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October 30, 2003

Phelps Clan: "Thank God for 9/11"

Our good friends at the NY Daily News have a sickening article titled Hate from the heartland about the self-parodying but still repugnant Fred Phelps. His merry band are (I think I have this right) protesting a Long Island high school where the football team was caught hazing freshmen players by jamming things up their bums. The culprit? Not the age-old, school-sponosored, parent-approved culture of jock sado-masochism. Noooo. Us-- The Gays. Controlling those hot, young Long Island gridiron studs by mind control rays, one imagines.

But the kicker is the photo. Three of Phelps' eight (!) kids holding signs reading: "God hates America," "God hates fag enablers," and astoundingly, "God blew up the shuttle."

Either these people are not Christians, or I'm not. Somebody get back to me on that before Sunday, OK?

It gets better. Apparently Mrs. Phelps is just a s nutters as her husband. Quoth she: "When you teach children that it's okay to indulge in any kind of sex act that they like ... that it's okay to be gay, it is inevitable that they will end up being violent and doing things that they shouldn't."

So I suppose she believes that suppressing homosexuality, stigmatizing it, forcing it into hiding-- is better, and would create less violence and trauma. Of course. That never hurt anyone, or caused gay kids to off themselves at three times the normal rate. But then, I'm sure she's all for gay kids offing themselves. The really good thing, though, would be just to kill us all so our evil Football Player Sodomy Mind Control Rays can't corrput the youth of America. Like, for instance, her poor children. Those poor little kids are clearly far beyond the help of any amount of therapy or deprogramming. Wouldn't you rather be one the bum-addled frosh on that team than one of those poor souls?

Too bad there is no picture of the sign reading "Thank God for Sept. 11th." I would hang that up somewhere so I could look at it any time I needed to get really, really angry.

And just for the record-- since we know some members of the Phelps clan sully our site with their crazy eyeballs-- I'll let you in on how I know The Gays aren't behind this. If we were, someone would have thought to show up with a digicam to bring us, for $19.95 a month. And the better our fine nation would be for that than a family that hands its kids signs like "God Blew Up the Shuttle." There's porn, and then there's real obscenity.

October 29, 2003

Just for self-defence

A gun is a great defensive weapon ... until it's wrested from your hands by an attacker and turned back on you. The NRA would do well to heed this lesson. A 19-page blacklist found on the NRA's website listing organizations, politicians and celebrities opposed to guns has been turned against the NRA by anti-gun activists. It's a perfect description of the broad spectrum of poeple opposed to the out-of-control gun laws in the USA. Some celebrities were so miffed that they weren't included that they even petitioned the NRA to be added!

Heh, heh.

October 28, 2003

The sky is falling!

Well, not really, but at 11AM this morning one of the largest eruptions of the Sun in over a decade sent billions of tons of high-energy gas and subatomic particles towards the earth. It could cause some disruption in radio communications and such, but on the bright side there's a good chance of some beautiful aurorae tonight. Step outside around midnight at take a look -- hope it's clear! has the details.

I've only seen the Northern Lights once before, about three years ago, from the rooftop of my old Capitol Hill apartment here in Seattle. The sky flashed an amazing irridescent green for about half an hour. An amazing sight I'm hoping to see again.

October 23, 2003

Rare sign of Congressional sanity

I was fairly apoplectic a couple weeks back when I heard on NPR that Bush wanted to tighten already-draconian restrictions on travel to Cuba (a place I'd love to see before it becomes a post-Castro theme park).

Don't we, as a nation, have bigger fish to fry? Can it really by Osama, Saddam, and our favorite fossilized Marxist, in that order? Don't we at least need to add Kim Jong Il and make it a Trapezoid of Evil? Cuba is no threat to anyone, and our continuing embargo is only hurting the Cuban people. Why is "engagement" OK for China (still Commie if I'm not mistaken) but not for Cuba? (Maybe Bush just wants to keep people away from his Guantanamo concentration camp.) (Click that link, really. It makes me nostalgic for the day's when Prava's anti-U.S. editorializing was ideological bullshit. Now the White House press office has the monopoly on that.)

So I was thrilled to read that the Senate is joining the House in passing a provision to lift the travel ban. It's a sign of something sane and healthy afoot that this weird Bushian effort was so soundly blocked by bipartisan effort. Of course he may veto the bill, but that would mean rejecting the entire $90 billion Transportation and Treasury appropriations bill. It will be fun to watch this one unfold.

Search inside the book has just introduced an incredible new feature. Now when searching for books, it doesn't just look for keywords in the title and author -- it looks in the actual content of the book! Pretty amazing stuff.

I actually found this really useful today. Years ago, I read a book by (at the time) a new Australian author. It was a bit of a pulp thriller, but I really enjoyed it, and I've been meaning to see what the author has written since then. Problem was, I couldn't remember the title of the book or the author. I tried a couple of Google searches as I recall but could never work out what the book was. But today I searched for "antarctica seal marines invisibility" (yes, the book did touch on all these plot points!) and found Ice Station as the sixth search result. Brilliant!

It looks as thought they've done a wholesale scanning of a large collection of books, and then used OCR to create the search corpus. I noticed a couple of transcription errors, but on the whole it seems to work pretty well. Try it out!

Divorce Settlement via Ebay

Want to get rid of unwanted, but potentially valuable items your ex-wife left behind?
Use Ebay! Or is this just clever marketing?

October 21, 2003

World peace at hand

As many of you who know me are aware, I believe that world peace can only really ever be achieved by the careful use of either pork or alcohol. The alcohol is easy. Get everyone really drunk and either they'll get it all out in a nice, healthy, barroom brawl, or they'll all just pass out and feel stupid the next day for having kissed a dozen rugby players and a couple of women the night before.

The pork thing is pretty easy to figure out too, though. Think about it. Most of the major world conflicts are between non-pork eating cultures. India and Pakistan. Iran and Iraq. Isreal and the Palestinians. Etc. I mean, you don't really see a whole lot of Italians and Spanish going at each other, do you? And yet you do see a whole lot of Italians and Spanish sitting around drinking wine and munching on excellent ham. So there you go. Anyway, the secret to world peace, I'm ever more convinced, is a big old pig roast. Just think about it. Get all these bigwig muckety-mucks down to W's ranch for some good beer and a barely solid pig that's been slowly turning on a spit for a few days over a low fire...The thing is, after something like that, you're incapable of not loving your fellow man. I just want, if W gets around to trying this little endeavor, to be given a share of that Nobel Peace Prize for having come up with this brilliant idea in the first place. In fact, I'd say let's just do it at my Pa's farm, but the whole secret service thing would probably make the horses nervous.

Anyway, in the same vein of the mutually enhancing properties of alcohol and pork, this editor dude named Josh Karpf has a description of his search for the perfect pork martini on his Web site

It's a brilliant idea, not too far from another porky endeavor Pete and Mike and I will make millions off of one of these days. But it's also such a hoot of a read. For example:

Tasting was overseen by a collection of sprightly, generic-yet-authentic Cole Porter oldies such as "Let's Do It," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and "Always True To You in My Fashion." Hot, salted Chinese "imitation" egg noodles and tap water were on hand to clear the palate. And there was even a lovely blond in the room: me.

The sweet dried pork Martini, despite the lack of apparent surface oil, coated the bottom of my upper lip with a tangy pork greasiness. I was casually impressed, though I began to worry about what the more visibly oily pork vodkas would later offer. The chilled Martini had a piggy bouquet beyond its plain pork-vodka aroma. Was that the endothermic effect of the chilled liquor alerting the nose, or the action of the herb-steeped vermouth? I sipped a little. No aftertaste or aftereffect beyond the expected tummy warmth. Little flavor at all, in fact. Dried meats would seem less than optimum.

The ground pork Martini's scent was powerful with essence of pork patty. This is not a cocktail for the pork Martini dilettante: Like specifically demanding from your bartender a "vodka Martini" instead of the understood default gin Martini, you'll have to specify the "pork patty Martini" instead of a vanilla version, and make sure he or she fries the pork just right, searing the surfaces, draining the fat, and not letting it burn while you chase Naomi or Leonardo into a restroom. Come back when it's mixed. Wow. This Martini packed a pork wallop. The aroma was overpowering, I have to admit. But that masked the oil; I saw the oil before, really, see my comments under "Transmogrification," supra, but I tasted no oil. I declaim this a Martini you will love or hate, no middle ground. You could get drunk on the bouquet alone, a secondary high. Your neighbor will notice -- and I mean your next-door neighbor, as you mix this at home, not the crackhead on the next barstool -- and ask "Hey, is that pork you're drinking?" "Yes!" you trumpet proudly. A great way to make new friends. Unless he or she is a vegetarian. But who wants a vegetarian friend?

You should, most definitely, take a look at the site too, if not to read the rest of the article, then at least to see the rather unnerving photos of the various pork martinis he tried.

And elsewhere on his site, Tales from the Coop, his take on meetings from the Park Slope Food Coop should appeal to those who've ever been on any sort of board that drove them crazy.

"Find the Boeing"

I'd had a very low tolerance for any sort of Sept. 11 conspiracy theory... but this site has somewhat piqued my curiosity. Check it out, and please provide the reasonable explanation I seem to be missing when I look at these photos. Is it insane to think that something other than a plane might have caused the destruction at the Pentagon? Some French folks go even further than that. I will only say that there is very little about Rummy that would surprise me. (Funny, really, how little we've seen that last picture on the news.)

October 20, 2003

Geek nostalgia

As I kid, I played a lot of video games. Of course, this was in the days before home console systems (and it took Atari a while to get to Australia). Instead, down at the corner store (the local deli) there was a continual rotation of stand-up cabinets. Pac-Man, Scramble, Defender, Galaga, all the classics. I'd usually go down for a few games after school, and play games with the big kids. I never managed to get any high scores, but this never stopped me playing. A couple of years later I discovered that the property company Mum worked for owned the biggest video arcade in Adelaide, and I'd sometimes get to follow her around while she counted the take from the machines and gave me lots of free credits. Kid geek heaven, that was! I got into some of the more challenging games like Missile Command and Tempest there, and improved a bit. That was where I got the pinball bug though, so I never played the video games so much after that. But I still have a real fondness for the old games. This was back in the days where your here character was a 10x15 grid of 4-colour pixels making "bloop bloop" sounds. Instead of relying on flashy graphics and music, game designers instead had to rely on gameplay and originality. Twenty years later, these old games are still great fun to play.

That's why I covet what Aaron Mahler has created. He's taken an old Millipede cabinet, added new controls, stuck a PC emulating old arcade games (using MAME) inside. He can choose from hundreds of games, and play them exactly like they were in the good old days. It even uses an original monitor and speakers! You can read all about in in Scientific American. I sooo want one of these.

October 18, 2003

Oh, that's why!

By way of my cousin (who is a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy at the Pentagon) came a copy of the Stratfor newsletter with a discussion of the recent strategy changes for the ongoing war in Iraq. What I found most surprising is not that we needed a change but their understood justification for the war in Iraq:
“To consider this, we need to recall the two strategic reasons the United States had for invading Iraq -- as opposed to the public justifications :(italics mine)
1. Seizing the most strategic country in the region as a base of operations from which to mount follow-on operations against countries that collaborate or permit collaboration with al Qaeda.
2. Transforming the psychological perception of the United States in the Islamic world from a hated and impotent power to a hated but feared power”
OK, the first one, while I am not completely comfortable with the means, I agree with this end. Terrorism needs to be fought both at home and abroad but one would have hoped that with all of the resources at our disposal that there could have been a better and less public way to accomplish this objective. I realize that Reagan’s executive order 12333 prohibited us from just arranging the assassination of Saddam Hussein (not that it kept W from trying, I’ll bet) while he was the “elected” leader of Iraq and it’s probably not the best foreign policy choice to go around whacking people, but I prefer it to invading a sovereign nation and miring ourselves in the thankless job of nation-building. And now, of course, it is too late. We are obligated to finish what this government has started. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee, even if they manage to establish Iraq as a stable base of operations, that the goal of launching successful operations into other countries in the region will bring an end to al Qaeda or its proxies around the world.
The second one I believe is flat short-sighted and assumes that there is no diplomatic path to building relations with Islamic countries. Granted we have not had too much success in this arena since the British first started carving the place up with the other European powers, but am I the only one that thinks fear is what inspired the hatred in the first place? Fear of losing their territory, their history and religion. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Middle East affairs (or anything for that fact) but I still believe that building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships is the best course to providing stability and prosperity. That doesn’t mean we’re wimps, it just means that we are looking to secure a better future for our world. Reviving the “US as world bully role” is not the way to secure that better tomorrow. It is the way to ensure that for every terrorist that dies or is captured there will be 10 to take his/her place.

October 16, 2003

Numbers to back up "Fox News makes dumb crackers dumber" theory

An exhaustive study reported in the WaPo confirms the obvious. "The fair and balanced folks at Fox, the survey concludes, were 'the news source whose viewers had the most misperceptions.'"

It would be great if this was just sloppy journalism. But writer Harold Meyerson hits the nail on the head:

One question inevitably raised by these findings is whether Fox News is failing or succeeding. Over at CBS, the news that 71 percent of viewers hold one of these mistaken notions should be cause for concern, but whether such should be the case at Fox because 80 percent of their viewers are similarly mistaken is not at all clear. Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and the other guys at Fox have long demonstrated a clearer commitment to changing public policy than to reporting it, and an even clearer commitment to reporting it in such a way as to change it.

Take a wild flight of fancy with me and assume for just a moment that one major goal over at Fox is to ensure Bush's reelection. Surely, anyone who believes that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were in cahoots, that we've found the WMD and that Bush is revered among the peoples of the world -- all of these known facts to nearly half the Fox viewers -- is a good bet to be a Bush voter in next year's contest. By this standard -- moving votes into Bush's column and keeping them there -- Fox has to be judged a stunning success. It's not so hot on conveying information as such, but mere empiricism must seem so terribly vulgar to such creatures of refinement as Murdoch and Ailes.


Margaret Cho has a blog and it's not bad. She beats up on Fred Phelps this week too. Sonny boy gonna have a busy few weeks on the Internet.

October 14, 2003

What makes Fred hate?

So apparently the haters use Google, too. In response to my recent post about Fred Phelps, someone named Timothy Phelps posted the following response:

Two comments, filth-boy. First, it's only because you don't really know Christianity or the Bible that you pretend not to know what happens to God-hating fools when they die. Read in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus. Unless you're just dead set on being ignorant, you will have your answer. Second, there is absolutely nothing grammatically incorrect about saying "in defiance of God's warning". God's commandment quoted here is also a warning of the consequences. Much like a statute making an act a crime is a clear and undeniable warning that to engage in the act will result in punishment under law. Try not to impose your lack of grammatical prowess ... in addition to your lack of scriptural understanding ... on everybody!

To which I responded:

Hey everybody-- start calling me "filth-boy." I really like that one. And Timothy, I'm shocked to hear you quoting the New Testament, since your god clearly predates and misinterprets the gospel of grace and love in Christ. My understanding of that gospel is not impressed by your wrongheaded proof-texting. The devil can quote scripture for his purposes, so I'm hardly impressed that you can, too.

Finally, I didn't say it was grammatically wrong, but syntactically (and therefore logically) flawed--I think Fred was trying to say "because he defied God's law," but failed to be that clear. The proposed statement makes it sound like going to Hell is against God's law--tellingly, the opposite of his intended hateful meaning.

Hi Timothy, if you're still enjoying our site, you should know I was raised Nazarene, am a practicing Anglican, and have read more theology than a lot of low-church preachers. I've read the Bible plenty--certainly enough to know that worshipping it (instead of the true God) is idolatry just as sure as bowing down before that golden calf was.

I did a little websearching and apparently this Timothy guy really is Phelps' son. If he's the one I've seen on TV a couple of times--like the time they came to Seattle and picketed my church, St. Mark's, to proclaim that the gay couple who died in the Alaska Airlines crash in California a couple years back were in Hell--he can probably tell us quite a bit about the real, close-to-home motivations for his father's gay-baiting zeal. Because the son I saw on TV acts way gayer than any of us. Hell, he would make Perry look butch. None of the Fab Five are as flaming as this guy. As with the rumored-to-be-a-jew Hitler, we know that nothing fuels the fires of hatred quite as much as self-hatred. So of course it doesn't surprise me at all that Phelps' son spends so much time on the Internet, though I'd expect him to be somewhere with more pictures and less text.

October 13, 2003

Deregulation sucks

Deregulation: brought to popularity by two decades ago Reagan, Thatcher and converted into a religion by their successors, has failed. Sure, in a free and efficient market, deregulation should bring better results at lower costs to the consumer. But has this ever happened? Deregulation revolutionized the airline industry and brought cheap flights to all, but are we better off flying today than we were ten years ago? Will the airline industry survive ten years from now? The only other "success" story I can think of is the telephone industry.

The problem, of course, is rooted in the mythical efficient market. It seems that the biggest proponents of deregulation are the least likely to set the conditions necessary for it to succeed: true competition, liquid markets, and available information. The UK railroads was the first large-scale example of this I saw. How can you have competition when only one company is allowed to run trains in a specific region? Predictably, deregulation of the UK rail industry was a total failure, and led to wide-scale deterioration of the infrastructure and several deadly accidents.

On a smaller scale, I was astounded to learn that here in Seattle, only one cable company serves any one house. At our new place, we can only get Millennium; at my last place it was Comcast or nothing. Where is the competition? No wonder cable costs so much.

Check out this article on the effects of deregulation on the energy industry. Not only did the legislators that oversight and maintenance of large-scale public infrastructure, with so few players, could ever represent an efficient market, they ignored the basic physical design of the network and designed rules guaranteed to overstress the hardware. Despite the warnings of engineers and physicists, deregulation of the electricity market in the US was practically guaranteed to result in poorer service from widespread blackouts.

The fundamental problem is that deregulation requires all the generators to be linked together so that they can trade electricity, basically linking the entire grid into one big machine. So when a problem occurs in one area, it spreads widely. You'd think the solution would be to return to the old ways, where energy was generated regionally, without these interdependencies, right? Wrong. The FERC advocates increasing cross-country transmission, and is willing to spend billions and undermine environmental legislation to allow utilities to continue to trade electricity in support of this mythical free market. And who's going to pay for all of this? From the article:

To pay the extensive costs, the utilities and the DOE advocate increases in utility rates. “The people who benefit from the system have to be part of the solution here,” Energy Secretary Spencer Abrams said during a television interview. “That means the ratepayers are going to have to contribute.” The costs involved would certainly be in the tens of billions of dollars. Thus, deregulation would result in large cost increases to consumers, not the savings once promised.

So let me get this straight. Deregulation was supposed to make electricity cheaper and more reliable for the consumer. It didn't work. So now, we're going to make the consumer pay to get the benefits promised in the first place?

Deregulation sucks.

E-voting and Diebold's deceptions

So not only were republicans able to steal the 2000 elections in Florida, but that disaster has accelerated the shift to e-voting, without broad discussions of its methodologies and risks. As much as I love digital technology, I am upset with any voting system that fails to provide a paper trail of any kind.

Worse still, the CEO of Diebold (the dominant player in traditional and electronic voting machines) is an activist, far-right Republican fundraiser, who wrote in a fundraising letter last year that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." This immediately makes me thinks about foxes in the henhouse. And with e-voting, there is absolutely no way to be sure votes haven't been tampered with. And a recent Johns Hopkins study of Maryland's e-voting procedures shows how easy Diebold (and flawed state safeguards) make this. (How easy, you ask? Hardwired passwords, source code exposed on public FTP sites, and the storage of election results on easily-forged smart cards. Add to this the serious flaws in the training of election workers and the physical security of the machines after their shipment to polling places, and you end up with the potential of wholesale election tampering and theft.)

Even more troubling are the comments of a whistleblower who worked with Diebold as a subcontractor in the lead-up to Georgia's 2002 gubernatorial election, which ended up with the surprise unseating of a popular Democrat by a Republican challenger who had trailed him in the polls throughout the election. Diebold subcontractor Rob Behler claims that Diebold engineers applied patches to voting machines after they were certified, and that they actively avoided recertification, due to time constraints and because it could have prevented Diebold from being paid for the machine. Why the need for patches? Because up to 30% of the machines were crashing and freezing. (The OS in question? Windows CE.)

I am always mindful of the adage that one should never suspect malice until ignorance is ruled out. Diebold sounds mighty ignorant, and it has cleared leapt into the breach with e-voting in an attempt to preserve the market share it built up on mechanical voting systems. But you know, they make most ATMs, which are about as safe and reliable as technology gets. Wouldn't you expect they could engineer a voting machine that is at least as good as an ATM? Unless, that is, there were compelling reasons to hold our votes less secure than our money. If you're the CEO of Diebold, perhaps there is a good reason.

Digital voting systems are fine-- the technology has the potential to make voting faster, more convenient, and more accessible for those with disabilities. But it is clear that e-voting needs to maintain some kind of paper trail to allow auditing.

In the zeitgeist

Looks like nonfamous (and me!) was quoted in the New York Daily News last week. I'm not so familiar with this paper. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

October 12, 2003

That's irony

Another walk with Short Dad today. Yayy! Let's spin round in circles three times by the door. "Sit!" "Sit!" "Down!" "SIT!!!". Hmm, maybe I'd better sit. Short dad puts the leash on. Oboy it's the long leash! Double yay!

I lead Short Dad on the usual route. Down past the blackberry bushes in the overgrown lot. Along the straight road with all the interesting staircases to explore. What's that down there? The park!?! Oboyoboyoboy. I'm real excited now.

But why is Short Dad stopping? He's looking at a lamp post, but it doesn't seem like he needs to go potty. No... he's looking at a sign stuck to the post. There's a picture on it. Hey, it looks like me! I wonder why it's stuck up there.

Short Dad is trying to take down the sign, but it looks like he's having trouble doing it with one hand. Lots of sticky tape all around the post. What's he doing now? He's taking the clipping thing and attaching it to his belt. Oh, I see! He's attaching the leash to the caribiner so he can use both hands to take down the sign. Looks like he's making progress now.

But I want to go in the park!! Maybe if I tug a bit he'll take notice ... whoa! Looks like the belt loop on Short Dad's pants is gonna break.

ARGHAGAGAHGH! What's this noise on the ground! Gotta run gotta run. Omigod! It's chasing me! And clattering! Oh, the clattering! I can't get away from it! Maybe if I run down this hill into the bushes I can escape... run run run run run run run

run run run run run ... it's still chasing me!!

run run


ACK!! I'm stuck! Stuck under a recycling bin! But at least the clattering has stopped. Maybe I'll just hide here for a while.


Is that Short Dad's voice? Hmm. I think I'll just stay right here thank you.


He's calling me again. Go away! Let me be neurotic in peace Short Dad!


Oh dear. A corgi is sniffing at me! What will I do? And look, the corgi's Mum is looking at me now! Go away! But look, she's untangling the leash. Maybe she has a soft bed I can lie on. I think she's taking me home.

Corgi's mum puts a bone in front of me. Is it mine? I don't think so. Corgi has come up and eaten it. Lucky I didn't touch it. Mustn't touch what isn't mine.

Corgi's mum looks at my collar. It's pretty and jangly isn't it? Now she's going to the telephone. "Hello ... is that animal control? ... Yes, I've found a dog ... I see a license number on his collar ... yes, I'll hold while you call." A couple of minutes later the phone rings. "Yes, I have him right here ... come over, I'll leave the light on." I wonder what that was all about?

Knock knock! Scary noise. What's that? Is that Short Dad's voice? Maybe if I peek around the corner! It is him... gotta hide. He's calling me! "Sit!" Sounds like the stern voice. I'd better sit. Oh look, it's the short leash. That means we're going to the Dog Park!! Yayyy!! I'm happy. Short Dad leads me out of the strange house and into the Big Truck. I love riding in the truck. I bet we're going to the park. Can't wait can't wait can't wait. Hey, why are we home already? Oh well, better run upstairs and into my bed.

I wonder why we didn't go to the dog park? Maybe it's because I ran away from Short Dad. Nahh, couldn't be. I've never done anything like that before, so how mad could he be? In any case I promise never to do it again.

October 10, 2003

"WiFi SM: Feel the spectacle of pain"

There is a great German word, Weltschmerz, which roughly translates to "awareness of the pain of the world." Clearly, the world has plenty of pain, some caused by us in the West, who have almost no direct, unmediated way of appreciating just how bad things are in some places. The point is not guilt, but simple perception. Although the WiFi - SM site is a joke, and kid of a funny one, but it's not fundamentally a bad idea. I'd wear one for a week.

Less painful, but just as useful, might be a "daily Weltschmerz report" like the weather or UV index, that quantified suffering, distress, and discomfort on a global scale (and perhaps the pockets of elation, relief, and joy in others). The increasing insulation of the West from the real conditions of the majority of humanity is a serious problem, and I feel no idea is too far fetched that might bridge this gap.

October 09, 2003

NYT on Eddie Izzard

A great review of the show we saw in Vancouver, with a great title: A Male Lesbian Whose Appeal Is Mainly Cerebral.

The Times describes Eddie as "the most popular, and exportable, British comedian since the heyday of Monty Python."

Since the Times has that horrible paid archive thing and requires registration, I'm going to break a bunch of laws. Click below for the story.

October 9, 2003
A Male Lesbian Whose Appeal Is Mainly Cerebral

Eddie Izzard, the exhaustingly funny stand-up comic, certainly looks more at home than most men would in fishnet stockings, stiletto-heeled boots and a thigh-flashing skirt. But even given his ease with femme fatale accouterments, is "Sexie" really an appropriate title for his new touring show, which runs at City Center through Saturday?

Mr. Izzard, you see, is not a come-hither kind of guy. While he is most efficiently identified as that transvestite comedian from Britain who calls himself a male lesbian, his immense appeal has little to do with sex. Mr. Izzard is undoubtedly seductive, but his brand of seduction aims directly at the head, not below the belt. After a couple of hours in his company, your mind is likely to be so crammed with the odds and ends — mostly odds — of what he's been saying, that you have no room left for your own thoughts.

"Circle" was the title of Mr. Izzard's show of three years ago. That comes closer than "Sexie" to suggesting how his sorcery works. Mr. Izzard, whose theme is nothing less than civilization and its multifarious contents, traffics in delirious, dizzying circles of ideas and images. On the surface they have nothing to do with one another. And yet they flow effortlessly into a single, opalescent stream of consciousness.

Pole dancing and libraries; prosthetic breasts and their relation to jelly fish; jelly fish and their relation to soap opera acting; the possibilities of Monterey Jack cheese as a weapon; the crusades; penises and car doors. All right, stop and catch your breath now. These are just a few of the subjects that "Sexie" links in a melting chain of logic in its first five minutes or so.

This connected disconnectedness has made Mr. Izzard the most popular, and exportable, British comedian since the heyday of Monty Python. In a speeding world of increasingly scrambled cultures and images, he is an emperor of incongruity.

His balancing of ostensibly opposed elements starts with his appearance. As anyone can testify who saw his haunting performance as a disaffected father in the recent Broadway revival of "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg," Mr. Izzard is a handsomely mannish man. His beefy, blond good looks do not make you think, "Wouldn't he look nice in a dress?" Yet there is nothing off-putting about Mr. Izzard in full drag, sporting a new pair of breasts. (Implants that haven't been planted is how he describes them.) They are on display in a sculptured black corset top, and Mr. Izzard calls attention to them early.

Synthetic breasts have their disadvantages, he says; they are prone to explode in airplanes at high altitudes. On the other hand, you can wrap them around your ears to block noise. This antierotic notion of breasts as ear muffs recurs sporadically throughout "Sexie"; so does his confessed tendency to finger his bosom when dealing with bureaucratic figures like customs officials.

That's another one of the miracles of Mr. Izzard, by the way. Once he throws a conversational ball into the air, he keeps it in play for the rest of the night, even when you assume he's forgotten all about it. And every one of them is inspected with a magnifying eye that inflates everything to the point of absurdity.

This allows Mr. Izzard to consider superheroes in Greek mythology, contemporary comic books and world religion; the invention of fire and the wheel by a couple of cavemen named Jeff and Steve; dog racing from the point of view of a greyhound; and what would happen if tigers ruled the world. Somewhere along the way he acts out a conversation between the scientists Pavlov and Doppler, who share a car (with two steering wheels), while Doppler throws cats out the window.

Mr. Izzard gives varied voice to these disparate figures and lets them talk among themselves by shifting profiles as he switches characters. Mr. Izzard, as Eddie Izzard, also talks to himself quite a bit, making notes on an invisible pad about which routines still need work. This gives the disarming impression of letting his loudly appreciative audience in on the process of shaping his act.

There are glancing detours into more usual topical fare: President Bush's encounter with a pretzel, American imperialism, British-American culture clashes, and racists, a group he describes as being less polite than smokers. (They never ask, as smokers do of smoking, if it's all right to practice racism in front of you.)

Yet Mr. Izzard never reads as hostile or even aggressive. Unlike most American stand-ups, he attacks neither his audience nor himself, instead creating the illusion that he is courteously letting you eavesdrop on an infinite internal dialogue.

"Let's have an interval," he says casually at the end of the first act, "and we'll come back in a bit, and we'll talk some more." When the show ends, you can't quite accept that the conversation is over. Mr. Izzard has so infiltrated your thoughts that you almost expect him to be waiting in your apartment when you get home, still chatting away about Neanderthals and jelly fish.


With Eddie Izzard; lighting by Josh Monroe; sound by George Glossop; set by Alex Saad; costumes by Charlotte Mann in association with Russell Sage; music by Sarah Guinness. Presented by WestBeth Entertainment. At City Center, 131 West 55th Street, Manhattan.

Whither Paul Allen?

I can't decide how I feel about Seattle, and if this Wired News article is any indication, I'm not alone. I still begrudge him his billion dollars worth of stadiums, but I actually think the South Lake Union plan is a good one. Though Seattle does lag behind other biotech hot-spots, the UW is emerging as a major research hub and should be throwing off a lot of private sector innovation.

Lord knows we need to diversify away from software (read: Microsoft). It's kind of ironic that Allen might help us to do that.

October 08, 2003

Fred Phelps is going to hell, but not immediately

Everyone's favorite anti-gay preacher/hatemonger wants to put up a monument in Matthew Shepard's hometown of Caspar, Wyoming that reads "MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22."

In an attempt to avoid my knee-jerk reaction, which includes screaming obscenities and grinding my teeth until bits of dentition come loose, let me make the measured observation that the preacher's grasp of basic Christian theology is severely lacking. Much as we might like them to, bad people (Republicans included) don't go "straight to hell" any more than good people (or all dogs) go "straight to heaven." There is the small matter of the Final Judgment, which any good fundamentalist will know can't have happened yet, because Jesus has not yet rocketed back down to Earth orbit in a blaze of glory. The Bible is not entirely clear as to where the dead are-- sleeping? in a bus station in Alpha Centauri?-- but they have not yet met their maker, or their final judgment.

Sure, pop culture shows the recently dead sprouting haloes or horns and spiriting off. But pop culture also shows gay men and lesbians forming stable relationships and raising happy families (and even helping schlumps look better), and that apparently upsets Phelps. If he wants to be a fire-and-brimstone freak, he should be held to a higher standard than feel-good religionists. Personally, I think he's going to burn in Hell not only for his hatefulness, but for his lack of faithfulness as a preacher to Christian doctrine. If you are going to split hairs, get a sharp razor.

Also, there is the matter of Phelps' syntax. People go to Hell "in defiance" of God's demands? Clearly, this man is not a genius, but can not one of his posse structure a simple declarative sentence?

As for Matthew Shepard, may he rest in peace.

My big adventure

First, I promise never to do it again.

So Short Dad took me on a great walk yesterday. We went all the way down to the market so he could get more half-and-half for Tall Dad's coffee. (He's nice like that, you know?) Since stores discriminate against dogs, I had to stay on my leash outside like I always do. No biggie, right?

I'm not sure what it was... a car just went by and it sounded like "whoo-whooooo" or something. Cars should not make that noise. Flipping out a bit, I did my patented "reverse-step collar-slip" and voila, my neck stopped jingling. It was so cool to be able to walk around without making noise. It was like I was in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell or something.

Anyway, I was sneaking around when Short Dad came out of the store in a panic. (He looks really funny when he's alarmed.) I decided I wasn't ready to go home, so I went round the corner instead. Oh look, a squirrel!

Our new neighborhood is cool! Lots of houses, lots of dogs, lots of places to hide. I kind of lost track of time and didn't realize how worried the Dads Plural would be. Apparently really worried. But, on the flip side, I'm a celebrity! Sometime after dark, I saw this sign on a light pole and realized that I was, like, lost. Then I realized I didn't know where I was. I read the poster again. "Very shy... will not come if called, and will run if chased or startled." Wow. Am I that big a wuss? If so, should I really be out here alone?

So it was about this time that I thought, I'm hungry. The Dads are worried. Maybe I should go home. Where exactly is home?

It took me a lot of wandering around, but I got there about 2 in the morning. I was dog tired, and just wanted to crawl into my wicker bed (which I promise not to chew any more.) And wouldn't you know it, as I came up the front steps, the door opened and there was Short Dad, dressed only in a towel. I ran right up to the bedroom and started drinking my water. Tall Dad woke up and asked if he was dreaming, and then had me jump up on the bed, even though I was wet and stinky. They were talking about looking for me, and how our new friend Jamie helped. What a nice guy!

Those Dads must really love me, because they were so happy to see me they were crying. Short Dad put my collar back on my, so I'm all jingly again. You know, I like that sound! But Short Dad, does it have to be so tight?

Sonic spanners... and JAM

This news has made my day. According to Tom Baker, Dr. Who #4, the star of the new BBC version launching in 2005 will be... "executive transvestite Eddie Izzard! David and I saw him live in Vancouver last month and he was amazing. If you don't know Eddie, either rent a DVD or check out his site.
The series will be directed by Queer as Folk creator Russell T. Davies, but it is important to note the Eddie is not gay--just Anika's dream man. And he does wear that lipstick like a champ!

October 07, 2003

Watch it? We're living it!

So Adrants is covering a new reality show, Merge, to be sponsored by Home Depot, about a couple moving in together and merging their belongings. It promises to be interesting-- unless, of course, it hits too close to home. Watching it would probably make me thank my lucky stars-- I think the worst argument David and I have had about moving in is whether we should have a stereo in the sitting room. (We're trying it with the sleek, almost hidden, iPod system for now.)

October 05, 2003

The Best Imitation of Myself

Andy Warhol said that everybody gets 15 minutes of fame. Since I became aware of that statement, I have been haunted with the pressure to make sure I didn't "squander" it uselessly. I think ultimately I'm hoping to stretch it out long enough to make some cash and then maybe even become a decent trivial pursuit answer. (Not in the Kato Kalin sort of way mind you... I said "decent") It's good to have dreams no? Well, thinking about the 15 minutes scenario every now and then always pauses me to reflect on maybe what could have been or should have been or the road less travelled sort of thing... (we could call it RobertFrost-itis I suppose) so, with the exception of 6 minutes in a Donny Osmond video, I was curious to see how well my remaining 9 minutes were being "saved". Not an easy task to accomplish but thank god for the internet right? (without which, how would you be reading this anyway?) I'm sure everyone has done this at least once, where you type in your name into a google search and see what pops up as "you". Well, as it turns out my name is not uniquely my own. There they were the other "me"s. A doctor or two, a tennis player, a travel editor (who has been dubbed the "travel detecctive"), a kid who plays drums in a high school marching band, and some guy named Warren but was nicknamed "Pete" (How the hell does that happen?!) Sort of like a mini vacation for the soul, there were these other lives all right there hanging out as possabilities and choices missed or not taken (yeah, that part is a stretch but if you can't go with that, then this article really doesn't have much of a point now does it?). It is somehow comforting to think that I have made progress and advancements in the medical and labratory science or have been alerting people to frequent flyer scams, shredding it up the guitar with 10 pounds of aquanet in the lion mane of my hair (didn't I mention him before? yeah... there's one of those out there too) and so on... it somehow makes the days of sitting about the house eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's seem less like slacking off and more like a well deserved rest from all of my worldly activities. It is good to know that my 9 minutes are still safely stored away and who knows maybe I'll get to borrow a few from those other guys... not like they'll miss 'em or anything.

October 03, 2003

Now we know why we like Dozer so much

Scientists in England have announced the results of a novel (to say the least) way of answering (duh) the age-old question (duh) Of whether sexual orientation is innate (duh duh duh)--by testing how quickly one startles at a loud noise. Huh?

Apparently this is an innate response, and the same brain regions that initiate it also involve sexual desire. Apparently, gay men, like women, startle easier. Lesbians are less easily startled, like straight men. Of course. That must mean Dozer is uber-queer, as he gets startled before the sound waves actually reach his freakishly large ears! (Sorry, Dozer, it's true.)

In unrelated gay news, Ananova also reports that several 17th century Cambridge chapels feature shared tombs of male lovers. Further research indicates that at least one of the couples referred to their relationship as a "connubium," or marriage. Apparently somebody in the church was OK with it back then, pity we got lost along the way.

New web-immersive marketing program

You may recall the brilliant web-based marketing program for the movie AI. It began with a single webpage for a university that does not exist, but which apparently hired some characters related to the movie. The way you got started in the game was to note the "Jeanine Salla" was listed in the trailer as the "Robot Psychologist" (a strange title, to be sure). From the first google search you were led to a series of websites set in the timeline of the movie, with a murder-mystery to solve to boot. In my opinion, the most innovative marketing program ever, and very successful too.

Now, it looks like the Matrix is getting into the act. Remember who Neo worked for? Check out Metacortex (if it's not slashdotted, anyway), especially the products and services section. There's a particularly intriguing link to an undersea hotel. What's it all about? No one's really sure just yet, but finding out is part of the game. The game is afoot, and a guide to the puzzle is already underway.

October 02, 2003

Rush hooked on pills

There are very few people I am willing to say I hate. Rush Limbaugh is one of them. With the possible exception of Ailes and Murdoch's hell-spawned Fox News (which Rush made possible), no person has done more to spread lies, fan right-wing hysteria, and generally turn the airwaves into a sewer of uninformed and unthinking propaganda. Just today, he had to resign his ludicrous and unsuccessful stint as a color commentator for ESPN because of the furor around his suggestion the Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb only gets media attention because the media want a black QB to succeed. (What is it with all these fat-ass white guys who have never played a sport signing up the be commentators? How did Madden get to be God?)

Anyway, the really good news is that Rush, having whipped up so many scandals, now has one of his very own: he's an inveterate pill-popper and he threatened his supplier, his maid, to continue getting him drugs. Just a nasty, nasty man all around. The NY Daily News has the scoop (from the National Enquirer, but the Daily News did independently verify that he's under investigation).

It does make you wonder how much worse an ass he would be if he weren't dropping oxycontin, Lortab, and hydrocodone?

I hope the "liberal media" stick a spit in him and slow-roast him for a few dozen news cycles. I'm sure he wouldn't taste good, but he could feed a starving village for a week... and thus some good could come from his miserable existence.

October 01, 2003

Most Popular Names for Dogs in NYC

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released the list of most popular names for dogs in NYC. Dozer is spared from this questionable acclaim.

It came out of nowhere

One day, I'm happily ensconced in Capitol Hill, thinking to myself, that this is the life. I've finally come to peace with the idea of settling myself on the West Coast and not trying to be a New Yorker again. I've finally made my way to a neighborhood where I feel completely at ease. I've finally got a place I love and could see staying in for years to come.

And then, one day over the summer, on a perfectly innocent trip back from North Bend, a thought entered my head, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. "Hmm...maybe some day I would want a farm." Now the scary thing is that although those were the words in my head, the image of it was absolutely crystal clear and specific--a small sheep and goat dairy farm where I would make artisanal cheeses.


Yeah, I know. I make food. This is what I do. It's what I love. And, well, I've got some fairly complex theories about the spiritual power of cheese that ranks up there with my belief that pork is going to need to be a central ingredient in any recipe for achieving world peace. But I'm also a city girl. I mean, I always thought of Ballard as the country. So this was all just a passing thought, right?

But I felt it, even more strongly, driving back from Eastern Washington back during Labor Day weekend. And was even more scared.

Nowadays I find myself really giving thought to how likely any of this could be. When would be an optimal time to consider starting up a side operation of that nature, and would it be somewhere between my Microsoft job and the Cascade range, or back east, because, well, if I'm not going to live in the city, then I might as well return more to my roots and see my family a bit more.

Not that I'm thinking any of this will happen any time soon. I'm too young still to live outside of the city proper. On the other hand, I've started thinking of living in the city as something that I might not always want to do. Lord, what the hell is happening to me. Are the rest of you recently-turned-30 nonstrangers going through similar crises, beginning to believe that certain things that you had thought were a part of you were only a part you as young person? Help!

Anyway, I intend to post something later today about Amanda Hesser's scathing, and amazing, critique of this Semi-Homade series of cookbooks, but I got stuck reading this article about a sheep farm and artisinal cheesemaking operation in Connecticut and thinking about how I might write to the folks who run it and try to chat them up about the whole thing.

And then I got scared again.