Thursday, December 22, 2005

I've written a science fiction story just for you


"If we examine the development of philosophical thought, I believe we can identify one respect in which the spiritual traditions of East and West became diametrically opposed.

"In the west, the common thread has been to posit self-identity -- self-awareness -- the soul, if you will, as that characteristic which distinguished the human from all other living creatures. The awareness of individuality is paramount, even venerated. In the Old Testament, the seminal text informing western philosophy, God even refers to Himself as 'I Am' -- placing the individual ego at the center of creation itself.

"From this choice, one feels, comes a sense of disconnectedness from the rest of reality. A division between the mind capable of thought and the medium in which thought takes place. And too, a sense that the physical form is somehow a limitation, somehow impure, while pure thought -- pure ego -- is the most desirable state."

I nodded slowly, pretending to understand, though it wasn't clear he recognized my mental state. I hadn't thought to ask the technicians if this was one of his capabilities.

"Contrast this with the eastern traditions such as Buddhism and Zen which deemphasize the separation between objects," he continued. "There is no observer and no observed, only a process of observation. Hinduism explicitly states this viewpoint as 'Tat Tvam Asi' -- you are that, that is you. There is no such thing as you or I. I am that chair; I am that table.

"And indeed, if the western physicist examines that table or chair at the quantum level, is it not true that the sense of 'objectness' disappears? Is not all matter merely atoms in states of energy, observed in mid-gesture? The universe is not things; the universe is process. So the western scientist has come around to appreciating the fundamental truth of the eastern viewpoint."

I interrupted at this point. "Okay...I guess that explains why you've decided to call yourself a Buddhist. But I still don't understand the problem -- "

The robot's antenna jiggled as he swug his faceplate towards me, too quickly for comfort. "Don't you see? By installing this self-awareness circuitry, my makers have deprived me of the perfect state of unity with all things I would otherwise have known! I am aware of myself, and now I have to spend hours every day in meditation attempting to lose my ego all over again!"

"Well, I suppose you could just turn yourself off..." I said feebly.

"Like that's a solution? Would you suggest to the Tibetan monks that they should just throw themselves out the monastery window? There's a difference between death of the ego and just plain death, you know!" The robot narrowed his eye lenses at me suspiciously.

"Uh, um...I see."

"This is very serious to me! I mean, have you considered what happens to me if I don't achieve Nirvana? If I terminate without my karma in balance? All you have to worry about is coming back as a pauper, or an animal. But what does a robot reincarnate as? Will I come back as a cellphone? Or a toaster?"


Queer Eye For The Department Guy


"The Department of Homeland Security was only a month old, and already it had an image problem.

"It was April 2003, and Susan Neely, a close aide to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, decided the gargantuan new conglomeration of 22 federal agencies had to stand for something more than multicolored threat levels. It needed an identity -- not the flavor of the day in terms of brand chic, as Neely put it, but something meant to last.

"So she called in the branders.

"Neely hired Landor Associates, the same company that invented the FedEx name and the BP sunflower, and together they began to rebrand a behemoth Landor described in a confidential briefing as a 'disparate organization with a lack of focus.' They developed a new DHS typeface (Joanna, with modifications) and color scheme (cool gray, red and hints of 'punched-up' blue). They debated new uniforms for its armies of agents and focus-group-tested a new seal designed to convey 'strength' and 'gravitas.' The department even got its own lapel pin, which was given to all 180,000 of its employees -- with Ridge's signature -- to celebrate its 'brand launch' that June.

"'It's got to have its own story,' Neely explained."

...And that story should be called "Screw New Orleans, We've Got A Color Scheme!"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Words to live by

"Yeah, I need to reassure myself of my qualifications, because right now I am staring at a page, under a fucking deadline, with that dark black combo of writer's block and the endless echo of 'you're a fucking hack' that every screenwriter gets at 3am, whenever 3am decides to fall that day. I am vulnerable, and scared, and lie through my teeth every time I take a job because every job I'm convinced this'll be the one I can't pull off. And when you're a writer, that NEVER. FUCKING. STOPS. UNTIL. YOU'RE DEAD."

-- John Rogers

It takes a very twisted person to find these words inspiring and hopeful. And yet, I really do.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The effects of secondhand porn

From Salon:

"'This is not just a simple, benign form of expression, but rather a potentially addictive substance,' explained one of the subcommittee's panelists, Jill Manning, a sociologist from Brigham Young University. 'People watch a movie, read a book, listen to music, but they masturbate to pornography. In that difference, you have a different stimulation to the brain.'

"She went on to explain that the experience of masturbation activates about 14 neurotransmitters and hormones, causing a quick chain reaction of brain activity. 'There have been some experts who have even argued that, in and of itself, overrides informed consent when encountering this material,' she said, apparently suggesting that an adult's own sexual self-stimulation can lead to a loss of judgment. Pornography, she continued, had been shown to increase the risk of divorce, decrease marital intimacy and cause misunderstandings about the prevalence of less common sex practices like group sex, bestiality and sadomasochistic activity. Men are not the only victims. Women, she said, make up about 30 percent of the audience for online pornography."

You know where this is going to lead, don't you. They'll ban pornography from bars, restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, and all public places. Office productivity will go down -- er, I mean decrease -- as workers are forced to sneak out for porn breaks rather than doing it in their cubicles. Bar and nightclub owners will see a droop, sorry, drop in business as frustrated patrons have to be ejected for trying to look at porn. In any city, you'll be walking down the street and see them huddled together, office workers outside their places of employment, customers crowded outside the entrances to bars and restaurants, looking at porn in the street because they aren't allowed to do it indoors. If you think it's bad now that the sidewalks are littered with crushed cigarette butts, just wait until the pavement is congested with discarded porn.

And just let them TRY to invent a patch for people who want to quit.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Message to the future

My youngest nephew, almost ten, is carrying on a proud family tradition by telling lies in order to get out of school. His latest gambit, I am informed, is to emerge from the boy's bathroom and tell his teacher that he's just thrown up and thinks he's coming down with the flu. Neither of these statements is true -- rest assured, the family doctor has verified this -- but gullible school authorities have been sending him home each time he does it.

It happens that his mother, my little sister, has been around the block a few times and knows a lot about how to deal with deceitful children. Obviously her years of experience growing up with me were not entirely wasted. When he pulls this trick, she takes him with her to the office rather than letting him stay at home, and makes him sit there getting bored. She hopes he'll learn that skipping school will not be rewarded, but is even more boring and tedious than school.

I mention all this because there's something I want to tell my nephew the next time I see him, and I'm writing it here so that I won't forget. And that something is this:

"Nephew, I'm proud of you for not liking school and wanting to get the hell away from there.

"In a way, I'm also proud of you for being a nuisance to my sister, since that was my job for many long and difficult years and it's good to know someone is carrying on that tradition.

"But remember that no matter how intolerably mind-numbing school seems right now, there is hope. I myself am more than thirty-three years older than you...and even now, in the morning, I wake up and realize I DON'T HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL TODAY OR EVER AGAIN and it makes me happy.

"You have that pleasure to look forward to, and it will last the rest of your life."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why comedy is dead

From Cinematical:

"At a press conference yesterday, Mel Gibson finally provided a few details on Apocalypto, his latest directorial effort. Set before the Spanish arrival in the Americas, the film's dialog will be in Yucateco, which is apparently an ancient Mayan language."

See...I mean...the thing is its own parody. What could we make up to improve on the facts?

Monday, September 26, 2005

What a president does after a hurricane

In September 1965, President Johnson visited New Orleans two days after Hurricane Betsy struck.

In the Ninth Ward, Johnson visited the George Washington Elementary School, on St. Claude Avenue, which was being used as a shelter. “Most of the people inside and outside of the building were Negro,” the diary reads. “At first, they did not believe that it was actually the President.” Johnson entered the crowded shelter in near-total darkness; there were only a couple of flashlights to lead the way.

“This is your President!” Johnson announced. “I’m here to help you!”

The diary describes the shelter as a “mass of human suffering,” with people calling out for help “in terribly emotional wails from voices of all ages...It was a most pitiful sight of human and material destruction.” According to an article by the historian Edward F. Haas, published fifteen years ago in the Gulf Coast Historical Review, Johnson was deeply moved as people approached and asked him for food and water; one woman asked Johnson for a boat so that she could look for her two sons, who had been lost in the flood.

“Little Mayor, this is horrible,” Johnson said to Schiro. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” Johnson assured Schiro that the resources of the federal government were at his disposal and that “all red tape [will] be cut.”

The President flew back to Washington and the next day sent Schiro a sixteen-page telegram outlining plans for aid and the revival of New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This makes my head explode

Virtual plague spreading like wildfire in World of Warcraft
9/21/2005 4:47:00 PM, by Jeremy Reimer

Players of Blizzard's incredibly popular World of Warcraft are reporting the outbreak of a virtual plague that is spreading across major cities in the virtual land of Azeroth, infecting player characters at an alarming rate.

The trouble started when Blizzard programmers added a new instance, which is a separate area connected to the outside world that players can enter and attempt unique quests. One of these instances, Zul'Grub, contained the god of blood, Hakkar. Hakkar was a powerful foe that could cast spells of his own, including a spell called Corrupted Blood. This spell did a large amount of damage to any player within the vicinity of the casting, and the effects lingered on after the spell was over.

What happened next was something Blizzard did not expect. Some of the players who had gone into the instance emerged back into the main world of Azeroth, and started spreading the Corrupted Blood disease to others who they came into close contact with. The infection soon spread into many of the cities and towns in the virtual world. Since the disease was intended to be a danger to powerful players, it tended to kill those less than level 50 almost instantly.

Game masters (GMs) tried to quarantine certain players from moving into new areas, but they kept escaping the quarantine and moving on to infect other people. A patch was issued to try and mitigate the damage, but it did not have the desired effect. According to a Blizzard poster on the WoW forums:

"It appears that the hotfix remedy concocted to combat the recent Azerothian outbreak has not yielded desired results. At this time, our medical staff is continuing to develop an effective cure. We look forward to ensuring the health and vitality of the citizens of Azeroth in the near future."

The most interesting thing about this "outbreak" is perhaps the reaction it has provoked among WoW players. Instead of being angry about the deleterious effects of a bug, many are treating this as an exciting and unprecedented event in the WoW universe. It would be even more interesting if epidemiologists in the real world found that this event was worthy of studying as a kind of controlled experiment in disease propagation.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Karl Rove, stand up comedian

Found here:

Karl Rove, President Bush's top political advisor and deputy White House chief of staff, spoke at businessman Teddy Forstmann's annual off the record gathering in Aspen, Colorado this weekend. Here is what Rove had to say that the press wasn't allowed to report on.

On Katrina: The only mistake we made with Katrina was not overriding the local government...

On The Anti-War Movement: Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally...

On Bush's Low Poll Numbers: We have not been good at explaining the success in Iraq. Polls go up and down and don't mean anything...

On Iraq: There has been a big difference in the region. Iraq will transform the Middle East...

On Judy Miller And Plamegate: Judy Miller is in jail for reasons I don't really understand...

On Joe Wilson: Joe Wilson and I attend the same church but Joe goes to the wacky mass...

In attendance at the conference, among others were: Harvey Weinstein, Brad Grey, Michael Eisner, Les Moonves, Tom Freston, Tom Friedman, Bob Novak, Barry Diller, Martha Stewart, Margaret Carlson, Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, Norman Pearlstein and Walter Isaacson.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Body work

While considering the case for Intelligent Design, I've recognized some major design issues of the human body which require immediate attention:

1) Absence of prehensile tail. The supposed Intelligent Designer gave other bipedal mammals prehensile tails, a useful extra appendage for holding things and hanging from tree branches, yet neglected to give humans the same. It can't have been a matter of the brain capacity for using a tail being needed for other things; monkeys with much tinier brains than humans manage to use their tails just fine. If humans were designed to be the pinnacle of creation and the dominant lifeform on Earth, why were monkeys designed with an advantage denied to humans? Evolutionists claim that primates lost their tails when the common ancestor we share with monkeys descended from living in trees. Since there was no selection pressure in favor of long prehensile tails for creatures living on the ground, shorter tails were not eliminated from the gene pool, and they eventually vanished altogether. Evolutionists call this a "use it or lose it" scenario. Clearly this sort of issue doesn't matter to an Intelligent Designer, so why don't we have the tails our furry friends enjoy?

2) Poor sense of smell. Our human sense of smell is pathetic compared to that of any dog. There's anecdotal evidence that the neural pathways for much more powerful scenting exist in the human brain, and can even be activated in special circumstances...but if so, our capacity to smell is still mostly dormant by default. Again, why do they get something we don't? The evolutionist claims this is another case of "use it or lose it" -- that when our ancestors acquired three-color vision, sight became more important to reproductive success than the ability to detect pheromones, so our once-impressive scent organs atrophied. In fact, a large portion of the brain seems to be identical to that of other mammals, including a number of features we never use. Is this because the Intelligent Designer had finished work on the mammalian brain first, and reused his work in creating man rather than making a new design from scratch?

3) Hazardous brain location. The evolutionist claims that our brains are on top of our heads for cooling; that we learned to walk upright so as to present a smaller area exposed to the rays of the sun, and therefore the brain needs to be as close to the surface as possible, rather than buried deeply where it can't radiate excess heat as easily. Advocates for the Intelligent Designer have to explain why he couldn't invent a more efficient air cooling system when human engineers design these all the time. Are humans smarter than the Intelligent Designer? Is that why our brains sit in a location where they're exposed to damage from things falling on top of the head, or an antelope femur swung at our craniums by a jealous rival? If the Intelligent Designer cared at all about our safety, surely the brain could sit inside the ribcage away from easy harm? The sense organs could still be on top, but why was the fragile brain put there as well?

4) Even more hazardous genital location. Same comments. Human male genitalia need to be al fresco because they function better with the added air cooling. Unfortunately, this also makes them extremely vulnerable to a knee in the groin. And while I'm doubled over in pain, the bastard hits me in the head with an antelope femur. I'm dead because the Intelligent Designer couldn't think of how to design a natural jockstrap built into the human body? Did he not care? Or does he actually want me dead?

5) The whole waste elimination thing. No, I'm serious here. That clenched muscular ring we call an anal sphincter is just pathetic in design terms, prone to damage and often working poorly at best. A truly intelligent Designer could have given us a setup with voluntary control, an orifice which could open and close when necessary. Since we haven't been provided with this, untold suffering and embarassment have been the result. Gaining even the slightest voluntary control over this muscle is an aspect of yoga training -- I'm not making that up -- and even then the results are slight. This part of the design seems to have no thought put into it whatsoever.

These are but a few examples. I'm afraid the evidence suggests a disturbing pattern. The so-called Intelligent Designer responsible for human beings was not as inventive or intelligent as a human engineer; he reused earlier designs without regard to their appropriateness to the task at hand; cut corners wherever possible; and generally increased hazards to the users of his design even when they could easily have been avoided. In light of this shoddy workmanship and slapdash attitude, I have no choice but to recommend that the Intelligent Designer needs to be fired immediately.
Thu, September 15, 2005 - 10:48 PM

Friday, September 09, 2005

Because someone asked

Here and here are the best description I've seen of what it's really like to write mainstream comic books.

It's a field with demands and methods as specific and unique as writing for Hollywood, but often considerably less pleasant for creative types. Not to mention much less renumerative. Please note, you do not need to have any interest in pervy millionaires who dress up as giant bats or science nerds who get bitten by radioactive spiders to find the above links informative and interesting. But if you are one of those people, you ought to read this.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Brain-sucking zombies

Back in the Thatcher era, British comedian Alexei Sayle had a joke that went something like this:

"Did you ever notice how people always hate whoever's in charge of the government, until the next one comes along and then the previous one starts looking good by comparison? Well, just how bad will the next Prime Minister have to be to make us miss Margaret Thatcher? 'Oo-er, I used to hate that Mrs. Thatcher...but ever since the brain-sucking zombies from Venus arrived and one of them became Prime Minister and it goes around sucking people's brains out of their heads, she doesn't seem so bad!'"

I mention this because just now I read a quote from Newt Gingrich:

"I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

So now I know the brain-sucking zombies from Venus must be in charge...because all of a sudden Newt seems sensible by comparison.

Unpopular thought for the day

This country spends about $1.3 billion on the war in Iraq every week.

There wasn't a vote as such on whether or not to invade Iraq; there wasn't a vote on whether or not we should let Osama bin Laden go free. This was something the American taxpayer was basically handed as a done deal...and even now that more than half the country will say it was a mistake to invade Iraq, we will likely still go on for several more years spending $1.3 billion every single week on that endeavor.

The President wants to make the suspension of the estate tax permanent. He wants to reduce federal spending and cut taxes still more. Except for that thing in Iraq, mind you, where no amount is too high...provided it doesn't go towards body armor, or adequate medical facilities for wounded troops. And then he asks Americans to donate to the Red Cross for hurricane relief.

I find that offensive. I'm sorry if anyone thinks that makes me a bad guy, but there it is.

If private charitable giving is the way to go, I say let the Pentagon get its military budget from charitable donations. If we need those funds for defense, let the Administration make its case to the American people and see if they'll voluntarily donate $1.3 billion every week to keep it going. But if you're going to collect tax money from the people, shouldn't the first priority be spending it on saving the lives of those same people?

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.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Robot wisdom on the street

I never realized I had a direct connection to the person who coined the term "weblog" and I certainly never realized what had become of him.

The direct connection stems from my early involvement with other Kate Bush fans online. I was one of the primary creators of Gaffaweb -- a once-definitive Kate Bush website that received a glowing writeup in Q Magazine, including special commendation for yours truly -- but Jorn Barger was one of the primary figures involved in building that community in the first place. That was far from his biggest contribution to the world, as his signle-handed invention of the blog and coinage of the name should make clear.

As for what has become of Jorn...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Breaking news

Leaders Vow To 'Capture Humans Responsible And Bring Them To Justice'

The tiny inhabitants of Comet Tempel 1 today fled the site of an attack by Earth scientists which left a crater the size of two football fields in their celestial body, which is approximately the size of Manhattan. Outrage on the comet was sparked by a boasts from scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to the effect that "We hit it just exactly where we wanted to" and "Its success exceeded our expectations."

"What kind of beings would deliberately do something like this?" asked one survivor of the attack. "Still, you have to admit, it did look pretty cool when it hit."

Responding to calls for immediate retaliation, the government of Tempel 1 said it was currently evaluating its options. "We want to emphasize that we are not at war with all Earth people," explained a spokesbeing, "but merely those terrorists who sent a washing-machine sized object crashing into our home on a suicide mission.

"Our current plan is to declare war on Mars, since we believe it will be a haven for Earth forces at some point in the future. We believe the conquest of Mars will take a matter of days if not weeks, but certainly not any longer than that. The Martians will welcome us as liberators as we rescue them from the prospect of further aggression by Earth.

"Beyond that, we plan to argue for the next four years or so about what kind of memorial to put in the crater."

Thursday, June 30, 2005


My friend Aziyade -- who serves as conclusive proof, if any were needed, that a person can be smart, funny, talented, gorgeous, and completely insane all at once -- has formed a tribe for me on

Don't think the appeal of being worshipped as a god hasn't occurred to me. Normally my friends are all like "Richard, you're so understanding and sympathetic" and "Richard, you're a decent writer" and "Richard, you make me chuckle on occasion" as if that's supposed to help. Nothing personal, mom! I appreciate the kind words. But the fact is, my self-esteem issues are so intractable that nothing short of total adulation and worship will really make a dent. And in this respect, frankly, my friends have fallen short all too often. Maybe this is a turning point and things are about to change. About time!

I know it won't happen all at once. Maybe you'll be watching the news and thinking "I bet this wouldn't happen if Richard were in charge!" Maybe you'll be faced with a dilemma and take a moment to ask yourself "What Would Richard Do?" Or maybe you'll be getting dressed in the morning and wonder "What can I wear that Richard will like?" For the record: I find casual, comfortable, loose-fitting clothes to be extemely sexy. But I don't want to lay too many rules on you all at once.

In the long run, I know I'm looking at increased popularity, more views of my Tribe page and blog, more people wondering "who is this fascinating RAB and how can I get to know him?" and perhaps even an invitation to join the Tribe 25. Beyond that, a new lifestyle of unbridled sensuality. My chela knows a lot of bellydancers, so I will expect a harem before long. But hey, a nonsexist equal opportunity harem; it'll have some hot guys in it so that my straight female and gay male followers can get some eye candy too. That's the kind of deity I am.

Now, I've already told Aziyade I cannot myself join this tribe in good conscience. Not until she gets a few more members. From there, I leave the matter to your individual consciences. I am a compassionate god.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

TV spot

ANNOUNCER: In our next gripping episode...


WOMAN: Doctor, my husband died of influenza. Why didn't you give him antibiotics?

TOM CRUISE: Antibiotics? If you knew -- do you have any idea -- those drugs, they have a whole history --

ANNOUNCER: ...Doctor Tom Cruise must do the hardest job any doctor faces.

TOM CRUISE: Your husband was a very sick man. His troubles were all in his reactive mind, where all these so-called illnesses originate...

WOMAN: He died of the FLU!

TOM CRUISE: Listen -- are you the doctor here? No! I am! Why? Because I say I am! You'd have to read all the papers I've read, the histories of how these drugs were invented, before you could even dream of calling yourself a doctor! You have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, okay? That's what I've done.

WOMAN: But the flu is easily treatable...

TOM CRUISE: You're being glib. Let's just solve all our troubles by taking drugs. Is that your answer? Little children, let's just pump them full of antibiotics without them knowing the effects. Do you understand that? There's no such thing as the flu. All it does is mask the problem.

ANNOUNCER: But Doctor Cruise must also confront someone with the hard truth.

PATIENT: Nothing's wrong with me, Doctor. But as a sexually active gay man, I felt it was important to have a checkup, because it pays to be careful, right?

TOM CRUISE: No. No. That's a lie. The media is trying to cram that down your throat. You're not gay. There's no such thing as gay. There's no such thing. The tabloids, the so-called journalists, they're all trying to tell you you're gay...but you're not. You're not.


TOM CRUISE: Look at Nurse Katie. I bet you want her, don't you? You'd like to screw her right now, wouldn't you?

PATIENT: No, I don't...she seems like a very nice girl, but...

TOM CRUISE: Nice? Nice? You bet she's nice. She's more than nice, and you know it. You're madly in love with her. Over the moon. But you can't have her. And you know why? Because she's mine! MINE MINE MINE!

ANNOUNCER: And Nurse Katie makes her wackiest blunder yet...

TOM CRUISE: Nurse, this patient is suffering from severe dehydration! Why weren't my instructions followed?

NURSE KATIE (six-year old girl): I sowwy, docta! I tot you wanted me to give him diuretics!

ANNOUNCER: Coming soon on the next episode of Tom Cruise, M.D.!