fallen on by the Holy Spirit" in the parking lot of a Citgo in Arkansas. Heh - reminds me of the time I was possessed by the Voodoo god Gede Nimbo outside of a Starbucks. I donned dark glasses, a set of tails and a tophat while loudly screaming "My balls are cold" in Haitian creole until they brought me a bottle of rum with fiery red peppers steeped in it*. Afterward the barrista said "I'll never be the same again" - and you know what - I believed him.

01.10.03 Lake Superior State University has issued its 28th annual ‘extreme’ List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. Under the entry for "Homeland Security" someone (actually Rick Miller of Champaign, Illinois) noted "What happened to the Department of Defense?” This leads me to ask the question "If we now have a Department of Homeland Security then shouldn't we just go back to calling the Department of Defense the War Department?" Or maybe we should just cut to the chase and call it "The Department of Kicking Abdul's Ass, and you're next France."

01.09.03 I finally visited my new friendly neighborhood comic book store and found a really nice hardbound comic book *ahem* 'scuse me - "graphic novel - "The Yellow Yar: Two Tales from Japanese Tradition" by Patrick Atangan. The text could have used some editing - there are a couple of obvious typos, but the star is not the text, it's Atangan's beautiful art. His style is halfway between art-noveau and traditional japanese ukiyoe woodblock prints - really beautiful and unusual. Check it out.

01.08.03 I finished reading "The Years of Rice and Salt" and it turned out as well as I thought. As well as being a damn fine read it contains some of the most beautiful critiques of fundamentalst Islam you will ever read - especially in a work of fiction.

The book is laid out in progressive time periods inhabited by a group of characters who are born and reincarnated, always encountering each other in their various lives. The first critique comes in the medieval period from one of the characters reincarnated as the Sultana Katima talking to another of the reincarnated characters -

"I hope you do not mind my not wearing the veil. I will never do so. The Quran says nothing about the veil, except for an injunction to veil the bosom, which is obvious. As for the face, Muhammad's wife Khadijeh never wore the veil, nor did the other wives of the prophet after Khadijeh died. While she lived he was faithful to her alone, you know. If she had not died he never would have married any other woman, he says so himself. So if she didn't wear the veil, I feel no need to. The veil began when the caliphs in Baghdad wore them, to separate themselves from the masses, and from any khajirites who might be among them... Certainly women are dangerous to men, but not so much that they need hide their faces. Indeed, when you see faces you understand better that we are all the same before God. No veils between us and God, this is what each Muslim has gained by his submission..."

"And I don't believe there is any sanction in the Quran for the husband to beat his wife, do you? The only possible suggestion of such a thing is Sura 4:34, 'As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them, next refuse to share their beds' - how horrible that would be - 'last beat them lightly." Daraba, not darraba, which is really the word 'to beat' after all. Daraba is 'nudge', or even 'stroke with a feather.' as in the poem, even to provoke while lovemaking, you know daraba, daraba. Muhammad made it very clear..."

Interestingly the english word "drub" - meaning "to beat" is derived from daraba, but even more interesting - especially in relation to the above line about stroking with a feather - there are several butterflies bearing "daraba" as part of their scientific name. But enough of my babbling -

"...This is what the Quran tells me... Sura 2:223 says that 'your wife is as your farm to you, so treat her as you would a farm.' The ulema have quoted this as if it meant you could treat women like the dirt under your feet, but these clerics who stand as unneeded intercessors between us and God, are never farmers, and farmers read the Quran right, and see their wives are their food, their drink, their work, the bed they lie on at night, the very ground under their feet!"

Another critique comes much later in the book by another incarnation of the Sultana Katima - a muslim feminist historian, Kirana Fawwaz, lecturing in a class attended by Budur - a different incarnation of the same character lectured to by Katima.

"Islam was therefore a latecomer, and as such, a corrective to the earlier monotheisms... it had to deal first with a condition of almost pure anarchy, a tribal war of all against all... From those depths no new religion could leap very high.
"Muhammad thus arrived as a prophet who was trying to do good, and trying not to be overwhelmed by war, and by his experiencing of divine voices..."

"Spoken to by God or babbling whatever came into his head it did not matter; the end result was good, at first. A tremendous increase in law, in justice, in women's rights, and in a general sense of order and human purpose in history..."

"But then came the caliphs, the sultans, the divisions, the wars, the clerics, and their hadith. The hadith outgrew the Quran itself; they seized on every scrap of misogyny scattered in Muhammad's basically feminist work, and stitched them into the shroud in which they wrapped the Quran... Generations of patriarchal clerics built up a mass of hadith that has no Quranic authority whatsoever, thus rebuilding an unjust tyranny, using frequently falsified authorities of personal transmission from male master to male student, as if a lie passed down through three or ten generations of men somehow metamorphoses into a truth..."

And here is where the critique really hits home for the world we're living in now. The following could easily be talking about Osama bin Laden or Hassan al-Turabi.

"...the regressives prattle their broken old hadith like magic charms to conjure jinns, and in states like Afghanistan or Sudan... the hezbollah rule, and women are forced into chador and hijab and harem, and the men in power in these states try to pretend that it is the year 300 in Baghdad or Damascus, and that Haroun al-Rashid will come walking in the door to make everything right."

This is great because it is exactly what all the Islamists are longing for - some mythologized "Golden Age" theocracy ruled by a wise and benevolent Caliph.

In another section of the same time period there is a debate between Kirana and her students that critiques the kind of wahhabist bullshit espoused by bin Laden -

"How can we ever progress out of our origins," she asked their teacher plaintively, "when our faith orders us not to leave them?"

Kirana replied, "Our faith said no such thing. This is something fundamentalists say to keep their hold on power."

Budur felt confused. "But what about the parts of the Quran that tell us Muhammad is the last prophet, and the rules of the Quran should stand forever?"

Kirana shook her head impatiently. "This is another case of taking an exception for the general rule, a very common fundamentalist tactic. In fact there are some truths in the Quran that Muhammad declared eternal - such existential realities as the fundamental equality of every person - how could that ever change? But the more worldly concerns of the Quran, involved with the building of an Arabic state, changed with circumstances, even within the Quran itself, as in its variable statements against alcohol. Thus the principle of naskh, in which later Quranic instructions supercede earlier ones. And in Muhammad's last statements, he made it clear that he wanted to respond to changing situations, and to make Islam better - to come up with moral solutions that conform to the basic framework, but respond to new facts."

Later in the same debate, Naser - a veteran crippled in the recent war reasserts the most basic positive message in Islam -

"Every sura of the Quran reminds us by its opening words - Bismallah, in the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. Compassion, mercy - how do we express that?..."

"... I don't see any people on Earth living by their best beliefs anymore. This must be what Muhammad saw when he looked around him. Savagery everywhere, men like beasts. So every sura started with a call for compassion."

01.07.03 I'm finally back and all hooked up. I'll just make few observations - 1) Never drive a rented truck with all your worldly possessions in it through snowy mountain passes in eastern Oregon 2) Never, ever, ever step foot in Wyoming if at all possible 3) If you are a Lutheran Church in Mohamet, Ohio Illinois (same diff.) you might want to come up with a better name than "Lutheran Church of Mohamet" - it's a bit ironic 4) Really - stay out of Wyoming 5) Just because you have an SUV doesn't mean you can drive 50 mph through snowy mountain passes in eastern Oregon, because it's hard to maintain that macho SUV driver image when a lady cop from the Oregon State Patrol is digging your dumb ass out of the snow bank in the median 6) The Wyoming thing - I really mean it.

* These are the traditional characteristics displayed when one is possessed by Gede Nimbo, a god who is related to Baron Samedi - the guy who tried to kill James Bond with a machette in Live and Let Die.

* To be fair I suspect that Ulysses S. Grant and General Vo Nguyen Giap could have sat down with a bottle of whiskey and had a few things to talk about.


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