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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
HI! MY NAME IS! AND MY HOBBIES AND INTERESTS AND KINKS ARE.... I like this.
It's sorta like Friendster, but in the real world: electronic name tags that can store personal information and wirelessly share it with other people around you. The nTag, as it's called, has 128K of memory, a two-line display, and built-in infrared. The idea is that besides just putting your name and where you're from you could also list your hobbies or favorite movies or whatever, and so that people with similar interests could automatically find each other:
When two attendees come within 3 to 5 feet and their nTags are facing each other, information is shared between the tags, using invisible infra-red beams of light. George Eberstadt, an nTag company co-founder, says the system uses advanced software to figure out what information to show on the tags' displays. And the algorithms aren't looking for just 'matching' information, but for topics that would hopefully 'break the ice' and generate social interaction."
SCRAP THE DMCA: Since that's not on the table, here's a smale scrape of a start.
Representative Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) has written the Digital Media Consumer Rights Act (HR 107), which would make it legal to, among other things, create an archival copy of a CD or DVD. Good fix for a bad law - but why not just blow up the DMCA instead?
The music industry began using a novel tactic yesterday in its fight against music piracy -- sending instant messages that pop up on the computer screens of people as they are swapping unauthorized copies of songs.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the five major music companies and hundreds of record labels, is using the instant-messaging systems of the Grokster and Kazaa file-sharing services to notify users that they may be violating copyright laws by "uploading" songs to be copied free by other users.
The RIAA is calling the IM campaign "targeted education." The RIAA has software that enables it to find users swapping songs on the Internet. When users sign up for file-sharing services such as Kazaa and Grokster, they can opt to open their computer hard drives to outsiders.
Other RIAA software travels the Internet, identifies file sharers, and sends "notice and takedown" messages, telling file-sharers to cease or face lawsuits or prosecution.
Reports that the RIAA will soon be sending meatware known as "thugs" ("Vinny 1.1") to the dwellings of people they suspect of copyright infringement to deliver similar messages can not be verified at this time.
ROOSTING: You and I have both read endlessly about prescription drug benefits as a national American political issue.
Well, holy fricking Jeebus Christos (the guy who does the wraps, you know): those five prescriptions came out, getting generics, to be ~$140 for a few days supply.
Apparently I'll have to work on diet and exercise, because I can't possibly afford to lower my blood pressure at a cost of ~$120 a week.
Just thinking about it raises my blood pressure.
I can only imagine what the emergency room stay and tests will cost, and I'd rather not. I started a new job a bit over two months ago. In a bit over one month, I have health insurance! No prescription drug coverage, though.
Meanwhile, immense thanks to those who have sent best wishes. I'm astonished at the response of you all, including people I'd never thought had a clue I existed, such as Mickey Kaus [you never know who might read you -- ed], and people I've corresponded with many times, but not recently, and greatly admire, such as James Lileks, and friends I've just not been in touch with for too long a time, such as Kathryn Cramer.
Mucho thanks awfully and also to those who have suggesting tapping my tip jar, such as Thomas Nephew and Glenn Reynolds and others. My. I wasn't even, like, trying for sympathy, what with life going decently, if not splendidly, with an adequate (if not more) job, a stable living situation, and all that there. People can be good. I thank you all.
Incidentally, is there anyone else out there whose brain gets turned to mud/jello/cotton candy by taking antibiotics? Because I suddenly remembered that I've always had that happen. And.... ooh, pretty colors.
I VOW: This will never be a group blog site. This will never be a group blog. You will never read multiple voices posting to Amygdala. It won't happen here. (Yeah, I have a ton of fun playing at "our staff," "our board," "our employees," etc.; it's a game, dude.)
For all my playful use of voice, this will always remain the blog of, well, me, me, me, me. Gary Farber.
Not that, of cousrse, I don't love many group voice blogs I love a bunch of them.
They're just not me.
Not now, not ever.
It's a stubborn individualist thing.
And I may, therefore, as we've seen, because, alas -- and alas, and alas, and alas -- keep you waiting for some weeks or months. At times.
Oops. Sorry about that. I can't even promise to keep it worthwhile.
HI, KIDS! I'm just back from a lovely five hour stay at Boulder Community Hospital. Good news! I probably don't have SARS -- though there's no test, and they could consider me a "suspect" case, given my near-fit of the profile -- but they won't, unless I get worse!
It's only pneumonia I've had for (at least) four days now! Go, me!
Good news! I didn't have a heart attack last night! I only have a highly enlarged heart valve and incredibly high blood pressure! Yay!
Apparently 220/140 is a bad thing.
So then they kept sticking my ass with needles, and then giving me little pills, while the Magic Monitor kept automatically checking my blood pressure every ten minutes, and bleeping off alarms each time.
Hours would pass, I'd be given more little pills, and they'd come back, frowning and with brows furrowed, and my blood pressure Just Wasn't Dropping.
Finally it did come down to hovering vaguely near 160/115, and they decided to free up the room (woohoo: your own examining room; BCH not comparable to Bellevue Hell, I kid you not), though they did all give me the impression that they were rather expecting me to imitate a character from David Cronnenberg's Scanners at any moment.
What's that, you ask? Do I have a fever? Now, would I write like this if I didn't have a fever?
Well, yes, as you know, of course I would.
But since you've so kindly asked, yes, I do have a (mild) fever, and mostly have been coughing my lungs out and panting for breath. But, hey, they gave me five different prescriptions! Including for Vicodin for the chest muscle pain! Woo-hoo!
So please excuse me; I'm now going to spend some time looking at fractal images and exclaiming: "Wow... the colors, man! The colors!"
(Comments addressed to me best left in the comment box, if it's working; god knows when I'll feel up to cleaning out my e-mail inbox of several thousand spams to find the Real Mail.)
Helpful suggestions for how the Tories can return to power in Britain. Once:
The Conservatives were invincible.
Now? It's hard not to feel a twinge of pity. And an even stronger sense that we at the Guardian could, if we wanted, do it better. So, unencumbered by party internal loyalties and enmities, we would, we thought, brain-storm our way to a new, revitalised Conservative party.
And then we would share. With you the reader, of course, and with the Tories themselves. Not because of any of that old, pious "we want an effective opposition" nonsense, but out of pure, vainglorious hubris.
As Ben said of his New Labour: "Blair's main message was to say 'We used to be mental and now we aren't', and that was basically it."
CHILDREN ESCAPING FROM FROM TOTALITARIAN HELL: Harrowing, detailed, account of one young North Korean, and what happens to others like him.
Next to Heo was the Evergreen School's only girl, and its voluble alpha, Se-ok, a 19-year-old with pretty, almost fragile features and a gift for languages. There was also a boy named Yum, an erratic rebel with dyed orange hair who owned a motorcycle and came and went from the house much like a stray cat. Meanwhile, a boy named Han, who rarely talked and had a dark stoicism suggesting some hidden pain, sat quietly before another computer terminal, a flowering scar on his face. And then there were the others: Kum, in love with his trumpet; Kang, in love with his soccer ball; Yong, perhaps the most handsome and well dressed; and Seoung, who was always smiling at the constant banter among housemates.
These other refugees were the only ones who could understand the digital speed at which their lives were changing -- and what it meant, too, to feel like aliens on a different planet.
Yet it was in Najaf on April 2, well before the rituals of the devout got underway, that a throng of Iraqis gathered around an American reporter to plead for water and to list their hopes. One man, a civil engineer, succinctly laid out the benefits that he thought Americans could help bring to Iraq.
"We want very nice," the engineer, Quesay Mohammed, said.
What else, he was asked.
"Democracy!" he said. A few people around him muttered their approval.
"Whiskey!" he said, raising his voice. This time, more people laughed, and some applauded.
MATRIX, MATRIX, MATRIX: Interviews with Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne Moss, and Laurence Fishburne (come a long way from when he was fifteen, spending that year in the Phillipines, acting in Apocolypse Now). Lots more stuff, interviews with other members of the production.
Interestingly, the director of photography, who has done all four Wachowski Brothers films,
...GOT HIS START serving on "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi's early cult classics "Darkman" (1990) and "Army of Darkness" (1993)....
(He's now working on The Amazing Spiderman.)
Read The Rest Scale: will you choose the red pill, or the blue pill, Neo?
SARS -- THE CHINESE EXOTIC ANIMAL MARKET CONNECTION.
An hour south of Guangzhou, the Dongyuan animal market presents endless opportunities for an emerging germ. In hundreds of cramped stalls that stink of blood and guts, wholesale food vendors tend to veritable zoos that will grace Guangdong Province's tables: snakes, chickens, cats, turtles, badgers, frogs. And, in summer, sometimes rats, too.
They are all stacked in cages one on top of another -- which in turn serve as seats, card tables and dining quarters for the poor migrants who work there. On a recent morning, near stall 17, there were beheaded snakes, disemboweled frogs and feathers flying as a half-alive headless bird was plunked into a basket.
If you were a corona virus, like the one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS, it would be easy to move from animals to humans in the kitchens and food stalls of Guangdong, a province notorious for exotic cuisine prepared with freshly killed beasts.
Indeed, preliminary studies of early SARS victims here in Guangdong have found that an unusually high percentage were in the catering profession -- a tantalizing clue, perhaps, to how a germ that genetically most resembles chicken and rodent viruses has gained the ability to infect thousands of humans.
I'd like my SARS with curry, please. Extra, extra, extra, extra, extra hot.
Fun in ever-laid-back Singapore:
"Welcome to Singapore! Are you feeling well today?" chimes a chorus of nurses, their faces covered by masks, their eyes by goggles, their bodies by yellow hospital gowns. Passengers coming from other countries with SARS are guided to pass through a high-tech thermal scanner that picks up temperatures over 100. Masked soldiers are there to escort away those with fever.
Those who pass muster are given a card warning that they might have been exposed to a deadly disease. Those who are feverish are whisked, without apology, into a 10-day quarantine, and Singapore means business. Video cameras will be installed in the home by a security firm, to make sure patients do not stray. Those few who do are tagged with an electronic wristband that records their movements.
But even in a small country, placing thousands on quarantine has been a strain. Last Monday, after a case of SARS was discovered in a vendor at Singapore's largest vegetable market, the Ministry of Health ordered all 2,400 food sellers to report for quarantine, up from a total of 467 quarantined before. Since 80 percent of the country's vegetables pass through the Pasir Panjang Market, restaurants were bracing for a shortage of greens.
SURVIVAL RESEARCH LABS, as published by Newsweek, an excerpt from GEARHEADS: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports by Brad Stone.
About 500 Bay Area dwellers showed up. They were artists and hackers, students and computer scientists. Many echoed the same excited sentiment: Finally, after a wait of several years, the robots of SRL -- Survival Research Labs -- were about to walk the earth once more.
The show was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. In typical SRL manner (and despite the urgency of the e-mail), the guerilla arts group kept the crowd waiting outside for an hour. While the spectators lingered, two uniformed Berkeley police officers walked by, poked their heads into the makeshift doorway, and started asking questions. "What the heck is going on here? What are those . . . things . . . inside?"
On one side the stationary contraptions were lined up in an orderly row that belied the mayhem they were about to produce. Most conspicuous were the two racing tires of the Pitching Machine. Powered by a 200-horsepower V-8 engine, the wheels would spin in opposite directions, taking two-by-four wooden planks from a conveyor belt and spitting them out at 120 miles per hour, like rounds of machine-gun fire. Next to the Pitching Machine was the long, phallic shaft of the Shockwave Cannon. This fiendish contraption would harness explosions of acetylene and oxygen, directing an eardrum-splitting blast of air and noise that could break windows 700 feet away. Next to that was the mechanism simply dubbed "Boeing." It was an actual jet engine with fuel injectors and an ignition system, designed to produce a long spear of fire -- a flamethrower on anabolic steroids. Finally, closest to the audience, was the Pulsejet, calculated to generate a constant thunderous roar of 140 brain-crunching, permit-flouting decibels.
YOU WANT SCALE? I'LL GIVE YOU SCALE. Nifty site charting length and height at one pixel per meter real life Earth buildings and structures along with all the starships of Star Trek, Babylon 5, and other visual sf. Realize just how big that Star Wars Space Slug is! (See also the MegaPenny Project; you'll thank me one novemtrigintillion times.)
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for visual amusement. (Via BoingBoing.)
Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria has the perfect intellectual pedigree (Indian-born, educated at Harvard, conservative) for a fast-changing world, and the kinds of friends in high places who can push a career into overdrive. The first Muslim secretary of State? Don't bet against it.
By Marion Maneker
My friends all say i'm going to be Secretary of State," Fareed Zakaria muses from a banquette in the Grill Room at The Four Seasons. "But I don’t see how that would be much different from the job I have now."
The 39-year-old Newsweek foreign-affairs columnist is about to expand on this thought. But then Donald Marron, the former CEO of PaineWebber, walks over with Ken Duberstein, the former Reagan lieutenant, in tow. Cordial and courtly, Zakaria charms the two elder lions before picking up the thread of conversation. He's not boasting. He's comparing the core requirements of his job as a columnist -- boning up on policy positions, balancing competing points of view, then making a clear, stick-out-your-neck decision -- to the job of running the State Department.
Would he want the job? Before he can answer, Mort Zuckerman, who's been having lunch with Ed Kosner, the editor of Zuckerman's Daily News, heaves into view. Zuckerman praises the young man genuinely, then moves on. But a few feet away, at the top of the restaurant's stairs, the real-estate developer and media dabbler stops to examine a blowup of the cover of Cosmopolitan, directing guests to an advertiser's lunch in the Pool Room next door. Zuckerman considers the voluptuous model who seems to be staring at Zakaria with a smoldering look, then delivers his punch line: "This guy's so hot even the cover girl wants to meet him."
Time travel to 18th-century England is now possible.
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court, are going digital at www.oldbaileyonline.org. About 22,000 trials from 1714 to 1759 are already online; a total of more than 100,000 trials stretching from 1674 to 1834 are to be available next year. The proceedings are said to be the largest body of texts detailing the lives of ordinary people before the 19th century.
Start with the Notable Trials page (found under About the Proceedings) for an overview of the judicial system of the time. A robust search feature allows queries by such variables as name, crime and type of punishment. Not even Dickens could top these plots, not to mention the dialogue ("I desire you would ask him if I owe him any Thing for Milk?" was the question that Thomas Nash, an accused wife-murderer, asked the trial court to pose to the deliveryman who found the body). Visitors can even create their own interactive tables of statistics to satisfy their curiosity about which crimes were most common, say, or how many led to the pillory.
THE VELVET HAMMER: Terrific essay by Matt Welch on one of the greatest people of my lifetime, Vaclav Havel.
Havel went on to discuss the futility of those who would pin an ideological tag to his lapel. "All my adult life, I was branded by officials as 'an exponent of the right' who wanted to bring capitalism back to our country," he wrote. "Today -- at a ripe old age -- I am suspected by some of being left-wing, if not of harboring out-and-out socialist tendencies. What, then, is my real position? First and foremost, I have never espoused any ideology, dogma, or doctrine -- left-wing, right-wing, or any other closed, ready-made system of presuppositions about the world. On the contrary, I have tried to think independently, using my own powers of reason, and I have always vigorously resisted attempts to pigeonhole me."
In the minds of many people, the conquest/liberation of Iraq was a terrible thing; a failure, a bout of imperialism, a victory that will come bite us on our ass. In the minds of many others, it's a great liberation of people from dictatorship and terror, a sound strategic move, a victory of liberalism and freedom.
I view it as the latter. But the argument continues. We'll know more inarguably in a few years.
In the nearly two centuries between Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and "The Matrix," science fiction has captivated countless millions of readers, listeners and viewers. Now one of them is taking his obsession to a higher level, investing $10 million to $20 million to build a temple to the genre.
Paul G. Allen, a billionaire businessman and co-founder of Microsoft, is planning to build a "cultural project" in Seattle that will seek to draw visitors into the science-fiction experience.
Details of the project are to be announced today. Preliminary plans suggest that if it comes to fruition, it would be part museum, part amusement park and part little boy's fantasy.
His new venture, tentatively called SFX -- The Science Fiction Experience, is to fill 13,000 square feet of exhibit space that has been part of the Experience Music Project, a multimedia museum devoted to American popular music, especially rock 'n' roll. (The museum was also conceived by Mr. Allen, along with his sister, Jody Patton.) Mr. Allen owns the building, which was designed by Frank Gehry and is a Seattle landmark. The science-fiction project is scheduled to open in the summer of 2004.
According to promotional material, SFX "will explore our culture through the broad, historic and compelling lens of science fiction." The material promises models of "bug-eyed monsters" and exhibits that illustrate "science fiction's alternate realities."
In an interview, Mr. Allen said the enterprise would be incorporated as a nonprofit enterprise but might eventually become a business. He called it "a hybrid project" that would have "a multimedia component" but would "not be a theme park or a ride."
The announcement of this project comes as museums in several cities are postponing or scaling down new building projects. Some arts organizations are reeling from large cuts in public and corporate giving. But Mr. Allen said he would bear all the costs of SFX himself.
"I see it as a jumping-off project for examining the future."
Plans call for a hall of fame for science-fiction heroes, another hall shaped like the interior of a spaceship and a third that would commemorate terrifying aliens and other evil creatures. SFX's advisory board includes the science-fiction writers Greg Bear, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler and Arthur C. Clarke.
Writers like those transfixed Mr. Allen when he was young. He said he was a small child when he stumbled on a book called "Spaceship Galileo" and has been "a huge fan" of science fiction ever since.
Sheesh. All I have to do is move out of Seattle, and a mere seventeen years later, a project like this, where I've got great qualifications for an interesting job, is announced. Why wasn't I patient?