Thursday, June 30, 2005

Roach Problem

Roach Problem

Roach Problem (2004)

From Yucky -- "Amazing Roach Facts":

Some female cockroaches mate once and are pregnant for the rest of their lives.

A cockroach can live a week without its head. The roach only dies because without a mouth, it can't drink water and dies of thirst.

Young cockroaches need only a crack as thin as a dime (about .5mm wide) to crawl into. Adult males can squeeze into a space of 1.6mm or the thickness of a quarter. Pregnant females need the most space to hide: 4.5mm or a space as tall as two stacked nickels.

Crushed cockroaches can be applied to a stinging wound to help relieve the pain.

Roaches use their feelers, or antennae, as noses. Their sense of smell is so great, they recognize family and friends by their distinctive odors.

Male cockroaches transfer sperm to females in a "gift-wrapped" package called a spermatophore. Some males cover the package in a protein-rich wrapping that the female can eat to obtain nutrients to raise her young.

From the Detroit News -- "Headway Made in War on Roaches":

In the long and seemingly futile quest to build a better roach trap, researchers have identified the come-hither chemical of the female German cockroach and produced a synthetic version that makes males come running in fewer than nine seconds.

The search for the sex pheromone has been a top priority for cockroach scientists, but it has been an arduous process because the compound is emitted in very small quantities and is so fragile that it easily degrades during laboratory analysis.

The synthetic version appears to work at least as well as the original, giving scientists hope that they might be able to shift the balance of power in the age-old contest between humans and cockroaches -- creatures widely believed capable of surviving nuclear war.

Ah, but don't count the roaches out just yet. It seems they are capable of doing some investigations of their own. From hackcanada.com:

I scurry from light with plausible deniability.

Robo-Roach Undercover

Cybernetically enhanced bugs have become a reality meaning that humanity may have more to worry about than the threat of AI-style robots taking over the world. Japanese boffins at Tokyo University are developing a 'robo-roach' remote controlled insect that could be used to carry a miniature camera and microphone.

It would not be to make very small documentaries or make its own cockroach karoake either; robo-roach could be used in any number of environments ranging from searching through rubble for disaster victims to acting as a tiny spy in espionage missions.

Cockroaches make the ideal agent because they cannot be shot, poisoned or bribed and would be the only life form likely to survive a nuclear war.

[...]

The pulse-emitting backpack sends signals to the host cockroach through electrodes, causing it to turn left, right, run forward or back. Apparently there is no 'scuttle under the fridge' function.

Although the control technology is accurate to a certain degree, sensitive robo-roaches have been known to leap off the tabletop after receiving a control signal, possibly in a bid to end it all.

And speaking of vermin that shun the light, there's this analogy from Democratic Underground:

Tom DeLay is not a likeable man. Some part of him has always known this, it seems, and has avoided the spotlight the way a cockroach or a beetle will, less out of a conscious sense of self preservation than because to operate in shadows and dark places is part of the creature's fundamental nature.

And, adding a little more light, from American Politics Journal -- "The Truth about Insects" by Jeff Koopersmith:

Dr. Dean foretold that once he was installed in the White House, an outpouring of new Democratic voters would also give that party a majority in Congress once again, hurtling spine-chilling Texas mess-about Tom DeLay, the Republican leader who was once a bug control guy, "back to exterminating cockroaches -- where he belongs."

To my knowledge Dean has not uttered a mea culpa about that one.

“The time will come for the  men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”

Dean did apologize, however, for an additional remarkable truth that he uttered the day before the DeLay cockroach observation. He told supporters that when he was elected Congress would be "scurrying for shelter, just like a giant flashlight on a bunch of cockroaches."

Later, Dean remarked: "That was a bad line. I shouldn't have said that."

Wrong. He should have said it -- and more.

[...]

If it looks like a roach, walks like a roach, and talks like a roach...

Let's turn all the lights in the House on -- on Delay, on the Downing Street Documents, on the lying liars coming out of the walls and claiming false ties to 9/11 and Iraq, on all the deceptive fixed policies that have spread moral filth and cultural stench and political rot. It's time to fumigate -- and crush some cockroaches to directly relieve our nation's "stinging wounds."

Remember -- roaches writhe and twitch the most when they are being directly sprayed with Raid.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds (2002)

From "A Study Guide for H. G. Wells: The War of the Worlds":

War of the Worlds was written in response to several historical events. The most important was the unification and militarization of Germany, which led to a series of novels predicting war in Europe, beginning with George Chesney's The Battle of Dorking (1871). Most of these were written in a semi-documentary fashion; and Wells borrowed their technique to tie his interplanetary war tale to specific places in England familiar to his readers. This attempt at hyper-realism helped to inspire Orson Welles when the latter created his famed 1938 radio broadcast based on the novel.

There was a specific event that inspired Wells. In 1894 Mars was positioned particularly closely to Earth, leading to a great deal of observation and discussion. Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli had reported seeing "canali" on Mars, meaning "channels," but the term was mistranslated as "canals," leading to much speculation about life on the red planet. [Although scientists were able eventually to photograph what seem to be large stream beds on Mars, these are on a much smaller scale than the blobs and blotches which misled Schiaparelli into thinking he had seen channels.] One of the 1894 observers, a M. Javelle of Nice, claimed to have seen a strange light on Mars, which further stimulated speculation about life there. Wells turned Javelle into Lavelle of Java, an island much on people's minds because of the explosion there in 1883 of Mount Krakatoa, which killed 50,000 people and drastically influenced Earth's climate for the next year.

Wells became famous partly as a prophet. In various writings he predicted tanks, aerial bombing, nuclear war, and -- in this novel -- gas warfare, laser-like weapons, and industrial robots. It was his tragedy that his most successful predictions were of destructive technologies, and that he lived to experience the opening of the atomic age in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Drawing by Warwick Goble

Illustration by Warwick Goble for Pearson's Magazine, 1897

And, catered for those who enjoyed the rhetorical swill and "fixed" stay-the-course policy of last night's presidential news conference, this from TransparencyNow:

The ability to confuse audiences en masse may have first become obvious as a result of one of the most infamous mistakes in history. It happened the day before Halloween, on Oct. 30, 1938, when millions of Americans tuned in to a popular radio program that featured plays directed by, and often starring, Orson Welles. The performance that evening was an adaptation of the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds, about a Martian invasion of the earth. But in adapting the book for a radio play, Welles made an important change: under his direction the play was written and performed so it would sound like a news broadcast about an invasion from Mars, a technique that, presumably, was intended to heighten the dramatic effect.

As the play unfolded, dance music was interrupted a number of times by fake news bulletins reporting that a "huge flaming object" had dropped on a farm near Grovers Mill, New Jersey. As members of the audience sat on the edge of their collective seat, actors playing news announcers, officials and other roles one would expect to hear in a news report, described the landing of an invasion force from Mars and the destruction of the United States. The broadcast also contained a number of explanations that it was all a radio play, but if members of the audience missed a brief explanation at the beginning, the next one didn't arrive until 40 minutes into the program.

[...]

In a prescient column, in the New York Tribune, Dorothy Thompson foresaw that the broadcast revealed the way politicians could use the power of mass communications to create theatrical illusions, to manipulate the public.

"All unwittingly, Mr. Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air have made one of the most fascinating and important demonstrations of all time," she wrote. "They have proved that a few effective voices, accompanied by sound effects, can convince masses of people of a totally unreasonable, completely fantastic proposition as to create a nation-wide panic.

"They have demonstrated more potently than any argument, demonstrated beyond a question of a doubt, the appalling dangers and enormous effectiveness of popular and theatrical demagoguery...."

[...]

We live in a time in which the ability to create deceptive simulations, especially for television, has become essential to the exercise of power. And the inability to see through these deceptions has become a form of powerlessness. Those who let themselves be taken in by the multiple deceptions of politics, news, advertising and public relations, are doomed, like the more gullible members of the radio audience in 1938, to play a role in other people's dramas, while mistakenly believing that they are reacting to something genuine.

Drawing by Alvim Correa

Illustration by Alvim Correa for the 1906 Vandamme edition

From SFGate.com: "Why H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds Sounds So Familiar" by William S. Kowinski:

The previous big screen version was a Technicolor attack in 1953, effective enough to scare at least the 9-year-olds (like George Lucas) and 7-year-olds (like Spielberg and me) who saw it.

H.G. Wells died in 1946, the year Spielberg was born, so he was very much alive to hear about the panic caused by the Welles version, and Wells was furious. He didn't like his work turned into a Halloween prank to scare people. That was not the message he had in mind.

Of course, he was still out to scare people, but for a purpose. He was incensed by the complacency of Edwardian England in a world he knew was about to change radically. Therefore, he tried to shock his The War of the Worlds readers with intimations of a type of warfare -- arriving from the sky and attacking not just armies but civilian cities -- that would start in the Great War, but not fully develop until World War II.

[...]

There is yet another irony in Wells' story. He portrays the aliens as an older and more advanced race whose planet has turned inhospitable. Their technology is imposing and unconquerable, but when his narrator glimpses an actual Martian, he is as surprised as he is repulsed. The Martians are physically weak, with huge brains and almost no bodies.

In fact, they look very much like what humans will evolve into, the narrator says, at least according to a distant relative of his, named H.G. Wells. This is the fate of humanity when it becomes dependent on technology. Humanity is being conquered by its own future.

If we think of these aliens as simply the Other, a throwback to 1950s space monsters or stand-ins for whichever foreigners we fear, then Wells' point is lost. He is asking us to face ourselves. The process of imagining ourselves the victim of our own blind actions is a step this novel helps us take.

Drawing by Tom Kidd

Illustration by Tom Kidd from the 2001 HarperCollins edition

And from Yahoo News:

Every generation has its fears, and director Steven Spielberg does not shy away from the source of anxiety that his new science fiction epic, War of the Worlds, plays on -- the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"It's certainly about Americans fleeing for their lives, being attacked for no reason, having no idea why they are being attacked and who is attacking them," says Spielberg.

[...]

"The image that stands out most in my mind is everybody in Manhattan fleeing across the George Washington Bridge in the shadow of 9/11, a searing image that I've never been able to get out of my head," said Spielberg.

War of the Worlds is fiction -- but so is the BushCo script for Iraq -- except the resulting destruction and chaos is anything but imaginary. In fact, let's be clear. The Iraq screenplay pitched by the neocons was worse than fiction; it was based on deliberate lies, as the Downing Street Documents demonstrate. Sadly, no microbes will conveniently provide an exit strategy for our current war -- but the mass distraction and theatrical pseudo-patriotism caused by BushCo's catipulted propaganda lurches on with more evasive claptrap about turning the corner and last throes and wingnutty, lost-in-space, completely fantasized ties between 9/11 and the Iraq War.

As I watched Bush equivocate on television last night, I kept thinking the same thing Sylvia observes in the 1953 War of the Worlds film adaptation --

They murder everything that moves.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Cut Down on the Anime

Cut Down on the Anime

Cut Down on the Anime (2002)

From unsanity.org:

I've got a seriously bad "anime addiction ". So much so that I've completely run out of room to store my DVDs. I'm just piling the DVDs on top of each other in any free corner I have. I'm running out of corners.

From Blood -- Thirsty -- CHILD:

I'm sure you don't wanna hear about my anime addiction. SO, my life...are you sure you don't want to listen to my anime addiction-ness?

From AnimeSuki forum -- "I Think I'm Too Addicted to Anime":

Lord Raiden: Ugh, just got done closing out a whole bunch of series lately to try to get my wopping [sic] 25 series I was following down to a more manageable 8-10 if I could. I managed to get it down to 17. I actually dropped 3 and closed out 9 other series (aka they just recently ended) and added back 5 new ones, then I just added Chrno Crusade tonight as yet ANOTHER new one. Gah.

Fronzel: Watch something else for a while as a change of pace. Or read something. That isn't manga. Read a non-Japanese comic, or a novel.

u&t: Mr Raiden: Stop hanging out at forums like this one. I'm sure you would be able to pick up a few more shows and still have time over if you just stopped all internet related activities apart from downloading anime (just don't forget to write your mom once in a while). Look forward too [sic] not seeing you post here ever again.

From Anime Central Convention Forums -- a post by Carnage_Black2::

-You know your an Anime Addict when...

=Pawn/sell your old games to buy anime. (I did it just a week ago.)
=Rob your older sister's piggy bank for money. (I never did this.)
=Scrounge for loose change on the ground for that one DVD.(Haven't we all.)
=Only ask for Anime for gifts. (Guilty.)
=Rob a bank. (If only...)
=Bug a friend continuously for his copy of an OAV.

Otaku Overload?

Where's my Perfect Edition LD box of Macross: Do You Remember Love?!?

From vex's progress -- "Spend less time on the net and more time actually working":

Yep, I'm also cutting down on Bloglines (ab)use. I'm listing here the feeds I'm unsubscribing from, so I can find them again later (muuuch later) or in case anyone's interested.

Well, that should also help cut down on my anime & manga addiction. :/

From Anime-Love Interactive -- a post by tena73:

Since getting married I have cut down on the anime and other things I buy ... priorities tend to change. We are now trying to save money to buy a house.

Too Cute for Comfort?

Now I Lay Me Down to Mecha

And, finally, from Nekobox:

HA! You suck. You can't e-file cause you are so sucking. Go suck and kill trees and paper!" I swear, can never e-file. Gotta cut down on the anime and the torrents and teh pr0n. My computer fan is farting. Time for another cleaning. Die dust bunnies!

To riff on Groucho Marx's famous cigar double entendre ad lib: Dudes, I like my anime DVDs, but I take them out of the slot once in a while.

Monday, June 27, 2005

"The Leak Was Fully Contained"

The Leak Was Fully Contained

"The Leak Was Fully Contained" (2002)

A Google Poem -- a "found" piece composed and collaged strictly out of phrase hits from a search done on the title of today's image:

The leak was fully contained within the serial.

The company says the leak was contained and thus was not a threat to public safety.

The leak was contained in an area around the rank and covered with foam.

Though the leak was contained to the site, two of the three exposed workers spread radioactivity to their cars and homes.

Radiation was released into the atmosphere during the event and all of the water from the leak was contained in the drywell's sump area.

"The amount leaked was small and not harmful." He said that the leaked heavy water was about 45 liters and the leak was contained.

But the company insisted that the surrounding environment was not in danger of radioactive contamination because the leak was contained within the reactor.

Depot officials said the leak was contained to the igloo.

This patient survived the delay in the diagnosis of his esophageal perforation because the leak was contained by the mediastinal pleura.

It seems strange that the initial report stated the leak was contained, especially when one of the trucks is still burning five days later.

The Environment Agency has described it as an "unauthorised discharge" but said the leak was contained, and there was no release into the environment.

According to dispatchers, the leak was contained within the mill, although there were reports the leak had not been plugged.

They then loosened the gland bolts, and pumped the gland with Team packing materials. The bolts were tightened and the leak was contained.

Although the leak was contained by the Maritime Safety Authority, many seabirds were affected by the oil leak.

An officer was dispatched to the Laboratory for Human Reproduction and Reproductive Biology on a report of a possible chemical leak. The leak was contained.

How the leak was contained: First, let me describe the cause of the “leak”. It was the result of what is generally referred to as the “bathtub affect [sic]."

The leak was contained in the tank's earth bund and none of the crude leaked into waterways or other environmentally sensitive areas.

Fortunately the leak was contained and this near-catastrophe remains only a memory.

Mustard gas can cause severe blisters, blindness, pulmonary distress and death after long-term exposure. Depot officials said the leak was contained.

Ten thousand pounds of ammonia was released and emergency crews say a vapor cloud formed over the building. The leak was contained.

He was saying, "It blew my eye out." The downtown area was evacuated until the leak was contained three hours later.

Though the leak was contained in the bathtub, the steam peeled the paint off of walls/ceilings, [and] bled a brown gunk through the white layers of paint.

The leak was contained to Mr. Sullivan's class and was said that only 40 students were infected.

The leak was contained "automatically."

"It just hit me." The leak was contained.

The leak was fully contained by the containment system. As soon as we identified the problem, we fixed it.

Pardon the pun, but --

Are you getting the (big) picture here?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Homage to Gertrude Stein

Homage to Gertrude Stein

Homage to Gertrude Stein (2001)

From Tender Buttons -- "Rooms" by Gertrude Stein:

A tribune, a tribune does not mean paper, it means nothing more than cake, it means more sugar, it shows the state of lengthening any nose. The last spice is that which shows the whole evening spent in that sleep, it shows so that walking is an alleviation, and yet this astonishes everybody the distance is so sprightly. In all the time there are three days, those are not passed uselessly. Any little thing is a change that is if nothing is wasted in that cellar. All the rest of the chairs are established.

From Gertrude Stein -- A Brief Biography:

Stein spent her infancy in Vienna and Paris and her girlhood in Oakland, Calif. At Radcliffe College she studied psychology with the philosopher William James. After further study at Johns Hopkins medical school she went to Paris, where she was able to live by private means. From 1903 to 1912 she lived with her brother Leo, who became an accomplished art critic; thereafter she lived with her lifelong companion Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967).

Stein and her brother were among the first collectors of works by the Cubists and other experimental painters of the period, such as Pablo Picasso (who painted her portrait), Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque, several of whom became her friends. At her salon they mingled with expatriate American writers, such as Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway, and other visitors drawn by her literary reputation. Her literary and artistic judgments were revered, and her chance remarks could make or destroy reputations. In her own work, she attempted to parallel the theories of Cubism, specifically in her concentration on the illumination of the present moment and her use of slightly varied repetitions and extreme simplification and fragmentation. The best explanation of her theory of writing is found in the essay Composition and Explanation, which is based on lectures that she gave at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and was issued as a book in 1926. Among her work that was most thoroughly influenced by Cubism is Tender Buttons (1914), which carries fragmentation and abstraction beyond the borders of intelligibility.

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso (1906)

From Wikipedia:

Though Stein influenced authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Richard Wright, as hinted above, her work has often been misunderstood. Composer Constant Lambert (1936) naively compares Stravinsky's choice of, "the drabbest and least significant phrases," in L'Histoire du Soldat to Gertrude Stein's in "Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene" (1922), specifically: "Everyday they were gay there, they were regularly gay there everyday," of which he contends that the "effect would be equally appreciated by someone with no knowledge of English whatsoever," apparently entirely missing the pun frequently employed by Stein.

Gertrude Stein wrote in long hand, typically about half an hour per day. Alice B. Toklas would collect the pages, type them up and deal with the publishing and was generally supportive while Leo Stein publicly criticized his sister's work. Indeed, Toklas founded the publisher "Plain Editions" to distribute Stein's work. Today, most manuscripts are kept in the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

In 1932, using an accessible style to accommodate the ordinary reading public, she wrote The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; the book would become her first best-seller. Despite the title, it was really her own autobiography. She described herself as extremely confident, one might even say arrogant, always convinced that she was a genius. She was disdainful of mundane tasks and Alice Toklas managed everyday affairs. The style of the autobiography was quite similar to that of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which was actually written by Alice and contains several unusual recipes such as one for Hashish Fudge (also called Alice B. Toklas brownies), submitted
by Brion Gysin.

Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle.

Gertrude Stein, photographed by Carl Van Vechten (1934)

From Tender Buttons -- "Food" by Gertrude Stein:

SAUSAGES.

Sausages in between a glass.

There is read butter. A loaf of it is managed. Wake a question. Eat an instant, answer.

A reason for bed is this, that a decline, any decline is poison, poison is a toe a toe extractor, this means a solemn change. Hanging.

No evil is wide, any extra in leaf is so strange and singular a red breast.

Stein's stream-of-consciousness experiments were designed to be literature's mirror to Cubism -- as well as to bring out what Stein called "the excitingness of pure being." I know some feminist critics have cited works like Tender Buttons as a reclamation of words from inherently patriarchal language. To me, Stein opened the floodgates for literary surrealism. The poetry of John Ashbury, the lyrics of Patti Smith or Stephen Malkmus, and the paintings of John-Michel Basquiat -- to name only a few examples -- would have never been possible without Stein's influence. Her work is an active field and refuses to be "figured out"; instead, it insists upon an aggressive engagement -- or a frustrated abandonment.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Homage to Wallace Stevens

Homage to Wallace Stevens

Homage to Wallace Stevens (2000)

From "The Idea of Order at Key West" by Wallace Stevens:

She sang beyond the genius of the sea
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

From" Wallace Stevens -- Biography and Recollections by Aquaintances":

Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on October 2, 1879, and died at the age of seventy-six in Hartford, Connecticut on August 2, 1955. He attended Harvard as a special student from 1897 to 1900 but did not graduate; he graduated from New York law school in 1903 and was admitted to the New York bar in 1904, the year he met Elsie Kachel, a young woman from Reading, whom he married in 1909. They had one daughter, Holly Bight, born in 1924, conceived on a leisurely ocean voyage California via the Panama Canal that they took to celebrate the publication of his first book.

Stevens became interested in verse-writing at Harvard, submitting material to the Harvard Advocate, but he would be 36 before his first work was published in 1915. He soon was contributing to Poetry (Chicago), and his first book Harmonium was published in 1923 by the distinguished firm of Alfred A. Knopf. Though he was always much admired by his contemporaries ("There is a man whose work," Hart Crane wrote of him in 1919, "makes most the rest of us quail"), Stevens felt that the reviews of his 1923 book were less than they should be, and discouraged, wrote nothing through the 1920s. For a second edition of Harmonium, published in 1931, he added only eight new poems.

[...]

In 1939, Stevens was sixty -- an age when most poets are ready to look back on what career they might have made for themselves. But Stevens’s best writing still lay before him in the form of extended meditative sequences, quasi-philosophical in their ruminative wanderings but marked always by a vivid sense of the absurd and a darting, whirling inventiveness that took delight in peculiar anecdotal examples...Stevens perfected what had been, in effect, the work he had been producing all along -- a metapoetry that took lavish delight in commenting upon its own making. At the same time, he began to grow interested in putting his thoughts on aesthetics together in prose sentences, essays he collected in 1951 as The Necessary Angel. And there was one final, magnificent turn to his development. Entering his seventies, he began to write a poetry of late old age, in which a sense of the disembodied, the purely mental, gave rise to a discourse that had grown newly austere, solemn, and strange even to its author.

Capturing so exuberantly yet so flawlessly the mind at play with an extravagance most often associated with youthful pleasure, with the sheer delights of the sensual body, Stevens preferred to mask his very great sensual satisfactions by suggesting that his doings were in fact all a highly proper set of speculations on "the imagination." (His prose essays were useful allies in this strategy.) But the sheer verve of local moments, the sumptuous texture of outstanding passages, simply dissolves as pretense the notion that a philosophical enterprise might be underway. Few poets have so fully enjoyed not just their indulgence in their own language but also the game that elaborately insists no such indulgence is occurring.

We live in an old chaos of the sun

Wallace Stevens in 1931

From The Academy of American Poets:

More than any other modern poet, Stevens was concerned with the transformative power of the imagination. Composing poems on his way to and from the office and in the evenings, Stevens continued to spend his days behind a desk at the office, and led a quiet, uneventful life. Though now considered one of the major American poets of the century, he did not receive widespread recognition until the publication of his Collected Poems, just a year before his death.

It was evening all afternoon.

The Imperfect Is Our Paradise by William Burney

From "The Poems of Our Climate" by Wallace Stevens:

There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

Wallace Stevens is the one poet I return to re-read more than any other. And, each time I check in with him, I am astonished.

Tomorrow, another writer drops by the blog.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Prodigal Hubble

Prodigal Hubble

Prodigal Hubble (2004)

From NewScientist: "Hubble Spies Lord of the Stellar Rings":

A spectacular, luminous ring offers the best evidence yet that a nearby star is circled by a newly formed solar system.

The ring is composed of dust particles in orbit around Fomalhaut, a bright star located just 25 light years away in the constellation Pisces Austalis -- or the Southern Fish. A recent image captured with the Hubble Space Telescope -- which makes the system look uncannily like the Great Eye of Sauron from the blockbusting Lord of the Rings trilogy -- confirms that Fomalhaut's ring is curiously offset with respect to the star.

The most likely explanation is that the gravity of one or more unseen planets is dragging the ring askew. The fact that the inner edge of the ring is relatively well-defined adds further weight to the argument because it suggests the unseen planets are sweeping up stray dust within the radius of the ring.

The image was captured by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, US, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center using Hubble's coronagraph. This device blocks the glare of a star while gathering the faint reflected light from any surrounding ring.

[...]

Sauron's forces are massing in the east, his eye is fixed on Rivendell.

"I see you!"

Astronomers suspect the ring around Fomalhaut is the dusty trace of a belt of small comet-like bodies that surround the star, much like the Kuiper Belt that surrounds our solar system.

Frequent collisions between these bodies generate enough dust to replenish the ring, which would otherwise be eroded by the star's radiation in a relatively short time. Since the Kuiper Belt is a by-product of the creation of our solar system, the ring around Fomalhaut may be similarly linked to planet formation. And because Fomalhaut is only 200 million years old - less than 5% of the Sun's present age - it offers a unique analogue of our solar system's early years.

From the Christian Science Monitor -- "New Hope for the Troubled Hubble" by Peter N. Spotts:

In a space saga worthy of the "Perils of Pauline," the on-again, off-again Hubble Space Telescope appeared to be headed for an untimely end. Victimized by the Columbia shuttle disaster, not to mention budget pressures, one of the most highest-profile ambassadors of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration appeared doomed.

Now, Hubble's prospects are brightening. What was to be a $175 million effort to "deorbit" Hubble has become a $291 million program to keep alive the option of servicing and upgrading the telescope so it can continue functioning at least until 2010. A final decision will depend on how well the shuttles perform when they return to flight, now scheduled for mid-July.

[...]

Given the demands of the shuttle's return to flight, President Bush's vision for manned space exploration, and Congress's own fondness for certain projects, the addition of a Hubble servicing mission makes NASA's budget choices increasingly stark.

[...]

For all of the concern about budget conflicts between a servicing mission and other space-science priorities, Dr. [Steven] Beckwith notes that NASA always has committed itself to a controlled, safe reentry for Hubble. In the end, it will have to do something to ensure pieces don't land in highly populated areas.

Let There Be Light

Naturally, President Bush, as a man of science, understands that politics should never influence pure research. But, you know, a mission to maintain Hubble might not be safe...

From the New York Times:

NASA's decision to abandon Hubble Space Telescope cannot be justified on safety grounds, according to pair of reports by NASA engineer that have been circulating in scientific and political circles; unsigned documents are attracting attention in House Science Committee, which is expected to discuss Hubble decision at upcoming meeting; author is NASA engineer who wrote reports based on internal data and who declined to be identified for fear of losing his job.

...or maybe that's not it. But, of course, we shouldn't jump to any unwarranted conclusions that playing politics had anything to do with Bush's initial decision to let the Hubble "deorbit."

From Traditional Mountaineering:

...and, later, you'll do my homework, right?

OpEd: The world's scientists say the Hubble Space Telescope is the greatest instrument ever created by man. It is now at risk. Two days after George Bush announced he was "leading us to Mars", the long planned mandatory maintenance mission to the Hubble was canceled because of cost and an un-willingness to risk a shuttle problem before the election. The world's scientists tell us this is will be a monumental catastrophe. We need a better President and a new Administration.

Maybe we should turn the Hubble around so it can get a better look at Earth instead. Some people apparently need its magnification power to clearly see a certain emperor has no clothes and is creating one black hole after another.

And if the Hubble comes down, well, get back in Skylab mode, and recall the warning issued at the end of The Thing from Another World when the reporter (remember them?) cried out: Watch the Skies!!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Lynch Mob

Lynch Mob

Lynch Mob (1998)

From "The Negro Holocaust -- Lynchings and Race Riots in the United States":

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the lynching of Black people in the Southern and border states became an institutionalized method used by whites to terrorize Blacks and maintain white supremacy. In the South, during the period 1880 to 1940, there was deep-seated and all-pervading hatred and fear of the Negro which led white mobs to turn to “lynch law” as a means of social control. Lynchings -- open public murders of individuals suspected of crime conceived and carried out more or less spontaneously by a mob -- seem to have been an American invention. In Lynch-Law , the first scholarly investigation of lynching, written in 1905, author James E. Cutler stated that “lynching is a criminal practice which is peculiar to the United States.”

Most of the lynchings were by hanging or shooting, or both. However, many were of a more hideous nature -- burning at the stake, maiming, dismemberment, castration, and other brutal methods of physical torture. Lynching therefore was a cruel combination of racism and sadism, which was utilized primarily to sustain the caste system in the South. Many white people believed that Negroes could only be controlled by fear. To them, lynching was seen as the most effective means of control.

[...]

Lynchings occurred throughout the United States; it was not a sectional crime. However, the great majority of lynchings in the United States took place in the Southern and border states. According to social economist Gunnar Myrdal: “The Southern states account for nine-tenths of the lynchings. More than two-thirds of the remaining one-tenth occurred in the six states which immediately border the South: Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas.” Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama were the leading lynching states. These five states furnished nearly half the total victims. Mississippi had the highest incidence of lynchings in the South as well as the highest for the nation, with Georgia and Texas taking second and third places, respectively. However, there were lynchings in the North and West. In fact, every state in the continental United States with the exception of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont has had lynching casualties.

From "About Lynching" by Robert L. Zangrando:

Statistics do not tell the entire story, however. These were recorded lynchings; others were never reported beyond the community involved. Furthermore, mobs used especially sadistic tactics when blacks were the prime targets. By the 1890s lynchers increasingly employed burning, torture, and dismemberment to prolong suffering and excite a "festive atmosphere" among the killers and onlookers. White families brought small children to watch, newspapers sometimes carried advance notices, railroad agents sold excursion tickets to announced lynching sites, and mobs cut off black victims' fingers, toes, ears, or genitalia as souvenirs. Nor was it necessarily the handiwork of a local rabble; not infrequently, the mob was encouraged or led by people prominent in the area's political and business circles. Lynching had become a ritual of interracial social control and recreation rather than simply a punishment for crime.

Photograph of a lynching victim

And from a history of the "Anti-Lynching Campaign" by Dickson D. Bruce Jr.:

Women played a major role in the campaign. The most effective leader in its early development was Ida B. Wells-Barnett. An African-American teacher and journalist, Wells-Barnett was moved initially by the 1892 Memphis lynching of three black businessmen whose success had outraged their white competitors. Responding with a series of newspaper columns, later expanded into the widely circulated pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (1892), Wells-Barnett documented the innocence of many victims of lynching, especially those charged with rape, while denouncing the failure of leading white southerners to act forcefully against the evil. In 1895, she published a larger investigative work, A Red Record, which served as a major resource for the campaign itself. Wells-Barnett led legal efforts to prevent lynchings and worked through both the NACW and the NAACP (an organization that she helped found) to secure antilynching legislation. It was through these organizations that other black women, including the writers Angelina Weld Grimké and Georgia Douglas Johnson, also became active in the effort.

Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, an increasing number of white women, especially in the South, joined the antilynching movement. Revolted by the brutality of lynching, and resenting the white southern defense of lynching based on the "protection" of white womanhood, women such as Jessie Daniel Ames and others worked through the CIC and, after 1930, the ASWPL to try to bring the practice to an end. Focusing on education and the courts- -- and ambivalent about federal legislation -- they worked to create a climate of opinion among white southerners that would lead to lynching's demise.

And, speaking of federal legislation, from the Washington Post, June 14, 2005:

The U.S. Senate last night approved a resolution apologizing for its failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation decades ago, marking the first time the body has apologized for the nation's treatment of African Americans.

One-hundred and five years after the first anti-lynching bill was proposed by a black congressman, senators approved by a voice vote Resolution 39, which called for the lawmakers to apologize to lynching victims, survivors and their descendants, several of whom watched from the gallery.

Of course, not all of our elected officials saw the wisdom in condemning mob violence and sadistic, senseless murders. Courtesy of the Baltimore Times, here's a report (as of June 20th):

Although 13 senators are on record as opposing the recent resolution apologizing for not passing anti-lynching legislation, another eight signed up in days after the measure had been passed by the Senate, records show. Taken together, slightly more than a fifth of the Senate refused to support the measure before it was adopted.

“This resolution has been circulated for months now. Everyone knew about it. So, to me, all of the persons who did not sign it show lack of concern for this important issue,” says U. S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. “I think everybody that didn't sign the bill has made a serious revelation about how they feel about race in America in the 21st Century.”

The 13 senators still refusing to co-sponsor the resolution are: Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn.); Robert Bennett, (R-Utah); Michael Enzi and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.); Judd Gregg and John Sununu (R- N.H.); Richard Shelby, (R-Ala.); Jon Kyl, (R-Ariz.); Gordon Smith, (R-Ore.); John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas); and Thad Cochran and Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

[...]

Supporters had requested a vote during normal business hours, but [Bill] Frist arranged for the vote to take place in the evening, after the major network news programs had aired in the East and Midwest. Frist's rejection of requests for a roll-call vote protected opponents who did not want to be on record as opposing the resolution.

Capitol Hill sources say four Senators -- Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) -- insisted that a recorded vote not be taken.

''America is home of the brave, but I'm afraid there may be a few cowards who have to cover to their very narrow-minded and backward, hateful constituency,'' Janet Langhart Cohen, a former journalist, said in an interview with ABC News. ''They're hiding out, and it's reminiscent of a pattern of hiding out under a hood, in the night, riding past, scaring people.''

Cohen is the wife of William Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and former Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton. She says her 17-year-old cousin, Jimmy Gillenwaters, was lynched by a mob in 1912 near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

I decided to put this image up today after it was mentioned in a thread at Democratic Underground.

Notice anything that the opponents of lynching have in common? You got it. They are all members of a political party that claims to care deeply about "the culture of life."

This isn't an issue of political correctness or an oversight due to a busy schedule. These thirteen senators have had plenty of time to clarify or reverse their stance. What does it say about the state of our "land of liberty" when one out of every five Republican senators appears to believe that public murders by bigoted vigilantes should not be denounced? Apparently, for some elected officials, like Trent "We-Wouldn't-Have-Had-All-These-Problems" Lott, lynching doesn't merit a thumbs-way-down rating. Instead, the message they prefer sending is the show must go on. Yeee-haaa. We're gonna have us a necktie party. Pack a blanket (and hood) and bring the kids.

Oh, and don't worry about any knee-jerk, liberal nitpicking -- like that "quaint" Geneva Convention or the "absurd" Amnesty International who only listen to disassembling "people who hate America."

Well, Bush almost got it right. There is dissembling on display here -- and it's coming from people who are still hating in America.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rave at the Beehive

Rave at the Beehive

Rave at the Beehive (2001)

From "Bee Behavior" -- taken from Beekeeping in the United States by Stephen Tabor III:

There are other methods of bee communication besides the one involving chemical pheromones. The best known is the "dance" of the returned forager bee so well elucidated by von Frisch and his many students, particularly M. Lindauer.

This dance is so precise that it tells other bees not only in which direction to go but also how far to fly in search of food. This was the first nonhuman language to be interpreted. The experiments on bee communication by dances were done with dishes of sugar water and not under true foraging conditions of bees collecting nectar from plants. When a returning forager comes back to the hive after finding a highly attractive 100-acre field of sweetclover, does she direct bees to the spot she was working or to the whole field? The last word in dance communication 0£ bees certainly has not yet been written.

[...]

According to von Frisch, when a bee returns from a foraging trip and dances, she also communicates the kind of "plant" or "flower" on which she was foraging by releasing the perfume of the flower through nectar regurgitation or from nectar aroma on body hairs. Again, most of these experiments were done with dishes of sugar water impregnated with essential oils or plant extracts. These experiments have prompted other experiments that were designed to train bees to work desired crops for pollination. These experiments were unsuccessful. The reason for the failures may well be that the bee language code has not been completely translated. We are still unable to "talk" effectively to the bees and "tell" them what we want done.

To bee or not to bee...

Everybody goes to parties
They dance this mess around

From CNN: "Honey, Comb -- Beehive Hairdo Is Back":

"It really was the last great hairdo we've seen in 30 years," said Jackie Summers of Modern Salon magazine. "It really was sort of the peak of hairdressing."

Part of its draw may have been the "heightening" factor.

"I always wanted to be like 5 (foot) 6 (inches), so it was probably at least four inches (above) my head," said Irene Bridges of the hive's allure.

Once out, women literally swarmed to the beauty parlor.

"Everybody wanted the beehive, even women with real, real short hair," [Margaret Vinci] Heldt said. "They looked more like anthills than a beehive then they got bigger and bigger and became hornet's nests."

And, on the "Resistance Is Futile" front, from Independent Media TV: "US Report Foretells of Brave New World ('Hive Mind')":

A draft government report says we will alter human evolution within 20 years by combining what we know of nanotechnology, biotechnology, IT and cognitive sciences. The 405-page report sponsored by the US National Science Foundation and Commerce Department, Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, calls for a broad-based research program to improve human performance leading to telepathy, machine-to-human communication, amplified personal sensory devices and enhanced intellectual capacity.

People may download their consciousnesses into computers or other bodies even on the other side of the solar system, or participate in a giant "hive mind", a network of intelligences connected through ultra-fast communications networks. "With knowledge no longer encapsulated in individuals, the distinction between individuals and the entirety of humanity would blur," the report says. "Think Vulcan mind-meld. We would perhaps become more of a hive mind - an enormous, single, intelligent entity."

And, in a final party out of bounds, from AsianWeek.com: "Riding the Raves":

I think, “Wow, we're officially part of the American lexicon,” while my parents ask, “What exactly is a rave?” The dictionary goes on to define a rave as “an all-night dance party, where electronically-synthesized music is played.”

[...]

The collective unity persists. When one attends a rave, the overall “vibe” is one of peace, one of consideration, where people are allowed to be individuals, yet are still part of the group. It is like watching a hive of bees, each buzzing in their own frenzied dance, but still comprising a cohesive swarm, a humming community.

All I really have to add to today's image and annotation is an insightful remark made by Shakespeare's Hamlet when informed of the arrival of actors: Buzz, buzz! -- preferably intoned with Kenneth Branagh's superb wry inflection.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Heathcliff's Hangout

Heathcliff's Hangout

Heathcliff's Hangout (2004)

From SparksNotes on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights:

Wuthering Heights centers around the story of Heathcliff. The first paragraph of the novel provides a vivid physical picture of him, as Lockwood describes how his “black eyes” withdraw suspiciously under his brows at Lockwood's approach. Nelly's story begins with his introduction into the Earnshaw family, his vengeful machinations drive the entire plot, and his death ends the book. The desire to understand him and his motivations has kept countless readers engaged in the novel.

Heathcliff, however, defies being understood, and it is difficult for readers to resist seeing what they want or expect to see in him. The novel teases the reader with the possibility that Heathcliff is something other than what he seems -- that his cruelty is merely an expression of his frustrated love for Catherine, or that his sinister behaviors serve to conceal the heart of a romantic hero. We expect Heathcliff's character to contain such a hidden virtue because he resembles a hero in a romance novel. Traditionally, romance novel heroes appear dangerous, brooding, and cold at first, only later to emerge as fiercely devoted and loving. One hundred years before Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights, the notion that “a reformed rake makes the best husband” was already a cliché of romantic literature, and romance novels center around the same cliché to this day.

However, Heathcliff does not reform, and his malevolence proves so great and long-lasting that it cannot be adequately explained even as a desire for revenge against Hindley, Catherine, Edgar, etc. As he himself points out, his abuse of Isabella is purely sadistic, as he amuses himself by seeing how much abuse she can take and still come cringing back for more. Critic Joyce Carol Oates argues that Emily Brontë does the same thing to the reader that Heathcliff does to Isabella, testing to see how many times the reader can be shocked by Heathcliff's gratuitous violence and still, masochistically, insist on seeing him as a romantic hero.

From Turner Classic Movies:

Wuthering Heights (1939) followed a circuitous path to the screen.

[...]

William Wyler, Goldwyn's star director, loved the adaptation and urged his boss to buy it. Wyler had Bette Davis, with whom he'd worked on Jezebel (1938), in mind for Cathy. [Sam] Goldwyn had another suggestion: Merle Oberon, whom he had under contract.

Goldwyn's first choice for Heathcliff was Ronald Colman, whom most people felt was wrong for the part and was unavailable anyway. Oberon suggested Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who tested badly. English actor Robert Newton also tested, but Goldwyn thought he was "ugly." Someone brought Laurence Olivier to Goldwyn's attention, and he dispatched Wyler to England to look at the actor. Olivier hesitated; he'd failed miserably in Hollywood a few years earlier, and had been fired as Garbo's leading man in Queen Christina (1933). Olivier was now a star of the British stage, and convinced that was where he belonged. He was also involved in an intense affair with Vivien Leigh, and didn't want to be separated from her. Wyler offered Leigh the secondary role of Isabella in Wuthering Heights, but she wanted to play Cathy, or nothing. Finally, it was Leigh who convinced Olivier that he couldn't pass up the opportunity, and he agreed to play Heathcliff. Months later, during a trip to the U.S. to see Olivier, Leigh was introduced to producer David O. Selznick and signed to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Filming on Wuthering Heights began in December, 1938. The hills of the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles stood in for the Yorkshire moors. 500 acres were covered with tumbleweed topped with purple sawdust to simulate heather. A thousand real heather plants were imported from England for close-ups. During shooting on the fake moors, Merle Oberon slipped and sprained her ankle, and shooting was suspended for a week. During that time, the heather grew so tall in the California sunshine that it no longer looked like the real thing.

[...]

Olivier also suffered under Wyler's direction. After being forced to do a scene over and over, Olivier exploded. "I've done it thirty different times, thirty different ways," he shouted. "How do you want me to do it?" "Better," Wyler replied. Furious, Olivier sneered, "I suppose this anemic little medium can't take great acting."

[...]

Olivier found another target for his frustration and contempt in Merle Oberon, whom he resented for playing the role he thought Vivien Leigh should have won. At one point, Oberon accused Olivier of spitting on her during a love scene, and he called her an "amateur," and a "bloody idiot." Amazingly, none of this hostility is apparent onscreen.

He's more myself than I am...

From "The Gothic and Wuthering Heights" -- course notes by Lilia Melani:

Brontë has incorporated the Gothic trappings of imprisonment and escape, flight, the persecuted heroine, the heroine wooed by a dangerous and a good suitor, ghosts, necrophilia, a mysterious foundling, and revenge. The weather-buffeted Wuthering Heights is the traditional castle, and Catherine resembles Ann Radcliffe's heroines in her appreciation of nature. Like the conventional Gothic hero-villain, Heathcliff is a mysterious figure who destroys the beautiful woman he pursues and who usurps inheritances, and with typical Gothic excess he batters his head against a tree.

And, finally, assuming the mistiness of the moors won't dampen your playtime activities, how about a Heathcliff paper doll from paperdolls.com?:

Do I look fat in this outfit?

Oh God! it is unutterable!

Ah, Heathcliff -- you old Ur-Goth. Weirder than Mickey Rourke and more intense than Crispin Glover. How did you go from this:

I killed you. Haunt me, then!

to this:

Misery and degradation and death and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us...

That's right. I pray one prayer, I repeat it till my tongue stiffens: NOOOOOOOOO!!!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Great White Feeding Frenzy

Great White Feeding Frenzy

Great White Feeding Frenzy (2000)

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel -- "It's Great White Feeding Time Again":

But humans aren't a shark's preferred prey. Great whites are curious animals and it seems more likely bites are just their way of figuring out what a surfer in a wetsuit really is. Sharks bite crab pots and tires. Once, [UC Santa Cruz biologist Burney] Le Boeuf saw a female great white check out a plywood decoy that had been set in the water near Año Nuevo Island.

"She lifted the decoy out of the water, then let it drift back out of her mouth and swam away," Le Boeuf says. "We couldn't find any distinguishing marks on the decoy" to show she'd even bitten down.

In fact, more injuries may occur when a victim yanks his or her arm or leg out of a shark's razor-sharp teeth, rather than because the beast wants a human snack, Le Boeuf says.

Still, it's hard to stay calm in the face of a species that can grow to be 20 feet long and weigh as much as the combined weight of two college football teams -- 22 big, burly guys.

"They (great whites) remind me of that scene in the first Star Wars when the Star Destroyer passes overhead," says Le Boeuf, who has witnessed them pass by the boat he was on.

"They seem to go on forever. They looks like they're never going to go by."

From ESPN Outdoors -- "Tourists Pat Feeding-Frenzied Great Whites":

Australia may change laws "to protect people too stupid to protect themselves" after sightseers clambered on a floating dead whale and patted great white sharks eating the carcass, a senior official said.

[...]

[South Australian state Environment Minister Iain] Evans said he was shocked at the disrespect the tourists showed for their own safety when they were caught on film this week patting the sharks near Cape Jervis, 60 miles south of Adelaide.

"I am also appalled by the bizarre behavior of walking across the back of dead whales or, for that matter, patting a great white shark while it is feeding," Evans said.

"These creatures are not toys. In the case of the great white, they can be extremely dangerous and it is clear the state government will need to look at changing the law in order to protect people too stupid to protect themselves," he added.

The southern right whale died late last week. About a dozen sharks immediately began devouring the carcass, tearing off chunks of flesh in a feeding frenzy.

Boat operators cashed in, ferrying dozens of customers to the site for a closer look.

From the Discovery Channel CA -- "The Shark That Won't Be Caged":

For the past 50 years, more than half a dozen institutions have tried roughly 20 times to display a great white. No one has been successful in keeping one in captivity for more than three weeks.

[...]

An article written by shark expert Ian Gordon recounts an infamous incident in 1968, when a fisherman caught a great white in Australia. The male shark was transferred to an aquarium and placed in their one million-litre tank. The shark recovered and began swimming and even feeding in its tank.

It was doing so well that some of the aquarium divers were becoming nervous when the shark appeared to be showing a little too much interest in their activities. The aquarium decided to capitalize on the problem by selling tickets to the general public and the media. People came to witness the destruction of a 'killer shark' and the shark was shot in front of a sold-out crowd.

From the Washington Post -- a review of Jaws -- 30th Anniversary Edition DVD:

Best Spielberg Bonus Point: "From the Set," the 1974 featurette hosted by Brit Iain Johnstone, provides a semi-entertaining peek at a super-young Spielberg at work on the water. During an interview conducted between takes, the director offers this nugget of wisdom about his casting choices: "I like people who are outspoken and very large, so I can bring them down to life level." So that explains why he works with notorious sofa-jumper Tom Cruise.

Most Interesting Bonus Point: If you've never seen the "Making of Jaws," it's worth a look. You'll hear all the usual stories about the movie (the mechanical shark [Bruce] didn't work, cast and crew members got seasick, etc.), but some more-obscure nuggets -- like the fact that the shark's first victim (played by Susan Backlinie) is pulled underwater by Spielberg himself -- are shared as well. Those make this a worthwhile, if out of date, doc.

And, finally, from A Tiny Revolution:

Millions of years of evolution have designed George W. Bush for one purpose and one purpose only: lying.

Silently he swims through the sea of American politics. He does not sleep. He knows no mercy. And suddenly, with no warning, HE ATTACKS:

Bush-Blair Press Conference, June 7, 2005

Q: Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I -- you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo... And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.

The fight is quick and bloody :

Interview Of The President By Sir Trevor McDonald Of Britain's Itv Television Network, April 4, 2002

Question: I take your point about no immediate plans, but in a sense, have you made up your mind that Iraq must be attacked?

The President: I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go...

Question: So you're going to go after him?

The President: As I told you, the policy of my government is that Saddam Hussein not be in power.

Question: And how are you going to achieve this, Mr. President?

The President: Wait and see.

Yes, readers, we're going to need a bigger blog...

Fellows, let's be reasonable, huh? This is not the time or the place to perform some kind of a half-assed autopsy on a fish.

...and a much better media. Our "watchdogs" have certainly waited. Now, isn't it about time they smell the chum -- and bite?

No more barking. No more rolling over. No more playing dead. Just biting. Biting every day.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sleep Mode

Sleep Mode

Sleep Mode (2001)

Vacation calls -- so the blog will be in sleep mode until around June 20th.

During the interim, please feel free to spelunk in the archives and surf over to some of the many fine sites and blogs listed to your right.

Be back soon -- either revived or more cranky -- after some R and R...

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Dream of Life After the Pound

A Dream of Life After the Pound

A Dream of Life After the Pound (2004)

From MSNBC:

The 32 dogs look up with sad eyes or wag their tails as animal control officer Linda Cordry walks the row of chain-link cages toward a door concealing a gas chamber.

"These guys are mine," Cordry says with weary resignation. "These are basically on Death Row."

Liberty County Animal Control and the humane shelter that shares its small cinderblock building have been crammed to capacity with dogs and cats since Army troops from neighboring Fort Stewart deployed to Iraq. Both agencies say it's no coincidence.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted national efforts to alert deploying soldiers to alternatives to abandoning animals when they leave for war. But the hundreds of unwanted pets turning up in this southeast Georgia military town indicate many aren't getting the message.

[...]

Smells of dank fur, urine and bleach linger inside the Animal Control offices, where donated food in dented cans and torn bags are stacked in a corner. Dogs are doubled up in several of the 4-by-10-feet cages. Two of the 14 cat cages hold mothers with litters of nursing kittens.

Cordry says she's found an abundance of dogs in military neighborhoods -- from emaciated dogs in back yards of vacated homes to puppies left in Dumpsters.

Many of the abandoned pets are wearing collars, but with their tags removed. Animals with collars get up to 10 days before they're euthanized. Those without collars are spared for only three.

"We get in so many with personalities, we know they had to belong to somebody," Cordry says. "It's hard to say, 'Today's euthanasia day -- let's load them up and go for it'."

[...]

Terry Wolf of nearby Savannah has taken in 85 abandoned dogs from Liberty County since January through her shelter, Southern Comfort Animal Rescue. She's found permanent homes for about 40, and foster homes for 25.

Wolf says she's looking for people who truly want a pet, rather than those seeking to make a patriotic gesture.

"I had one lady, she was very interested in a dog, say to me, 'I want a soldier's dog.' And that made me question her commitment," Wolf says. "We're not putting yellow ribbons around their necks here. They're all dogs of war to me."

From See Spot Die:

People take their cats to the shelter and say they want to get rid of them because the pets don't match the colors of their new decorating scheme. They want a new cat, one that's color-coordinated. Some people go on vacation and drop off a pet; they don't want to spend the money on boarding; they say they'll pick up a new pet when they get back.

The result: four out of five pets are left unclaimed. Those unclaimed are given a lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital. Then they are thrown into a large plastic hamper, wheeled outside and tossed like bags of garbage into an incinerator. Nationwide, between 12 million and 20 million unwanted pets are killed each year. The numbers are inexact, because this is one subject few want to research. Man's best friend has become man's biggest victim.

When people get tired of their pets, most don't want to deposit them at the animal shelter; they know what's likely to happen to them. And so they engage in a quiet little fantasy, imagining they're a Robert Redford, climbing to a mountaintop to release an eagle. They're not abandoning Fido -- they're setting him free. Often they choose parks or affluent neighborhoods. Perhaps some wealthy family will pick him up. Or maybe old Fido will revert to the wild, learn to fend for himself, catching squirrels and whatnot.

But pets are not wild eagles. Animal control officers know that a roaming dog is much more likely to be squashed by a speeding car than to learn to live in the wild. The Service has trucks that do nothing except travel the country, picking up tens of thousands of dead dogs and cats each year. The animals that survive forage through garbage cans and alleys, desperately trying to avoid starvation.

From On the Sublime and Beautiful by Edmund Burke:

Such sounds as imitate the natural inarticulate voices of men, or any animals in pain or danger, are capable of conveying great ideas.

And from Colette -- reprinted in the collection Earthly Paradise:

Animals love happiness almost as much as we do. A fit of crying disturbs them; they'll sometimes imitate sobbing, and for a moment they'll reflect our sadness.

I guess this is my version of Friday dog/cat blogging.

If you've ever truly loved a pet, there's nothing more I need say about today's image.

Except...

I had a cat, named Putzer, who hung out -- sitting or sleeping on my lap as I wrote or worked on art -- for twenty-three years. She was also my daughter's play companion, and, for sixteen years, the two were inseparable. We reminisce often and tell Putzer stories. She will always be -- family.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Homage to Chuck Jones

Homage to Chuck Jones

Homage to Chuck Jones (2003)

From the Official Site of Chuck Jones:

In a career spanning over 60 years, Jones made more than 300 animated films, winning three Oscars as director and in 1996 an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Among the many awards and recognitions, one of those most valued was the honorary life membership from the Directors Guild of America.

During the Golden Age of animation Jones helped bring to life many of Warner Bros. most famous characters -- Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. The list of characters he created himself includes Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin Martian, Pepe le Pew, Michigan J. Frog and many others. He also produced, directed and wrote the screenplays for "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," a television classic, as well as the feature-length film "The Phantom Tollbooth." In addition, Jones was a prolific artist whose work has been exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide.

Jones often recalled a small child who, when told that Jones drew Bugs Bunny, replied: "He doesn't draw Bugs Bunny. He draws pictures of Bugs Bunny." His point was that the child thought of the character as being alive and believable, which was, in Jones' belief, the key to true character animation.

[...]

In 2000, Jones established the Chuck Jones Foundation, designed to recognize, support and inspire continued excellence in art and the art of classic character animation. Plans for the Foundation include scholarships, library resources, touring exhibits, a lecture series and access to film, notes and drawings.

Director Peter Bogdanovich once explained the enduring appeal of Jones' work: "It remains, like all good fables and only the best art, both timeless and universal."

After hearing that Jones had died, a four-year-old child asked her mother, between sobs, "Does this mean the bunny won't be in the barber chair any more?" The answer is, "No, the bunny will be in the barber chair forever."

Wile E. Coyote

"Mr. Coyote, there's a bill collector from Acme on line three..."

From an interview with Chuck Jones on the Academy of Achievement:

We've been asking people that we interview "What person inspired you the most?" But in your case, I believe there was a cat.

Well, there was a cat with the unlikely name of Johnson, the only cat I've ever known who had a last name for a first. We were living in Newport Beach, California, this was around 1918, I was 6 years old. It was early in the morning, and my brother and I saw this cat come strolling over the sand dunes. He had scar tissue on his chest, and one ear was slightly bent. He had a piece of string tied around his neck, an old wooden tongue depressor, and in crude lettering, in lavender ink, it said, "Johnson." We didn't know whether that was his blood type, or his name, or his former owner's name, or anything, so we called him Johnson. He answered to that as well as anything else. Like most cats, he answered to food, that's what he answered to.

Anyway, he came to live with us, and he turned out to be a rather spectacularly different cat. He came up to my mother while she was finishing breakfast and she figured he wanted something to eat. So she offered him a piece of bacon, and piece of egg white, and a piece of toast, all of which he spurned. He obviously had nothing like that in mind. Finally, in a little spurt of whimsy, which was typical of my mother, she gave him a half a grapefruit, and it electrified him. Suddenly, there was this flash of tortoise shell cat whirling around with this thing. Then he came sliding out of it and the thing slowly came to a stop. The whole thing was completely cleaned out and we looked at him in astonishment. He loved grapefruit more than anything else in the whole world. So each morning for a while we gave him half a grapefruit, and that was nothing to him. So we gave him a whole grapefruit. And he'd eat it until all the inside was gone. Sometimes he'd eat it in such a way that he ended up wearing a little space helmet, which is really the whole grapefruit, with a flap hanging down on one side like a batter's helmet. But when he had it on, he seemed to like it. And sometimes he'd walk out on the beach with this thing on his head, until it really bothered him, then he'd kick it off.

Johnson

Johnson the cat -- wearing his grapefruit helmet

In your book you make it clear that Johnson provided a lesson for you about human nature.

You cannot take anything for granted. The basic thing about Johnson was the fact that he was different than other cats. He was not every cat, in other words, any more than any of us are really every man, or every woman. That laid the groundwork, so when I got to doing Daffy Duck, or Bugs Bunny, or Coyote -- that's not all coyotes, that is the particular coyote. "Wile E. Coyote, Genius." That's what he calls himself. He's different. He has an overweening ego, which isn't necessarily true of all coyotes.

Mark Twain's Roughing It is a book that many people don't know about, but I highly recommend to anybody at any age. He and his brother crossed the United States in a stagecoach, how romantic can you get? They went from Kansas City and Independence, Missouri and out across the Great Plains, with four horses, pulling them across the plains.

Mark Twain went on to start telling the first time he met a coyote. And his expression -- when I was 6 years old I read this -- and he said that the coyote is so meager, and so thin, and so scrawny, and so unappetizing that, he said, "A flea would leave a coyote to get on a velocipede, (or a bicycle)." There's more food on a bicycle than there is on a coyote. And he said how the coyote always looked like he was kind of ashamed of himself. And no matter what the rest of his face was doing, his mouth was always looking kind of crawly. And there are some wonderful expressions about how the coyote exists in that terrible environment, but how fast it is. And he said, "If you ever want to teach a dog lessons about what an inferior subject it is, let him loose when there's a coyote out there."

And, finally, from Slate -- a cartoon by Mike Peters:

Special Delivery

Today's image tries to capture some of the saturated colors and cartoon faces associated with the animation pioneer. It's a small tribute for all the laughs he gave me through his work when I was growing up -- and, many years later, for the joy I saw in my daughter's face when she encountered (and I re-discovered) his art.

Ba-dee-ba-dee-ba -- That's all, folks!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Ant War

Ant War

Ant War (2002)

From free-games.com -- a description of the game Ant War:

Did you ever want an ant farm, but worried that the ants might get loose in your home? Choose from 5 different ant breeds, each with different personalities and skills, and build your nest in numerous locations. With over 60 enemies, thousands of random events and "ant shopping" at your fingertips, you can grow your colony to gigantic proportions and cause a town panic! Start with a simple anthill and grow into an amazing ant empire!

And in the Leave It to Freepers department -- a headline on Free Republic condemning an anti-Iraq War demonstration at a Seattle high school:

SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS GREET MILITARY VISITORS WITH BLOODY ANT-WAR SPECTACLE

Other sites that won't win spelling bees for their headlines include the Independent Media Centre:

ANT WAR DEMO IN LIVERPOOL

and this student list from the University of Utah:

WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE ANT-WAR MOVEMENT? PEACE *WITH* TERRORISM?
FIVE COLLEGE ANT-WAR MARCH AND RALLY FOR PEACE

and from FAblog:

ANT-WAR PERMITS STILL OUTSTANDING
FAVOURITE ANT-WAR SLOGAN

Finally, from "Of Ants and Men -- The Lust for War" by Robert Epstein in Psychology Today:

Behavioral scientists have identified many powerful factors that drive us to war -- factors so numerous and so compelling that it's hard to imagine how we'll ever overcome them. Evolution seems to have equipped us -- men, especially -- with strong tendencies to organize and kill. As General John J. Pershing stated, "Men go to war because they enjoy it." Like many mammals, we also possess the natural tendency to protect our territory. Society is capable of suppressing genetically based tendencies, but when it comes to war, most cultures actually fuel the flames. We deliberately instill nationalistic pride in our children, and we teach them to assume roles and follow orders -- all characteristics of the good soldier. In addition, we "deindividuate" people by giving them uniforms; we diffuse responsibility by having them use weapons in teams; we dehumanize enemies by labeling them heathens, animals and so on. Throw in financial incentives, some propaganda and a charismatic leader or two, and we become more antlike than ever.

Yes, it's difficult to get around a "disassembling" leader known to "catapult the propaganda," but maybe one step towards preventing war -- and certainly the pre-emptive kind -- and also cut down on misspellings of anti-war -- is to fully understand the reasons and background as to why we went to war in Iraq in the first place. And if there might be evidence suggesting the push to war was driven by propaganda, lies, and cooked military intelligence, shouldn't we, as a free society claiming to uphold democratic principles, fully examine the evidence?

If you agree, please do what you can to see that the Downing Street Memo/Minutes is given the coverage it deserves. Write your representative. Sign the letter circulated by Congressman John Conyers. Sign the petition drawn up by Senator Ted Kennedy. If you are a blogger, please join the Big Brass Alliance. If you just like more information, please visit AfterDowningStreet.org.

This is what Senator Kennedy recently said about the Downing Street Minutes:

The contents of the Downing Street Minutes confirm that the Bush Administration was determined to go to war in Iraq, regardless of whether there was any credible justification for doing so. The Administration distorted and misrepresented the intelligence in its attempt to link Saddam Hussein with the terrorists of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, and with weapons of mass destruction that Iraq did not have.

In addition, the Downing Street Minutes also confirm what has long been obvious -- that the timing of the war was linked to the 2002 Congressional elections, and that the Administration’s planning for post-war Iraq was incompetent in all its aspects. The current continuing crisis is a direct result of that incompetence.

Many of you have worked hard for the American people, the media and those in government to speak out about the Downing Street Minutes and the Iraq war. You can join me in speaking out as well.

The policy of “shoot first, ask questions later” took us into an unjustified war, and without a clear concept of what “winning the war” actually means.

President Bush constantly talks about the “progress” that is being made in Iraq against the insurgency, but he’s looking for good news with a microscope. All anyone can see is “Mission Mis-accomplished” and the continuing losses of American lives, the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the torture scandal, and the ominous decline in our nation’s moral authority in the world community.

We know the Administration had been planning to invade Iraq for many months before the invasion actually began. We know the Administration twisted the intelligence to make the facts fit their plan. We know that the Administration never really intended to give the U.N. weapons inspectors a reasonable chance to succeed. The Downing Street Minutes demonstrate that the Administration knew their case for war was paper thin, and that in order to go into war with the support of our allies, we had to demonstrate some willingness to go along with the UN inspection process. But the Administration continued to misuse its intelligence, distort the facts and pay only lip-service to the UN’s role in disarming Iraq.

We never should have gone to war for ideological reasons driven by politics and based on manipulated intelligence. The Downing Street Minutes provide even more proof that this is exactly what happened on Iraq. The Administration’s dishonesty, lack of candor, and lack of planning have brought us to where we are today, with American soldiers dying, Iraqi civilians living in constant fear, and with no clearer picture of our strategy for victory in Iraq than when we started.

We don't have to be ants. Fall out of that single-file line. Fling some of that catapulted propaganda back. And let's do what we can to stop all the administration's dissembling -- you know, that means not tell the truth.

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