Wise Men Auditions (2002)
Blog with a View is in sleep mode for the holidays but will be back with fresh views after the start of the new year.
Santa Lifts Off (2000)
He's on his way -- at least according to the grapevine of Bush-authorized wiretaps. No wonder the guy's suspect. He gives to the poor. Never downsizes. Never outsources. No Enron creative accounting. No kickbacks from the toy lobby. Santa can't be a Republican -- especially after an infraction like this:
By the way, my Christmas stocking is getting heavier. As seen on MyDD, Barron's, a bigtime big business magazine, has called for impeachment hearings on Bush for criminal wiretapping infractions. Here's my favorite part:
Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.
I'm down with that. BushCo loves these you're-either-with-us-or-with-the-terrorists polarized dichotomies. So let's pitch this black and white worldview back into
Torquemada's Bush and Cheney's laps. Congress should either vote to explicitly grant the President unlimited, warrantless snooping on American citizens free of judicial wrist slaps (and then see how voters enjoy enabling their government to edge further into old school KGB spying) -- or, Congress should immediately begin impeachment hearings for the most heinous Constitutional violations by an administration since Richard Nixon. Okay, Judiciary Coms. Mull that either-or voice vote over your egg nogs and yule logs.
And that's what I call hearing such a clutter...
Drop by Agitprop. Blogenfreude's on top of the absurd "War on Christmas" hooey.
Missed Window (1999)
Those that would give up essential liberty in pursuit of a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.
As Christmas closes in, the blog will pretty much go into holiday photoblog mode for the next few days.
But, before that, I'd like to say thanks to legislators who've been showing some gumption and standing up to the BushCo bullies lately. Although the Patriot Act got a six-month reprieve, its troublesome privacy issues are increasingly being magnified under a public microscope. And with Dear Leader claiming near omnipotent executive police powers in the name of fighting terrorists in a war apparently without end, Americans should be concerned about snoops in the wires and the bookstores and the libraries.
In fact, Democrats fought the good fight on many fronts. As Bloomberg.com reports:
Democrats prevailed in getting Senate Republican leaders to abandon the [Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] oil-drilling plan, which was attached to the defense budget. That and the six-month extension of the Patriot Act were setbacks for President George W. Bush, who had pushed for the oil provision and for full renewal of the anti-terror law. Democrats also succeeded in using a procedural measure to delay enactment of the spending cuts that target programs such as Medicaid and student loans.
I've dissed the Dems in the past for rubber backbone syndrome, but I'm grateful for their efforts in doing what they were elected to do: serve the best interests of the people -- all of the people. Again -- thanks.
And can't you feel it? The whole crazy quilt of lies and fear and bullshit is finally unraveling. And I think the American people are ready to trust their own guts and not Bush's. The room of the country is stuffy and smells like something rotting. As John Dean once said: There's a cancer on the presidency.
Anybody who rationalizes George W. Bush’s illegal use of secret, warrantless wiretaps against American citizens is no friend of democracy. They may call themselves “conservatives.” But they might with equal accuracy dub themselves Martians or Zoroastrians.In reality, they are ideologues who place party over country, enemies of the Constitution and its freedoms. There’s evidently no outrage they won’t rationalize so long as a Republican’s doing it. For reasons best left to historians, the Republican right has made itself captive to a brand of callow authoritarianism that’s found its hero in this swaggering mediocrity who appears invariably to draw the wrong lessons from what few scraps of history he knows.The last time no-warrant, presidentially authorized wiretaps came before the Supreme Court was 1972, courtesy of President Richard M. Nixon, who used the FBI to spy on political foes and famously decreed that “when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” The court voted 8-0 against Nixonian presumption. In his concurring opinion, Justice William O. Douglas quoted his illustrious predecessor, Justice Louis Brandeis: “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.”[...]Bush and his legal enablers hold to an extremist interpretation of the “commander-in-chief” clause of the U. S. Constitution that would give him virtually unlimited executive powers in times of war -- even a “war on terror,” a metaphorical struggle against an abstract noun which theoretically could go on forever.It’s an absurd argument. The president commands the armed forces, not the United States. The Founding Fathers meant to assure civilian control of the military, not to establish a wartime strongman.[...]But Bush evidently doesn’t want even a secret court to know who’s being spied on. He may have good reason. NBC News reported that the Pentagon is up to its old tricks. Papers obtained by the ACLU reportedly show the FBI gathering intelligence on a “Vegan Community Project,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers, all about as likely to launch a terrorist attack as my basset hound Fred.
So, legislators, of both parties, don't buy into the daily dose of fear and show none yourselves. Don't let the curtains be drawn. Act. Act now.
Some citizens and congressmen and women aren't waiting. And they've got the goods to back up their claims. To learn more please visit
and follow the links and read and think and decide for yourself. If you do, I really believe you'll come to this zen-like conclusion:
And you know what's the best present in my stocking this Christmas? Listening to wingnuts, now starting to fret that Bush may be on the impeachment ropes, arguing that charges should never have been brought against Clinton. Aaaah. Better than sugarplums.
From NewsHounds, who watch Fox News so I don't have to:
FOX News Legal Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, appearing on The Big Story yesterday [12/20/05], equated Bush's current predicament with that of Bill Clinton's lying to a judge over the Lewinsky affair: criminal, but does not rise to the level of impeachment. He charges that if the Democrats take over the House in 2006 they will impeach Bush because "they hate him" and want "payback."
Oh, goodness no, dude. 'Tis not personal. 'Tis not about payback. 'Tis about upholding the Constitution and enforcing the laws of the United States. 'Tis the season to be giving...
...giving out subpoenas for Rovians and NeoCons and all Bubble Boy enablers to appear at an impeachment hearing.
And that reality-based community show should keep the window open enough to flood the whole country with light.
Blog with a View, at heart, is a digital art photoblog. Each Wednesday, I present an image without the distraction of my headache-inducing writing.
As always, feel free to talk back to the art -- or, if you like, write something yourself in this open thread.
Americans are all ronin now.
the JFK questionable Wikipedia:
A ronin ( Japanese: ronin: literally, wave man -- one who is tossed about, like a wave in the sea) was a masterless samurai during the feudal period of Japan that lasted from 1185 to 1868. A samurai became masterless from the ruin or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege. The term originated in the Nara and Heian periods, when it originally referred to serfs who had fled or deserted their master's land.
Traditionally in Japanese culture, ronin were generally somewhat disreputable; a target of humiliation or satire. Although it was considered undesirable to be a ronin, as it meant being without a stipend from a lord, it was also considered necessary to the life experience of any true samurai. There was once the expression, "Seven times down, eight times up," which signified that a samurai would be dispatched on a year-long wandering mission seven times over his career, each time returning to the service of his lord.
The undesirability of ronin status was mainly a discrimination imposed by other samurai. As thoroughly bound (though unusually literate) men, most samurai resented the personal freedom enjoyed by wandering ronin. There are many tales of just ronin, defending poor villagers against haughty, arrogant samurai who would kill anyone unlucky enough to offend.
On the other hand, there are also stories of the lordless, undisciplined, unemployed, and bitter ex-samurai, left over prior to the 1868 Meiji Restoration. These de facto ronin were little more than urban troublemakers, who were in desperate need of a new cause.
And this is all in the context of war, and the more we learn about, you know, what took place in the past, the more we're going to be able to better prepare for future attacks.
--George W. Bush, Meet the Press, 2-8-04
[Comic panel from The Ronin and the Lily (2001) by Sandy Carruthers]
We Americans have all become ronin. We are wave people. The society we once knew -- the America we once loved -- is gone. We wander the country now -- lost. Although we served no master, our nation has fallen into ruin, and we meander without purpose or principles.
We are hypocrites to lecture any nation on civil liberties and freedoms. Our leader admits to authorizing illegal and unconstitutional surveillance on our own citizens. No warrants. No disclosure. Worse, however it denies and equivocates, the Bush administration has openly argued for the use of torture, used legalisms to render the Geneva Convention "quaint," arrested detainees without due process or hearings, and squirreled away "enemy combatants" to gulag-like "black sites" for "extraordinary rendition" (a la torture in the relaxed restrictions of foreign lands).
Just ask yourself. Does such behavior embody American ideals? Is this who you think we are and what we should represent? Are you feeling a little lost yet?
No? Oh, right. I know the sad spiel cycle. 9-11 changed everything. We do not torture. We will protect civil liberties. We need Orwellian police powers to fight the terrorists. The real blame should fall on the nay-sayers and leakers of gulag-op and cooked intelligence memos (disclaimer: outed CIA agents not applicable). If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists. Protesters betray the troops. Anti-war activists are traitors and defeatists who hate America.
I think I'll slowly draw my sword here. Listen up. I do not hate my country -- quite the contrary. But, since the installment of BushCo, I have come to hate what it has become.
And I really resent being labeled a defeatist because
* I categorically think torture is wrong. No wiggle room. Those who practice it are sadistic and uncivilized.
*I value science. I want cutting edge science consistently supported and taught in classrooms -- not a makeover of creationism. I want scientists to have the tools they need to tackle diseases. Free up stem cell lines. We once led the world in experimentation and discoveries. Now, we're cro-mag.
*I think a president who takes us to war under false pretenses should be impeached. I think a president who authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without judicial review and restraint should be impeached. That's not defeatist. That's patriotic -- and, by the way, it is my business -- as a citizen. And, as an aside, I don't really care if the president gets a few extra-marital blowjobs. That's his business -- not mine. Let's check the big board. Yup. The blowjob body count is still at zero.
*I insist on supporting the troops with more than read-my-lips service. Carve up a few more of those bronto H2s and make sure there's enough body armor for everyone. How about shaving a pittance off those precious, deficit-stoking tax cuts for billionaires to triple benefits for veterans? What? We can't do that? Why not? Are you -- a defeatist?
*I resent having my intelligence insulted. I know a euphemism when I see one. Under BushCo, these descriptors are red flags for Orwellian doublespeak. Healthy Forests means Stump Central. Clear Skies means Toxic Clouds. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques means torture. We torture human beings. We lie about such violence. We point fingers in an attempt to shame those who expose such lies and violence. It's becoming a cultural mobius loop.
*I am convinced pre-emptive war based on lies for whatever crooked NeoCon design is immoral and not worth the lives of our loved ones and Iraqi civilians.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his speech accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature remarked:
Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.
Eat that, Mr. War President. I'm tired of this ronin life -- surfing from one cable news channel to next -- searching for understanding and meaning and feeling an ever dwindling hope the USA can ever be rewound back to the country I remember and love. 9-11 should not change everything. It doesn't give you license to lie and spy, Mr. War President. It doesn't allow you to pre-screen dissent and shout down my freedom of speech by questioning my patriotism and loyalty, Mr. War President. And it certainly doesn't place you above the law. After these five smirking years, at long last, have you left no sense of decency?
And while you're busy in the last throes of turning the corner of smearing your critics, could you find the time for some hard work on just one more thing. It's my Christmas wish. Yes, it's sloppy sentimental and a bit old school but sure strikes a chord this year. It's a little concept known as
[Photograph found here]
See that, Mr. War President? No matter how hard you try to stamp it out...
Song of San Onofre (2005)
Today's new image sings a song -- and it's hot.
Speaking of cooking, are you feeling a little more fried at the beach lately? An accident last February California's surfside San Onofre plant lead to rolling blackouts. According to Nuclear Information and Resource Service:
The accident occurred when a circuit breaker fault caused a fire -- that lasted nearly three hours -- a loss of offsite power and a reactor scram. A related failure of an oil pump resulted in extensive damage to the plant's turbine. The reactor is expected to be shutdown for repairs for at least three months. Although the utility claims no radiation was released and no nuclear safety issues were involved, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a Special Inspection Team to the plant site to investigate the accident. The NRC met with SCE officials today to go over their findings. That team's report is expected to be publicly released soon."This serious accident, which has gone virtually unnoticed in the daily attention given to California's electricity problems, highlights the vulnerability of electrical systems that rely on nuclear power, and is a clear demonstration why atomic reactors can never be counted on to meet energy needs. Not only have nuclear plants always been too costly, they are too unreliable as well," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a Washington-DC based nuclear watchdog group.
Naturally, the EPA denied any harmful ramifications and greenlighted San Onofre with a boy-in-a-bubble obliviousness. I know it's fun to chuckle at the three-eyed fish jumping in the foreground of Homer Simpson's nuclear plant, but do you feel like shooting some tubes here?
Soak Up Some Rays?
San Onofre's containment domes, for all their apparent mass and heft when viewed from the outside, are surprisingly thin and eggshell-like when considered in proportion. Or when it is considered that the containment dome is believed by most people to be strong enough to survive the impact of a 747 or an A-380 Airbus, but it can't. It can only survive the impact of much smaller planes -- even smaller than the four 767s used by terrorists on 9-11.Furthermore, that's not really their purpose. The real purpose of the containment dome is to hold back explosions inside the dome during a meltdown or near-meltdown of the core. These are expected to generate forces less than about 3.5 atmospheres within the dome -- otherwise, the containment dome will burst and once it does, "all hell breaks out."
Rung C. Tang, whose damage suit is set to begin trial next week, says her work at San Onofre left her stricken with acute myelogenous leukemia, a cancer associated with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs and the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
If Tang wins, it could encourage other suits by other workers against the nation’s 109 nuclear power plants, potentially imperiling the financial viability of an industry already beset by economic and political problems, some industry observers say.
Tang, now 44 and hospitalized after a bone marrow transplant, was assigned to San Onofre as an inspector during 1985 and 1986, a period in which the plant had continual problems with defective fuel rods and hundreds of incidents involving so-called fuel fleas.
Fuel fleas are microscopic particles of radioactive material that escape from containment areas of nuclear power plants. At San Onofre, particles clung to workers who unknowingly carried them to supposedly safe areas in the plant and to the community outside.
The suit will allow Tang’s lawyers to present evidence on two points that nuclear critics have long argued. That monitoring devices worn by workers to measure their personal exposure to radiation are unreliable, and that there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation.
January 8th, 2002: San Juan Capistrano (CA) police arrest a man who had threatened to shoot up the San Onofre Nuclear Power Station and his former coworkers etc. at the plant. He had an arsenal of almost 300 weapons, including illegal assault rifles, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, an antitank rocket launcher, four live hand grenades, tear gas, survivalist material, etc.
and further observes that
October 2nd, 2003: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station [SONGS] ranked THIRD among the U.S. facilities "most likely to suffer a meltdown" according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The risk is in part due to design defects in the sump pump system, according to the group. There is potential for debris to clog the screen on the containment-vessel sump. Such a clog could prevent water from being pumped through the reactor core, causing the reactor’s fuel rods to overheat and melt down.
Surf's up and smokin'. Sounds like a good place to hang and get a dark sunless tan.
Pagan Hangout (2002)
Not that most you godless heathens who haunt my blog care but there's a War on Christmas! Loofa loon Bill O'Reilly has his falafel in an uproar that liberal pagan interlopers want to choke off your Ho Ho Hoing. From
that atheistic cabal Media Matters:
On the December 2 broadcast of Fox News' The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, host Bill O'Reilly stated that he would "use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people" who "diminish and denigrate the [Christmas] holiday." O'Reilly singled out "oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country" as those who seek to undermine Christmas, asserting that these "forces" are "on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it." He later added: "There is no reason on this earth that all of us can not celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together," cautioning that "anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me."
Hey, just stumbling across his face while channel surfing "brings horror" into my life. As my friend Eleny says: What a maroon.
But, hey, O'Reilly has a list and he's checking it twice -- well, thrice actually. You might recall that earlier that he, in full-on Nixonian mode, and shortly after urging terrorists to target San Francisco, announced his intention to post an enemies list of sites determined to smear his good name. He fumed:
Now we can all know who was with the anti-military internet crowd. We'll post the names of all who support the smear merchants on billoreilly.com. So check with us.
So let's. Let's surf over to his site under the heading Media Defamation and see that list of lying libs unscroll.
Count 'em. Three names. Three. Names.
Why the list is positively pitiful -- like only receiving one small, lonely Christmas present.
[Photograph seen on funkypancake]
So no wonder the War to Stop the War on Christmas isn't going well. There's just not enough infidels to smite. Maybe O'Reilly needs to recast the battle headline and catapult the propaganda up a notch with cooler tag lines...like:
--Most Extreme Elimination Christmas
--Mama!! They're Fragging Santa!!
--They Can Have My Christmas When They Pry the Evergreen Needle Slivers from My Cold Dead Hands
--Shove That "Happy Holidays" Humanism Up Your Chimney
--I Love the Smell of Burnt Wreath in the Morning
--Oh Smoking Mushroom Cloud of Bethlehem
These white hot buttons should get the fundies foaming and the Wise Men Star going supernova. Besides, I hear a wet Christmas stocking can double as a loofa in a pinch.
My Sunrise Can Beat Up Yours (2003)
It's funny how you take things for granted until an experience allows you see the world with new eyes.
Last week, I was commuting to work -- driving the same stretch of road just as I have for over twenty years. My morning drive is about thirty minutes. I use to the time to collect my thoughts in preparation for classes -- or I listen to CDs at high volume (since I'm nearly deaf in one ear). Over the years, the drive has become perfunctory -- an in-the-zone action performed sleepily on autopilot.
Last week, while rounding a curve on the Interstate, my left rear tire blew out. I was not far from a river where large bluffs had been tunneled out to build the road and leave a craggy rock wall on one side. My car spun around several times and then shot into a ditch running parallel to the rock face. I bounced through the ditch at about 60 miles a hour, trying desperately to steer away from the wall, and running over large rocks and a culvert. My brakes had locked in the skid, and only the blown tire's bare rim digging into wet earth from a recent rain brought my car to a stop.
Everything was quiet afterward -- except for the music still playing: Neil Young's "Time Fades Away."
Several other motorists stopped to see if I was okay. A state trooper showed up within ten minutes. He had called an ambulance. I called my wife on my cell phone. I really wanted to talk with her. One of the other drivers who had seen the accident said to me, "Man, I bet that was a rush."
Oh yeah. Definitely.
The whole event probably took five to ten seconds. The only thing I remember thinking was I'm going to hit that wall.
Considering what happened, my car wasn't banged up too badly. There was some minor body damage from the rocks and culvert, and (I discovered later) considerably more damage to my steering and suspension. The tires were shot, too.
But I was fine -- except for feeling a mild, breathless shock. Later, since then, I've been coping with insomnia and on-and-off anxiety. I rewind and replay the incident, as if visualizing it accurately will somehow make it more understandable.
I hug my wife a little tighter now. I think about my daughter twice as often. I call and write my friends more frequently to hear their voices.
And I've been getting up a little earlier to see each day begin again by looking at the sunrise.
For most people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise...but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.
--Richard H. Baker
[Photograph seen at jaundicedeye.com]
And that's why my sunrise can beat up yours. Because I appreciate being able to see mine more than I once did -- just as I appreciate more than before bringing it through my blog as a show and tell to you.
Desdemona's Napkin (1999)
Desdemona's napkin (handkerchief), which Iago leaves in Cassius' quarters to give husband Othello the "ocular proof" of her infidelity, could be considered a fifth major character in Shakespeare's Othello. If not ready for a prime time curtain call, it may well be one of the earliest examples of what Alfred Hitchcock called a MacGuffin -- which, according to
the now disgraced Wikipedia, is
a plot device that motivates the characters and advances the story, particularly one whose importance is accepted completely by the story's characters, yet from the audience's perspective it might be minimally explained or may test their suspension of disbelief if it is scrutinized.
There are many examples in literature and film. Poe's "The Purloined Letters" is an excellent case. The protagonist must recover the letter before its sensitive contents are revealed, but the readers never learn what the letter said. Films and television are ripe with MacGuffins, ranging from the statuette in the Maltese Falcon to the neighbor's obscured face on Home Improvement. My favorite is the mysterious glowing car trunk in Repo Man. Slavoj Zizek, a philosophy professor and Hitchcock fan, compared the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to a MacGuffin.
But Othello has other plot device problems. Staging this
Othello and Desdemona (1829) by Alexandre-Marie Colin
in pre-civil rights Mississippi could have resulted in a lynching with convincing verisimilitude. Even the French, so hip to luscious Bardot and the comedic genius of Jerry Lewis, held their noses for quite some time to the vulgarities of Othello. From a review in the Sunday Times on Shakespeare Goes to Paris by John Pemble:
The French were so appalled by the vulgarity of Shakespeare’s plays that it took them 300 years to come near to an accurate translation. The item of Desdemona’s on which the plot of Othello hinges could not be mentioned on stage because mouchoir was too coarse a word to be uttered -- or heard -- in the Comédie Française. It was not until 1829 that Alfred de Vigny first risked the M-word, but that still left the question of the strawberries with which it was decorated, and fraise was considered an even lower word. The handkerchief was thus referred to as being decorated with “flowers” until well into the 20th century.
Hmmm. Handkerchiefs and strawberries dare not be mentioned -- but Iago's lying and treachery get a theatrical pass. I smell a farce somewhere.
Or, better yet, from renegadecomedy.org, a remake:
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel examines the classic Shakespeare play Othello from a different point of view in her comic play Desdemona, a Play about a Handkerchief, the fall production at Renegade Comedy Theatre.The cast from Desdemona, a Play about a HandkerchiefAs the wrongly accused and suffering wife of Shakespeare's tragic Moor, Othello, Desdemona has long been viewed as the “victim of circumstance." But as Paula Vogel demonstrates in this comic deconstruction of Shakespeare's play -- aligning tongue-in-cheek humor while raising serious questions as to the role of women through the ages -- Desdemona was far from the quivering, naive waif we've all come to know. Having slept with Othello¹s entire encampment, Desdemona revels in bawdy tales of conquest. Her foils and rapt listeners are the other integral and re-imagined women of this Shakespearean tragedy: Emilia, Desdemona's servant and wife of Iago, and Bianca, now a majestic “working girl” of Cyprus.
I dig this Last Exit to Brooklyn twist. It sounds like Desdemona better buy her napkins in bulk. Who's your daddy now? as Mrs. Smith/Jolie likes to ask.
And Iago, once the greatest scheming villain of literature, is broken like the Huns in the Capitol One commercials. His days of mental pillaging are over. With yellow smileys littering the background, he's now a greeter at Wal-Mart.
Here's something new, although I'm not sure what to say about it. I suppose I could tell you what it's not. It's
--not a relative of Neverland -- Peter Pan's crib and Michael Jackson's playground.
--not a visual description of a song by Big Country.
--not a storyboard for anything down a rabbit hole.
--not a trail, film about porn stars, interactive game site, Disney movie, a greyhound park, a model shop, a bunch of wizard crap, a lingerie boutique, a ballroom, a Wonder Woman fan site, or a place to swap beanies.
--not a word that follows winter.
It's just another image from me that probably is nowhere near this either.
And that's a pisser.
Robot Dream of Love (2002)
Philosophers and theorists have long wrestled with the question: Can Machines Think? They whip our non-metal butts in chess and crunch numbers faster than synapses. I can live with whirring along from one endgame to the next. But I draw the line when they seem to have deeper feelings than I do. Can Machines Love?
If not, how does one explain the poetry-writing bot called Racter? From Wikipedia:
Racter was an artificial intelligence computer program that generated English language prose at random. The name of the program is short for raconteur.[...]Racter was written by William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter. The existence of the program was revealed in a book called The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed, which was allegedly composed entirely by the program. According to Chamberlain's introduction to the book, the program apparently ran on a CP/M machine; it was written in "compiled BASIC on a Z80 micro with 64K of RAM." This version, the program that allegedly wrote the book, was not released to the general public.
Judge for yourself. Here are some poems from Racter's book:
At all events my own essays and dissertations about love
and its endless pain and perpetual pleasure will be
known and understood by all of you who read this and
talk or sing or chant about it to your worried friends
or nervous enemies. Love is the question and the subject
of this essay. We will commence with a question:
does steak love lettuce? This question is implacably
hard and inevitably difficult to answer. Here is
a question: does an electron love a proton,
or does it love a neutron? Here is a question: does
a man love a woman or, to be specific and to be
precise, does Bill love Diane? The interesting
and critical response to this question is: no! He
is obsessed and infatuated with her. He is loony
and crazy about her. That is not the love of
steak and lettuce, of electron and proton and
neutron. This dissertation will show that the
love of a man and a woman is not the love of
steak and lettuce. Love is interesting to me
and fascinating to you but it is painful to
Bill and Diane. That is love!
~/~A crow is a bird, an eagle is a bird, a dove is a bird.
They all fly in the night and in the day. They fly when
the sky is red and when the heaven is blue. They fly through
the atmosphere. We cannot fly. We are not like a crow or
an eagle or a dove. We are not birds. But we can dream about
them. You can.~/~
I gave the man a coat. I gave the woman a brassiere.
I gave myself an electric current. We all were
happy and fully of delight. Take the coat from the
man and remove the brassiere from the woman and take
the electric current from me and we will be sad
and full of anguish.~/~
Bill sings to Sarah. Sarah sings to Bill. Perhaps they
will do other dangerous things together. They may eat lamb or stroke
each other. They may chant of their difficulties and their
happiness. They have love but they also have typewriters.
That is interesting.~/~
A tree or shrub can grow and bloom. I am always the same. But I am clever.~/~
Reflections and images appear
And are watched and seen by Bill
And Sarah though their passion
Is pale and their hearts shattered.
There is nothing to be done
There is something to be done.
A torpid badger sleeps in their
Fantasies and they dream of
Eagles winging in the cold air
More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity.
I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber.
I need it for my dreams.
Night sky and fields of black
A flat cracked surface and a building
She reflects an image in a glass
She does not see, she does not watch.
[Photograph found on transcriptions]
Weird and freaky -- but is it real? Is Racter writing or is its programmer editing? The answer depends on who is being asked.
Racter...conjugates both regular and irregular verbs, prints the singular and the plural of both regular and irregular nouns, remembers the gender of nouns, and can assign variable status to randomly chosen "things." These things can be individual words, clause or sentence forms, paragraph structures, indeed whole story forms. In this way, certain aspect so the rules of English are entered into the computer. This being the case, the programmer is removed to a very great extent from the specific form of the system's output. This output is no longer a preprogrammed form. Rather, the computer forms output on its own. What the computer "forms" is dependent upon what it finds in its files, and what it can find is an extremely wide range of words that are categorized in a specific fashion and what might be called "syntax directive," which tell the computer how to string the words together. An important faculty of the program is its ability to direct the computer to maintain certain randomly chosen variables (words or phrases), which will then appear and reappear as a given block of prose is generated. This seems to spin a thread of what might initially pass for coherent thinking throughout the computer-generated copy so that once the program is run, its output is not only new and unknowable, it is apparently thoughtful. It is crazy "thinking," I grant you, but "thinking" that is expressed in perfect English.
But Racter's poetry critics are not so kind (are they ever?) Racter's Wikipedia entry goes on to note:
Its [Racter's] existence was revealed to the world in 1984. Its seeming sophistication, however, proved to have been a hoax.[...]The commercial version of Racter was essentially a computerized version of Mad Libs, the game in which you fill in the blanks in advance and then plug them into a text template to produce a surrealistic tale. The commercial program attempted to parse text inputs, identifying significant nouns and verbs, which it would then regurgitate, mixed with random inputs, to create "conversations." The outputs were occasionally amusing, but would never pass the Turing test.By contrast, the text in The Policeman's Beard, if generated by the Racter program at all, would have been the product of Chamberlain's own specialized templates, none of which were included in the commercial release of the program. Unfortunately, the text in The Policeman's Beard seems instead to have been the work of Chamberlain's editing or own imagination.
Here we find ourselves,
nose to nose as it were,
considering things in spectacular ways,
ways untold even by my private managers.
[Comic book cover found at Timmon Comics]
If Racter is actually composing poetry, the implications are staggering. Racter appears to strongly illustrate the merits of Stanley Fish's reader-response theory that "rejects the author's intentionality and places meaning solely within the arena of those receiving the text." Racter, chugging along and outputting random strings of text like a ouija board in overdrive, cannot intend any specific meaning. Any interpretation of the text is brought strictly by the reader. If you're moved by something Racter wrote, then you made the associative jumps and leaps to connect emotionally with the writing. The poems are all garbage out to Racter.
And if readers bring all beauty and truth to Racter's poetry, then why shouldn't Keats work exactly the same way? What any writer intends is irrelevant. Only a reader can make meaning.
So, let's see what the now suddenly meaningless author has to say for itself. I found a copy of the commercial version of Racter at an abandonware site. Here is our unedited conversation:
Cruelanimal: How's it hanging, Racter?Racter: Shoot. Really? But that's nothing. Hey, Cruelanimal, did you know the more incoherent a doctor is when he hangs onto a skirt, the more stupefying the skirt becomes?Cruelanimal: Sure, pal. I learned that in Catholic School. But, listen, I gotta ask you something important.Racter: Holy smokes! I never knew any schools that amounted to much! Every school is insufferable sometimes.Cruelanimal: You got that right. But focus, dude. Can you really write poetry and thus validate reader-response criticism? Or are you a more collossal fraud than George W. Bush?Racter: Of course, I can. Anyhow, I have bigger fish to fry. Janitors find that being cheerful is more useful than hiding in eleven attics.Cruelanimal: If you say so. Okay. Here comes the big question. Ready? Can...you...love?Racter: It's clear to me that I can. But it doesn't make sense to dwell on it. Do you know what else? Every time I try to cover up an inspector, she won't let me. I don't know why.Cruelanimal: I do. Well, thanks for the chat. Gotta run.Racter: Really? Excuse me. My head itches.Cruelanimal: Klaatu Barata Nikto.Racter: You're telling me!
Strawberry Fields Forever (2001)
Much has been written and said this week in commemoration of today's 25th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. I don't really have anything to add...
...except I remember how many people, especially those in my parents' generation, reacted to Lennon. Something about him just set them off -- whether comparing the Beatles to Jesus or just the whole Hair Peace Bed Peace Instant Karma round robin. Lennon was the poster boy for their straw man of the "wild-eyed" hippie -- prone to imagining no countries and no wars -- and accused of aiding enemies and subverting the troops in the process (sound familiar?).
So, all I want to do today is give you a short multiple choice test -- a study in contrasts. The test is called: Leader or Radical.
Ready. Got your
tin foil helmet thinking cap on? You may now open your test booklets.
Choice A: John Lennon
[John Lennon (2004) by Peter Szabo]
In his own words:
I don't believe in killing whatever the reason!
If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.
Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.
Love is a promise, love is a souvenir, once given never forgotten, never let it disappear.
My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.
Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.
The more I see the less I know for sure.
You either get tired fighting for peace, or you die.
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
Please mark your ballot:
Choice B: Dick Cheney
In his own words:
We have to be able to do what is necessary.
The days of looking the other way while despotic regimes trample human rights, rob their nations' wealth, and then excuse their failings by feeding their people a steady diet of anti-Western hatred are over.
There comes a time when deceit and defiance must be seen for what they are.
We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.
I had other priorities in the 60's than military service.
The plan was criticized by some retired military officers embedded in TV studios. But with every advance by our coalition forces, the wisdom of that plan becomes more apparent.
Let us rid ourselves of the fiction that low oil prices are somehow good for the United States.
I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.
We now know that Saddam [Hussein] has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
Please mark your ballot:
and...for extra credit...
Choice C: George W. Bush
In his own words:
Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.
See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.
Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country.
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
There's an old...saying in Tennessee...I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says Fool me once...[3 second pause]... Shame on...[4 second pause]...Shame on you....[6 second pause]...Fool me...Can't get fooled again."
One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.
I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe -- I believe what I believe is right.
Our nation must come together to unite.
I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.
Please mark your ballot:
Yeah. Okay. So I changed the choices in the last multiple choice question. Blogger's poetic license.
And if you need an upside down listing of the correct answers, well, then you haven't been paying attention in class.
Ad Hominem (2000)
Yes, culture lovers, it's time again for another installment of that perversion of prosody that tests your verse fortitude and poetic backbone -- Freeper Poetry.
This mutated art form occurs when I, your humble blogger and servant, hold my nose and venture into the bowels of The Free Republic -- a dimension of no-sight and pre-verbal sounds uttered by inhabitants known as Freepers. I hunt and gather text blocks from these de-evolved beings, place them into a virtual cut-up machine, set the heart of the controls to random, and splice and dice with extreme prejudice. The result is a mash-up poem that reclaims language while turning insipid Freeper commentary in upon itself -- like a snake beginning to digest its own tail.
Today's poem is a collage harvested from comments found on
1) "Dinosaur Poop Shows Grass Is Older Than It Seems"
mixed and seasoned lightly with comments from
2) "Marquette Suspends Dental Student for Blog Comments"
Shake well -- and here's the result -- named, in keeping with today's image, after the rhetorical fallacy of attacking a speaker's character rather than his or her argument.
Dude. Be impartial -- techno and dino.
Dress like a scientist in NOW pants
and accent the meat of bloodied wingnuts
with poop. You grind on, rabid,
betting on no fossils and raptor footprints
then pretend cold theories dog you
like Five-O. You. A mad cat sweating
love and predators. A leftist action
obligates Zionist rednecks to scat shit-
faced before screaming at rocks
that think harder. Ratio of tooth to mouth
is moot. Kick thinking. Go herbivore.
That Constitutional prof pranks you like
everything. You register the wit
of a houseplant. Censors spray words
at my school. I hate their stink grass
and bells and nuke religion. The shrillest
private bags digest in labs polished
like an attorney's ass. You're goofy,
pounding blog threads without reading,
understanding nothing but a diet of pepper.
[Illustration by Boris Vallejo]
...plus, let's toss in an additional image to enhance literary thematic unity and to shore up the controlling Got wood? motif:
Ad Hominem Phallacy (1987) -- woodcut by Fred Brown
When Hell Downsizes (2002)
Why do something when you can get someone else to do it for you -- cheaper -- without union interference -- and tax free? And if American workers get NAFTA CAFTA shafted, well, it's the NEW IMPROVED American Way.
Bloodletting and downsizing have a lot in common. The 18th-century practice of phlebotomy as a cure for fevers was as popular as it was ineffective. Today, downsizing continues to be the fashionable treatment, despite evidence that it is about as effective as bloodletting for curing competitive ills.
Evidence from studies by the American Management Association (AMA), Society of Human Resource Management, academic researchers, and management consultants reveals that downsizing generally fails to improve performance, productivity, or profits. Two-thirds of downsized companies have not realized productivity gains, according to AMA research, and most executives who cut back on personnel report unanticipated negative side effects.
The roots of this movement lie in corporate reactions to the growing threat of hostile takeovers in the 1970s and 1980s. Under attack by raiders, businesses searched for quick and easy ways to cut costs. They discovered that layoffs of workers and managers could boost short-term profits, make the company appear more efficient, and stave off takeover attempts. This was a novel and innovative use of layoffs, especially as the practice penetrated managerial ranks. Once considered an admission of business decline or defeat, layoffs started to be viewed in a new light --as a legitimate multi-purpose tool to preserve and advance corporate interests. Current names for layoffs -- downsizing and the euphemism "rightsizing" -- indicate its newfound legitimacy.
Today, downsizing is irresistible because it is firmly planted in business culture — beliefs and norms about what constitutes [sic] proper policies and practices. Like most social movements, it is not slowed by negative or ambiguous results. Doomsday cults, for example, do not disband when the date of the world's demise comes and goes; rather, they simply revise their predictions. Similarly, when downsizing does not produce desired results, the recommended treatment is more layoffs.
Many reasons are cited for the failure of downsizing, lowering of morale, exodus of the best people, loss of organizational memory, increased conflict, etc. These results, however, are caused by a deeper problem — the destruction of the corporation as a social institution. Downsizers act as if the organization were a collection of independent individuals — like a crowd. To them, eliminating people simply reduces overcrowding. Yet, what makes an organization different from a crowd is the network of formal and informal relationships people build with each other. This social network makes every organization function, and the right network makes them flourish.
Downsizing devastates social networks. When a person is laid off, an entire personal network of internal and external relationships is lost as well. It destroys informal bridges between departments, disrupts the information grapevine, and severs ties with customers. Moreover, it eliminates the friendships that bond people to the workplace.
The bloodletting metaphor draws blood. The practice was seen as a medical cure but usually killed the patient. Nevertheless, the physician was held blameless. Death resulted from other factors like God's will. Loss of blood, seen as a method for cleansing away impurities, could not possibly be the culprit.
Likewise, downsizing drains away the lifeblood of a company and dehydrates its people and the connections they have built to one another, to customers, and to investors. Moreover, like the uninformed doctor slicing open more veins, rarely is the CEO who authorized the downsizing held accountable. As with bloodletting, if a little loss won't cure the ailment, just cut harder and deeper. With each slash, longstanding social ties spurt away.
Wouldn't it be nice, just once, to give the quack a taste of his own medicine?
A Workman's Comp Revenge Tragedy
[Cartoon by David Horsey]
But if downsizing is such sound business practice, why limit its success stories only to the world of business? Why can't the world itself benefit from creative cutbacks? From an offshoot of Donald Simanek's home page:
The US Congress today, in an effort to rectify the current stalemate with the President over the continuing resolution has made a dramatic announcement. In an effort to reduce the NASA budget, a resolution was passed today to downsize the solar system. According to an unnamed congressional staffer, House Republicans felt there has been "too much redundancy in the solar system" and that streamlining the 4.5 billion year old planetary system is long overdue. Such action would give NASA fewer places to go and this would allow the agency to carry out its space exploration goals within the funding profile that the House proposed earlier this summer.
"Look, we have three terrestrial planets" said Congressman Rip U. Apart (R, Del.), "and only one of them really works! So why not get rid of the other two and clean up the neighborhood?"
The resolution must now be presented to the entire House, where it is expected to pass easily since only a minority of Representatives have constituents on the affected planets. NASA Administrators have vowed to resist any further reductions to the solar system, saying that "NASA has expended considerable effort to make the planets cheaper, faster, and better. Much of this work would be wasted if the solar system were downsized."
Critics say, however, that reducing the number of planets will not produce the expected savings to taxpayers. Textbooks, they note, would have to be revised to reflect the new arrangement, and facilities would need to be constructed to remove the planets themselves. The resolution is also likely to draw strong opposition from religious fundamentalists who have long opposed the elimination of any of the biblical planets. Thus, the matter is still far from resolved.
But simply paring away a few deadwood planets or collapsing the universe in upon itself might not go far enough to reap a greedfest level of metaphysical profits. As today's image suggests, the underworld has got to be getting crowded and in need of plucking and pruning. From an interactive story found on Teenage Wildlife -- the davidbowie.com message board:
It's nothing like what he expected. David had readied himself for visions of perversity and horror that Bosch would never have dreamed of. Instead, all he sees are endless queues, and giant TV screens which seem to be showing nothing but blurry slides of overweight, sunburned old people in exotic locales, and a giant disco dance floor. He interrupts Annette's spiel, during which she has been pointing out amusing trivial facts about certain structures in hell and other little tidbits that can only be known if you take the deluxe tour, and asks, "Where are the boiling pits of blood? The rivers of excrement? The burning plains of the sodomites? It's been ages since I read the Inferno, and I'm really quite disappointed in what I've seen so far." "Oh dear me!" Annette titters. "All that went out years ago when Satan had to downsize hell to keep its competitive edge. We're down to just 3 circles now, but we'll be back up to all the old familiar favorites once the market picks up again.
All in all, I suppose downsizing beats freezing over. Still, I can only think of one instance of downsizing that really lights the oil slick on my lake of fire -- and that's this:
India is booked, but outsourcing opportunities are still readily available for the Abode of the Damned.
Open me up, Doc. I'll gladly be a quart low -- especially if some CEO intelligent designer can downsize Dear Leader from the Oval Office to the Cubicle of Fire.
Not Rocket Science (2000)
No time to blog today. Still, rather than leave the well dry, I might as well take a few minutes to pour in a little fructose syrup.
The following is a short Google poem compiled, collaged, and reconstituted from phrase text threads in hit summaries from a Google search on the title of today's image.
It may not be much, but it's better than a virtual abyss -- or not...
Not Rocket Science
Please help companies have
some of the dirtiest crime reduction
collecting under the rubric
of potty training. Risk cannot
be sufficiently reliable and criticisms
of just common sense return.
Want to read more? But you'll
use more unpopped popcorn and air
guitar. You're code-based
and admonish a recent catastrophe
like taxes and President Bush with big
blue fingers. American Vegetable.
Dented cans. You guessed it.
Three activities for US Defense Reform:
Give the ministry to laymen.
Claim a privileged status
for roasting vicars. Revel in reliable meat
and John Glenn's return to orbit.
Work by releasing a gas
at a sandwich shop through a small
hole. A boondoggle, actually.
Democrats and cattle prod
society can't afford to relax because
no recap calculus is needed.
I want to say something
but instead get emotionally detached.
I hack metaphors, real values.
A Future in Pharmaceutics (1998)
You, too, might have a future as a pill filler -- unless those convictions you carry away from church are not left in the umbrella stand at the door of your employer. From today's Boston Globe -- "Walgreens Places Four Pharmacists on Leave":
Walgreen Co. said it has put four Illinois pharmacists in the St. Louis area on unpaid leave for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception in violation of a state rule.The four cited religious or moral objections to filling prescriptions for the morning-after pill and ''have said they would like to maintain their right to refuse to dispense, and in Illinois that is not an option," Walgreen spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce said.A rule imposed by Governor Rod Blagojevich in April requires Illinois pharmacies that sell contraceptives approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control.Pharmacies that do not fill prescriptions for any type of contraception are not required to follow the rule.
Ed Martin, an attorney for the pharmacists, on Tuesday called the discipline ''pretty disturbing" and said they would consider legal action if Walgreen doesn't reconsider.
At least six other pharmacists have sued over the rule, asserting it forces them to violate their religious beliefs.[...]Walgreen, based in Deerfield, Ill., put the four on leave Monday, Bruce said. She would not identify them. They will remain on unpaid leave ''until they either decide to abide by Illinois law or relocate to another state" without such a rule or law.Walgreen policy says pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions to which they are morally opposed -- except where state law prohibits -- but they must take steps to have the prescription filled by another pharmacist or store, Bruce said.
How far backward do we have to bend to accommodate these would-be moral guardians who prefer dispensing spiritual Martial Law over filling prescriptions? If you have qualms of conscience about providing physician-prescribed prescriptions, maybe you should wander over to Monster.com and seek other employment. Perhaps a career in the ministry would be a better fit.
But if you really insist on being a self-righteous pharmacist, can't you work within the frameworks of law and company policy? Illinois obviously has a law making explicitly clear that you must honor prescriptions if your pharmacy stocks the medicine. Here are two options that do not involve depriving customers of their prescriptions: 1) Relocate to another state (not Illinois or Wisconsin, say) that allows your freedom of conscience to run over patients' needs (like Mississippi, South Dakota, and Arkansas), or, 2) work for a company (not Walgreens) that chooses not to carry medicines you find morally objectionable (like the high grounded, ever open-minded Wal-Mart). Then, those of us who would enjoy having our prescriptions, which (by the way) are not illegal, conveniently filled without being forced to drive to another location because of your personal religious beliefs and moral scorn can do so. Because, you know, if someone is raped and needs a morning after pill, I really think the last thing she needs to see the day after such trauma and violence is this:
[Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty]
Yes, I understand there are plenty of examples of health care professionals refusing to participate in areas that give them the ethical heebee jeebies -- like the morning after pill, stem cell research, and assisted suicide. Still, even if you object, don't you have an obligation to refer the patient/customer to other agencies that will quickly provide the requested and even medically prescribed services? Better yet, perhaps you should specialize in a discipline that doesn't head-butt your moral certainty to the degree that you feel compelled to impose your private doctrine on others. After all, as documented by USA Today, what's up with this:
For a year, Julee Lacey stopped in a CVS pharmacy near her home in a Fort Worth suburb to get refills of her birth-control pills. Then one day last March, the pharmacist refused to fill Lacey's prescription because she did not believe in birth control."I was shocked," says Lacey, 33, who was not able to get her prescription until the next day and missed taking one of her pills. "Their job is not to regulate what people take or do. It's just to fill the prescription that was ordered by my physician."
Lacey, of North Richland Hills, Texas, filed a complaint with the Texas Board of Pharmacy after her prescription was refused in March. In February, another Texas pharmacist at an Eckerd drug store in Denton wouldn't give contraceptives to a woman who was said to be a rape victim.
In the Madison [Wisconsin] case, pharmacist Neil Noesen, 30, after refusing to refill a birth-control prescription, did not transfer it to another pharmacist or return it to the woman. She was able to get her prescription refilled two days later at the same pharmacy, but she missed a pill because of the delay.
And, really, is Cotton Mather now required reading in courses on pharmaceutics?
[Cartoon by David Horsey]
John Aravosis over at AMERICAblog had a noteworthy two cents:
I go to the pharmacy for medicine, not spiritual advice. If you're opposed to the death penalty, don't apply for a job as an executioner. If you're allergic to animals, don't become a vet. And if you hate kids, don't become a pediatrician. It's absurd that these people have decided to be pharmacists, then turn around and saying being a pharmacist is against their religion. Great, it's not against mine. Give me my damn prescription.
But let's freak out a little further. Will my neurosurgeon, a Christian Scientist, decide, on moral grounds, to forego medical treatment and instead use prayer to eclipse the corporeal reality of my brain aneurysm? Will my server holding down a McJob at McDonald's, after noticing my weight problem, decide not to honor my order of supersized fries but instead hand me directions to a Tofu Hut across town? In fact, will everyone everywhere suddenly refuse to do any kind of service whatsoever because in the next instant The Rapture may suddenly be upon us and make every service or duty or job or necessity or act or prescription completely and utterly and totally meaningless?
Hey. Hello. Eyes off the sky and look at me. Fill. My. Allergy. Meds. Do it, dude -- even if your moral schema is that God created ragweed to personally make my earthly existence a sneezing wheezing hell.