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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.
THOSE SORT OF THOUGHTS. That which seems so normal and boring and everyday part of one's self isn't actually always so to others.
We swim in our own lake, but our own water is not the same as that of others. Commonalities are sometimes not, and that which we take for granted are shared thoughts may not be. Stating the obvious will sometimes be, but sometimes not.
Also, don't try to write this sort of thing, because often you'll say dumb stuff.
Alternatively, if you don't risk mentioning your dumb stuff, you won't find out which stuff isn't.
COPYRIGHT GONE MAD. On the one hand, I have no patience with those who don't understand that intellectual property can be property, and that theft of it can be theft, and who think that it's okay to "borrow" it when you don't have permission.
On the other hand, there's the modern modification of IP/copyright/trademark law to serve the purposes of greedy bullies (largely corporations such as Disney), who have abused the concepts greatly by extending them past the life of the author (well beyond the original 14-year-term of copyright) and think it's lovely to do things like this.
WE PREFER THE NEW NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION. With gated communities. Ever read much about what happened when India/Pakistan became independent, and the population transfers and mass killings? Never mind, see a small-scale reinactment, instead!
Sectarian violence has displaced more than 25,000 Iraqis since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine, a U.N.-affiliated agency said Tuesday, and shelters and tent cities are springing up across central and southern Iraq to house homeless Sunni and Shiite families.
The flight is continuing, according to the International Organization for Migration, which works closely with the United Nations and other groups. The result has been a population exchange as Sunni and Shiite families flee mixed communities for the safety of areas where their own sects predominate.
"I definitely wouldn't say the displacement has peaked," said Dana Graber, an official of the migration agency in Amman, Jordan. "It's continuous."
The agency's figures were compiled from information provided by partner organizations working with displaced Iraqis. The government Ministry of Displacement and Migration puts the count higher, at more than 32,000.
Alwan told a story that already has grown familiar since the near-destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, 65 miles north of Baghdad, touched off five weeks of Shiite-Sunni bloodletting. "They told me that I should leave within 24 hours or we will all get killed," Alwan said in an interview in Najaf. "So we left everything there and took only the bare things we need to live."
I can't wait for a glass-half-full proponent to point out that "During Hussein's rule, forced transfers of ethnic group members left close to 1 million Iraqis internally displaced," so look how much worse that was! This is nothing!
[...] "We did not fear the Mahdi Army," Sadoun said, referring to the militia loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, "because we've lived in Sadr City for 20 years, and everyone knows us and knows how we love the Shiites. But the Interior Ministry commandos arrest any Sunni. They don't just arrest them; they kill them."
DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. A review of the California Science Museum's Science of Marvel Superheros exhibit (yes, the attempt to trademark "super-heros": clearly super-villainy; we frown).
Among the highlights are a larger-than-life Doctor Octopus looming above the hall waving four prosthetic limbs, one of which can be manipulated from below with a joystick; a sextet of 1/8-inch-thick Technora chords hanging from the ceiling like webbing, each able to handle the weight of seven people; and a life-size image of Iceman boasting two giant icy hands that constantly melt and reform by freezing moisture absorbed from the air.
The entire exhibition is surrounded by walls up to 15 feet tall featuring dynamic images of characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, as rendered by some of Marvel Comics' top artists, including Alex Ross and Chris Bachalo. Overhead, large screens display computer-generated video of the Hulk while the sounds of sirens and barking dogs emanate from Blind Alley. There, visitors are forced to rely on hearing and touch to navigate a winding corridor a la the blind crusader Daredevil.
"When you're climbing the spider wall and putting your fingers into the nooks and crannies, you're acting like a spider who has little scopulae [tufts of tiny hairs] at the end of its feet that act like little bits of Velcro and allow it to attach to a wall," Lisus says.
In the exhibition, visitors will be able to stand in a stripped-down version of Iron Man's suit, pull up on a deceptively light aluminum bar — and lift a Toyota Scion off the ground.
"The exhibit gives you the real, visceral experience of lifting a heavy load, but at the same time it also teaches people about simple mechanics," Perlov says.
In addition, there's a gallery that showcases blowups of classic covers and character images, along with biographies of some of Marvel Comics' hall-of-fame creators, including Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gil Kane and John Byrne. A theater section screens a 20-minute interview with Lee, who created or co-created most of the characters in the exhibition.
Gil Kane? Okay, he did do work for Marvel, but is quite better known for his work for DC Comics, or National Comics. But, whatever. (I've also never before seen a claim that Kane created "what would be recognized as the first Graphic novel," as per the link I just gave, but I'm no expert; I've always seen Will Eisner credited, however.)
Also, a piece on a UC Irvine course on the science of superheros.
In recent weeks, students in his Science of Superheroes course have investigated Batman's utility belt, pondered gravity on the planet Krypton and designed their own superpower concepts that would use existing or envisioned technology.
The 10-week class is part of a University of California program that aims to expose freshmen to unfamiliar topics and majors.
Because you never know when you might want to major in superherology (being a billionare not required, but is helpful).
[...] In lessons that cover Aquaman to the X-Men, Dennin's 14 students learned to distinguish science fiction from science fact.
Science fantasy: Gamma rays turned 98-pound weakling Bruce Banner into a raging green giant called the Incredible Hulk.
Science reality: Intense gamma radiation would have killed Banner. However, Hulkification could be achieved with anabolic steroids and DNA from a jellyfish.
Note to self: obtain jellyfish; also, tranquilizers, purple shorts.
French scientists recently created a phosphorescent green rabbit by splicing genes from a glow-in-the-dark jellyfish into a bunny embryo.
Creating Bunny-Hulk, soon to star in the sequel, Night Of The Green Lepus.
[...] "Many students have a fear of science," Dennin said, "but if they come at it from a different angle, they sometimes find out they're interested in the subject and take more classes."
Others throw themselves off tall buildings, or ensconce themselves in their dorm room, spending long hours trying to produce milky, sticky, bodily fluids.
[...] Another classroom super character, dubbed Average Joe, achieved superhuman strength by wearing an exoskeleton powered by hydrogen fuel.
Best not go up against the Human Torch, Average Joe's arch-enemy.
[...] Other courses in UCI's program include "Heavy Metal Islam" from the history department, "Murder!" from the drama department, "TV, Culture and the Real O.C." from women's studies and "Antonio Banderas and His Hispanic Masculinities" from the Spanish department.
I'd never have dropped out of college if it was as Fun Fun Fun as it is these days.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.
In pretty much completely unrelated news, but I don't feel like making it an item of its own, David E. Kelley (you know, the LA Law, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, etc., guy) is writing and producing an American version of the British time-travel/detective (guy from our time thrown back to the Seventies) series, Life On Mars (no, nothing to do with Mars; it's a David Bowie reference, silly; we're talking pointed social commentary with comedic overtones, mixed with mystery, I gather; it's gotten good reviews in Britain, obviously).
Meanwhile, Rick McCallum is confidently planning on over 100 episodes of the Star Wars tv series, still coming (and coming, and coming) to a tv screen near you. Some day.
DEFINE "IDENTITY." I'd like to hope I might be able to manage to be more awake tomorrow, and write about this at greater length, but we'll have to see.
I normally think the world of, and am a big fan of, Garance Franke-Ruta, the American Prospect/Tapped writer, but this new policy she announces for herself of denying links to the following is, I think, incredibly dumb.
I will no longer link to any writer who does not disclose his identity and affiliations in an obvious place or manner, or reply to online commenters who decline to disclose their names.
And I write this as a guy who writes under the name on his birth certificate (absent a middle name he never uses).
Define "name." Is it that on a birth certificate? Am I using a pseudonym by not using my middle name? What about people who change their name? Does someone who changes their name for marriage count as using a pseudonym? What about changing it for another reason? What about using a diminutive, such as "Mike" for "Michael"? What about someone who regularly uses a pseudonym? What about, say, "TRB" from The New Republic? Would "Atrios" not have been linked to before it came out that he was "Duncan Black"? Should "Hilzoy" of Obsidian Wings not be linked to?
And bloody etc. Franke-Ruta expands:
In so doing, I will be extending the same standards this publication uses for publishing and replying to letters to the editor to the online comments, which have functionally replaced letters to the editor to a great extent, and the same standard this publication uses for all other sources to online ones. (This won't be site policy, just mine.) No publication considers a truly anonymous source -- one whose identity is unknown to both reporter and readers -- a usable one for any purpose other than further inquiry. And yet reporters, including myself, have routinely cited the writings of pseudonymous commentors, in grave violation of that standard.
More to come. This is not, shall we say, going to go unremarked.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Ezra Klein also disagrees.
How does Garance expect to be performing name checks, I'd like to know? Everyone who wants to comment and get a reply needs to send her legal papers? How will she verify them? Is it enough to just just have a name that "sounds normal"? What happens when people fake up normal sounding names? How about a simple forged ID?
HEY, HE'S TOO CRAZY, EVEN FOR US. There are a whole lot of points I've wanted to make about the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, right along, and particularly recently, but, as I keep saying, I've just not felt up to writing coherently (though I'd like to particularly point you to this by my beloved Dahlia Lithwick).
But this latest set of quotes from al Queda leaders in double-sekrit detention just make the case even more surreal than it has ever been.
"I ONLY STOLE IT FROM KIDS" ALSO WOULDN'T BE GOOD. Yes, this behavior from AP, in refusing to credit blogs or other sources, is appalling.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.
I'm still torturously getting to be awake for no more than 20 minutes or so at a time, and then falling asleep again for hours, getting another ten minutes awake again, then sleeping for hours, then forcing myself to be awake and semi-coherent for a couple of hours, then sleeping for hours again, and so on.
It's driving me crazy, and to say the least, I can't get anything done beyond a few semi-coherent blog comments, and a smattering of light reading. Argh. It's getting past a month of this, maybe more.
(I notice that it's been about that long that I've been off light use of Ambien again, after a few months of affording sporadic light use [I'm still way behind in cash-need, alas, despite a few much appreciated donations], so I suspect cause and effect, but it might also just be my decades-long sleep/wake problems, and/or other illness/problems; dunno, but I quite hate it, hate it, hate it. Can't... stay... awake.)
Prediction: the AP will back down on this. The only question is whether it's in half an hour, tomorrow, or next week. Their stance won't fly, and they're probably recognizing that even now, and know that the quicker they bite the bullet and get rid of the story, the less face they'll lose, in the end.
Certainly the only honest policy is that whether you get material from a sixth-grader doing research for homework, or from a blog, or wherever, you credit the source.
I WAS VERY CAREFUL TO NOT SAY THAT I SOMETIMES AGREE WITH ELTON BEARD until now. Though sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. It's kinda the way I feel about almost everybody, actually.
This one about President Bush's formulation that "...I don't want to be argumentative, but I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America" is spot-on, however.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.
I've been reading Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, by the way, prepatory to reading Gordon and Trainor's Cobra II. I'm trying to work up the energy to make some points about some bits in it, but it's hard, given the whole still-ongoing exhaustion thing; also, I gots to get other stuff done today. But perhaps Real Soon Now. Or not. We can but live in hope.
Okay, there are many other options. Hope is one of the better ones.
But, really, I have little to say about Stanislaw Lem dying; I could run through the kerfuffle SFWA had over him back in the Seventies, giving him an honorary membership, and his subsequent complaints, but I only read about it at the time in the fanzines, and beyond that, well, I found the translations of the few works of his that I read interesting, but not particularly memorable or moving; I still haven't even seen the two movies of Solaris.
And sf writers are dying and getting sick all the time; I only say something about them when I, you know, have something to say, actually. David Feintuch, for instance; a shame, but I have nothing much to say about his death; condolences to their friends and family and all.
Also on Sunday, a Kurdish writer was sentenced to a year and a half in jail for criticizing Kurdish leaders. The writer, Kamal Sayid Qadir, who also uses the name Kamal Karim, had published stories on a Kurdish Web site accusing one of the most powerful men in Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, of corruption.
Mr. Qadir was originally sentenced to 30 years for defaming Mr. Barzani, but he was retried. A judge on Sunday said he was giving him a lenient sentence because Mr. Qadir was a college professor.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Just the usual mass beheadings, accusations against American troops by Shiites, tales of mass death and death squads, heavy-caliber gun battles, civilians killed, and so on.
AN ISLAMIST terrorist sold poisoned burgers from a street-corner van and planned to contaminate beer at a football stadium, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.
The alleged extremist, one of seven on trial for plotting to blow up British targets, was also said to have suggested poisoning takeaway food and sabotaging BT.
The claim was made by an American supergrass said to have links to al-Qaeda, testifying against his alleged former accomplices.
I'm fairly familiar with a lot of British idiom, but hardly all of it, and so I was all WTF? Naturally, here is an explanation, and naturally cockney rhyming slang is involved.
American newspapers tick me off because they write as if written for idiots, with explanations in almost every article of the most common terms ("Congress, the elected legislature of the United States government," is a phrase that wouldn't surprise me in the least to see in a story).
British papers, on the other hand, are always full of last week's slang, and endless terms unique and specific to Britain, and they're never explained, because everyone knows what they mean (I remember a decade ago having to look up what the constantly referred-to "MORI" was, which was in every other news story).
Somewhere between these two methods is a happy medium, but you probably have to drown in mid-Atlantic to find it.
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. It's all pants, I tell you, and I cock a snook at it.
Incoming Palestinian interior minister Saeed Seyam, chosen by Hamas to oversee three security services, said yesterday he would not order the arrest of militants carrying out attacks against Israel.
"The day will never come when any Palestinian would be arrested because of his political affiliation or because of resisting the occupation," Seyam told Reuters. "The file of political detention must be closed."
As well as vowing not to arrest militants for carrying out attacks against Israel, Seyam said Hamas would try to coordinate militants' operations.
On the more positive side, this interview with Abu Mazen.
"You are going into very important elections," Abu Mazen says. "We are in a historic period, in which we must decide whether we will move toward peace and a better future for our children. I can promise that you have a partner for this peace. On the day after the elections you will find us ready to sit in negotiations with no prior conditions. The leadership of both peoples and also of the international community has a supreme responsibility to exploit this opportunity. It may be the last hope to accord the two peoples their right to live in security and stability. The coming generations will not forgive us if we let it slip by.
"If I am not a partner, ask yourselves who is a partner. I am one of those who signed the Oslo agreement and was a patron of the negotiations that were conducted prior to it in secret for eight months. I supported, and I continue to support, a clear peace plan, based on the legitimacy of international law, to which we all agreed, and on the road map. I have called ceaselessly for a hudna [cease-fire] in order to enable the continuation of negotiations, and I achieved a period of calm when I was prime minister.
I think Abbas is sincere. I also think we have, for the time being, good cop, bad cop, regardless of Abbas being basically sincerely good.
Sixty-eight percent of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same apartment building as an Israeli Arab, according to the results of an annual poll released Wednesday by the Center for the Struggle Against Racism.
The "Index of Racism Towards Arab Palestinian Citizens of the State of Israel," conducted by Geocartographia, revealed on [sic; clearly "only"] 26 percent of Jews in Israel would agree to live with Arab neighbors in the same building.
Forty-six percent of Jews would refuse to allow an Arab to visit their home while 50 percent would welcome an Arab visitor. Forty-one percent of Jewish support the segregation of Jews and Arabs in places of recreation and 52 percent of such Jews would oppose such a move.
The inclination toward segregation rises as the income level of the poll respondent drops and also as the level of religious observance rises. Support for segregation between Jews and Arabs is also higher among Jews of Middle Eastern origin as opposed to those of European origin.
Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5 for the first 3 out of 5 for Abu Mazen, or get the highlights here; 3 out of 5 for the racism poll piece.
If you allow that zombies are back from the dead, it seems reasonable to ask: What's up with that?
But before we get to the theories, let's tally the corpses.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5, but more if you feel re-animated by the topic.
ADDENDUM, 6:41 p.m.: A review of what's called "obviously the greatest zombie flick ever set in an experimental women's prison, easily the underground treat of the season, and totally off its rocker." More:
All hail the silliest cast of the year! Tony Todd stars as Shadow, a resurrected serial killer with a half-baked back-story, a posse full of zombies and a neat metal spigot he uses to drink people like juice boxes.
THINGS WE CAN DO. There have been a jillion dreadfully important NSA stories (and other important stories) I've let slide in recent weeks, because I've not felt up to writing on serious stuff (many are in my "to blog" folder, but most I'll probably never get back to), but it seems useful to know that this is what the Department of Justice officially thinks:
The National Security Agency could have legally monitored ordinarily confidential communications between doctors and patients or attorneys and their clients, the Justice Department said Friday of its controversial warrantless surveillance program.
Responding to questions from Congress, the department also said that it sees no prohibition to using information collected under the NSA's program in court.
"Because collecting foreign intelligence information without a warrant does not violate the Fourth Amendment and because the Terrorist Surveillance Program is lawful, there appears to be no legal barrier against introducing this evidence in a criminal prosecution," the department said in responses to questions from lawmakers released Friday evening.
"Although the program does not specifically target the communications of attorneys or physicians, calls involving such persons would not be categorically excluded from interception," the department said.
The department said the same general criteria for the surveillance program would also apply to doctors' and lawyers' calls: one party must be outside the United States and there must be reason to believe one party is linked to al-Qaida. The department's written response also said that these communications aren't specifically targeted and safeguards are in place to protect privacy rights.
The House Democrats asked if any other president has authorized wiretaps without court warrants since the passage of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs intelligence collection inside the United States.
Choosing its words carefully, the department said, "if the question is limited to 'electronic surveillance' ... we are unaware of such authorizations."
The department also made clear that the program -- as confirmed by President Bush -- has never been suspended since it began in October 2001. That would include 2004, when reports indicate serious doubts about the program were raised by Justice Department officials.
But the department refused to discuss, or even confirm, a meeting in 2004 at then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital bed.
The department also avoided questions on whether the administration believes it is legal to wiretap purely domestic calls without a warrant, when al-Qaida activity is suspected. The department wouldn't say specifically that it hasn't been done.
Speaking of which, I've been meaning to write at length about this fascinating look back at Sam Ervin's investigation of Army surveillance of protestors and other suspicious sorts, which Digby blogged a while ago, and which we seem to be in a major Deja Vu Moment about (Deja Vu Moment about), but let me at least mention it to you and commend it to everyone's reading attention.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for the Globe story, 3.5 out of 5 for ObWi, and 4.5 out of 5 for the history lesson.
NOT CEASING TO EXIST. While I'm talking cable tv I can't afford, I'm sorry I can't see this.
Some celebrities we take to heart. Others we clasp to our broad, soft and equally vulnerable midsection, which is where you find William Shatner.
Lately, Shatner's achieving ubiquity. On March 12, the Emmy-winning star of ABC's "Boston Legal" hosted a History Channel documentary called "How William Shatner Changed the World," based on his book. He's also been out promoting his latest album, "Has Been," through a series of appearances with (ahem) slightly more established singers.
And at 11 p.m. Wednesday, TV Land cable channel unveils the special "Living in TV Land: William Shatner in Concert."
The one-hour show is a loopy compendium of interview snippets, vintage clips and musical numbers.
The objective ear confirms what critics have said since Shatner's debut album, "Transformed Man": He can't sing. Then our guts take over and urge him to keep right on singing.
How can you react otherwise? William Shatner, like my 20-year-old cat, clearly has an enormous appetite for life.
A sense of perspective honed over a half-century of peaks and valleys doesn't hurt, either. This is the man who once rebutted his make-believe persona with the statement: "And when I speak, I never, ever talk like every. Word is. Its own. Sentence."
Yet there he is Wednesday, mocking his credo with the declamatory, inflationary style that makes the adjective "Shatnerian" instantly recognizable in pop culture.
He did Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show last week, which I made an exception in my not-watching-Ferguson-because-he's-irritating policy for, and was as over-the-top as usual, specifically talking about how. He. Can't. Sing.
But uses cadence, instead. It were all funny.
And I love him (and James Spader) on Boston Legal. Hurrah for Shatner (who got a long standing ovation on the talk show).
Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5, Jim; he isn't dead.
Other tv note: Ron Moore talks about developing and adapting Battlestar Galactica. Good stuff you'll want to read if you're a neo-BSG fan. (Incidentally, I really do think such fans would be well-advised to watch Deep Space Nine, a previous show Moore, and much of his team, such as David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, trained up on in serial space opera/space war with-moral-ambiguity-and-complications; I recently watched the final season on DVD, and I think it holds up quite well.)
3/23/2006 06:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
XENU STRIKES BACK. You probably know this, but since I must struggle on without cable tv (and consciousness much of the day, damnit), this:
"South Park" fans have struck back, threatening to boycott Viacom's upcoming Tom Cruise flick "Mission: Impossible III" until Viacom's Comedy Central puts back on its schedule the show's Scientology spoof episode the network yanked last week.
Meanwhile, Comedy Central and the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, hoped to placate the angry mob (as if) with a hastily thrown together season-opening episode in which Chef is brainwashed by "a fruity little club" whose members travel the globe having sex with children.
The response to Hayes's exit was last night's slapped-together 10th-season opener, "The Return of Chef!" The producers sliced and diced lines Hayes had recorded in previous seasons to produce Chef's new lines for the episode, a Comedy Central rep told The Post's John Maynard.
In the episode, pals Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman are thrilled when Chef, who'd left South Park to join the Super Adventure Club, returns. But in school the next day, he says to them, "How about I meet you guys after work and we make love . . . come on children, you're my sexual fantasy, let's all make sweet love." Those are the printable things, anyway.
The guys take Chef to a shrink, who pronounces him the worst case of brainwashing he's ever seen.
They take him to a strip club to try to deprogram him. Chef is cured, but then is shot with darts by members of the Super Adventure Club -- "South Park's" new, thinly veiled metaphor, in case you haven't figured it out yet, for Scientology.
Chef is taken back to HQ, where the Super Adventure Club continues the brainwashing.
The boys follow and learn the secret of the Super Adventure Club, founded by a guy who was an explorer, only every time he got someplace he discovered someone had beat him there. So he decided to become the first explorer to have sex with the native children in the various remote locations, which he felt would make him immortal.
Long story short: The boys rescue Chef and they run across the rope bridge over the deep ravine that takes them to safety. But once they're on the other side, the Super Adventure Club's big chief shouts to Chef, "Don't you remember why you left South Park in the first place? You sought adventure . . . because your life had become dull and empty."
The boys plead with Chef:
"Chef -- we love you!"
But Chef heads back over the bridge, only it's struck by lightning and falls apart. Chef plunges down the ravine and is impaled on a large stick and attacked by a mountain lion, then a grizzly bear.
Back in South Park, the townsfolk hold a memorial service for Chef. Kyle tells the residents that although a lot of them don't agree with the choices Chef made in the last few days, they should focus on how much he made them smile and -- here's the money quote -- they should not be mad at Chef but instead at "the fruity little club for scrambling his brain."
We're guessing the episode may still not be enough raw meat for the piranha-esque "South Park" fans, who took to the Internet yesterday urging people to write, phone or e-mail Viacom, or sign their Chef Gate petition, letting the corporation know they and their loved ones will not see "Mission: Impossible III" (due in theaters on May 5) until Comedy Central runs the more direct Scientology-skewering episode "Trapped in the Closet."
(Normally these kinds of petitions are quixotic and kinda sweet, but there's no denying that "South Park's" core demographic -- 70 percent male, 20 percent male teens, 30 percent men age 18-34 -- is a bull's-eye for action flicks such as "Mission: Impossible.")
BEING IN LOVE, AND WAR, MEANS NEVER SAYING YOU'RE SORRY. I guess it would Objectively Hurt The War Effort if we ever actually tried any senior officers for responsibility in war abuses.
Some military experts said one reason there had not been attempts to pursue charges up the military chain of command was that the military does not have anything tantamount to a district attorney's office, run by commanders with the authority to go after the cases.
"The real question is, who is the independent prosecutor who is liberated to pursue these cases," said Eugene Fidell, a specialist in military law. "There is no central prosecution office run by commanders. So you don't have a D.A. thinking, I'm going to follow this wherever it leads."
But in Sergeant Smith's trial, General Miller was never called to testify. Colonel Pappas acknowledged that he had mistakenly authorized a one-time use of muzzled dogs to keep prisoners in order outside their cells, but he said that he had no idea that dog handlers were using unmuzzled dogs to terrorize detainees as part of the interrogation process. Colonel Pappas had previously been reprimanded and relieved of his command, but was permitted to testify under a grant of immunity.
Previous defendants who have tried and failed to win approval from military judges to summon high-ranking officers to explain their own role in abuse cases include Charles A. Graner Jr. and Lynndie R. England, two of the Army reservists who were convicted in 2005 for their misconduct at Abu Ghraib. In denying defense requests for testimony from witnesses including Mr. Rumsfeld and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the top American commander in Iraq, an Army judge, Col. James Pohl, ruled that their actions did not have any direct bearing on the reservists' conduct.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Maj. Wayne Marotto, an Army spokesman, said that more than 600 accusations of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001 had been investigated, and that 251 officers and enlisted soldiers had been punished in some way for misconduct related to prisoners. To date, the highest-ranking officer convicted in relation to the abuses is Capt. Shawn Martin of the Army, who was found guilty last March of kicking detainees and staging the mock execution of a prisoner. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail and fined $12,000.
But when Mr. Schlesinger was asked at the time if Mr. Rumsfeld or other high-ranking officials should resign in an ultimate act of accountability, he said that the secretary's "resignation would be a boon for all of America's enemies."
Congress has largely retreated from any meaningful effort to hold senior officials accountable. Last year, Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, vowed to hold hearings on senior-level accountability. But Mr. Warner later backed off his promise, saying it would have to wait until judicial and nonjudicial proceedings were exhausted, a process that could take several more months.
And if there are any more low-level prosecutions, hell, give it another few years. I'm sure we'll be able to look into higher level responsibility sometime around 2012 or so.
Making sure no one with senior responsibility actually, you know, takes responsibility, why, that couldn't possibly Hurt The War Effort, could it? Clearly not. Watch what we do, not what we say.
IT'S PROBABLY THREE YEARS TOO LATE for all this stuff, tragically, but, hey, maybe we can keep it in mind next time we invade a country and try to occupy it.
But Ancker argues that the Iraq invasion showed that the Army did not grasp the flip side of the Bosnia lesson, that during combat operations there was a need for peacekeeping-style activities. "We did not have that down nearly as well as we thought we had," he says. The next operations field manual will tell commanders that even when engaged in combat operations they need to immediately focus on making the civilian population physically safe, establishing some sort of governance to allow society to function, and restoring essential services.
Stability. Embedded in the new doctrine is an implicit critique of how the Iraq invasion was conducted. The Army now argues that racing from city to city, with relatively little concern for security, is a mistake. "In particular, if you are conducting a major combat operation and you are thinking about the aftermath of how you are going to relate to the population after the fight, you are going to conduct the fight differently," Ancker says. "And part of that, frankly, is to decrease the opportunity for disgruntled elements to gain support from a population that is looking for things such as security, governance, and essential services."
At the front of a classroom at Fort Leavenworth, Maj. Andy Johnson starts up a clip from the documentary film Gunner Palace. The clip shows an American unit raiding the home of suspected bomb makers. In the courtyard, as the Iraqi men try to explain something, the soldiers shout at them, "Keep your mouth shut!" and "Hey, shut up!" Crouching low, one of the Iraqi men says in English, "I know that 'shut up.'"
When the video ends, Johnson asks the class what they thought of the Americans' actions. "They weren't mistreating them," says one student, an Army major; "they didn't know what they were going to do." After more discussion, Maj. Christopher Schmitt, a teacher who helped design the course, pipes up from the back of the class. "These guys were just fence-sitters; these guys are noncommittal," he says of the Iraqis in the video. "But after being handcuffed in front of their wives, do we think these guys are fence-sitters anymore?"
The answer, clearly, is no. "Watch Cops," says Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Schlemmer, one of the students. "The state troopers always keep their cool, no matter what is going on." Johnson moves toward the center of the class and asks, "Did you hear them say, 'I know that "shut up"?' Who do they know that from?" Maj. Derrick Fishback answers: "Saddam." Johnson nods: "It goes from one oppressor to another. This is not easy stuff. It is counterinsurgency."
Schmitt and Johnson teach that when fighting an insurgency, the second-order effects of a mission are as important as the initial tactical maneuver. Some officers believe American forces in Iraq do not always fully consider such unintended consequences, in part because some commanders do not encourage dissenting views from their staff. Such units are susceptible to "groupthink," says Gregory Fontenot, a retired colonel who wrote a history of the Iraq invasion. Fontenot has begun a pilot program at Fort Leavenworth to teach officers how to serve as a commander's designated skeptic--or in military parlance, the "red team." A good red-team officer puts forward a contrary point of view, not something a rigid hierarchy necessarily reacts well to. "You want someone who can be critical," Fontenot says, "without bringing out the antibodies." Says Wallace, "If we don't have someone thinking like a potential adversary, we are doomed not to take into account culture and nontraditional military thought."
As Petraeus and the "mayor" sit down for a cup of tea, Staff Sgt. Albert Ortega watches.
Ortega, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is a member of Fort Irwin's resident opposition force. He plays the role of a Sunni Arab bus driver named "Imran," whose loyalties shift depending on the actions of the American force in training. The 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade, a Fort Lewis, Wash.-based unit, is about to finish its two-week Fort Irwin training in preparation for Iraq deployment later this year. The brigade has been doing a good job, and the opposition force's fence-sitters are generally remaining neutral. But a few days before, the brigade "detained" Ortega. The Americans seized him, he claims, for no reason. Not only did the detention give him some new motivation for his character, but it prompted him to do some thinking about his next deployment to Iraq. After the mock experience of being detained, "we have some insight on how the Iraqi civilians feel," Ortega says. "When we are over there, you think every Iraqi you see might be an insurgent. But you want to be sympathetic to the people trying to live their everyday life."
As the sun begins to fade, Ortega says he is particularly interested in how the brigade will handle crowd control. Indeed, the next day Ortega is doing his best to provide a challenge. Ortega's short beard and robelike dishdasha make him a convincing Iraqi. The soldiers in training do not immediately recognize him as a member of the opposition force.
In front of the "town hall," a large group of Iraqis has gathered, awaiting the Sunni imam. The American soldiers are on edge. It is the last day of their training, and they suspect something big will happen. One soldier has already caught a would-be sniper nearby. Ortega slips into the crowd. He begins pointing and yelling at Sgt. Christopher Thomas. Thomas tries to calm him down, but the nearby Iraqi-American actors start yelling, too. Thomas points his rifle at Ortega. The Iraqi crowd falls silent for a split second, then surges forward. Thomas reaches out and shoves Ortega backward.
On a whiteboard mounted on the side of his humvee, Staff Sgt. Adrian Tennant lists crowd control among the skills the platoon needs to improve before it ships out to Iraq. "How are you going to fix the problem?" Tennant asks the platoon.
"The key is not to get frustrated," suggests Staff Sgt. Jon Hilliard, one of the platoon's squad leaders.
"Do you really want to point your weapon at the crowd?" asks Tennant. "How would you feel if it was pointed at you?"
"You don't want to incite a riot if there is no reason to," Hilliard answers.
Brig. Gen. Robert Cone, the commander of the National Training Center, has devised a novel way to test how well his troops are building "trust and confidence." The observer-controllers record every promise a unit in training makes to the Iraqi-American role-players--and they count how many are broken. To discourage commanders from making promises they cannot keep, the opposition force puts them to a test. If a commander promises to keep a town secure, the insurgents try to attack it.
Cultural terrain. Winning the hearts and minds, or establishing trust and confidence, requires understanding the Iraqis. Military units are good at sharing knowledge of the physical landscape. But they are not so good when it comes to sharing knowledge about such things as the allegiances of local subtribes and the reliability of various local leaders, and much is lost when a unit rotates out. "We used to just focus on the military terrain," Petraeus says. "Now we have to focus on the cultural terrain."
One idea to fix the problem is to create maps or databases of this human terrain. Don Smith, a strategic consultant with Fort Leavenworth's Foreign Military Studies Office, is working on creating ways for Army units to record and share the cultural knowledge they gain. Smith says a human terrain map could also help measure where America is winning the war and where it is losing.
The better a unit understands the insurgency in its area, for instance, the more it can target specific houses and the less it has to search entire neighborhoods with broad sweeps that alienate Iraqis.
The 2nd I.D.'s intelligence poster is the work of Staff Sgt. Shawn Ray. Petraeus leans back, nodding his head as he examines the connections that Ray has made. "All right," Petraeus says. "You've cracked the code here."
"Yes, sir," Ray answers, in a voice made hoarse by the desert dust.
"What would help you get ... precise, actionable intel?" the general asks. "So you can do a cordon and knock, not a cordon and search. Who has given you the highest-quality stuff?"
"It's company commanders, even Joe on the ground who has someone come up to him," Ray says.
"Yup, yup," Petraeus says, motioning to his aide, who produces a coin. It reads, "Presented by the Commanding General for outstanding performance." Petraeus offers Ray his hand and slips the coin into the sergeant's palm.
Three years on, the Army increasingly recognizes that mistakes were made during the invasion of Iraq and its immediate aftermath. Those errors helped the insurgency to bloom and handed America a difficult, complex conflict. "It is not the fight we wanted," Wallace says, "but it's the fight we got." So the Army has set out to prove it can remake its doctrine, schools, and training centers in the midst of war. "The goal is to help our Army be a learning organization," says Petraeus, "and we think there is a lot of that going on."
Perhaps someday, soldiers will tell stories about the new National Training Center: tales of how their unit took out a sniper before he could shoot an imam, or how they persuaded one sect not to attack another. But for now, of course, there are real stories from a real war.
LESSON #1: Emphasize stability and security
LESSON #2: Study counter-insurgency
LESSON #3: Know the cultural terrain
LESSON #4: Gain trust and confidence
LESSON #5: Improve intelligence analysis.
Of course, after three years of occupation, it's very very very hard to not believe that teaching this now is way too late. Maybe it isn't. But it's difficult to be optimistic about that.
BUT WOULDN'T IT BE MORE FUN IF THEY DIDN'T?Panel Advises Disclosure of Drugs' Psychotic Effects. Spoilsports. Hey, it's only estimated to "affect 2 to 5 of every 100 children taking them" who "suffer hallucinations that usually feature insects, snakes or worms."
We used to have to find special dealers to get these effects when I was a kid. These days they're just spoiled rotten.
In black holes, Hawking radiation arises just inside the event horizon and has two components – one that leaves the black hole and another that falls towards the point-like singularity that is the black hole itself.
That suggests the outgoing Hawking radiation carries away nearly all of the information of the matter – such as a spaceship – that falls into the black hole. According to Lloyd, the most that could be lost is half a quantum unit of information, or 0.5 qubit.
"Passengers on a spaceship would like some guarantee that when they fall into this black hole and get smooshed into the singularity, they can be recreated as it evaporates," Lloyd told New Scientist. "With a few simple precautions, the travellers would be almost exactly the same, with less than an atom of difference."
Good to know!
But both applications would require an understanding of the properties of specific black holes, says Gottesman. "And you'd have to collect every little piece of Hawking radiation because the spaceship would get spread out with everything that fell into the black hole – ever," Gottesman says. "So you'd have to sort out which bits were the spaceship and which bits were other things.
His team has boosted the photon-capturing abilities of the detector by using an extremely thin nanowire detector. They combined it with an anti-reflection coating to stop light bouncing away and a "photon trap" that helps channel incoming photons to be absorbed and not lost.
The special add-ons increased the detector's absorption efficiency from 20% – the previous best for previous single-photon detectors – to 57% at the wavelength used for broadband signal transmission.
And it does so quickly. "The speed comes from the fact that it's a superconducting nanowire," Berggren says. The nanowire is wrapped tightly into a configuration with dimensions many times smaller than a human hair. It is cooled to just above absolute zero, where it becomes a superconductor sensitive to absorbed photons.
Talk about being cool.
[...] When NASA cancelled its Mars Telecommunications Orbiter in July 2005, a team of researchers had been developing an optical communication laser for just such a purpose. The laser was designed to beam back between 1 million and 30 million bits per second, depending on the distance between Mars and Earth at any given time.
It twists and swims - and little else - but the first combination of two molecular machines is an important step on the long path to nanodevices sophisticated enough to, for example, perform repair functions within our cells.
“The next step is to integrate multiple molecular machines" into much bigger devices, says Kazushi Kinbara, who developed the tiny contraption with colleagues at the University of Tokyo, Japan. “That project is now in progress.”
The first part of the team’s molecular machine works a little like a pair of pliers (see diagram). But opening one end of the structure’s central X-shape does not widen the other end. Instead, the two prongs at that end twist around until they are 90° from their original position. This contortion is hinged on a pair of iron-based molecules that act as molecular ball bearings.
The opening and closing action is powered by exposure to ultraviolet and visible light. The UV light causes a pair of double-bonded nitrogen atoms strung between the two plier "handles" to kink, closing them. Exposure to visible light unkinks the bond, opening it up.
The second half of the machine is a pair of flipper-like pedals suspended between the prongs on the other side of the X. The twisting motion prompted by light exposure causes the pedals to flap, much like the flippers of a toy diver. The result is the first example of one molecular machine controllably driving the action of another, say the researchers.
This is utterly fantastic; it's the first step towards truly complex molecular-sized machines, and true nanobots, and conceivably the holy grail of replicating nanobots, after which we soon, y'know, go all Singularity, if you're either an optimist or a pessimist.
Kinbara expects his work will yield sophisticated molecular machines in as little as five years.
AT RISK OF POINTING OUT THE OBVIOUS, but it's never as obvious to others as it is to me every second, I'm possibly less touchy when I'm not uncontrollably sleeping ~18 hours every day and exhausted the rest of the time, and when I'm not unable to afford medication and desperately counting pennies for food and unable to spend money on anything else.
Not that not being in those circumstances makes me necessarily never touchy or unoffendable or all sugar and puppies, but the fact that I'm not freaking out non-stop in every post about such things doesn't mean that they don't, you know, affect me. It just means that they're so commonplace that I try to mention that sort of thing relatively rarely, compared to the pretty much all-the-time that they're stressing me.
Not that I'm trying to make excuses for myself, either. And so forth, circularly. Which is another of the innumerable reasons I hate mentioning such stuff.
It would be nice if the pain in my left ear that's been inexplicably there for many weeks would go away, too; it's very distracting, but not in a good way. And so on and so forth. But we all gots problems. Sorry about yours, too. I'm sure they suck. There are certainly many who have worse than mine.
3/22/2006 09:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
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Me, I wouldn't go near an alpha; betas make me nervous. I ain't no developer, nor brave. And if you are, you probably already know this. So I'm not sure why I'm telling you, actually.
I GO, HUGO. Nominations are out. Naturally, the actual committee can't be bothered to release them first. (You might think Worldcon committees would be embarrassed to be scooped on their own awards, but no, they never ever are. Typical.)
Regarding it: "This year's special category for Best Interactive Video Game appeared on the nominating ballot but was cancelled due to 'lack of interest' -- presumably too few nominations in the category to tabulate meaningful results for a final ballot."
Darn. And I was hoping that we'd have some controversy with non-interactive video games being nominated, after all.
It would be nice to finally see Steve Stiles get his decades-owed due, but as usual the award, like several others, really should be for life-time achievement, since that's what it mostly tends to be for in reality.
Ah, I have it! Tax cuts should be taxed! There's nothing more all-American than tax cuts! (Though if this fails, there's always a "Mom" tax, and an "apple pie" tax to follow up on. Also, we could tax the IRS, right?)
I really hate it when people have bad impulse control. Specifically, bad verbal impulse control. I have lots of bad impulse control, myself, over other things, though not completely so, and arguably I do get better about those as I get older. Mostly.
Why do I hate bad verbal impulse control?
Like most things in life, for the classic reasons: childhood and parents.
My father was a crazy manic-depressive. Bipolar is the modern term. One result was that he was fairly unpredictable; how he'd react to any given statement or event on a moment's notice was what was unpredictable. At any given moment, he might be sweet and generous, or he might snarl and smack you, or start screaming, or start yelling and cursing. Or, of course, much worse.
I won't bore you with a list of acts he did at one time or another that would horrify you, but they would, trust me. Some involved some violence. Some involved bodily wastes. Some simply involved threats.
They were enough to get him fired by the NYC Board of Education during the beginning of the 1970s, a time it was almost impossible to get fired short of killing someone, and even that probably wouldn't suffice if you did what your UFT rep told you to. But since he was depressive as much as manic, he couldn't, so he didn't, so he finally, after years, was fired, even though his mental illness only counted as a disability he couldn't be discriminated against for.
The threats of violence against colleages and superiors didn't help, though. Nor the felonies.
My mother wasn't crazy like that. She wasn't crazy in a technical sense. She was just very brittle, had empathy problems, no control over her temper, and had no business raising children.
She'd been abandoned by her parents, herself, in very early childhood in the Great Depression, and pretty much grown up as a wolf, partially cared for by living literally out of a closet in the home of a friend' parents, basically being used as their slave, and otherwise living on the streets; it was, as I got the few bits and pieces of the story I was able to pry out in later years with great difficulty, Dickensian at best.
Parenting models she didn't really have. A temper, she did. Although she had many other strengths, and tried very hard, and I give her much credit for various efforts and aspects, she really wasn't suited to being a parent.
But my concern here was that her temper was also something that she didn't have a lot of control over, and when it broke, as children are wont to break it -- and I won't say I couldn't be an extremely irritating child -- in fact, take every irritating quality you see in me today, and multiply them by about a thousand, and you may start to get close to how annoying I could be with my questions and relentless logic and arguing, but probably not close enough -- she'd start screaming.
So I grew up in a household of unpredictably screaming parents, whom any given act or statement might provoke at any moment, no matter how joyous or peaceful or loving the previous moment had been, into screaming rages, cursing, threats of violence, and occasional violence, though fortunately rarely resulting in direct physical violence on a person, and almost never seriously so; the violence was almost always simply of the physically smashing things, throwing them, upsetting tables over end, that sort of thing; the violence applied directly to people was largely simply of the sudden and unpredictable smack/slam, not the bone-breaking or more calculated sort.
But the point I make is the unpredictablity, and the harshness of it, and I was a child who was always extremely empathetic towards other people's pain, and the idea of it, and sensitive about noise and violence and, as a result of all this, to harsh language.
The environment was always uncertain. My parents were always fighting, always screaming at each other, or in hushed whispers, trying not to Let The Children Hear, but the apartments were always so tiny that we could hear every word, and on the occasions I couldn't easily, I learned at a very early age to creep down the hall to listen, because the more information I had as to what was going on and what the issues were and the level of current stress, the better able I would be to predict what the level of stress the next day would be, and the faintly safer or better able to protect myself, I felt I'd be. And, of course, what was going to happen: when would come the divorce, what worse might happen, what violent or terrible outcome might come next, I felt I needed to know, given the constant onslaught of lost jobs by my father, bad news, thwarted dreams, bouts of crying and and fighting and so on.
Soon enough they did divorce when I was age 12-3, though matters weren't much better, given the subsequent kidnapping attempts, the moves in hiding, the property destruction, and the like.
I had wound up as a result of this and more always feeling a need to be independent -- though constantly terrified -- and thinking for myself wasn't optional. As a result, I pretty much did what I wanted, and dealt with the consequences. After 13, I said that I'd gotten bar mitzphahed, religious education was now over; my parents were divorced, and my mother was working, and I was largely on my own, anyway; not that I'd ever felt much otherwise, unfair as some of that feeling might be.
By 15, it had always been clear to me that my mother and I had no intellectual mutual understanding, and I'd always felt that she had a near-complete lack of ability to emotionally connect (which I did feel she made some efforts to overcome, but simply wasn't capable of doing, due to her own problems; if I ever blamed her for this, I let lots of it go after some time). I moved out, and in with my 22-year-old girlfriend.
I did that after endless periods of her screaming, as she'd screamed at me through childhood, that she wished she'd never had me, that I was a fucking awful child, that I was a monsterous child, that I should fuck off and die, that she fucking hated me, and so forth and so on.
I kept hearing this in later years, and eventually took her at her word that she never wanted to ever hear from me again. Through the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties, our contact was always intermittent, anyway, sometimes going years with no contact, and when we had it, it never went more than a few encounters without renewal of that sort of thing. Last time we had contact was more than a decade ago, now.
This all left me fairly emotionally crippled as an adolescent and post-adolescent. For years when faced with people being angry, I'd lock up in paralysis and fear, as it meant to me that they were about to be violent and were being scary. And, in any case, the only way I knew how to deal with the anger of others was to shut down emotionally, and when pushed, to freeze; if pushed enough, for a few years, almost literally catatonically.
Eventually, I grew out of this, and learned better coping mechanisms, but it wasn't until the end of my teen years that I really started, and it wasn't until my early twenties that I really started to learn how to cope more usefully with displays of anger, and specifically with being yelled at and cursed at, and at people uttering extreme emotional content at me.
You know the sort of thing: "fuck off!" "Go fuck yourself, asshole!" "I hate you, schmuck!" "What a fucking asshole you are!"
That sort of thing.
I started engaging in written exchanges with people in science fiction fanzines and "amateur press associations" (think of them as printed newsgroups/bulletin boards/blog comments, distributed weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, occasionally in person, mostly by mail) at age 12. So I always dealt far better with hostility in print than in person; it was far less scary and threatening and far more dealable with.
And among the other early coping mechanisms I'd had along with emotionally freezing was reacting with logic and reason. Sure, often to the point of being unreasonable and unhealthily so -- these were coping mechanisms, not Magic Cures. Sometimes being Mr. Spock, though involuntary, would be a form of passive-resistance, but often it was simply that there was no other available choice beyond paralysis, which was even less good (and frightening in its own way).
But I was always intensely verbal, and rational, and into using words and reasoning to try to derive answers and explanations to things. And so I was also always intensely argumentative if the argument interested me. That I could also tie people into knots was just a trivial side-benefit at times, and one whose downside I didn't start to see until post-adolescence and starting to try to really develop relationships with other people.
But displays of major hostility, verbal attacks, still frightened and upset me greatly, though by the end of my early twenties I was also starting to be able to access my own anger, which had always been locked underneath, of course.
And it was because I'd always felt that anger in response to feeling attacked that I always continued to maintain emotional control; one of my core reponses was that I knew how badly I felt when verbally attacked in anger by someone I cared about, and I felt that I would never want to make anyone feel the sort of hurt and despair and pain that it had always made me feel to feel so frightened and offended and rejected and attacked by someone I cared about.
Of course, dealing with simple insults and attacks from people I didn't care about was something I'd been dealing with all along, as well, so I had a split track in always developing a thick skin with insults from those I thought not caring about, and being utterly rawly exposed to those I did care about.
And arguing with people in print from age 12 on only gave me thicker skin for surviving the back-and-forth of debate and the insults of those I thought litle of.
But I always maintained that sense that I would maintain control over what I said back to those I cared about, and never wrong them in the way I felt wronged.
Eventually, of course, I started to understand that there were worse things in the world than people screaming at each other, that it didn't actually mean the end of the world or the relationship or that violence was about to erupt, or that they wanted to, in general, emotionally flay me, or were even remotely aware of how it made me feel.
And so I got somewhat better at coping with it and judging it.
Although all this probably also handicapped me from seeing as much as I should see as to how other forms of being verbally cutting, in more clever and intellectual ways than simply calling people names, can hurt others.
And I've always had a lot of patience with some things, and have mostly only gotten more patient with some things as I've gotten older, though not with all things (some I've probably gotten less patient with as I've come to think even less of them, and as life grows shorter).
So, two tracks, again, when dealing with arguments with people I care about, from a little to a lot: patience in the short/mid-term with waiting for their anger to expire, and forgiving them for it is one track.
But I also have the other track. After one major relationship with a screamer, I resolved never to have another longterm serious relationship with someone who couldn't mostly keep their temper, and didn't have some control over what they'd say in extremes. And as I got yet older, I got even less tolerant with putting up with that sort of thing in people I'd have much contact with. Thus, if it were with a boss inclined to scream, I'd be more inclined to quit. A roommate/housemate, more inclined to move out. A friend, more inclined to give increasingly serious and lengthy explanations of all this, and warnings that if it kept happening, I would not put up with it, and that ultimately if it didn't stop, I was simply going to cut them out of my life, as it wasn't worth it to me and my need for as much emotional well-being as possible.
Not all that long ago, for instance, I finally, after some years, dropped contact with someone I'd gone through this dynamic with as a housemate and friend; much as I was inclined to be forgiving through endless examples, I kept up the warnings that this had to stop as the emotional upset it gives me otherwise wasn't going to balance out the good bits. And she kept reverting to screaming, and I cut off contact. She'll probably read this and once again figure it's about her, but of course, it's not; it's about some blog comment exchanges, and it's a chance to once again put all this in the record, and explain for the future, when I can point to it in an entirely unrelated instance with an entirely different person, that this is who I am, this is my history, and this is why I react really really really badly to certain forms of verbal interactions, and to certain forms of verbal hostility, and why I really wish people were more and better able, as a rule, to keep better control over what they say when mad and not have to say things and regret them and expect that an apology, no matter how immediate, will make up for it.
Because as much as forgiveness is extremely important to me, and as much as I practice it, and as much as a grown-up now, like all people, I do still have the child inside me, and I still do get that upset when Some Things are said to me, and I do have to at least fight with my inner child, or give him time, to get past the great surge of emotion it usually provokes in me, the great hurt and pain and anger and resentment and sadness and all those other products of the surging sea of emotion from childhood that still toils not far beneath my surface.
Naturally, flares of anger at and between friends is normal, and trying to avoid it entirely would be unhealthy and unreasonable. So mostly I do cope with it reasonably well in recent decades. And mostly, so long as it's not too frequent or too serious or too close-cutting, it's something simply to regret and get past.
And mostly that's what I do. Not to worry over-much beyond that, so long as the caveats are kept in mind and not exceeded. And I don't worry over-much in return about venting somewhat from time to time in cutting or sharp form, though I do keep it below a certain "fuck you" level unless I think we're seriously close to I-want-to-get-off-here-thanks level, or I somehow really do lose control (drink too much, say, which fortunately I've not been doing of late, but maybe otherwise great pain or sickness or exhaustion or something might be a factor, since I still have a lot of those).
But it still does upset me, and I do still have to fight the impulse to respond equally vehemently, or to go off and sulk for months (though sometimes I'll still do that, or at least for weeks or days, though often I'll just plan to, and only do so for hours, or a day or two) and I do usually still manage not to, and that still does tend to send me round the somewhat unreasonable circle of "but if I can maintain control despite being that hurt and angry, why can't they?," though fortunately I've long been grown-up enough to intellectually recognize that the actual answer to that is that most other people are emotionally healthier about this sort of thing than I am, and so it reasonably doesn't mean so much to them, and so they reasonably don't expect people are going to react to it the extreme way you tend to, and so they reasonably don't need to maintain such extreme levels of control as you often (though not always) do.
But, of course, intellectual understanding of something isn't the same as emotional understanding.
So sometimes what I'll do is write all this out to myself, again, for the millionth time (long-time readers will have read this same essay in variant form some hundred times or more over the years, and probably at least a dozen or so times in this blog, I suspect), to help remind myself of how it works, as well as to let other people know.
So, really, I'd really appreciate it if anyone who wants to be friends would try to remember -- assuming they give a damn, of course, which is hardly going to be everyone who reads it, and that's fine -- that I'm somewhat screwy this way; I don't expect to be unreasonably catered to very much, and if it's too much trouble for you, that's fine, or at least to be expected, too (okay, if I care about you, it's not fine, but there's only so much I can do, just as there's only so much you can, or want to do, is all).
Anyway: calm explanations that I've made a stupid mistake and said something stupid mostly work reasonably well with me, and I'm generally apt to then say "oh, gee, stupid mistake on my part; awfully sorry for that stupid thing I said; I'll try to remember that; seriously sorry about that."
And if I'm trying to engage in my typically clumsy way in making casual friendly chit-chat, which from my clunky, poorly socialized, perspective tends to involve a lot of self-centered "hey, here's what I think/how I react/my experience" sort of offering, which is put forth in hopes that others will offer their's in return, and then we can exchange notes, and compare reactions/experiences/views, and it will all be part of being friends and continuing to get to know each other, rather than being some sort of "here's the way it is, and you should agree with me," as that sort of offered response by me not unreasonably often is taken, simply because I'm so goddamned clumsy at dealing with other people, and trying to be friendly, and am just so damned incompetent at it much of the time, well, that's usually what I'm trying to do.
I misunderstand other people a lot of the time.
And sometimes I'll then say insensitive or dumb things. Not intentionally. Not because I've recognized that people were talking about one thing and I was trying to be deliberately uncaring, but because I misunderstood the point of the short and cryptic remark.
And the fact that various comments are made in a blog thread before I've made a comment doesn't mean that I've read those comments before commenting; especially not when they were in the last five or fifteen or twenty-five minutes or two hours that maybe I was doing other things during before hitting "comment" again.
It's not much fun for me, either, when I misunderstand people. Honest.
ADDENDUM, 12:01 A.M.: one of several reasons I don't tend to follow trials or news of crimes-against-persons is because I'm simply going to be very upset by them, and apt, I expect, to learn nothing of greater value, and I don't see the value in learning details or gossiping about them. That may be dumb of me, but it's not a product of being indifferent to people, and it damn well isn't a product of insufficient empathy.
Thus I tend to stick to reading about issues, and away from reading about terrible things that have happened to individual people.
As I've written before, I also intellectually appreciate the virtues of horror fiction, but if I'm not being paid to work on it, I avoid it, and have no interest in horror movies, either. As I've written, I can't even watch tv shows like ER these days, or the various forensic detective shows, because they all upset me too much, whether because of the graphic violence, or the emotional violence.
It's not something I need in my life, it's not something I'm entertained by, it's not something I get a vicarious thrill from, it's not something I need to learn from and find edifying, it's not something that fascinates me, and it's not something that's going to help me or anyone.
This is a problem of over-empathy, not under-empathy. But if you assume otherwise, thanks muchly for your own generous understanding.
ADDENDUM, 1:52 a.m.: I don't believe I've ever in my life told anyone "I hope you die."
Or took someone misunderstanding "I didn't need to read this" as meaning "here is an example of a story you don't want to read" for some reason, as deliberately having misunderstood.
I at a quick glance at the link found the names of people I didn't recognize talking about something I didn't understand and guessed that it was partially some reference to some cable tv show and misunderstood that to be the reason why we shouldn't want to read about it.
So I dutifully didn't read any more, since that's why it was, I thought, linked to, and I thought I had read enough to conclude "okay, I guess it is something we don't need to read."
Then not reading more about it, and then cheerfully offering in a comment that, okay, I didn't want to read about it, and finding out in response that in fact I had completely misunderstood, and the point of the post was entirely different, I wouldn't have said anything more, save that I offered a typical usage point in closing/passing. And left, figuring that was that, too bad I misunderstood and said something dumb.
And came back to find that I was being cursed and vilified. This on a blog whose last comment thread I'd been in a few hours before had made vicious fun, as is the norm there, of someone who had complained that a focus on document formats was dreadfully insensitive when someone he knew was having a hip operation, and where extreme mockery is the norm.
But, hey, obviously it wasn't a simple misunderstanding on my part. No, it's clearly that I'm a failure as a human being, don't care about a terrible incident I knew nothing about, and was deliberately or otherwise simply being insensitive to something I had no idea was the topic of discussion, and had initially been told wasn't worth reading further more about. Clearly it's that I don't care about rape or murder or terrible treatments of people in the court system or whatever other horrific details of the case make it, apparently, even more sickening/nauseating (I still don't want to know more).
Yes, that's it. Clearly. I just don't care about people. That's what I meant all along. It wasn't a misunderstanding, it was my callous indifference.
Excellent lesson in caring empathy and good communication. And groupthink. And understanding.
But I'm done apologizing for having misread something, and accidentally said something insensitive. I didn't need to read that.
I don't need to go places where I tend to delude myself into getting comfy and feeling friendly, and wind up being told things that will make me feel punched in the stomach and that I'll stew over and obsess over and be depressed and distraught about for weeks. I'm over-sensitive, and, yes, life is too short.
ADDENDUM, 4:44 p.m.: Since no one there has linked to this post or mentioned it, I have to assume that either no one, in fact, reads me, or if anyone does, they figure this isn't worth mentioning to anyone else. Thus confirming my conclusion that clearly my presence is not desired. So mote it be.
ADDENDUM, 3/23/06, 10:41 a.m.: Okay, I'm finding that the system isn't accepting comments at the moment; I just keep getting the same password request, and the comment form just keeps reloading each time; I have no idea why, but I can only assume it's the usual Blogger-being-broken shit has been going on of late, and that patience will cure it. But in case you were wondering; it's not just you, and it's not, so far as I know, anything specific to this blog.
UPDATE, 3/26/06, 10:35 a.m.: Since comments are working again, I've posted what I wrote on Thursday morning and couldn't post; responses are welcome.
UPDATE, 3/31/06, 7:31 a.m. But no responses forthcome. Presumably it's lack of interest, rather than lack of ability. Well, I kinda figured. Makes me sad, though. I'd have liked to have had further discussion, and some back and forth, and then gone back to chatting at Unfogged. That would have been my desired outcome. That's what I was hoping for by having written all this.
But: only two people bothered to post on this, out of dozens of members of the Unfogged collective. Conclusion: all of those folks don't give a shit whether I show up. And even the two posters' interest only extends a couple of days.
Result: I'm sad. Really. But, as a rule, by some people's standards, I care too much about online relationships, and perhaps relationships in general. I tend to care a lot, and, well, anyway.
DEATH ALWAYS CALLS ON THE VERY BEST ARCHITECTS. J. G. Ballard writes at mild length on one of his classic topics: modernist architecture, totalitarianism, and style.
Tsingtao had been a German naval base during the first world war, and I was taken on a tourist trip to the forts, a vast complex of tunnels and gun emplacements built into the cliffs. The cathedral-like vaults with their hydraulic platforms resembled Piranesi's prisons, endless concrete galleries leading to vertical shafts and even further galleries. The Chinese guides took special pleasure in pointing out the bloody handprints of the German gunners driven mad by the British naval bombardment.
Years later, in that Utah beach blockhouse, I was looking at similar stains on the concrete walls, but the scattered rubbish and tang of urine made me think of structures closer to home in England - run-down tower blocks and motorway exit ramps, pedestrian underpasses sprung from the drawing boards of enlightened planners who would never have to live in or near them, and who were careful never to stray too far from their Georgian squares in the heart of heritage London.
Almost all had survived the war and seemed to be waiting for the next one, left behind by a race of warrior scientists obsessed with geometry and death.
Death was what the Atlantic wall and Siegfried line were all about. Whenever I came across these grim fortifications along France's Channel coast and German border, I realised I was exploring a set of concrete tombs whose dark ghosts haunted the brutalist architecture so popular in Britain in the 1950s. Out of favour now, modernism survives in every high-rise sink estate of the time, in the Barbican development and the Hayward Gallery in London, in new towns such as Cumbernauld and the ziggurat residential blocks at the University of East Anglia.
But modernism of the heroic period, from 1920 to 1939, is dead, and it died first in the blockhouses of Utah beach and the Siegfried line. Yet in its heyday between the wars, modernism was a vast utopian project, and perhaps the last utopian project we will ever see, now that we are well aware that all utopias have their dark side.
However, I sometimes think that social catastrophe was what the dirt-poor residents secretly longed for.
Bertolt Brecht, no fan of modernism, remarked that the mud, blood and carnage of the first world war trenches left its survivors longing for a future that resembled a white-tiled bathroom.
The Nazis promptly closed the Bauhaus when they came to power and turned it into an SS training school.
Modernism saw off the dictators, and among its last flings were Brasilia, the Festival of Britain and Corbusier's state capital buildings at Chandigarh in India. But it was dying on its pilotis, those load-bearing pillars with which Corbusier lifted his buildings into the sky. Its slow death can be seen, not only in the Siegfried line and the Atlantic wall, but in the styling of Mercedes cars, at once paranoid and aggressive, like medieval German armour. We see its demise in 1960s kitchens and bathrooms, white-tiled laboratories that are above all clean and aseptic, as if human beings were some kind of disease. We see its death in motorways and autobahns, stone dreams that will never awake, and in the turbine hall at that middle-class disco, Tate Modern - a vast totalitarian space that Albert Speer would have admired, so authoritarian that it overwhelms any work of art inside it.
Architecture supplies us with camouflage, and I regret that no one could fall in love inside the Heathrow Hilton.
Architecture is a stage set where we need to be at ease in order to perform. Fearing ourselves, we need our illusions to protect us, even if the protection takes the form of finials and cartouches, corinthian columns and acanthus leaves. Modernism lacked mystery and emotion, was a little too frank about the limits of human nature and never prepared us for our eventual end.
YOUR CARBON NANOTUBULE BASED SIX-MILLION-DOLLAR-MANis on the way.
University of Texas at Dallas nanotechnologists have made alcohol- and hydrogen-powered artificial muscles that are 100 times stronger than natural muscles, able to do 100 times greater work per cycle and produce, at reduced strengths, larger contractions than natural muscles. Among other possibilities, these muscles could enable fuel-powered artificial limbs, "smart skins" and morphing structures for air and marine vehicles, autonomous robots having very long mission capabilities and smart sensors that detect and self-actuate to change the environment.
The really good part is the fuel:
[...] During the visit, Main described his visions of a future that could include such advancements as artificial muscles for autonomous humanoid robots that protect people from danger, artificial limbs that act like natural limbs and exoskeletons that provide super-human strength to firefighters, astronauts and soldiers -- all of which are able to perform lengthy missions by using shots of alcohol as a highly energetic fuel.
I foresee quick stop-offs at the pub before Steve Austin fights.
But by 1989, Mr. Moore had severed his ties with DC. The publisher says he objected to its decision to label its adult-themed comics (including some of his own) as "Suggested for Mature Readers." Mr. Moore says he was objecting to language in his contracts that would give him back the rights to "Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta" when they went out of print — language that he says turned out to be meaningless, because DC never intended to stop reprinting either book. "I said, 'Fair enough,' " he recalls. " 'You have managed to successfully swindle me, and so I will never work for you again.' "
It may not be clear to those unfamiliar with bog-standard publishing practices that this is entirely insane. Standard reversion clauses always state that rights don't revert while a publisher keeps the work in print; standard clauses say that publishing rights revert after a certain period of time after the work hasn't been in print.
If you want to demand an absolutely fixed term of rights, that runs out even when the publisher is still selling the work, you can certainly demand it (good luck with that, but Alan Moore can probably get it now); if you don't, there's nothing in the least unusual in that the publisher will retain rights so long as they keep a work in print (and, in fact, usually so long as the author or agent doesn't further ask in writing that rights revert).
Now, there are ways for publishers to take somewhat unfair advantage of authors with that standard clause, such as by not really keeping a work in print while technically doing so. But that's not, so far as I know, the sort of thing at all in issue with Alan Moore. He simply seems to feel that standard publishing practices are a personal vendetta against him. That's not some sort of excess of admirable personal ethics; that's just ridiculous. There was no "swindle" of him; if he didn't want to deal with publishing companies, no one forced him to, and if he wanted a contract written uniquely or unusually for him, hey, he was free to say so, and to sign or not sign.
I don't like sharp publishing practices, but the standard reversion clause that everyone who ever sells a book, comic or otherwise, is offered, is not one of them.
From that same Iztkoff piece:
Mr. Levitz said that such so-called reversion clauses routinely appear in comic book contracts, and that DC has honored all of its obligations to Mr. Moore. "I don't think Alan was dissatisfied at the time," Mr. Levitz said. "I think he was dissatisfied several years later."
Clearly. It's the privilege of writers to act or be nuts, if they're inclined, but it's good to be clear about when they're acting like children.
Mr. Lloyd, the illustrator of "V for Vendetta," also found it difficult to sympathize with Mr. Moore's protests. When he and Mr. Moore sold their film rights to the graphic novel, Mr. Lloyd said: "We didn't do it innocently. Neither myself nor Alan thought we were signing it over to a board of trustees who would look after it like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls."
Mr. Moore recognizes that his senses of justice and proportion may seem overdeveloped. "It is important to me that I should be able to do whatever I want," he said. "I was kind of a selfish child, who always wanted things his way, and I've kind of taken that over into my relationship with the world."
Fair enough. And I'll continue to be greatly interested in Moore's work. But he has no sympathy at all from me in his petulance.
Read The Rest Scale: eh. While I'm quoting and swiping from Locus Online, I might as well note the minor Ballard retrospective on the movie of Empire Of The Sun that I mentioned to someone in comments on another blog. And, what the hell, Claude Lalumière's positive review of the movie V For Vendetta. I'll see the film when it's on DVD; as usual, going out to a film is definitely not in my present budget.
Also, a little WaPopiece on Weird Tales and Betancourt's little publishing empire.
And in news not from Locus: Futurama's return not to DVD (as mentioned here), but apparently to 26 new broadcast episodes. (Read the comment by Billy West, not the post.)
And in news that does not make my nipples go spung, Spider Robinson reports (no permalinks):
I’ve delivered the novel VARIABLE STAR by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson to editor Pat LoBrutto at Tor Books, more than two weeks before deadline; hardcover publication is scheduled for September 2006. Based on an outline Robert created in November 1955 (when I was 7), it will be his 53rd book, and my 33rd. Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency represents both of us. My new friend David Crosby, a serious Heinlein fan, is presently composing a tune for some lyrics in Chapter One called “On The Way To The Stars.”
Being privileged to write this book has been the greatest honour and the most terrifying challenge of my career. Its creation has been a thrilling and deeply moving experience. I received nothing but support and encouragement from Robert’s family, friends and fans. I am very happy with the way VARIABLE STAR turned out. I think Robert is, too. And I hope you will be.
I should say that I've seen McKellen wax on about this point in several interviews now, and he's clearly over-projecting and just wrong:
Ian McKellen: I would have to say, on the matter of Rogue, that it isn't necessarily her particular mutancy which is her problem; it's other people's reaction to it. Maybe it's society that's wrong, not her.
His general case about "curing" mutancy, and the analogy to curing being gay/black/etc. is, of course, correct.
But in Rogue's case, she's specifically got a problem of not being able to touch other humans without dire results. That's not at all the same as being gay/black/minority/etc. It's not other people who have the problem; it's she who has a problem. Is the problem worth solving in any given specific way? That's another question. (And so the analogy to deaf people who oppose being given hearing, etc.) But seeing not being able to touch people as not being a problem is a bit different than looking at the problem of how other people react to her, I think. It's clearly not just the latter that's relevant.