Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Upside down world

How weird has the world become when Pat Buchanan, of all people, sounds like a voice of reason and sanity?

Let me put this in perspective. Before he was a failed Presidential candidate, television personality, or syndicated columnist, Buchanan was a speechwriter for and advisor to Nixon and Ford, and director of communications for Reagan. Buchanan has spoken out against immigration, abortion rights, and homosexuality. Buchanan has called Hitler and Francisco Franco great men, and has described Canada as a haven for terrorists. He once claimed that White House aide Vincent Foster and Hillary Clinton were spies for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

The sort of quote I expect from Buchanan is more like this opinion on feminism: "Rail as they will about discrimination, women are simply not endowed by nature with the same measures of single-minded ambition and the will to succeed in the fiercely competitive world of Western capitalism." Another gem: "The real liberators of American women were the automobile, the supermarket, the shopping center, the dishwasher, the washer-dryer, the freezer."

And yet this guy has a more realistic and sensible perspective on Iraq than anyone in the Bush administration. What's up with that?

One particular comment caught my attention. In his comparison of current anti-war sentiment to that of the Vietnam era, Buchanan says:

"They did not succeed in breaking Nixon's presidency. He broke them. The crucial moment was his 'Great Silent Majority' speech of Nov. 3, 1969, which rallied Middle America behind his war policy. George W. Bush is approaching a similar moment of truth. And Cindy Sheehan may be the catalyst of crisis for the Bush presidency."

One thing about Dick Nixon is that he was a lot more shrewd and clever than people realize today. He was no ignorant buffoon; he was aware when he had a public relations problem and didn't lie to himself about his own popularity. He also had good speechwriters, Buchanan presumably among them. More than once, as in the example Buchanan cites, Nixon delivered speeches which had the effect of totally reframing the debate and saving his sorry criminal ass from public outcry yet again. No other president in my lifetime could shift the whole national discussion merely by the act of giving a speech the way Nixon could.

Can anyone imagine Bush doing the same?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Summary of interrogation

Babies Caught Up in 'No-Fly' Confusion

To: Department of Homeland Security
From: Transportation Security Administration
Re: summary of interrogation of terrorist suspect

Suspect was taken into custody prior to boarding 9 AM flight Dulles to Orlando along with two individuals identifying selves as "parents" of suspect. Terminology possibly indicates higher status in terrorist cell.

Asked the purpose of his travels that day, suspect responded, "Mickey Mao! Mickey Mao?" Individual identifying self as "mother" of suspect told suspect Mickey Mouse was not present at this location, and did suspect want some juice? Suspect first replied "Nuh" then, apparently reconsidering, replied "Yes, wanna joos!"

Upon receiving a container of juice, suspect began an apparently self-composed recitation, the lyrics of which stated "joos joos wanna joos wanna joos joos joos joosy jooooooos!" Recording to be sent for translation. Possible anti-Israeli message?

When asked his name, suspect replied "Sunjob." When pointed out that this name did not match the name used on his ticket, suspect continued to insist that he was identified as "Sunjob." When asked to identify his superior in the terror cell, suspect said "Gary!" then broke into uncontrollable giggles.

Individual identifying self as "mother" explained that suspect was claiming to be "Spongebob." At this point, agents asked "mother" if this constituted admission of using false identification in air travel. "Mother" again expressed desire to end interview at this point.

Suspect began a second recitation in which he informed lead interrogator "You be super pooper man super pooper man sooper pooper maaaaaaaaan you do sooper poopers sooooooper poopers!" When informed that this claim was in error and that said agent was not, in fact, "super pooper man" the suspect began to cry. Suspect would not stop until the "mother" reassured suspect for several minutes.

Interrogation resumed. Lead agent asked suspect if he himself had ever made a bomb. Suspect laughed. When the question was repeated, suspect placed his tongue between his lips and made the following statement: "Prrrrrrfffffllllllllttttt prrrrr prrrrrr prrrrrfffff prrrrrrfffft!" When asked to elaborate, suspect explained "smelly belly smelly belly smelly belly smelly!" Suspect repeated this statement several times with increasing agitation, until "mother" explained suspect needed his diapers changed.

The interrogation was suspended until such time as this took place.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Please won't you be

I've had some interesting neighbors over the years. By that I mean they're interesting to other people, not merely eccentric or weird or disturbing. everybody has those. But these...

When I was a boy newly moved to New York City, the family next door to us hired a lovely babysitter named Izzy for their infant sons. I have the vaguest memory of being aware she was goodlooking, a slightly stronger memory that she was mysterious and foreign, and a much stronger memory that she was always very friendly. In time she moved on, and soon after that my little sister took on the babysitting chores for the neighbors. My sister is now a social worker who deals with troubled children, and has had some famous high-profile cases -- she's been in the papers and on television -- but Izzy has her beat in that category, now that she's using her full name Isabella Rosselini.

For a while, one of my neighbors was an actor on All My Children. At the time his character was married to the Susan Lucci character...which I gathered was quite a big deal, but in spite of our friendship I never saw the show and never saw him on it. I knew his acting from an Ultra-Brite commercial in which he played a gym instructor saved from social embarassment by the arrival of a spandex-clad, toothpaste-dispensing superheroine who zaps him with a ray beam giving him a whiter smile. I don't know what he's been doing lately, but that's still my brand of toothpaste.

My most notorious neighbor was a horror writer who had just sold the film rights to his first novel. His second novel also got made into a film. After a few more books, he wrote a purportedly nonfiction book about his repeated abduction by aliens...who had taken him from, yes, our apartment building. This book catapulated him to new levels of fame. Please understand, I lived on the top floor of my building. The roof was directly above. This guy lived in the apartment directly below mine. His bedroom and my bedroom were in the same spot in each apartment. Alien visitors landing on the roof literally had to pass my bedroom to reach his and abduct him. I've never really gotten over that. What, my ass wasn't nice enough for them to probe? I don't get abducted? A snub like that seriously wounds a guy's self esteem.

All the above reminiscing was prompted by the fact that one of my current neighbors is trying to sell his apartment...and today it was visited by Drew Barrymore and Fabrizio Moretti. I mean...holy crap! I have to assume the seller was doing some serious misleading about the property to get buyers at their level to come here. This building doesn't even have a doorman, let alone the kind of staff people that famous and wealthy would require. There are absolutely no security provisions here, let alone anything to deal with stalkers and deranged fans and paparazzi. The place isn't even that nice. To be honest, not only would the seller have needed to lie just to get them visiting here, but their personal assistants really dropped the ball by not checking it out and telling them it was totally unsuitable.

But what a lovely daydream it makes. Running into Drew in the elevator. Bumping into her in the laundry room. Yeah, she's with this guy, but hell...he's the drummer for the Strokes! Can you imagine the cool parties? And they'd invite me so I wouldn't complain about the noise...sigh. Ah well.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

They hate our freedom

Terrorists are right, say Tory MPs

Wow. I was going to make some sarcastic quip riffing on this story, but... um, like... wow.

Just like Pat Robertson literally and in so many words praying on television for his Lord to strike a few Supreme Court justices dead so there will be more openings for Bush to fill -- a clip of which just aired on The Daily Show -- these guys have crossed over into self-parody so effectively that there's no room left for anyone else to parody them. We are left mute, as if in awe.

Pat Robertson and his kind hate America. These Conservative MPs hate Britain. They are united with the terrorists. And we're all stuck in the middle between them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A link for Aziyade

...a friend of mine who recently found out that Whitley Strieber used to be my next door neighbor, and whose cousin is waiting for the end times.

"Yet abduction narratives often have another, less explicit, dimension that Dr. Clancy suspects may be central to their power. Consider this comment, from a study participant whom Dr. Clancy calls Jan, a middle-age divorc?e engaged in a quest for personal understanding: 'You know, they do walk among us on earth. They have to transform first into a physical body, which is very painful for them. But they do it out of love. They are here to tell us that we're all interconnected in some way. Everything is.'

"At a basic level, Dr. Clancy concludes, alien abduction stories give people meaning, a way to comprehend the many odd and dispiriting things that buffet any life, as well as a deep sense that they are not alone in the universe. In this sense, abduction memories are like transcendent religious visions, scary and yet somehow comforting and, at some personal psychological level, true."

Found here.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


I posted the following in response to a comment on a Beatles group, of all places, and thought I might share it with you guys:

I was reading up on the real Nostradamus, as opposed to the mythical version, and he's a lot more interesting than you'd think.

Michel de Nostredame was actually a well-trained doctor and medical school teacher who traveled around France treating sick people with ideas like a better diet, clean beds, clean water and clean streets -- pretty revolutionary stuff for the 16th Century. He even tried treating the Plague with pills he'd invented which contained large doses of Vitamin C; this was about 400 years before the existence of vitamin C was discovered.

Some scholars claim that the poems he wrote which are supposedly prophecies were actually intended as some kind of commentary on then-current events, written obscurely so that the Inquisition wouldn't find out about his heretical views. He had to be especially careful about them, given that he was Jewish and a student of kabbalah.

Personally, I think what happened was that he found out everyone thought he had mystical powers, and Catherine de Medici and people like that wanted to meet he played up the hocus pocus for all it was worth, to hobnob with royalty and celebrities. He was the Beatle of his time! He put on a big show of making up horoscopes and "foretelling the future" and so became an advisor to Queen Catherine rather than getting tortured and then burned at the stake by the Catholic Church. More power to him, I say.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

MIA tech

"Even today's superclean hybrid cars are still polluters--their electric batteries are recharged by small gas engines. But up until 2003, you could lease a true zero-emission electric car from General Motors: the EV1. It was a science-fiction car of the first order, and it looked it--all swoopy lines and space-egg aerodynamics. None were made available for sale. When the leases on the EV1s expired, GM recalled the cars, over the ardent objections of many of the lessees, who protested, begged, and lobbied GM to let them buy their vehicles. GM would not relent, and, citing concerns over liability and parts availability, even took to crushing some of these high-tech marvels to keep them off the road."

From here.

Afterwards, the same GM executives responsible for this decision went out and stole candy from small children, kicked several dogs, and punched your mom. In the face.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The fanfic which dare not speak its name

One of my army of gorgeous female admirers asks in an e-mail:

"I see more manga porn than manga anything else. Could that possibly have something to do with the sales volume?"

Hmm...good question! I'm not especially knowledgable on manga, but I can imagine a number of possible reasons for this.

For one the general public, western comics are defined by their recognizable characters; manga is recognized by an artistic style. That gross oversimplification would cause a million comics and manga fans to puke their guts out, but I hope you know what I mean! When it comes to pornographic drawings, you can identify it as "manga" relatively simply by giving the girls big eyes and tiny noses and little pointy chins. By contrast, to define something as western comics porn, you'd have to have Wonder Woman or Supergirl or something.

That said, there IS a large "superheroine porn" subculture out there. I don't know how many people would recognize my current Tribe avatar as a character from a Disney Channel cartoon show called "Kim Possible" -- watch it sometime, it's awesome! -- but I recently discovered there are several webrings devoted to advocating/speculating on/depicting sexual relations between Kim and her adversary, the supervillainess Shego. I read some of the fanfic out of curiosity -- honest, officer, it was purely for research purposes -- and the funny thing was that it wasn't what I expected: crass male exploitation of wanting to see two hot chicks getting it on. These were mostly female fans, a la the Kirk/Spock subculture, and they really are FANS of the show; their erotica was created out of love for the characters. Perverse scary love, perhaps, but real affection nonetheless.

Which brings me to the next point: you see more manga porn than manga anything else because there's more porn anything than anything else. This is especially true for anything genre. All those authorized Star Trek series and movies and books and comics, numerous as they are, would be buried under the vast avalanche of ST porn. For all its bad reputation, there's something inherently cool about the idea of fan fiction to start with: instead of merely being passive consumers of corporate-produced entertainment, fans want to claim their favorites as their own to do with as they please.

That so much fan-created work is erotic and/or pornographic isn't an accident, and isn't solely because these fans are sexually frustrated; it's also that the culture is tangled in a lot of hypocrisy and mixed messages about sexuality, and the product put out by the mass media is simultaneously titillating AND denuded of overt real sex, owing to "standards of local decency" and the complaints of moral watchdog groups. We all know the Disney Channel is NOT going to show Kim Possible losing her virginity, or suggest that Shego might have Sapphic tendencies, so fan fiction depicting this automatically becomes more illicit -- and correspondingly more attractive -- but it's also a way of adding a kind of "realism" in some sense. The Star Trek series might tease their viewers with Seven of Nine or T'Pol in a tight leotard; the fans resolve the tension between the implied sexuality and lack of actual depicted sex by writing erotic stories. Or Photoshopping fake nude photos of Jeri Ryan and Jolene Blalock. (Look, the real world isn't a pretty place.) By contrast, I don't think anyone writes erotic fanfiction about porn stars. I could be wrong about that.

And finally: yes, there's a lot more sexually explicit manga to start with. Japan didn't have the artificially mandated definition of comics being for kids that we had imposed on us in America by Estes Kefauver (acting on the well-intentioned but seriously misguided guidance of Dr. Wertham) which led to the Comics Code and the eradication of comic books aimed at grownups for decades. For the Japanese, comics were a medium instead of a children's genre, so there was always adult stuff and porn widely available even as our stuff was being censored. Some of the stuff published in the States before the Comics Code came along was surprisingly risque -- and lurid, and violent, and gross -- and if American history had gone a slightly different way, "adult" comics might be as widespread here as Harlequin romances are.

Did I answer the question at all in the above rambling? I have no idea.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Encouraging thought for the day

"...screenwriting is the only art where you will never, NEVER see your idea expressed as you wish. And that will, eventually, drive you insane."

Thanks to John Rogers for that.

See? It's not my fault. I was destined to lose my mind.