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Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
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.
Statistical machine translation - in which computers essentially learn new languages on their own instead of being "taught" the languages by bilingual human programmers - has taken off. The new technology allows scientists to develop machine translation systems for a wide number of obscure languages at a pace that experts once thought impossible.
Dr. Knight and others said the progress and accuracy of statistical machine translation had recently surpassed that of the traditional machine translation programs used by Web sites like Yahoo and BabelFish. In the past, such programs were able to compile extensive databanks of foreign languages that allowed them to outperform statistics-based systems.
Traditional machine translation relies on painstaking efforts by bilingual programmers to enter the vast wealth of information on vocabulary and syntax that the computer needs to translate one language into another. But in the early 1990's, a team of researchers at I.B.M. devised another way to do things: feeding a computer an English text and its translation in a different language. The computer then uses statistical analysis to "learn" the second language.
Today researchers are racing to improve the quality and accuracy of the translations. The final translations generally give an average reader a solid understanding of the original meaning but are far from grammatically correct. While not perfect, statistics-based technology is also allowing scientists to crack scores of languages in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost, that traditional methods involved.
A team of computer scientists at Johns Hopkins led by David Yarowsky is developing machine translations of such languages as Uzbek, Bengali, Nepali - and one from "Star Trek."
"If we can learn how to translate even Klingon into English, then most human languages are easy by comparison," he said. "All our techniques require is having texts in two languages. For example, the Klingon Language Institute translated 'Hamlet' and the Bible into Klingon, and our programs can automatically learn a basic Klingon-English MT system from that.''
Dr. Yarowsky said he hoped to have working translation systems for as many as 100 languages within five years.
I do believe they've invented the Universal Translator, ladies and germs.
REGARDING THE NEXT WEEK OR SO: Although there are some exceedingly uneasy-making uncertainties involved at the moment, I expect to be moving my residence (across Boulder) on Friday, August 1st. At present it seems far and away most likely that I won't have home internet access restored until at least another week and a half or so from then. So expect no blogging for that period, and be not thee alarmed.
I continue, incidentally, to not have access to my e-mail server, as has been the case for a bunch of weeks now, and at this point I don't expect to resolve that until I have time after I get internet access back. Awfully sorry about that.
Meanwhile, I hope all twelve of my readers have got some slight something or other out of my current spurt of blogging, done in-between packing, discarding, and arranging. Feel free to comment; it does make it feel a bit less like I'm just talking to six people.
NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION: Speaking of James Leander Cathcart, as I did below, I did a bit more reading on this fascinating man, and found the 1797 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between "Tripoli" and the United States of America.
As you know, Bob, treaties are the highest law of the land, according to the US Constitution. There have been arguments about this treaty, but it remains interesting.
"Article 11. As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries" (p. 365).
"Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all others citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfil the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof" (p. 383).
BOARD!: I'd never read any detail of the story of the Philadelphia and Stephen Decatur, Jr. before.
It was February 16, 1804.
By 9:30 P.M. the ketch had reached a strangely stunted vessel, lacking a foremast or sails, anchored directly beneath the castle's guns. This was the U.S. frigate Philadelphia, which had been captured the previous fall when it had run aground outside the harbor. Most of its crew now languished in Tripolitan prisons, working as slaves breaking rocks while surviving on black bread. The Philadelphia had been part of a flotilla dispatched from America to the distant waters of the Mediterranean to wage war on Tripoli, whose warships preyed on American merchantmen. Losing the Philadelphia had been a cruel blow to America's hopes -- and a big boost to the pasha of Tripoli, whose puny fleet had gained a powerful punch by salvaging the U.S. frigate with its 36 cannons.
Read The Rest: for grand drama, and other interesting history, further down. (Note the fascinating tale of James Leander Cathcart.) (Here's more.)
Oh, incidentally, and interestingly:
Today Decatur is remembered, if at all, for coining the phrase, "My country, right or wrong." (What he actually said, in a toast, was: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!")
Which is certainly not remotely as jingoistic and criticizable as the former glossing. It really reverses the common meaning: it fully admits that "our country" may, and implicitly will, at times, be wrong, and says nothing about endorsement of such wrong behavior or judgment; it merely says that it remains one's country, which seems rather uncontroverisal, in the end.
(As example: "our country" was terribly, horribly, criminally, wrong, at My Lai; it's still "our country" that was wrong.) .
MOUTHS THAT ROAR: There have been many fine reviews and denunciations of Ann Coulter's latest, just as there were of Michael Moore's. But the eminently sane Anne Applebaum's is one of the best.
I should reveal here that I have spent a great deal of time -- perhaps the better part of the last 10 years -- writing about communism, Stalinism and the West's relationship to both. Yet about halfway through Treason, an extended rant on these subjects, I felt a strong urge to get up, throw the book across the room, and join up with whatever Leninist-Trotskyite-Marxist political parties still exist in America. Even the company of Maoist insurgents would be more intellectually invigorating than that of Ann Coulter. More to the point, whatever side this woman is on, I don't want to be on it.
It isn't very difficult to explain why this book is so bad....
But while some people go mad trying to absorb everything, others seem to go mad trying to eliminate any information that doesn't fit their predetermined stereotypes. And the looniest of all -- they wind up as bestselling authors.
THE PERSON YOU ARE TRYING TO REACH HAS BEEN DISCONNECTED. A life less ordinary.
One of the most recognizable voices in the country was silenced Tuesday. Jane Barbe, who recorded messages used by telephone companies across the country, died of complications from cancer at the age of 74.
Over the past 40 years, if you didn't get through to the party you wanted, you probably still got through to Barbe.
She was the "telephone lady" that delivered the message, "We're sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed."
A drama major at the University of Georgia, Barbe started recording the announcements in 1963.
Twenty years later, she was making even the most disjointed of messages sound smooth as silk.
Messages such as, "The number you have reached has been changed. The new number is …"
Although she largely masked her Georgia accent on her recordings, in person she was the model of Southern hospitality, taking her odd brand of anonymous fame in stride.
"I don't think anybody even knows who I am until somebody says I'm the lady on the phone," she said in a past interview. "Then the others say, 'Oh, really?'"
Barbe said she always did her best not to sound like a machine. Instead, she tried to address her telephone audience one caller at a time.
She said it could be overwhelming if she started to think she was talking to 22 million people a day.
That, of course, would have required a very split personality.
I suddenly have a whole sketch in mind in which one person in a dialogue responds in the tones and manner Ms. Barbe used. But it's entirely dependent upon delivery.
Getting a quickie divorce has taken on a whole new meaning in Malaysia after it was decided that a man can divorce his wife with a text message.
The government's adviser on religious affairs, the man who counsels Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said as long as the message was clear and unambiguous it was valid under Islamic Sharia law.
"SMS is just another form of writing," Dr Abdul Hamid Othman was quoted by the New Straits Times daily newspaper as saying.
The decision follows a Malaysian court's ruling on Thursday in favour of a man who served divorce on his wife via a text message.
Mr Shamsudin was said to have sent Ms Azida a text message saying: "If you do not leave your parents' house, you'll be divorced".
Although such a notification of divorce may seem astonishingly brief to some, under Islamic law men are allowed to divorce their wives simply be saying the word 'talaq' - I divorce you - three times.
After all, what I tell you three times is true. Besides, how hard should it be to get rid of a raisin? (Am I being too esoteric and inexplicably allusive?)
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Doctors said Idi Amin, blamed for the murders of tens of thousands of Ugandans during his bloody dictatorship in the 1970s, was still alive in a Saudi hospital Tuesday.
There ain't no justice.
Can we hope that this is another story Reuters rewrote to be counter-factual?
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to keep its peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo for another year.
It has also agreed to increase the number of troops, observers and political officers by 2,100, taking the total number to 10,800.
As I've pointed out before, the Congo consists of 2,345,410 sq km. As the Factbook puts it, it is "slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US."
I'm sure you'll see that this means that 10,800 troops will easily be able to pacify the land, utterly unlike the 8,700 previously authorized.
(Let's pay no attention to the fact that many of these are "observers and political officers.")
Completely different! 2,100 will make all the difference! Why, that makes only 2345.41 sq. kilometers per trooper, "observer and political officer." Piece of cake now!
The Security Council also gave peacekeepers a stronger mandate.
They had been allowed to defend themselves and UN facilities but now they will also be able to protect civilians and humanitarian workers who are under imminent threat of physical violence.
Ever see Barry Levinson's superb film, Avalon? There's a scene in which Armin Mueller-Stahl, as the immigrant grandfather, is utterly unable to understand the elementary school teacher's explanation that she is punishing Elijah Wood because he keeps asking "can I go to the bathroom?" and doesn't understand the teacher's response: "you can go to the bathroom, but you may not!"
Apparently the UN suffers the same lack of understanding of the difference between what a peacekeeping force "may" do, and what they "can" do.
The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002. It also came when a growing number of states facing large budget deficits have begun trying to reduce prison costs by easing tough sentencing laws passed in the 1990's, thereby decreasing the number of inmates.
At the end of 2002, there were 2,166,260 Americans in local jails, state and federal prisons and juvenile detention facilities, the report found.
But in the federal prison system, which with 163,528 inmates is now larger than any state system, 48 percent of the growth in the number of prisoners from 1995 to 2001 was accounted for by drug crimes and only 9 percent by violent crimes.
YOUR SUPERPOWERS are here. "Superpowers" is the theme of the entire August Wiredissue. Some amusing stuff, but.
Quick: What did you have for dinner on June 17, 1986? You're stumped because of all the protein phosphatase 1 coursing through your brain. PP1 is an enzyme that plays a crucial, albeit little understood, role in memory. The less you have, it seems, the more likely you are to remember your spouse's birthday or the names of your boss's kids.
Or, if you're a mouse, how to navigate a maze. Last year, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich disabled the gene responsible for PP1 production in a number of mice. Compared with their untweaked peers, the engineered rodents performed far better at memory-intensive tasks. If humans could be similarly modified, our corresponding brains might become extraordinarily retentive.The next step is to identify the PP1 gene in humans and find a way to shut it down.
And that might work out very well, but then again, maybe not. I'm not the first person to speculate that it might be quite hellish if one were unable to forget a variety of incidents and experiences, or that one might become overwhelmingly confused if one's head were jammed with Every Single Sense Memory Ever. Maybe not, but: you go first.
An apparent typo:
A human body comprises some 1027 atoms, a seemingly insurmountable number at present.
Rather suspect that slipped from "10 to the 27th power."
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for interesting tech.
A LIFE LESS EXTRAORDINARY: Nice little profile of Alan Moore, complete with brief commentary on the recent film adaption:
But what does he think of the decision to add Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde's eternally youthful anti-hero) and Sawyer? 'What can you do with Dorian Gray, other than say 'Oh, hello Dorian, you're looking good'?' he scoffs. 'He's just somebody that's got Botox a century before everyone else. That's about as much use as he is. And then you've got [adopts voice of 'that pre-cancerous guy who does the trailers'] 'The Gunman' and there's Tom and I thought -- hold on, I don't actually remember a sequence in Tom Sawyer where we see his abilities as a gunman, but I suppose [voice again] 'The White Picket-Fence Painter' probably wouldn't have the same ring to it.'
The rest is pretty much the usual, but amusing anyway. Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5
EIGHT GREAT DENVER BLOGS is a piece Denver blogger and journalist Dave Cullen posted a while ago, in which he was kind enough to include yr. hmbl. obt. srvt.
Now he's written an expansion for Denver's local area magazine, 5280, which is vaguely the local equivalent of New York magazine (the name comes from the alleged height of the area).
Dave labels our crack venue's topic, in his list, as "Libertarian politics."
Which should amuse some of my older friends, who can recall many long rants from me on What Pisses Me Off About Libertarians And Libertarianism.
I wrote in his comments:
I generally remain prudently silent when someone plonks a political label on me, but I'll murmur that I'm as amused as ever. I've been, repeatedly, at various times, considered and called, in no particular order, a communist, a conservative, a socialist, a centrist, a radical, a liberal, a libertarian, a die-hard Democrat, an obvious life-long Republican, hopelessly politically confused, and searingly clear-eyed.
Among other labels.
As a rule, people doing this haven't read me for very long.
To be sure, Dave's not the first person to consider me a libertarian, and I am partially libertarian.
Among other streaks.
I'm just a libertarian who also believes in a certain degree of progressive redistribution of wealth and a certain amount of government regulation and interventionism in some areas.
(I'm for as much personal liberty as can be achieved within a context of a certain degree of social and personal justice, and as much social and personal justice as can be achieved within a context of personal liberty.)
Shaheen Sehbai is a Pakistani journalist who, until last year, edited the News, the largest English-language newspaper in Pakistan. I asked him about efforts by I.S.I. officials to find bin Laden. "I question how hard they're trying," he said. "I think they're not looking very hard, because he'll always remain a bargaining chip." Sehbai attended college in Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province. He speaks Pashto, the local dialect, and said, "I know that area like the back of my hand." He rejects the prevailing argument in Islamabad that the Musharraf government cannot do more because the region is beyond the reach of its laws. "Every tribal chief is in the pocket of the government in Pakistan," he said. "The tribal areas are divided into agencies, and each has an administrator, who is part of the Pakistani civil service." Tribal leaders rarely defy these federal administrators, he said. He has seen suspected murderers and high-profile kidnappers flee into the tribal areas, only to be turned over by the chiefs to local authorities within days. "There would be more resistance in bin Laden's case, because of ideological sympathy," Sehbai acknowledged. "But if the government seriously wanted him they'd know where he is, and under whose protection. In the past, the Army has laid siege to villages and burned them to the ground. I've heard of no such operations with bin Laden."
In America, too, the vigor of Pakistan's efforts has come into doubt. "Bin Laden is their Get Out of Jail Free card," Yossef Bodansky said. "Every time we complain about the heroin production, they say, 'Look, we're helping you with bin Laden,' and we backpedal. When we complain about Pakistan sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir, they invoke bin Laden, and we backpedal. 'We're on your side,' they say. But I think there's strong evidence that Pakistan is shielding him." Bodansky also charged that the Pakistanis have produced major Al Qaeda members only when it served their own political purposes.
BILL GIBSON FINDS THAT TYPOS don't spruce up his work.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for amusement. (It rather takes away from the illusion that Bill is actually blogging, though, that most of the past month's posts are published twice, and in all these weeks, no one has bothered to correct this.)
Meet the latest spaced out modern artist - a picture-drawing robot arm in Australia whose brain sits in a petri dish in the US.
Working from their university labs in two different corners of the world, American and Australian researchers have created what they call a new class of creative beings: "the semi-living artist".
Gripping three coloured markers positioned above a white canvas, a robotic arm churns out drawings akin to that of a three-year-old. Its guidance comes from around 50,000 rat neurons in a petri dish 19,000 kilometres away.
The "brain" lives at Dr Steve Potter's lab at Georgia's Institute of Technology, Atlanta, while the "body" is located at Guy Ben-Ary's lab at the University of Western Australia, Perth.
The two ends communicate with each other in real-time through the internet.
The project represents the team's effort to create a semi-living entity that learns like the living brains in people and animals do, adapting and expressing itself through art.
BRUSH PASS: Some great detail on CIA and KGB operations and personnel here and here.
Run by Jack Platt, a gruff ex-Marine and longtime Soviet targets officer, the six-week course simulated "Moscow Rules." The new case officers had to pass messages and receive documents from "spies" even as they were being trailed through Washington by teams of FBI agents playing the part of a hostile counterintelligence service. The FBI agents played hard-because the course kept them sharp for following real Soviet spies. Still, the best-trained CIA officers in the course could defeat the FBI, often through the use of sophisticated electronic devices, such as burst transmission equipment, that allowed them to pass messages without face-to-face contact.
But the FBI always had a lesson in store. The trainees-often with their spouses in tow-would go out on what they thought was an ordinary operation and walk into an explosive surprise arrest. They'd be roughed up and charged with drug dealing by FBI agents who were totally convincing in making it seem as though the bust had nothing to do with the IO course. After a few hours of questioning, only the most controlled students had the will to hold back their CIA connections. Invariably, some would try to talk their way out by explaining that there had been some horrible mistake: You see, Officer, I was loitering on a deserted street corner late at night with this woman, who happens to be my wife, as part of a CIA training exercise, not to sell drugs.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Former Czech President Vaclav Havel opened a Rolling Stones concert in Prague's Letna Park Sunday night by wishing Mick Jagger a happy birthday and recalling the mass gatherings that toppled communism.
A day earlier, Jagger celebrated his 60th birthday with a private party in Prague that the former Czech leader attended.
Before he left the party at Duplex, a club on Wenceslas Square, Havel gave Jagger a crystal base by the artist Borek Sipek.
"I congratulate Mick Jagger on his 60th birthday and I thank him for deciding to celebrate it in Prague," Havel told the fans at the concert.
Somehow I don't imagine George W. Bush will ever be doing this.
RECOVERED MEMORIES, ALIEN ABDUCTIONS, AND ACADEMIC POLITICS: A great story.
What the two sides disagree on is whether painful memories of traumatic events can actually be repressed -- completely forgotten -- and then ''recovered'' years later in therapy. Many clinicians say yes: it is how we instinctively protect ourselves from childhood recollections that would otherwise be too dire to bear. Most cognitive psychologists say no: real trauma is almost never forgotten; full-blown, traumatic memories dredged up decades later through hypnosis are almost invariably false.
Clancy, now 33, wasn't fully alive to the schismatic politics back then. She simply saw a puzzling, inviting gap in the data. ''You had two groups in opposite camps that were battling each other out'' over the validity of recovered memories, Clancy says. ''But nobody was doing research on the group that was at the center of the controversy -- the people who were reporting recovered memories. Memory function in that group had never been examined in the laboratory.''
So she decided to devote herself to that task, which would end up occupying her pretty much full time for the next seven years.
THE GENIUS OF WARREN ZEVON is proclaimed by Brian Linse, after hearing an advance copy of Zevon's new album, The Wind.
Three words: Oh. My. God.
Expectations are naturally very high given the circumstances of this recording, but I'm here to tell you that the work exceeds even my best hopes for a fitting final album from one of my all-time favorite artists.
It is a remarkably joyous and upbeat collection of classic Zevon compositions, tending to be more straightforward and accessible like some of his earlier work, but reflecting the wisdom and irony of an extraordinary life led by one of American popular music's few true geniuses. Zevon's two previous Artemis releases were proof of his comeback as a composer, and though they were darker and more complex than The Wind, they fit perfectly with his final effort and cap a late career surge that most artists could only dream of.
The album boasts an amazing collection of guest artists, but it is 100% pure Zevon. If you never take my word on anything else, do yourself a favor and trust me on this one. Buy it the minute it comes out on August 26th, or you can pre-order it here.
Send money. Lawyers and guns unnecessary.
Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5, though reading Brian's site is always worthwhile.
It was only in December 1996 that Hussein accepted the oil-for-food program, and only in 1997 that it became effective in alleviating some, though not all, of the torments of the Iraqi people.
At the same time, the French and the Russians were pushing hard within the Security Council either for a ratcheting down or an outright lifting of sanctions. Nancy Soderberg states flatly that the French and the Russians allowed their eagerness to develop business deals with Iraq to affect their work on the 661 Committee. ''The French and Russians wanted to make money,'' she told me. ''By the time of the second gulf war, the Russians had $40 billion in prospective deals with Saddam Hussein's regime.'' (As for the French, as the International Peace Academy's David Malone puts it, ''Paris never offered an effective alternative to sanctions, simply grandstanding on humanitarian questions while doing business with Iraq.'')
In many ways, Saddam Hussein became a master at manipulating the sanctions system to his own ends. Under the rubric of the oil-for-food program, the United Nations allowed the Iraqis themselves to publish their list of humanitarian requirements and then to select the foreign companies with which it wished to do business. This provision meant that the Iraqi government was able to set up a well-orchestrated system of kickback schemes in which a contract would be signed at far more than the cost of fulfilling it, with the difference deposited secretly by the selected contractors in Iraqi government-controlled accounts all over the world. As a result, Saddam Hussein and the Baath elite got rich off the sanctions, and a great many international businessmen, notably in the Arab world, in France and in Russia, made handsome profits as well.
''The Syrians, the Jordanians, the Turks -- they all had their own deals,'' Nancy Soderberg recalls.
Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein used the pretext of the sanctions to wage a propaganda war -- one that even many American officials would later concede he probably won. Not only did Hussein use the sanctions to rationalize to Iraqis every shortage they were enduring, but he also proved himself a kind of genius at exaggerating and exploiting the effects of sanctions that were already tragic enough when reported truthfully. To rally his population, and probably also in a bid to win support from Western sympathizers and the international media, Saddam Hussein orchestrated a kind of traffic in suffering -- all meant for the television cameras.
One doctor I spoke to who spent several years in a hospital in the provincial city of Baquba, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, told me that the hospital staff had instructions, whenever a child died, to keep the corpse in the morgue rather than burying it immediately as mandated by Islamic custom. ''When a sufficient number of bodies accumulated,'' he explained, ''the authorities would stage a mass funeral, railing against the sanctions, even though as often as not there was no connection between a particular child's death and the sanctions.''
I asked the doctor how a child's parents could possibly have agreed to such a deception.
''This was not a country in which one disagreed,'' he replied. ''And in any case, they got 50 kilos of rice and 50 kilos of flour. Or else they were paid, you know, like the families of the freedom fighters in Palestine.''
I inquired whether there had been other manipulations of the system to make things seem worse than they had really been.
''Of course,'' he replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. ''It happened all the time. For example, we would get a shipment from the Ministry of Health of vaccines provided by the World Health Organization. But then we would be instructed not to use them until they had reached or even exceeded their sell-by date. Then the television cameras would come, and we would be told to lie and tell the public how the U.N. made ordinary Iraqis suffer. You have to understand: this was a system where everyone knew what was expected of them. Most of the time, we didn't even have to be told what to do.''
This media campaign was extremely effective. If anything, it was more influential in the West, mobilizing public opinion against sanctions, than it was within Iraq. What began as a campaign of left-wing fringe activists, like Ramsey Clark and the British member of Parliament George Galloway, soon became the dominant opinion. In the late 1990's, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was privately emphasizing to American and British officials his own moral qualms about the humanitarian effects of Iraq sanctions. As another senior Clinton administration official put it to me: ''I still think sanctions were the right policy. But there is no question that in terms of public opinion, as the 90's wore on we were increasingly on the defensive in the sanctions debate.''
Sanctions regimes are a terrible weapon. Much else in this article makes this clear. But are there better alternatives? I've yet to see a good case.
Beyond, that is, the solution we've just implemented, to no small lack of controversy.
FROM HIS EARLY, NON-BLOATED DAYS, Robert Heinlein's long lost, never published, first novel has been found and will be published.
For Us, the Living, the first novel Robert A. Heinlein wrote, has been sold to Scribner's and Pocket Books. All copies of the novel, which is believed to have been written between late 1938 and April 1939, were thought to have been lost or destroyed, but a copy was located recently and passed on to the Heinlein Society, which turned it over to Heinlein's literary estate, and which subsequently sold at auction. No publication date has yet been announced.
NIXON PERSONALLY ORDERED THE WATERGATE BREAK-IN says Jeb Magruder now.
Bit late in the day, though, and thus it's difficult to say how much credibility this holds.
Magruder originally testified that he presented Liddy's proposal for the burglary as part of a pared-down, $250,000 "intelligence" operation code-named "Gemstone" for Mitchell's approval during a meeting in Key Biscayne on March 30, 1972.
In his new, more dramatic account, Magruder says Mitchell was reluctant to approve the plan without instructions from the White House. So, as they sat together on the patio of Mitchell's vacation home, Magruder telephoned Haldeman aide Gordon Strachan in Washington, who got his boss on the line.
"Haldeman indicated to me that the president wanted us to go ahead," Magruder recounted. Then, "Haldeman said he wanted to talk to John [Mitchell]. It was a short discussion." After a few moments, Magruder, sitting next to Mitchell, heard a new, distinctive voice from the telephone receiver -- Nixon's.
"I didn't hear every single word," Magruder said. What he recalls hearing Nixon say was: "John, we need to -- we need to get the information on [Democratic Party Chairman] Larry O'Brien. And the only way we can do that is through Liddy's plan. And you need to do that."
Ben-Veniste said Magruder's story, if it is accepted, would settle "one of the nagging questions of Watergate."
"The motivation of the operation being the collection of intelligence information on Larry O'Brien is in fact consistent with other information we have," he said.
Reeves said that nothing in the unpublished pages of Haldeman's often candid diaries supports the story. But one Nixon tape might, the historian said. "It's from a year after the Key Biscayne meeting," he said. "Nixon was talking to Secretary of State William Rogers." It was a long, rambling conversation about Watergate, and Nixon may have been testing an explanation in case Magruder did blame Haldeman or the president himself.
"I think Mitchell authorized it," Nixon said on the tape. ". . . They were supposed to get the intelligence, and then they have this wild-eyed scheme involving Liddy . . . Then, at a later time, they went on and went ahead. . . . So Magruder will probably say that [unintelligible] either that he had pressure from Haldeman, which he will claim . . . I think it was Mitchell."
Ultimately, it may be impossible to confirm the story in the absence of a tape, a "smoking gun," in the vivid parlance of the Watergate scandal. And with the other players in their graves, it may be impossible to disprove.
Magruder laughed ruefully last week when he remembered what Mitchell said after hanging up the telephone that day. "He said, 'Well, Jeb, tell [campaign treasurer] Maury Stans to give Liddy $250,000, and let's see what happens.' "
" 'Let's see what happens,' " Magruder repeated. "In retrospect, that's kind of hilarious."
In the largest sense, I think this makes little difference either way; I've always firmly believed Nixon personally ordered the break-in; I never found it credible that anyone lesser would undertake such an act without explicit Nixonian authorization. Not in that White House.
But there have always, of course, been plenty of people interested in believing otherwise. And this account, unless supported by a tape, will settle nothing.
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 if you're interested in Watergate.
TREKKIE MONSTER, AND OTHER DENIZENS of the puppet world, are acting in ways you wouldn't see on Sesame Street.
The show, which is both a spoof of and a homage to "Sesame Street," had an acclaimed run at the Vineyard Theater last spring that made its puppets into celebrities, of a sort. At the party, having earned the right to mingle with guests like Bruce Willis and Snoop Dogg, the puppets hammed it up for their adoring public. "The legless look is very in," the female lead, Kate Monster -- played by Stephanie D'Abruzzo -- joked to a CNN camera. "No legs -- no cellulite." Meanwhile, Rod, the closeted gay puppet played by John Tartaglia, started petting the fuzzy boom mike, calling it "Cousin Larry." Over the course of the night, the "Avenue Q" posse proved to be as popular as -- and often cleverer than -- the award winners who were actual carbon-based life forms.
On Thursday the puppets will be making another very public debut, as they open at the Golden Theater on Broadway. There, larger audiences will have the opportunity to revel in mean-spirited songs like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "Schadenfreude" ("The world needs people like you and me/Who've been knocked around by fate./ Cause when people see us,/ They don't want to be us,/ And that makes them feel great") and off-color characters (Kate Monster has nipples, an onstage orgasm and a buxom rival named Lucy T. Slut). Indeed, much of the fun of the show lies in the chance to see the familiar world of children's wonder dragged into a curse-filled world of Gen-X angst, unemployment and promiscuous, drunken sex.
The musical makes no effort to hide its debt to "Sesame Street." The opening number starts with the line "The sun is shining, it's a lovely day" -- deliberately close to the television show's famous "Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away." After the main characters, Kate Monster and Princeton, have a euphoric, booze-fueled encounter, the silhouette of a male face on a video monitor mouths the word "come" while a female counterpart adds "mitment," offering a grown-up adaptation of the old children's phonics lesson. Cookie Monster's legacy is suggested by the presence of Trekkie Monster, who is addicted to Internet porn instead of sweets; Bert and Ernie are echoed by two male puppet roommates, one of whom is in love with the other.
As Rick Lyon, the show's puppet designer, explains on his Web site, lyonpuppets.com, the question behind "Avenue Q" is: "What if a cozy, familiar kids' television show had to grow up? Not just the characters, but the subject matter, the songs, the attitude."
It's one long, backhanded compliment -- extremely backhanded, you might say, which is interesting given that Mr. Marx is a former intern for the series. And that, in 1999, he was fired. Mr. Lyon also worked on the show, as a puppeteer -- until he, too, was asked not to return just last season. The other three puppeteers -- Ms. D'Abruzzo, Mr. Tartaglia and Jennifer Barnhart -- worked there as well, albeit without incident.
But Mr. Marx acknowledged that he savored the night, last April, when a group of executives from Sesame Workshop came to "Avenue Q." He said he had been fired from "Sesame Street" for being "too pushy" -- trying to write for the show, whereas his bosses "wanted someone to fetch coffee and clean tables." So seeing them in the audience was gratifying, because "now they're coming to see my show."
Mr. Lyon, the puppet designer, would not say why his years on "Sesame Street" came to an end, but he was outspoken on the recent quality of the show that used to employ him. " `Mr. Rogers' is always very honest," he said. "But `Sesame Street' has a general tendency to be condescending, and it's getting worse at it. They've dumbed it down."
It was the television show's characters that first brought Mr. Lopez and Mr. Marx together. They met at the B.M.I.-Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop in New York in 1998 (when Mr. Marx was still working as a lawyer) and discovered that they shared a fondness for the Muppets -- a belief in their power to speak to otherwise jaded audiences and a disappointment in their recent films. "Wouldn't it be great," Mr. Marx wondered, "if there were a new Muppet movie that wasn't awful?" So he and Mr. Lopez wrote a musical based on "Hamlet" called "Kermit, Prince of Denmark." It won them the Ed Kleban award for most promising lyricist and $100,000 in 1999.
The Henson Company passed on it. Brian Henson, Jim Henson's son, "just wasn't interested," Mr. Marx said. "It was a period when people weren't making musicals." And then Mr. Marx was fired. "We said, `To hell with writing for other people's characters, let's write our own,' " he said. "Avenue Q" was soon born.